My husband & I have a massive credit card debt now, due to us taking my sister’s 4 children in for 6 yrs + having our 2 girls graduating & college. I want to pay back what we owe because it’s the responsible thing to do, would consolidation be the best way for us to go or should we talk to a counsler first? We aren’t late on our payments, but scratching to get by each month after all the payments.
But sometimes, disaster strikes and people are forced to confront their circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock one’s finances so off track they can barely keep up with their monthly payments. And it’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situations are.
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Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.
Settling your debts used to be a less than reputable practice but has recently gained prominence. It is basically where you hire a debt relief company to negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The goal is to get them to agree to settlements where you make lump sum payments for a portion of your debts (this should much less than your total balances). In return the creditor agrees to forgive the rest of the debts.
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.
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.
This should really only be explored a last resort for debt relief before you file for bankruptcy. If you’ve tried everything else and haven’t had any success, then you can consider a debt settlement plan where you settle your debts for less than the full amount owed. This can cause significant damage to your credit score and results may vary, but it may be your best option if your situation is truly critical.
Credit counseling provides guidance and support on consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. The objective of most credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy and to provide primary financial education on managing money. Borrowers with an understanding of money management are assets for lenders as well. Many counseling services also negotiate with creditors on behalf of the borrower to reduce interest rates and late fees.
No. All eligible unsecured debt must be accounted for in a debt management plan, even those bills that you typically have no problem making payments on. The credit counseling agency in charge of your debt payment plan will want a full accounting of income and expenses in order to arrive at an accurate amount available to make the monthly DMP payments so be prepared to include all eligible debts.