Much of what debt management companies do involves simply contacting your creditors and negotiating alternative repayment plans, hopefully with reduced interest rates and fees. If you are struggling to make payments, you can usually do this yourself. Most creditors will be eager to help you meet your debt obligations because they want to help you avoid bankruptcy, which sucks for them. Talking to your creditors directly isn’t pleasant, and it may not be easy, but it can be done.
Chapter 13: Yes. Chapter 13 also discharges debts, but many of the nondischargeable debts like recent taxes and past due child support must be paid in full in the Chapter 13 plan. Unsecured debt like credit cards will only be paid in a Chapter 13 plan if you have the income to cover it. Sometimes unsecured creditors receive a portion of their debt and sometimes they receive nothing at all. But even if they’re not paid they’ll be discharged if you complete your plan. To see how this works, visit Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics. 
Fortunately, there are several methods to reduce debt – and maybe even eliminate it – in a consistent and logical manner. This can be done on your own, if you have discipline, but it’s often beneficial to partner with financial professionals, who can negotiate lower rates with lenders, refinance homes or create budgets that keep you on the right course.
Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.
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Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.
Debt management and debt settlement are two very different repayment options. A debt management plan provides regular monthly payments to your creditors. In contrast, a debt settlement program often encourages you to stop sending payments to creditors, which can result in serious consequences. The risks associated with debt settlement programs are important to understand. Below is a summary of things you should consider before choosing debt settlement as an option.
Warning: Debt settlement may well leave you deeper in debt than you were when you started. Most debt settlement companies will ask you to stop paying your debts in order to get creditors to negotiate and to collect the funds required for a settlement. This can have a negative effect on your credit score and may result in the creditor or debt collector filing a lawsuit while you are collecting settlement funds. And if you stop making payments on a credit card, late fees and interest will be added to the debt each month. If you exceed your credit limit, additional fees and charges may apply. This can cause your original debt to increase.
My husband & I have a massive credit card debt now, due to us taking my sister’s 4 children in for 6 yrs + having our 2 girls graduating & college. I want to pay back what we owe because it’s the responsible thing to do, would consolidation be the best way for us to go or should we talk to a counsler first? We aren’t late on our payments, but scratching to get by each month after all the payments.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”

Some of them include debt consolidation, foreclosure and mortgage delinquency counseling, and budgeting. Review alternatives to a foreclosure that may be available to you such as mortgage modification. A counselor can sometimes work directly with your creditor or bank to enter into installment plans with them, or they help facilitate a solution with all impacted parties.

National Debt Relief uses debt settlement as a way to lower its clients’ debt. Settlement lets the company’s debt lawyers negotiate lower outstanding balances with creditors. Settlements can also lead to lower interest rates and waived fees. National Debt Relief, however, acknowledges that some debtors will not negotiate in good faith, which makes it difficult or impossible for settlements to work.
Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.
Under a DMP plan, the consumer deposits money each month into an account within the credit counseling organization. The organization then uses the funds to pay the unsecured debt, such as credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills. Paying off of debt follows a payment schedule the counselor and consumer develops. Often creditors will need to agree to the scheduled repayment plan. Creditors may decide to lower interest rates or waive fees. A successful DMP requires regular, timely payments. It may take 48 months or more to complete a debt management plan.
Bankruptcy and debt settlement can reduce or eliminate debts, but they severely impact your credit. However, continuing to struggle may actually be a slower, less effective way to get rid of the debt. Debt management doesn’t reduce debts, but its effect on your credit is less severe. And be aware that some types of debts typically can’t be erased or reduced: federal student loans, child support, and secured loans on cars and homes.
It may not be the right option if you would have to give up property you want to keep. The rules vary by state. Typically, certain kinds of property are exempt from bankruptcy, such as motor vehicles up to a given value and part of the equity in your home, but you usually have to give up a second car or truck, family heirlooms, vacation homes and any valuable collections.
I’m about 70k in debt (which includes a car loan and student loans). I was very naive in thinking that earning a Bachelor’s degree would award me with a high paying job and I would be able to take care of this mountain of debt no problem. Of course, that’s not reality, and I make 25k a year. I’ve been working at this job for about a year and a half now, and I have FINALLY found a better paying job after a year of active searching. Although it’s not much, I’ll be moving up to 29k a year. While I pay off my 10k car loan at 250 a month, I’ve been completely avoiding my student loan debt, I don’t even look at it. Right now my loans are in deferment but I owe my first payment in August. I’m really starting to panick. I appreciated your article and found a lot of useful advice in it. I think my first step to paying off my loans will be to work as hard as possible at my new job so maybe after another year or so I can increase my salary more substantially…. Other than that I’m really at a loss for what to do. Any specific advice regarding such a high amount of student loans? (That honestly, I’m almost too embarassed to admit to in this post)
Gerri Detweiler focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of TalkCreditRadio.com.

For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.

Max Fay is an entrepreneurial Millennial whose thoughtful writing shows he has a keen eye on both. Max has a genetic predisposition to being tight with his money and free with financial advice. At 25, he not only knows what an “emergency fund” is, he already has one. He wrote high school and college sports for every major newspaper in Florida while working his way through Florida State University. That experience was motivation to find another way to succeed financially and he has at Debt.org. Max can be reached at mfay@debt.org.


There's also an important caveat: You need to determine if the lender you're thinking about repaying charges a prepayment penalty for early payoff. Some personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages charge if you pay off your debt before the designated time. If so, you may not want to put that debt on your early payoff list, as any money saved on interest might be lost to the penalty.


Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy:  Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
You might be wondering, “Why is having an emergency fund important”? Well, if you don’t have any money in the bank and an emergency does happen, how are you going to pay for it? For most people, credit cards become the funding source for those emergencies. If you are trying to get out of debt then you need to put a buffer between you and debt; that is exactly what an emergency fund does.
It sounds like you have done what you can to protect yourself (credit freeze, law enforcement etc.) I am not sure what your bank will do but I can’t imagine they will pursue you for a crime committed against you. Have you changed the bank account you deposit your Social Security check into? If not, talk with your bank. It would seem to be a reasonable precaution.

How often interest compounds. Compounding occurs when interest is charged and added onto the principal balance. If interest compounds daily, interest is charged every day and added to your principal balance. So, the next day, interest is charged on principal balance that's slightly higher. The more often your interest compounds, the higher your actual interest costs are. If you borrowed $100 at 10% interest and interest compounded daily, you wouldn't owe just owe $110 at the end of the year if you never made a payment. Each day, you'd owe 1/365 of the 10% annual interest. Your daily interest cost would be added to your balance, so you'd be charged daily interest on a slightly higher balance every day. At the end of the year, you'd owe $110.52. 
DMP: The fact that you’re participating in a DMP isn’t calculated into your credit score, although it will be noted on your credit report. That said, other consequences of the DMP will have an effect. For instance, closing your accounts will affect the amount of credit you have available and could impact your credit history, both of which figure into the credit score algorithm. To learn more about how credit scores are calculated, visit Learn How Debt Affects Your Credit Score.
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If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.

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.


Those who enroll make monthly deposits with a credit counseling organization, which then is used to pay the debts according to a predetermined payment schedule developed by the counselor and creditors. Your monthly payment is tailored to what the customer can afford, and you know before agreeing to take part in the program what that monthly amount is. An analysis of household income vs. expenditures determines the monthly payment.
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