Nearly 50% of all college graduates leave school with private or federal loans, and the average US student leaves with at least $10,000 to repay. This can be a substantial burden for recent graduates, which makes student loan consolidation a smart - and sometimes necessary - choice for any graduate in need of debt help. Consolidation of federal loans is easy, and might save you hundreds of dollars by lowering your interest rate. Read our guide to federal and private student loans, browse our articles on the topic.
In addition to using the free services from a non-profit, or working with the lender, there are steps that you can take yourself that can help you reduce your debt. It often combines budgeting as well as working out a solution with the lender. Some of those assistance programs range from payment plans to interest rate reductions or forbearance. It is also important for families to know the difference between bad debt and good debt, so when someone should borrow money or not. The fact is that families, no matter their income, need all the assistance they can get in order to become debt free and pay outstanding bills.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
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.

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.
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.
InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.
InCharge is the only national credit counseling service that offers online counseling: enter your income, assets and debts and you’ll receive a personalized debt relief solution – all without having to talk to a person. Other reasons to choose InCharge for consumer credit counseling services: A+ rating from the BBB and we are certified by the NFCC.

Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
Experian, one of the three major credit bureau companies in the U.S., said the impact on your score should be minimal if you and the agency making payments for you, are on-time every month. If lenders look at your full credit report while you are in a DMP, they will see that you are repaying the debt at a reduced rate and it may affect their final decision on whether to grant you a loan.
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