A process of negotiation will occur between your debt consolidation agency and your lenders. Many reputable debt agencies will have considerable negotiating power with your lenders and will be able to help you in both the short and long term. There is no guarantee, however, that the negotiation will be successful. Lenders do not have to accept reduced repayments or altered terms.
The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.
Finally, if you or the credit counseling agency fail to make payments on time under the debt management plan, those late or missed payments will appear on your credit report. Because your DMP can cover many debts, one late payment to the credit counseling agency may be reflected as a late payment for each account that is part of the DMP on your credit report. A late payment will also harm your credit scores.
Over time, your small balances should disappear one by one, freeing up more dollars to throw at your larger debts and loans. This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller balances first — logging a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last. Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra dollars toward your debts until they’re demolished — and you’re finally debt-free.
If you’re interested in a debt management program, you’ll first consult a Clearpoint certified credit counselor in a free, basic credit counseling session, which is offered online, via phone, or in person. Your counselor will review your total financial situation and discuss your credit report, income, and expenses. You and your counselor will take inventory of your outstanding debts and creditors, and your counselor will explain how a DMP may work for your specific situation, including how your interest rates and monthly payments may change on the program.
There are also specific debt consolidation loans available, marketed to borrowers looking to get a handle on debt. In many cases, however, these debt consolidation loans have high interest rates and other unfavorable terms. If you see a loan product labeled as a debt consolidation loan, research very carefully to determine whether the loan is actually a good deal.
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.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. They discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Debt management companies are springing up everywhere. These companies help "manage" your debt by taking one monthly payment from you and distributing the money among your creditors, with whom they've often worked out lower payments and lower interest. This is not a loan as with debt consolidation. Sometimes people get the two confused. However, because Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt, the debt management business has become one of the fastest-growing industries today.
This year, my husband and I made a few changes… we put ourselves on a strict budget and gave ourselves a cash allowance so we wouldn’t even be tempted to use the debit cards “just to grab lunch,” squirreled our credit cards away so we wouldn’t use them, and went through TONS of stuff that we weren’t using anymore and are planning a neighborhood yard sale for the spring.
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Our experience with Clearpoint Credit Counseling is remarkable as they have helped us understand how to remove that overwhelming and disastrous financial burden from our lives. Our Clearpoint counselor is always welcoming, empathetic, professional and experienced and he has allowed us to live our lives as we had dreamed—free from the nightmare of the intimidating phone calls, the threatening letters and the guilt we felt.
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.
Instead of diving into debt settlement, a better option might be to talk to a nonprofit credit counselor. Credit counseling organizations can help you better understand tactics for managing and reducing your debt, including creating and following a budget. Credit counseling may not have the negative impact of debt settlement (though if you choose a Debt Management Plan, it could appear on your credit report).
The big advantage of the debt snowball is scoring quick wins. Science backs up the idea that this is the best approach, because you'll stay more motivated as you see debt balances paid off. But there's an obvious downside: Your smallest debt may not have the highest interest rate. If you're waiting longer to pay off high-interest debt while focusing on lower-rate debts, you'll pay more interest over time.
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
Home equity. Another way to refinance your debt is to tap into your home equity to repay what you owe. If you have equity in your home -- that is, you owe less than your mortgage balance -- you can get money out of your home using a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. You could also refinance your entire mortgage and do a cash-out refi wherein you get a new loan to repay your old mortgage and give you extra cash in the process.
Most reputable credit counselors are non-profit and offer services at local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate non-profit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
A chance to start over. The anxiety of dealing with debt everyday crushes people’s spirits. Choosing the debt-relief option that gives you a way out of debt is a life-changing experience. Nothing feels better than second chance, an opportunity to right the wrongs and prove you’ve learned from experience. Bankruptcy, despite its reputation, will do that. A successful Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy breathes life back into consumers. It brings hope that the lessons you’ve learned about finances can take the stress out of your life.
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.
Credit counseling provides guidance and support on consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. The objective of most credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy and to provide primary financial education on managing money. Borrowers with an understanding of money management are assets for lenders as well. Many counseling services also negotiate with creditors on behalf of the borrower to reduce interest rates and late fees.