The other approach is more efficient, though: Paying off your highest-interest-rate debts first. Remember that you compiled a list of your debts and their interest rates. Well, the ones with the highest rates are costing you the most, over time. So to minimize your interest expense, you should pay off a debt carrying a 21% interest rate before you tackle a debt with a 12% interest rate.
If you're interested in starting a debt management plan, you'll first need to find a credit counselor. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you never agree to any debt management plan until a reputable credit counselor has thoroughly reviewed your financial situation with you. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a state-by-state list of approved credit counseling agencies, so you can search for someone near you.

If you negotiate a payment plan or a settlement offer, get it in writing. And don't give creditors access to your bank account, as this could make it easier for them to get a court order to freeze your bank account or to put a lien on it -- and unscrupulous collectors could take out more money than you give permission for. Instead, send payments in the mail. 


The other approach is more efficient, though: Paying off your highest-interest-rate debts first. Remember that you compiled a list of your debts and their interest rates. Well, the ones with the highest rates are costing you the most, over time. So to minimize your interest expense, you should pay off a debt carrying a 21% interest rate before you tackle a debt with a 12% interest rate.
Global criticism of credit counseling comes primarily from predatory practices that take advantage of debtors that are already struggling.[4] These practices include failing to meet required standards, charging unlawful or unreasonable fees, failing to provide affordable solutions for consumers, and neglecting to make customers aware of free debt services available elsewhere.[5]
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems.  Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do: 
Depending on how serious are your financial woes your counselor may recommend a debt management plan (DMP). The way this would work in brief is your counselor will determine how much you can pay and then negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The negotiation can be for longer terms or lower monthly amounts determined by what payments you could afford to make. In some cases your counselor may attempt to negotiate a reduction in your interest rates. If all or most all your creditors agree to your debt management plan you would stop paying them. Instead, you would send one payment a month to the credit-counseling agency and it will distribute the money to your creditors per your DMP. The biggest downside to one of these plans is that they typically take five years to complete. You would most likely be required to give up all the credit cards that are in your plan and would be strongly urged to not take on any new credit until you’ve completed your plan. These are the biggest reasons why nearly half of those debtors who sign up for DMP never successfully complete it.
Note: Federal regulations require credit card issuers to disclose on your credit card statement how long it will take to pay off your estimated balance if you make minimum monthly payments. Estimates may be rounded up to the next $100. This debt calculator uses your actual credit card balance, so the results may vary from the estimate shown in your credit card statement.
Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.
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A debt management plan (or DMP) is one way MMI can help you resolve your credit problems and repay your debt. A debt management plan is recommended for those individuals who need more than advice and could benefit from a structured repayment plan. Through a debt management plan, you are able to make one convenient monthly deposit to MMI which is then disbursed to each of your creditors.
And you’re not alone. The average family who carries a debt has more than $16,000 in credit card debt. We have free advice and offer professional solutions, so you can find the best way to pay off or settle your credit card debt. Available programs include debt management, debt settlement, debt consolidation loans and even do-it-yourself solutions where you can learn the best way to pay off your debt.
Through a nonprofit credit-counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to resolve your financial problems on your own, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can enter what’s called a debt management plan. Through that plan, you can consolidate your credit card payments and get the cards’ interest rates reduced, making your financial obligations easier to tackle.
Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.
Who’s it best for? Anyone who doesn’t like surprises will appreciate Cambridge. The clear FAQs include questions any prospective client would want answered (for example: “How will the program affect my credit rating?”) and there are a lot of financial basics, including budget worksheets and a debt payoff calculator. Cambridge is also willing to work with limited kinds of secured debt.
It might be painful to learn the truth but you have to bite the bullet. Then you’ll see that it’s not hard to end this bad habit. In fact, you can get the credit card companies to help you. Just look at the back of your credit cards for their number, call them, and ask them for the amount of debt you owe, the APR, and the monthly minimum payment on the card.
Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
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