How it works: Settlement companies ask you to stop paying the credit card companies and instead, send regular payments to an escrow account. When the balance in that account has reached a sufficient level, the settlement company negotiates with the card company for a reduced, lump-sum payment. If the creditor agrees, money is sent from the escrow account. If there is not enough money in the account, a payment schedule is agreed upon.
Debt management is one of several debt-relief options for those who are struggling to keep up with a growing pile of bills each month. When you sign up for a debt management plan, you pay a single company every month instead of all of your creditors individually. The debt management company then pays off your creditors for you, usually after negotiating lower interest rates and payments.
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.
A recent credit counseling study has produced significant research findings for the debt relief industry, showing that it is effective in helping people pay off more debt and faster. Researchers at Ohio State University compared two groups of financially distressed people with similar characteristics. The first group received credit counseling and the second did not. Those who received the service reduced their credit card debt by nearly $6,000 within 18 months of counseling. Those who had not received counseling, reduced their debt by only $3,600. Additionally, counseled participants’ available credit ratio was 19% higher than non-counseled available credit. Download the NFCC OSU Credit Counseling Statistics Final Report – 2016.
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Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.
You need to start off with a plan so you know just how much debt you have and your ability to pay them off. Also, it will provide you with a black and white scenario of your financial standing. The easiest way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet. If you don’t already have a spreadsheet on your computer you could use the free one that comes with Google Docs. You will want to create four columns – one for the name of your creditor, one for the amount owed, a third for your minimum payment (if applicable) and a fourth for the payment due date. Fill out these columns and you will have a good picture of your debt, which is the first important step in getting it under control.
Credit card forbearance programs are offered by companies. Once again, the major lenders including Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Discover Card, and others offer credit card forbearance programs that may allow consumers to delay monthly payments from six months to over a year. These programs may also lower interest rates, reduce a customer’s minimum monthly payment, or waive all fees.
McClary says the best time to go to creditors for help is before the situation is out of control. Don’t wait until an account is about to be closed because you’ve had several months of late or missed payments. Tell the creditor you’d like to pay down your balance faster and want to know what services are available to help you manage your debt better.
Consolidate debt using a low interest rate credit card. Discover the 10 best low interest rate credit cards as determined by CardRatings and Consumer Reports. They also tend to have very competitive fees. A low interest rate credit card can greatly reduce the amount you need to pay on your outstanding credit card bills and debt. Find a list of the 10 best credit cards for consolidation.
Get a second job or work overtime, if available. I’ll be blunt, second jobs are no fun, but they sure do help pay the bills. Think of how tired/stressed/soulless you feel after your 9-5 already; now imagine getting in your car, battling rush hour traffic, and putting in another four hours from 6 to 10. Then you get home around 11, just in time to watch the Daily Show and pass out.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
A credit counselor is a professional who can advise you on how to handle and successfully pay off your debt. A simple call to a credit counseling agency for a consultation won’t impact your credit in the slightest. But if the credit counselor or agency enrolls you in any kind of consolidation, repayment, or management plan, that could affect your credit.
Credit card modifications are becoming more common. For example, Bank of America expects to modify the credit card terms of over 1 million cardholders, Chase is rewriting the terms of thousands of card agreements, and almost every other lender as well as bank offers some form of modifications. It is more possible than ever today to get out of debt with help from credit card issuers. Continue learning about credit card modifications.
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.
Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.
If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
Even outside of the holidays, plenty of seasonal jobs may be available. Springtime brings the need for seasonal greenhouse workers and farm jobs, while summer calls for tour operators and all types of outdoor, temporary workers from lifeguards to landscapers. Fall brings seasonal work for haunted house attractions, pumpkin patches, and fall harvest.
The average length of a DMP is 3-5 years, but is shorter for clients who decide to aggressively deal with their debt. Many clients pay down debt faster by using income tax returns, inheritance money or some other unexpected source of income. There is no penalty for paying the debt off early. You can make additional payments while on the plan and pay off your debt faster.