Always keep in mind when dealing with services like debt relief that many customer view it as a magic pill to solve all their debt problems and make them financially stable, which is not the case. There are no guarantees when it comes to debt relief. These companies try to work with customers to lower their debt burden, but they aren’t going to work miracles.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
However, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. While some are accredited nonprofits, others are for-profit ventures that charge high fees and use questionable tactics, such as asking clients to dispute legitimate debts on credit reports or pay to become an authorized user on a stranger's credit card. Unscrupulous agencies may drain the wallets of already cash-strapped families and fail to address the underlying issues like budgeting, which are needed to ensure long-lasting financial success.
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.
Most debt management plans have participants send a monthly payment to the credit counseling agency. The agency then distributes it to creditors. They also negotiate lower interest rates, and may be able to have fees waived and can help reduce or eliminate the number of collection calls a person receives. Keep in mind, most plans take 36 to 60 months to complete. Credit counseling agencies may also help consumers review credit reports and dispute errors.
A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.