Also, there are many not for profit credit counseling organizations who offer services at local offices, online, and on the phone. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Local financial institutions and consumer protection agencies may also be good sources of information and referrals.
Take steps to rebuild your credit and improve your credit score, which in turn, could give you access to more credit in the future. For starters, focus on implementing a plan for paying off debt, and work to keep your balances low on credit cards. Keep in mind that improving your credit score requires small, responsible actions over time, so be patient and set long-term objectives. For more tips on how to improve your FICO score, take a look here.
The benefit of borrowing against your home, however, is interest rates will be much lower than for most other types of debt. And you may be eligible for a tax deduction for mortgage interest. However, with a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, you're eligible to deduct interest only if the proceeds are used to pay for qualifying home improvement expenses.
Debt among U.S. consumers is escalating at a dangerous pace, putting younger generations at a financial risk that was never experienced by their parents. It usually starts with irresponsible use of credit cards and grows worse as unforeseen circumstances like unemployment, medical emergencies or unforeseen changes in a family situation come into the picture.
At American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), we offer free credit counseling and low-cost services to consumers who are ready to say "I need help with my debt." Our highly trained and certified credit counselors can clear up any confusion around your finances, help you evaluate your financial situation, and go over all of the options for paying down your debt — from debt relief loans to debt settlement programs and debt management plans. We'll help you choose the avenue that will work best for your situation and goals, and provide you with ample educational materials to help you manage your money more effectively.
In addition to only spending money you already have, those changes include saving up money for emergencies, planning for regular and irregular expenses (including fun things), saying no or getting creative until you’ve got the money for stuff you want, and asking for help. They include tracking your spending to see if you’re getting enough value, taking responsibility for your actions and inactions, and making different choices than the ones that got you into debt. They include being honest with yourself and anyone else you share finances with.
There are also specific debt consolidation loans available, marketed to borrowers looking to get a handle on debt. In many cases, however, these debt consolidation loans have high interest rates and other unfavorable terms. If you see a loan product labeled as a debt consolidation loan, research very carefully to determine whether the loan is actually a good deal.
If a consumer’s financial problems resulted from too much debt or inability to repay their debts, a credit counseling agency might recommend enrollment in a debt management plan (DMP). A certified credit counselor will review a consumer's overall financial situation and offer customized money management advice. This advice may include a DMP designed for the client's unique circumstances.
First, it can be difficult to complete a debt management program. You’ll lose a large measure of financial freedom — most programs will require you to close all of your credit accounts and refrain from opening new ones. You may be allowed to keep one creditor outside of your debt management plan for emergencies, but if you abuse the privilege, you’ll just dig a deeper hole of debt.
Take one more look around the house. Do you really need a $100 a month worth of cable TV? Does paying $50-$75 for a round of golf make sense? Can you mow the yard and clean the house yourself? How about exercising without a gym membership? All those things are nice to have … if you’re not in debt. Dump them until you’ve paid off the last of your credit cards.
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.
This won’t be an option for everyone but if you’re paid hourly, speak to your boss and see if you can pick up a few extra hours. Or if you’re job has shifted, check if the less desirable shifts pay a bit more per hour. Working nights isn’t fun, but it could make you some extra money without doing any more work. Maybe less if there’s no one watching!
That being said, I do not believe that National Debt Relief is a scam. Debt settlement is not the right debt relief solution for everyone, but it is the right option for some. National Debt Relief is a member of the American Fair Credit Council, whose members strictly adhere to a code of conduct that includes not charging any fees for settling an account until that account has been settled. Anyone considering debt settlement should avoid any firm that charges advance fees.
DMPs for consumers are often negotiated by a credit counseling agency on behalf of the debtor. Credit counseling agencies often address the debt by working with the debtor to set a budget based on their regular income and expenditures that will then include one regular bill payment that is allocated across the creditor(s). Agencies will negotiate on behalf of the debtor to lower payments and interest rates with creditors. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees. The effect on the debtor's overall credit score will vary. In the United Kingdom, as well as DMPs, residents can also apply for an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVAs), which can give the debtor a discount on their debt.
As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.
Our experience with Clearpoint Credit Counseling is remarkable as they have helped us understand how to remove that overwhelming and disastrous financial burden from our lives. Our Clearpoint counselor is always welcoming, empathetic, professional and experienced and he has allowed us to live our lives as we had dreamed—free from the nightmare of the intimidating phone calls, the threatening letters and the guilt we felt.
Declaring bankruptcy is one of the most harmful circumstances for your credit, and it should only be a last resort. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, the negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. You may either have all your debts eliminated or have to agree to a plan to repay at least part of your debt.
Late fees and other penalties. If you are not actively paying down your debt, the lender will assess late fees and raise the interest rate so that your debt actually grows. Again, this applies specifically to debt settlement, but could happen with late payments in either a debt management program or debt consolidation loan. Be aware that not making at least minimum payments on your debt each month is going to cost you.
Speaking with consumer credit counseling agencies is just the beginning. Next, you have to determine whether the services are actually what you need, or if you can accomplish more on your own. Remember, credit counseling doesn't do anything that you can't do; they simply provide guidance for the best approach to managing your debt. You can contact creditors and negotiate the payment terms of your account. Anybody can do this on their own, but sometimes people need a little extra help staying on track.
If you're interested in starting a debt management plan, you'll first need to find a credit counselor. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you never agree to any debt management plan until a reputable credit counselor has thoroughly reviewed your financial situation with you. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a state-by-state list of approved credit counseling agencies, so you can search for someone near you.
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A debt management plan allows you to pay your unsecured debts — typically credit cards — in full, but often at a reduced interest rate or with fees waived. You make a single payment each month to a credit counseling agency, which distributes it among your creditors. Credit counselors and credit card companies have longstanding agreements in place to help debt management clients.