Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do:
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
Debt education: National Debt Relief has one of the best collections of debt relief information available to anyone on its site. National Debt Relief has common FAQs about debt, a detailed explanation of every debt relief option from consolidation to settlement to bankruptcy, and gives you tips to help you manage and deal with your debt all by yourself, for free. Most debt relief programs only offer this information if you sign up for their service. However, National Debt Relief makes it all available to anyone who is interested.
Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy: Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.
A second option is consumer credit counseling. There is any number of consumer credit counseling agencies available on the Internet or you may be able to find one locally. The best of these are nonprofits. When you contact one of these agencies either via a website or in person you will have a counselor that will spend from 45 minutes to an hour with you discussing your finances. The best of these agencies charge nothing for that service.
In some cases, credit card companies allow you to use balance-transfer checks. Essentially, you'll be able to deposit money in your bank account and get the special promotional balance transfer rate of 0% interest for a designated time. If you take advantage of this offer, you'd still pay whatever fee the card imposes for balance transfers, if any. This approach allows you to use a balance transfer to refinance even non-credit card debt to the 0% promotional rate. Just be careful not to confuse balance-transfer checks with a cash advance, which involves having your credit card lend you cash at a very high interest rate.
We are a nation that pays far too much attention to education for the young, but not financial education, just all the subjects one needs to have a well-rounded understanding of the world and our place in it. Why not give our children the financial tools for them to succeed while their minds are most formative, so they can be prepared to be entrepreneurs at an earlier age? This may be the one thing we are missing which could change our entire future as a nation.
To qualify for National Debt Relief, you must have at least $7,500 in debt and a demonstrable financial hardship that you cannot recover from. Financial hardship includes a divorce, unemployment, loss of income, the death of a spouse and unpaid taxes. National Debt Relief uses this proof of your financial hardship as leverage to negotiate with your creditors.
Put extra money toward the credit card or debt with the smallest balance. You'll be able to pay it off quickly, reducing the total number of accounts you have to deal with, and giving yourself the mental boost of successfully eliminating part of your debt (though you'll pay more interest in the long run than if you were to pay off debt with the highest interest rate first.)
Debt settlement companies typically ask you to stop paying your creditors and instead put the money in an account they control. Each creditor is approached as the money accumulates in your account and you fall further and further behind on payments. Fear of getting nothing at all may motivate the creditor to accept a smaller lump-sum offer and agree not to pursue you for the rest.
Avoid high monthly fees. Most debt management plans charge a nominal monthly fee to cover the administrative expenses. Depending on the number of creditors you have, the monthly fee may vary, but it generally should be between $2-5 per creditor or, at most, not more than $50 per month. Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
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.
There are big benefits to this approach. You don't have to go through an approval process -- the amount you can borrow is determined by your policy's value. You can use the money to repay any debt you want, because there's no explanation required for what you plan to do with it. And while you need to pay back the policy with interest, you're borrowing from yourself so you aren't fattening the pockets of a creditor. Furthermore, there's typically no mandatory minimum monthly payment, and interest rates are low.
Those who are overwhelmed by debt often turn to credit counseling agencies to find help. They offer a variety of services, such as workshops, one-on-one coaching and debt management plans, all with a common objective. "The No. 1 goal is to leave people in a better financial situation," says Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University. The Financial Hope Collaborative is a financial education and counseling program for low- to moderate-income families living in Omaha, Nebraska.
Unlike traditional debt consolidation loans, a nonprofit debt management program can help you lower your interest rates and consolidate debt with bad credit. That is because a debt management program isn’t extending new credit or a loan to you. They are simply helping you bundle your payments and make them on-time, and helping you lower your interest rates, despite a poor credit history. Why? Creditors may see you as a bankruptcy risk. By giving helping make your payment more affordable with lower rates, and supporting nonprofit debt consolidation programs, the creditors are attempting to prevent you from defaulting on your debt.
Why don’t you qualify for IBR or PAYE? Is it because your income is too high to reduce your payments? If that’s the case, and you’ve exhausted all your options, then I am at a loss in terms of what to suggest other than to encourage you to continue to pay as much as you can and check back into those programs from time to time to see if requirements have changed. Student loan debt is an enormous problem and for many there is no simple solution.
In fact, certain aspects of a debt management plan will have a positive impact on your credit score. These aspects are the amounts owed, payment history, and inquiries for new credit. Your payment history, which makes up 35% of the FICO credit score, will have a positive impact assuming your payments are made every month. In terms of amounts owed, which makes up 30% of the Fico score, this aspect will be positively impacted as the accounts are paid down.