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.
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.
It is also important to be aware of any debt settlement and debt relief and elimination scams that may be going around. Always research the companies or the debt relief programs you are interested in and make sure they are offering legitimate and reliable services. Also, make sure that the debt consolidation program you work with informs you of all the risks that may be associated with the particular programs they are offering.
While some private companies offer this service to borrowers, many lawyers and debt settlement attorneys may also be able to help you through this process. They help borrowers reduce or eliminate their debts and will work directly with your creditors, including banks. Many of these attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning you need to pay them only if they are successful and save you money. Learn more about attorneys that settle debts.
In most cases, medical debt has no interest rate attached to it so there really is no gain by including it in a debt consolidation program. Remember the key elements of debt consolidation are: a) a reduced interest rate; and b) lower monthly payment. The one advantage to medical debt consolidation is that it becomes part of your single, monthly payment and could help you pay off the debt faster.
If you negotiate a payment plan or a settlement offer, get it in writing. And don't give creditors access to your bank account, as this could make it easier for them to get a court order to freeze your bank account or to put a lien on it -- and unscrupulous collectors could take out more money than you give permission for. Instead, send payments in the mail.
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:
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.
When you start a debt management program, you’re adjusting the payment schedule for your credit cards. So it’s important to note that your creditors may report that you’ve missed a payment on your credit reports in the first month your plan starts. Basically, this happens because there can be a gap between when a payment was supposed to be made on your previous payment schedule and the payments you’re making now.
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.