Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.

Tip: Before you do business with any debt settlement company, contact your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency . They can tell you if any consumer complaints are on file about the firm you're considering doing business with. Some states require debt settlement companies to be licensed. You can check with your state regulator or ask your state Attorney General if the company is required to be licensed to work in your state and, if so, whether it is. You can also view the Federal Trade Commission's page on "Coping with Debt " for more information.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.
I have debt which if I follow my plan should be paid off in two years (except for one huge student loan and my mortgage). I contribute to my work 401k plan. That money would be helpful to put towards my debt however I am also 62 and would like to retire in 2023. Am I doing the right thing in continuing with the 401k, or because I only have 25k in the 401k, should I stop and use the money towards the debt?
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.

Find a good credit counselor. Almost all DMPs are administered by consumer credit counseling agencies--so much so, in fact, that the terms "credit counseling" and "debt management" are often used interchangeably. Thoroughly researching the agency is the most important thing to do before deciding to enroll in their debt management program. The FTC has put together a simple guide to help you get started and choose the right plan.
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.
I am literally financially devastated. I have paid them thousands of dollars 90% of it went to them. When I asked them why they continually drained my account and caused the loss of my settlements they stated that they wanted to get our fee out of the way. WTF if I can’t make these large payments to my creditors each month what makes them think that I can make them humongous payments that was far more than what I was paying each month to all my creditors.

Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy:  Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
Try to put some money down on your higher interest student loans. The way I paid off my bachelor loans was whenever i got a refund back from the college or from taxes a portion of that went to the student loans. The more you tackle your higher interest loans the better your credit. Now if you have like tiny ones like 1,000 try paying those off if your not financially ready to tackle the bigger interest rates ones.
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The sad fact is that usually only the wealthiest kids are taught good financial practices and habits, so they have advantages throughout their entire working lives. Those of us less fortunate have to figure out (too late – if ever) that creating/establishing multiple streams of income is one of the most certain methods to ensure a better life. Sure, many people think opening a business will make them plenty of money, but the reality is more like plenty of headaches before plenty of money. Many people start a family early in life, and this also can be an obstacle to financial success.
Ok, so what if I DID max out all my credit cards and couldn’t get another loan? I’d have piles of debt, with little or nothing to show for all my hard work, and payments like crazy. In short, I’d be desperate, but…I’d find another way to solve the immediate problem facing me. So why not just find another way NOW and save myself a world of hurt and a pile of debt…
Many people fail to recognize that there are many instances where you can negotiate and in turn, lower your debt. Take medical bills, for example. “It can really help to negotiate with the medical provider,” said McClanahan. “If you’re willing to pay them real money over time, you can end up paying pennies on the dollar of what you own,” she said. In addition to negotiating, McClanahan suggested asking hospitals or health centers whether they have any financial assistance programs that you might qualify for.

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Negotiate credit card debt as well as outstanding loans - While it is possible to contact a credit card card company and negotiate yourself, unfortunately getting the best deal you want or that you may need won't necessarily be easy, if it can be done at all. If you do try to negotiate yourself rather than using a professional counselor, find a do it yourself approach to negotiate and get out of debt.
It’s true that many people get into debt because they lose their jobs. But some people get into debt despite having well paying jobs. It’s good to share information so that people have a plan to save while they have a job so they can weather a job loss. And for those who accumulate debt beyond their means while employed, it’s good to give them a plan of action to “right the ship.” Hope you find something that helps you weather your storms.
Try to manage your debt yourself. Even without the help of a credit agency, you can make a household budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and prioritize your debts. You can also call your creditors to request them to waive late fees, reduce interest rates, and/or work with you on a payment schedule. You can also ask about debt re-aging, also known as rollback or curing. This process can report past-due accounts as current, which can help you avoid delinquent status.[3] Many times creditors will be happy to work with you if you make a good-faith effort to pay them.

Gerri. I screwed up bad. I joined up with a friend who said he can get a company going. I bought $13,000 worth of merchandice and loaned him through time about $15,000 in cash Through cash advanced from my cards. He bailed. I got about $4000 in tools back but I had previous balances(that were controlled) I ended up getting a consolidated loan. Big mistake. Total I owe $13,000($320 month)on a card and $34,000($806 month) to consolidated loan. Now I’m thinking of debt relief($906 per month){total of $34,000which is lower than what I owe on the two debts} My score is 750 est and I don’t want to hurt that. I have house payment of $540 (pay off est $74,000) Car at $450 (pay off approx $15,000)one at $300(pay off approx $13,000) and one at $325 (pay off $23,000{bran new}) and basic stuff. Food, power bill, cable, insurance & cell phones that total up to approx $1300 month. My wife takes care of all that but the mistake of the two debts is all mine. I give her 80% of the pay and I take 20%. I average take home about $2500 to $3000 est every two weeks. I think I need a counselor. What should I do? I’m freaking cause I started the debt relief program($34,000 at $906 for 38 months which is lower than what I owe total on the two debts I’m discussing). but haven’t signed the final paper just yet. I feel I make enough to pay off everything in no time but my wife says we are living paycheck to paycheck. All my wife’s cards will be paid off probably in March. I’m like way confused
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.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, American Consumer Credit Counseling is impressively detailed with their FAQs and discussion of debt management. They offer a debt management calculator that allows potential clients to input their creditors and outstanding balances to get an idea of the savings they may realize. Established in 1991, the company does business in all 50 states and is accredited by the BBB, AICCCA, and ISO. Their fees are also low ($39 to enroll, and from $5 to $35 monthly). However, they will only deal with unsecured debt, and the site pushes the debt management plan a bit more heavily than other competitors.
We are really happy to hear that you found the help you need with your debt via CareOne Debt Relief Services and we appreciate your post explaining the services we offer. We have some exciting changes coming up on our site. We are stepping up our game with the information and resources we provide to people to help them not only get out of debt, but to also STAY debt-free. We hope that you will come and check us out at http://www.CareOneCredit.com and let us know what you think!
ClearPoint Credit Counseling has been in business for 50 years, and their wide range of educational offerings includes “ClearPoint U,” a series of free, on-demand online courses on personal finance topics. The company has 50 branches across the U.S. and is accredited by the BBB, NFCC, and COA. Their website is polished and easy to navigate, but is a bit less transparent about fees and potential reductions in interest rates than their competitors.

Chapter 13 is a three- or five-year court-approved repayment plan, based on your income and debts. If you are able to stick with the plan for its full term, the remaining unsecured debt is discharged. It will take longer than a Chapter 7 — but if you are able to keep up with payments (a majority of people are not), you will get to keep your property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years from the filing date.
C.B. I believe what you need is to invest in a financial coach. What you described is not uncommon. Once you find out why you are spending, possibly to fill a void or the ‘I deserve’ mindset, you can stop the unneeded spending. A good coach will also put together a plan to help you get out of debt and reach your financial goals and life goals. If a coach is not something you are willing to look into, please find an accountability partner. Someone who will not accept excuses and will keep you focused. You have the income and the drive to make things happen in your finances… that is HUGE!! Everyone needs a little help now and then. You got this!!!
DISCLAIMER - Debt.com does not provide direct debt adjustment services, but, upon request, acts as a locator service for BBB registered companies. It is ultimately up to you to determine whether the companies that we may introduce you to are appropriate for your situation. For debt consolidation programs, where permissible by law, companies may charge a one-time enrollment fee typically from $25 up to $75 for account establishment and for debt relief proposals submitted on your behalf to each of your creditors. Monthly program administration fees will vary from $5 but no greater than $75 depending on your state of residence and/or the number of creditors who agree to accept proposals and become enrolled in the program. Fees subject to change if permissible by law. For debt settlement programs, by law, you may not be charged any fee until a debt settlement is arranged on your behalf, you approve the settlement, and at least one payment is made towards the settlement. Each program offered by independent financial service providers is unique so ask them for their complete details of the program and fees.
While it seems to make sense to devote every dollar possible to eliminating debt today, in the long run, it’s a costly mistake. Remedy: Contribute at least 5%-10% of your income to retirement savings as soon as you begin working and don’t let eliminating debt cut into that. Time is the most powerful tool in retirement savings. The earlier you start contributing to a 401(k) or other retirement fund, the better off you’ll be at retirement. Find other places in your budget to pay down credit card accounts.
Personal loans. Personal loans are another solution to refinance debt. You can take out a personal loan to repay credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or other types of high-interest debt. Many personal lenders do forbid you from using the proceeds of your loan to repay student debt, but otherwise you have almost endless flexibility in what you can use the borrowed money for. 
Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.
The debt relief company has had minor legal issues in the past, but it has overcome those obstacles to become one of the most popular accredited debt relief companies online. Despite negative reviews, it’s clear that Freedom Debt Relief isn’t a scam. In fact, many Freedom Debt Relief clients credit the company for getting them out of debt and teaching them how to avoid future debt. You should always compare several companies before choosing a debt relief option, but this one stands out as one of the top debt management companies.
Credit Limitation: This option only works if you have good credit; excellent credit is better. Balance transfer credit cards offer 0% APR on balance transfers when you open the account. An excellent credit score means you qualify for the longest 0% APR introductory period possible. Some cards have promotions that run up to 18 or 24 months. That gives you up to two years to pay off your debt interest-free.
It could also help to reach out to a debt counselor or financial planner to take steps toward getting your finances in order, or at least developing a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said. “If the debt is beyond your means, you might also want to explore bankruptcy or whatever it might take to turn your situation around,” she said. A professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options.
This is a form of assisted debt consolidation that works extremely well if you have a large volume of debt and a less-than-perfect credit score. You enroll in a program through a credit counseling agency, who works out a payment plan that works for your budget. Then they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce your interest rates. Total monthly payments are typically reduced by 30-50% and most people complete the program within 60 payments or less.

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.
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]
Disclaimer: NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. Pre-qualified offers are not binding. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly.
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