You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.
Depending on how serious are your financial woes your counselor may recommend a debt management plan (DMP). The way this would work in brief is your counselor will determine how much you can pay and then negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The negotiation can be for longer terms or lower monthly amounts determined by what payments you could afford to make. In some cases your counselor may attempt to negotiate a reduction in your interest rates. If all or most all your creditors agree to your debt management plan you would stop paying them. Instead, you would send one payment a month to the credit-counseling agency and it will distribute the money to your creditors per your DMP. The biggest downside to one of these plans is that they typically take five years to complete. You would most likely be required to give up all the credit cards that are in your plan and would be strongly urged to not take on any new credit until you’ve completed your plan. These are the biggest reasons why nearly half of those debtors who sign up for DMP never successfully complete it.
Things to mention to get them on your side? Let them know how long you’ve been a loyal customer and that you would love to stick around. But, also share that other credit card companies are offering you lower rates, even 0% introductory rates for balance transfers, and that you can’t ignore the interest savings. Usually, they swing into customer retention mode, and they may be able to pull some strings.
2 years ago my husband & I cut up all of our credit cards and contacted each Credit Card company to come up with a reasonable monthly pay plan and close out the account. We have been doing this fine ever since as it comes directly out of our checking account. However, we have recently come into enough money to settle all of our debt for probably 50%-75% of the amount originally owed. Because we are already in “payment mode” with these companies, it cannot hurt our credit anymore to go with a settlement offer, correct? Our goal is to pay off as many as possible with the money we have.
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.
When it comes to paying off credit card debt, many consumers take the path of least resistance: the so-called "minimum payment plan." By law, credit card issuers are required to set a minimum monthly payment amount for each cardholder. These payments are calculated on the basis of the cardholder's total balance, interest rate and certain other factors.
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].
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.

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Being deep in debt is a very stressful situation – especially if what you owe is more than what you are earning every month. Any breadwinner in the family feels this burden day in and day out. The pressure to make sure that the family is provided for is frustrating. While paying for the usual bills, you need to make sure your debts are paid on time and correctly. Not to mention having extra money to put aside so you will have emergency money for unexpected situations.
Finally, if you do want to proceed with a debt settlement program I would always advise using somebody local or a debt settlement attorney who can help you in a similar fashion as National Debt Relief and likely save you on fees associated with the settling of your debts without the worry of thinking about whether you are being taken advantage of as attorneys are regulated by their states bar association and are subject to rules of professional conduct in order to maintain their bar license.  Additionally a local attorney can take creditor calls and assist with defending a debt collection lawsuit and settling the case prior to any judgment as part of services offered.
Elsewhere in the European Union, regulation and non-regulation of credit counseling agencies and their approaches, including DMPs, are widely varied. In Sweden, guidelines for credit counseling are loosely provided by the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) and creditors are encouraged to use them in lieu of the court system. In Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) provides debt resolution information directly to debtors. In Latvia, a debt advisory company called LAKRA works with employers to assist indebted employees.[6]
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?

However, there are impacts to your credit that don’t affect your score. While on a Debt Management Plan, a client’s credit report will have a notation that he or she is currently enrolled in a Debt Management Plan. While that notation is active, they will not be granted new credit. Plainly, this is an impact to one’s credit that should be considered. But the notation goes away when the Debt Management Plan is complete, and doesn’t have a lasting impact on one’s credit.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides nonprofit credit counseling and debt reduction services for consumers with credit problems who want to know how to pay off credit cards and how to get out of debt. Our certified credit counselors have helped thousands of individuals and families nationwide pay off credit card balances and unsecured debt through credit card relief programs and credit card debt solutions. Our debt management plans provide a kind of personal debt consolidation strategy for help getting out of credit card debt, and we offer a wide variety of financial education services to consumers who need help getting out of debt and managing their finances more effectively.
Revolving (credit card) debt can have a great impact on credit scores as it will increase your balance-to-limit ratio and lower the amount of available credit that you have. The higher your revolving balances inch up to the limits, the more it hurts the credit scores. Depending on the situation and your credit scores, a bankruptcy, debt consolidation plan, or a setup of a budget and timeframe for getting out of debt could be options. Once you’re ankle-deep in revolving debt, it can be tricky to dig yourself out so getting professional advice is important.
Credit counseling works because it provides people with the time and tools to focus on their financial situation. The nonprofit version of this service provides a holistic, high-level view of an individual or family’s debts, assets, income and expenses before recommending a debt relief strategy. These services work because the solutions provided are personalized and specific, and because counselors are well-trained and non-biased.

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When you first create a financial plan, you never know what the results will be. Sometimes, it can even be a little scary to see how things will look if you don’t make any adjustments. The key is to have patience. Financial planning is a process and not an overnight event. In creating a financial plan, focus on the things that you can control and keep a long-term perspective.
While repaying your debt more slowly or at a lower interest rate is better than not paying it at all, a debt management plan can still adversely impact credit scores. Although enrollment in a debt management plan isn't a factor in credit scoring models, it can affect other aspects of your credit that are common factors in many credit scoring models.
Reputable credit counseling organizations have staff counselors who are certified and trained. These counselors can discuss client financial situations to help them develop a personalized plan for their economic issues. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. A reputable credit counseling agency should offer free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring potential clients to release any details about their situation.
Through a nonprofit credit-counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to resolve your financial problems on your own, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can enter what’s called a debt management plan. Through that plan, you can consolidate your credit card payments and get the cards’ interest rates reduced, making your financial obligations easier to tackle.
If you choose to do your counseling over the telephone, we’ll connect you with a certified credit counselor who will do the following: collect information about your income, assets and expenses. They will then pull a copy of your credit report and review your debts with you. Based on your income, assets and debts, your credit counselor will make a debt relief recommendation to you which may include bankruptcy, a debt management program and/or recommendations for how to reduce items in your budget to help you pay off your debt faster.

Debt avalanche. The debt avalanche is a twist on the debt snowball. Instead of paying extra on your lowest debt to get that paid off ASAP, you pay extra on the loan with the highest interest rate. When that loan is paid off, pay more on the debt with the next highest rate, and so on until all debt is paid. The big benefit: You save a lot of money by getting rid of high-interest debt first. The downside is, it may take you much longer to pay off your highest-interest debt than your loan with the lowest balance. And it's harder to stay motivated if you don't see debt disappear. 
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