Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.


DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
When you owe a lot of money to a lot of creditors and feel like you'll never be able to pay it all off, the first step on the path to financial freedom is to say "I need help with my debt." Being in debt feels horrible and for many people it's an embarrassment. But once you raise your hand and admit "I need help with my debt," you'll find there are plenty of resources for people in your position — and plenty of people who need the same kind of help.

You didn’t get into debt quickly, and you won’t get out of debt quickly. If you aren’t willing to devote three to five years to wipe out your credit card debt, then you might as well hire a attorney and file for bankruptcy, Ulzheimer says. Just keep in mind that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is expensive, and a bankruptcy will stay on your credit record for seven or 10 years (depending on the type of bankruptcy).


Note: Federal regulations require credit card issuers to disclose on your credit card statement how long it will take to pay off your estimated balance if you make minimum monthly payments. Estimates may be rounded up to the next $100. This debt calculator uses your actual credit card balance, so the results may vary from the estimate shown in your credit card statement.
Chapter 13: Yes. Chapter 13 also discharges debts, but many of the nondischargeable debts like recent taxes and past due child support must be paid in full in the Chapter 13 plan. Unsecured debt like credit cards will only be paid in a Chapter 13 plan if you have the income to cover it. Sometimes unsecured creditors receive a portion of their debt and sometimes they receive nothing at all. But even if they’re not paid they’ll be discharged if you complete your plan. To see how this works, visit Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics. 
You see, 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 root 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! 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. 
Consolidated credit programs allow you to consolidate debt, regardless of how much debt you have or your credit score. You work with a certified credit consolidation agency to develop a consolidated debt repayment plan that fits your budget. The program freezes your accounts while you’re enrolled, which helps you break your credit habit and learn better ways to budget for everyday expenses.

Dave Ramsey is the way to go! My wife and I took his course through our church but you can take it online. He’s funny, informative and gets to the point. I like the facts and my wife likes to have fun so his course was perfect. It even helped our marriage. When BOTH husband and wife are cleaning up the debt mess it makes it that much easier however, we did see a lot of single people taking the course too. We started in Oct. 2014 with 48K between all the loans we had together and now our debt free day is September 18th 2015!
Everyone with even a little bit of debt has to manage their debt. If you just have a little debt, you have to keep up your payments and make sure it doesn’t get out of control. On the other hand, when you have a large amount of debt, you have to put more effort into paying off your debt while juggling payments on the debts you’re not currently paying.
Over time, the debt reductions that we're able to secure could enable you to begin building up a store of savings or adding to your existing retirement account. For many past clients, our program was a turning point: Before enrolling, they lived paycheck to paycheck and could still barely afford to make ends meet. After successfully completing our debt settlement plan, they finally had the means to prepare and save for the future. It's the least we can do to help.

Who’s it best for? Anyone who doesn’t like surprises will appreciate Cambridge. The clear FAQs include questions any prospective client would want answered (for example: “How will the program affect my credit rating?”) and there are a lot of financial basics, including budget worksheets and a debt payoff calculator. Cambridge is also willing to work with limited kinds of secured debt.

Finally, you should know there’s a chance your credit can still suffer. Technically, entering a debt management plan shouldn’t hurt your credit score. But if your debt management company ever misses a payment on your behalf, your score will take a hit. Also, prospective lenders may shy away from making loans if they see a notation on your credit report that you’re in a debt management program.


Find out if there's a penalty APR, too. That's when the card company jacks your interest rate up to 25% or even 30% if you pay a bill late or commit some other transgression. Many cards don't feature them, and that's preferable. Remember that any time you apply for a new credit card, even for a balance transfer, your credit score may be affected negatively as a result.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this article – I’m planning to share it with my husband tonight. Your approach and honestly in the article is so freshing since I myself was in a crazy amount of debt as of last year ($22K at the peak). Essentially, I followed all the steps you mentioned (took a hard look at my total debt, got a higher ($7K more) paying job, transferred balances to a 0% card and paid off a load of consumer debt. I’m scheduled to pay off all my consumer debt by April 2011.
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!
On average, National Debt Relief can reduce enrolled debt by around 49 percent which is slightly higher than Freedom and New Era. You will pay fees of between 15 to 25 percent on the amount that is settled. This debt relief company doesn’t charge any upfront fees, so you’ll only pay on the debts that are settled. Keep in mind, though, that the fees are in addition to the settlement, so a 20 percent fee in addition to a 49 percent settlement ends up being 69 percent of the original amount.
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.
Max Fay is an entrepreneurial Millennial whose thoughtful writing shows he has a keen eye on both. Max has a genetic predisposition to being tight with his money and free with financial advice. At 25, he not only knows what an “emergency fund” is, he already has one. He wrote high school and college sports for every major newspaper in Florida while working his way through Florida State University. That experience was motivation to find another way to succeed financially and he has at Debt.org. Max can be reached at mfay@debt.org.
Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
A debt settlement plan in which you repay less than you owe hurts your credit. If your score is around 680 at the time you settle your debt, you could lose between 45 and 65 points. If your score was around 780, you'd lose between 140 and 160 points. However, it won't hurt your score as much as bankruptcy. For a 680 score, bankruptcy could take off 130 to 150 points, and for a 780 score, bankruptcy would cause a drop between 220 and 240 points. While the drop to your score is dramatic and it could take several years to recover, debt settlement could provide much-needed relief if you're struggling to pay bills. 
Absolutely. InCharge is proud to offer an online credit counseling option where you enter your information and receive a personalized debt relief solution without ever having to speak to a person. If a debt management program is recommended, you can add or delete credit accounts, choose a payment due date and set-up automated payments, all without having to call in to a counselor.

The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
I recently became fed up with the credit card debt that I have been carrying for 6 years and have *finally* taken action to eliminate it, such as making a budget (and sticking to it!), trying to negotiate a lower APR rate, selling stuff (au revoir, gitane bicycle) and making additional payments on my credit cards. This article was EXACTLY what I needed to read. It’s affirmation that I’m on the right track (:
Everyone with even a little bit of debt has to manage their debt. If you just have a little debt, you have to keep up your payments and make sure it doesn’t get out of control. On the other hand, when you have a large amount of debt, you have to put more effort into paying off your debt while juggling payments on the debts you’re not currently paying.
Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.
*Clients who are able to stay with the program and get all their debt settled realize approximate savings of 50% before fees, or 30% including our fees, over 24 to 48 months. All claims are based on enrolled debts. Not all debts are eligible for enrollment. Not all clients complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Estimates based on prior results, which will vary based on specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that you will be debt-free within a specific period of time. We do not assume consumer debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Not available in all states. Please contact a tax professional to discuss tax consequences of settlement. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney for more information on bankruptcy. Depending on your state, we may be available to recommend a local tax professional and/or bankruptcy attorney. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.
Of course, $800 a month in credit-card bills is a lot to handle, which is where debt management comes in. One of the companies I profile further down, InCharge, can help reduce interest rates by an average of 6% to 9%. Assuming the best scenario (a 9% interest rate drop) and a four-year plan, your monthly payment could shrink to $576 (this includes a monthly fee of $49, which could be lower or dropped completely, depending on your situation) and your total interest paid would shrink to $5,276.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
It definitely sounds like you are in a tough spot. Can you make minimum payments until you get a place to rent and then try to resolve your debt? In addition, it would be a good idea for you to check out credit counseling as that may allow you to lower your payments, pay your debt in full, and avoid the kind of damage to your credit that settlement will do. (I am not opposed to settlement – it can be helpful in certain situations. But it definitely will affect your credit scores for some time.)
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.
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