This is a very important first step before trying to start retiring debt. Having an emergency fund will help keep you from getting deeper into debt when unexpected events happen. If, for example, you have $1,000 in cash set aside and your car or house needs a sudden repair, you do not have to put that repair on a credit card. Ideally, you will want to get to the point where you have an emergency fund worth three to six months of expenses so you can support yourself temporarily if you suddenly lose your job, but the $1,000 is a great start.
Once you've got a list of counseling agencies you might do business with, check each one out with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about any one of them. (If there are no complaints about them, don't consider it a guarantee that they're legitimate.) The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. After you've done your background investigation, you will want to  interview the final "candidates."
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
It could also help to reach out to a debt counselor or financial planner to take steps toward getting your finances in order, or at least developing a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said. “If the debt is beyond your means, you might also want to explore bankruptcy or whatever it might take to turn your situation around,” she said. A professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options.
Bankruptcy can't solve your problems if you have substantial student loan debt. Student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy except in extreme cases where you can show severe hardship, such as becoming unable to ever work because of total permanent disability. You also can't get rid of mortgage or car loan debt if you hope to keep the assets; you'll need to become current and eventually repay these debts in full to avoid foreclosure or repossession of the vehicle. But for unsecured debt -- which is debt not guaranteed by your assets that you simply promised to repay -- bankruptcy could provide relief. 
Tip: Before you do business with any debt settlement company, contact your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency . They can tell you if any consumer complaints are on file about the firm you're considering doing business with. Some states require debt settlement companies to be licensed. You can check with your state regulator or ask your state Attorney General if the company is required to be licensed to work in your state and, if so, whether it is. You can also view the Federal Trade Commission's page on "Coping with Debt " for more information.
Seek the help of a psychologist or another mental health expert if your concerns about debt are negatively impacting your day-to-day life. A licensed health expert can help you confront your anxieties head on and offer strategies for dealing with them effectively. Also, reach out to your personal network and let those close to you know that you could use their support. It helps to know that you’re not in it alone.

Who’s it best for? Face-to-face counseling isn’t an option with all debt management companies, but it is with GreenPath. The company has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If you want a personal touch, the company could be worth a look. It’s also willing to include some secured debt in the debt management program.
Debt consolidation loans are a well-known, well-advertised option for consumers who struggle with debt. These credit facilities exist for the express purpose of paying off outstanding unsecured debts and do their job quite well. When you take out a debt consolidation loan, your lender immediately pays off your existing creditors and starts billing you for the balance.
This company works with unsecured debt – typically credit cards – as well as medical debt, private student loans and personal loans. Its debt settlement plans require you to stop paying your creditors and instead make payments into an escrow account set up by National Debt Relief. You control the money in this account. After several months of making installments into this account the settlement firm will begin negotiating with your creditors.
As you begin to work this system, keep in mind that it’s not easy. Just like losing weight, losing your debt takes work, but if you genuinely want to slough of that stressful debt, your perseverance can make it happen. And don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way. This isn’t about a quick fix, it’s about changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.
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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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.

You cannot use your existing credit cards while you’re on a debt management plan, nor can you open new accounts. McClary also said that if you do manage to open new credit card accounts during your debt management plan, existing creditors who find out may stop participating in your debt management plan and reset your account to its original terms and interest rate.


The most important first step to getting out of debt is to create a budget and take a hard look at your spending. This can be eye-opening for people who have never tracked their expenses. You have to get serious about reducing or eliminating certain unnecessary expenses. Be prepared to make sacrifices. This might mean a zero-dollar budget for things like date nights and new gadgets. Steer clear of temptations as much as possible, which might involve avoiding the mall or unsubscribing to emails from your favorite online retailer.
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.
Being deep in debt is a very stressful situation – especially if what you owe is more than what you are earning every month. Any breadwinner in the family feels this burden day in and day out. The pressure to make sure that the family is provided for is frustrating. While paying for the usual bills, you need to make sure your debts are paid on time and correctly. Not to mention having extra money to put aside so you will have emergency money for unexpected situations.
Credit card balance transfers. One of the simplest and easiest ways to lower the interest rate on credit card debt is to make credit card balance transfers. When you transfer a balance, you take advantage of a credit card offer that provides a low promotional rate for a limited period. It's common for credit cards to offer 0% interest on balance transfers for anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Balance-transfer cards sometimes charge a fee, such as 3% of the amount transferred, but there are some cards that don't impose charges, and those can be an especially good deal. 
Debt forgiveness is another potential strategy for anyone ready to admit "I need help with my debt." This involves paying your creditors a lump sum payment that is less than what you owe and ask them to wipe out your debt. While this is sometimes effective, it can also backfire and add even more debt to your totals. While ACCC does not get involved in debt forgiveness plans, we can help you understand the benefits or potential risks this approach may pose.
While negotiating with your creditors could be a very good solution most Americans are unable to do this as they simply do not know what to do. This is a case where the expertise and professionalism required to negotiate for new payment terms is often best left in the hands of those who know what to do. Otherwise, the desired results may not be achieved.
Other times, we just become sick of living paycheck to paycheck, and decide we want a better life — and that’s OK, too. You shouldn’t have to confront disaster to decide you don’t want to struggle anymore, and that you want a simpler existence. For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.
Hi everyone, in the UK we have student loans, but these are paid back through your salary when you start earning over £15,000 Gross Salary. Depending on when the loan was taken out, interest rates vary from 1-3% (so quite low). Basically if you’re not working, they cant take the money from you. Is this how it works in the US? Great site by the way it really puts things into perspective.
Reading the complaints, now I see it wasn’t me, because sometimes. I expect more from a company, but what really upset me ,was this person who answered the phone and he pretty much said you handle that .We only have limited power of attorney. I was trying to explain the problem, but all he kept saying was “ DID I ANSWER ALL YOUR Concerns! I said yes because I knew he didn’t hear a word I said , and could give a crap less.
This was a really great article! It is true that you can’t approach debt like a fad diet, it needs to be a lifestyle! And everyone has different lifestyles so it’s okay to approach paying off your debt differently than your friends or family! It just is important to keep at it and make a change to the way you used to live when you were getting yourself in debt! Thanks for sharing this with us!
I’ve only been in the program a few weeks. I’m rather disappointed with their csr. At first they treat you like you’re golden and give the impression that they actually care. Once I signed up I tried reaching out to the lady who originally helped me,she completely ignored me and has not replied to any of my emails. It just feels awful being tossed to the side like garbage after initially being treat with attention and support.
I doubt that would be the case. The main impact will be from closing those accounts. FICO doesn’t take into account that you are in credit counseling when calculating your credit score. In other words, you don’t get penalized specifically for credit counseling like you would for, say, a late payment or bankruptcy. Plus you’ll hopefully be learning how to live debt free so you don’t have to rely on credit cards again.
One factor I have not seen mentioned here is what I learned when entering the field of sales. A job is just that; a means to an end. A job produces a predictable income stream, which is why we were taught that j.o.b. = Just Over Broke, or, where most people are comfortable remaining for the majority of their working lives, whether out of habit, fear, or ignorance of what opportunitieseee are available to them.

Consolidating student loan debt can also make it possible to get more borrower protections. For example, while Parent PLUS loans aren't eligible for income-based repayment, when these loans are consolidated under the Direct Loan program, they can become eligible. Income-driven repayment programs can result in a lower monthly payment and open up the door to loan forgiveness after a sufficient number of payments are made. 

Credit counseling is done largely over-the-phone or online, but can be done in-person at a home or office. Counselors conduct 30–40 minute interviews to gather information about your financial situation. They will ask questions about income, expenses, budgets and assets. It is best to have this information documented and available when you begin the process.
As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.
I know they stay on your report for 7 yrs……….but out of all of them while the others of course are on the report as not paid, they are not listed in a separate section that says “in collecions”……the ones that were on the report under the collecions status concern me because I ws sued on two of them……the small claims Calvary was very nice….after they obtained the judgment, I offered thme 300.00 and hey volantrly dismissed the judgment……….do you know how many points affect a credit score with a judgment? Portfollio will never get dime from me…..I offered them 1500 when a cousin offered me a loan and they scoffed………the only thing I have in the bank is my own money however I took out a collateral loan against its is secured……assuming if Portfolio tried to get it, then the bank has first dibs……….
No. All eligible unsecured debt must be accounted for in a debt management plan, even those bills that you typically have no problem making payments on. The credit counseling agency in charge of your debt payment plan will want a full accounting of income and expenses in order to arrive at an accurate amount available to make the monthly DMP payments so be prepared to include all eligible debts.
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