On the opposite end of the spectrum, American Consumer Credit Counseling is impressively detailed with their FAQs and discussion of debt management. They offer a debt management calculator that allows potential clients to input their creditors and outstanding balances to get an idea of the savings they may realize. Established in 1991, the company does business in all 50 states and is accredited by the BBB, AICCCA, and ISO. Their fees are also low ($39 to enroll, and from $5 to $35 monthly). However, they will only deal with unsecured debt, and the site pushes the debt management plan a bit more heavily than other competitors.
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.
The exception? If you take out a loan from your retirement account to consolidate credit card debt, you’re more likely to see your credit improve. Retirement account loans aren’t reported to credit reporting agencies, so your credit reports will show less debt with no new loan. However, retirement loans carry their own risks, so proceed with caution.
A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.
“There are hundreds of companies that claim to offer consumers ways to erase bad credit, create a new credit identity, or even remove bankruptcies, judgments or liens from credit files. Many of these services are outright scams and should be avoided,” says Mike Long, executive vice president and chief credit officer at UW Credit Union in Wisconsin.
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.
Here’s how balance transfers work: As a way of attracting new customers, credit card companies will let you transfer a balance—in other words, a debt—from one credit card to a new credit card at 0 percent interest for a certain number of months. For example, if you were to transfer a $2,000 balance from one card (15 percent APR) to a new card (0 percent APR for 12 months), you could save up to $300 in interest.
Some creditors may report that a credit counseling agency is repaying the account. Don’t worry if they do. FICO, the data analytics corporation that calculates consumer credit risk, ignore such reports. An individual lender may care, but FICO doesn’t. Of course, any late payments or high balances on accounts will continue to impact your credit score.
The benefit of going for this type of debt relief option is that your monthly payment will most likely be much lower than the sum of the payments you are currently making. You may also have any penalty charges waived as well as any fees. Most of all, you will no longer be harassed by your creditors as they will be handling everything through the debt management agency.
To get out of debt quickly, you have to look closely at your assets. Real estate assets that are expensive to maintain, life insurance policies that are no longer necessary but have expensive premiums and investments with returns lower than the interest rate on debt should all be converted into cash right away. Be aware of the tax implications of liquidating assets. Typically, proceeds from a life settlement and money from the sale of a primary home aren’t taxable. Check with a certified public accountant before making any big moves.
Under the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you may qualify for a reduced interest rate on mortgage payments or credit card debt, protection from eviction, or a delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings. To find out if you qualify, contact your local Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.
The potential to be sued for debts due to non payment is what causes consumers to reach out to a debt settlement attorney to learn further about their options. In my experience consumers typically accuse National Debt Relief of not settling their debts in time to avoid the lawsuit or not informing them that they could be sued on the debts when it all could have been avoided in the first place had the consumer talked to a debt relief attorney from the beginning of their financial problems.
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.
Take on a part-time job. Working 10 more hours a week for a year at $12 per hour can generate $6,000 before taxes. You might work at a local retailer or at home, perhaps tutoring students, teaching music, doing freelance writing or editing, or consulting. Check out new-gig-economy jobs like Uber if you have a car, Rover and Wag if you're animal lover, or Care.com if you want to babysit or tutor. Post any services you may offer, like handyman or lawn care, on neighborhood email listservs and the Nextdoor app.
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 email@example.com.
Chapter 13 is a three- or five-year court-approved repayment plan, based on your income and debts. If you are able to stick with the plan for its full term, the remaining unsecured debt is discharged. It will take longer than a Chapter 7 — but if you are able to keep up with payments (a majority of people are not), you will get to keep your property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years from the filing date.
If the monthly payment on your debt isn't enough to pay off the interest that accrued during the month, you will literally be in debt forever. All the money you pay would go toward interest, and your principal balance would never go down. That's why it's important to make sure your payments reduce your principal each month as much as possible if you hope to become debt free.
Debt settlement companies also charge a fee for their "service." Most of the time, settlement fees cost between $1,500 to $3,500. Fraudulent debt settlement companies often tell customers to stop making payments on their debts and instead pay the company. Once their fee is accounted for, they promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts. Sounds great, right? Well, the debt settlement companies usually don’t deliver on helping you with your debt after they take your money. They’ll leave you on the hook for late fees and additional interest payments on debt they promised to help you pay!
Making extra payments should allow more money to come off the principal -- so next month, you'd pay interest on a smaller principal balance and your interest cost would be lower. That's why paying extra can be so helpful in becoming debt free. Not only do you reduce the remaining balance owed, but you also reduce the interest cost that causes your balance to grow.
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.
Everyone has bills and most everyone wants to get out of debt, but some people simply can’t get a focused. It’s not a priority for them. Remedy: The best solution could be to consolidate your debts and make just one payment every month. Another way to get focused would be to take a piece of paper the size of a credit card and write down the five debts you want to get rid of. Tape that piece of paper to your credit card. Every time you reach for that card, you’ll be reminded that you’re adding, not subtracting to the problems on that page.
DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
The top benefit is a reduction in both monthly payment and interest rates. There is the convenience of making only one payment for all your debts. You also receive valuable education materials, including financial tips and reminders for payments due. InCharge clients receive a monthly statement that details payments made to each creditor and a progress reports on how much of the debt has been paid.