If you want some early small victories, some people recommend the “snowball” method, where you pay minimums on the largest bills while you work at paying them off, smallest to largest. Once the smallest one is paid off, you put the money you had been paying toward the next-smallest and so on. Another way is to pay the highest-interest-rate balance first. Use the one that makes the most sense to you. Read more here: 5 Ways To Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?

It’s hard at first, because most of us aren’t used to doing that. (Especially if we’re living on a low income.) But it’s absolutely doable, and gets easier with practice. And once you start paying stuff off, it becomes even easier because your money isn’t flying out the door to service debt. You have MORE money available, which makes things easier still. It’s the exact opposite of a vicious circle.
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.
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.
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Find out how your personal information will be protected. When you enter a debt management program, you have to share some of your most sensitive financial information with the counseling agency. You'd better make sure they won't sell it to others or disclose the information to anyone except the creditors you've agreed to include in the plan. Get a written privacy policy from them, and ask what safeguards they have in place to protect your information.


There are two ways to file for bankruptcy – a chapter 7 and a chapter 13. The difference is that a chapter 7 bankruptcy is called a liquidation bankruptcy as its goal is to liquidate your assets to repay your creditors. However, much of your assets such as your house, automobile, furniture and personal items are excluded in a chapter 7 bankruptcy so in practice you might not have any assets that could be liquidated.
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.
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
Credit Limitation: This option only works if you have good credit; excellent credit is better. Balance transfer credit cards offer 0% APR on balance transfers when you open the account. An excellent credit score means you qualify for the longest 0% APR introductory period possible. Some cards have promotions that run up to 18 or 24 months. That gives you up to two years to pay off your debt interest-free.
We do not have a minimum debt requirement for the debt management program. Our goal is to create a payment plan that is affordable and enables you to pay off your debt within a three to five year period. Our clients have, on average, credit card debt of $15,000. Though we have enrolled clients with as little as $1000 in debt, and more than $100,000 in debt. Our clients have an average annual income of $36,000.
DMPs for consumers are often negotiated by a credit counseling agency on behalf of the debtor.[1] Credit counseling agencies often address the debt by working with the debtor to set a budget based on their regular income and expenditures that will then include one regular bill payment that is allocated across the creditor(s). Agencies will negotiate on behalf of the debtor to lower payments and interest rates with creditors. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees.[1] The effect on the debtor's overall credit score will vary.[3] In the United Kingdom, as well as DMPs, residents can also apply for an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVAs), which can give the debtor a discount on their debt.[4]
Because we are a non-profit counseling agency, Advantage Credit Counseling Service (CCS) is 100% focused on helping you achieve debt relief. With more than 50 years of experience and the industry’s best Online Credit Counseling system, you can rest assured that not only will our certified counselors understand what you’re going through, they’ll also know how to help you uncover truly personalized solutions to improve your financial future.
Chapter 7: Bankruptcy has a dramatic affect on your score, and depending on where you started from, you’ll probably end up somewhere between 520 and 550. But, if you’re careful you can raise that score dramatically so that in about two to three years, you’re in the very good to excellent range. Chapter 7 will stay on your credit record for ten years. Check out How to Get New Credit to Survive and Thrive After Bankruptcy.

If you are currently serving or have served in the military, then you face a unique set of financial challenges. Consolidated Credit works closely with Southern Command, Army OneSource and the Department of Defense to help military Service Members and Veterans get the financial help they need. We also offer specialized debt help for military personnel.
The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.

This is an easy way to make the debt repayment process less painful if you're able to do it: Reduce your interest rates. Changing the interest rate on your mortgage requires refinancing -- but it might be worth looking into. One rule of thumb suggests that it's worth it if the interest rate you're likely to get is a percentage point lower than the one you have.
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If you cash in your IRA early, you will not only pay taxes on it (unless it is a ROTH), you also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. That means that money is not going to go very far. Before you use your retirement money to pay off consumer debt, I would suggest you at least talk with a reputable credit counseling agency to see if there’s a way to get out of debt without using this money that you will no doubt need when you do retire.
To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.

Report any problems you have with a debt collection company to your State Attorney General's Office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your state Attorney General’s office can help you find out your rights under your state’s law.

At this point, you will need to continue following the advice of the credit counseling agency you hired to help and remember the benefits of being debt-free. Life is a lot more difficult when you’re juggling credit card bills and other payments each month. If you want to avoid winding up back in debt, it’s crucial to remember how far you’ve come and how wonderful freedom feels.
To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.
When you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the core of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Dave says, "Personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge." Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan.
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.
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.
Another consideration is whether or not you can become disciplined in spending and creating financial obligations without credit counseling assistance. These counselors can coach you into staying on target with your financial goals. The reason you're considering these services is that you've fallen off a sound financial path. Utilizing the help of a credit counseling agency could help you gain financial stability.

One thing to consider: If you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process can be over fairly quickly and with reasonable certainty that your unsecured debts will be forgiven. Debt management, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. The process can take years, and many people who start debt management plans ultimately drop out and may have to consider bankruptcy anyway.

A Credit Counseling Session is an overview of your total financial situation, which will uncover ways to provide you with debt relief. It can be done on the telephone, online utilizing our industry-leading tool, or in-person. A certified credit counselor will review all of your income, expenses, and debts. Your counselor will then make recommendations to help you get back on track financially (one of which may be a debt management program). For additional information about our credit counseling program, click here.
First, if you want to avoid late marks on your credit report, you will need to make at least one month, possibly two months, of “double payments”: one payment to the debt management service and your regular payments directly to your creditors. Since most people cannot afford this, you must be prepared for the possibility of getting a late mark on your credit report.
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