Credit counseling. Most businesses in the debt-relief industry offer free credit counseling services. Certified credit counselors help consumers build an affordable budget and learn how to live with it. Counselors teach them the debt-relief options available and offer advice on which one best suits their situation. This is an overlooked aspect of many debt-relief services. It increases the financial literacy of consumers by leaps and bounds.
Be VERY careful before you decide go with debt settlement and don’t believe the huge savings you will supposedly get. Lower but stretched payments with higher interest will cost much more on the end. These 30-50% so-called savings are in the fact money going into their pockets. Plus, your credit score will be so screwed up that nobody rent you a bicycle.
Choose your lender. With debt consolidation, you can choose the lender you work with. And you have plenty of options to choose from. You can compare lenders here at our debt consolidation loan marketplace. You may get to explore loan offers after inputting some basic information. You can also use our widget below and compare offers from up to five different lenders on LendingTree.
I’ve only been in the program a few weeks. I’m rather disappointed with their csr. At first they treat you like you’re golden and give the impression that they actually care. Once I signed up I tried reaching out to the lady who originally helped me,she completely ignored me and has not replied to any of my emails. It just feels awful being tossed to the side like garbage after initially being treat with attention and support.
There's also a substantial risk associated with taking out a loan on your home, because the house secures the loan. When you owe unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, personal loan debt, or medical debt, there's nothing guaranteeing the loan except your promise to repay it. While lenders could sue you for unpaid debt and perhaps get an order to garnish wages or put a lien on your house, it's very unlikely your home could ever be put at risk of a forced sale because of unpaid unsecured debt. But when you've borrowed against your home, the house is collateral, and if you don't pay, the lender will probably foreclose and take the house. Converting unsecured debt to debt secured by your home isn't typically advisable for that reason. 
Military credit and debt counseling is offered to active service members as part of the Military OneSource Program. The federal government created this program in partnership with non-profits such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Any member of the military, whether active duty or a reserve, may qualify for free advice and counseling. Clients can have a number of financial issues addressed, including excessive credit card or medical debts, sign up for budgeting workshops, credit repair and more. Read Military OneSource Program.

For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.


Settlement has big risks, though, including steep fees (15% to 20% of what the company is able to save you is typical). You may also sustain damage to your credit score and receive harassing calls from creditors while you’re saving up for the program. You’ll also have to pay taxes on forgiven debt. Most debt settlement companies are for-profit companies, while most debt management companies are nonprofits.
You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)[8] advises Canadians to do their research and find a trustworthy organization and a qualified counsellor. They suggest making sure an agency is in good standing with a provincial or national association. They recommend looking carefully at the agency's advertising to see if it sounds too good to be true. Claims or misrepresentations to look out for can include repaying only a fraction of your debt, quickly fixing your credit score, or claiming to be part of a government program. They also suggest consumers inquire about an agency's services, costs, and counsellor qualifications.[9] The FCAC has also warns Canadians to be careful of companies offering to help them pay off their debt or repair their credit. Things to watch out for include guarantees to solve debt problems and using high interest loans to pay off debt. Some of these companies also claim that they can file a consumer proposal on behalf of a consumer. However, the FCAC points out that only a qualified licensed insolvency trustee can help someone with a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.[10]


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Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
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.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”

If you've already fallen behind on your monthly payments or can no longer afford your minimum payments, we want to talk to you. If can't see any way to improve your financial situation without taking a drastic step like declaring bankruptcy, we may be able to help. What's more, we have years of experience with clients who face exacerbating circumstances like divorce, death in the family, unemployment, long-term medical issues and other problems.
Credit counseling (known in the United Kingdom as Debt counselling) is commonly a process that is used to help individual debtors with debt settlement through education, budgeting and the use of a variety of tools with the goal to reduce and ultimately eliminate debt.[1] Credit counseling is most often done by Credit counseling agencies that are empowered by contract to act on behalf of the debtor to negotiate with creditors to resolve debt that is beyond a debtor's ability to pay. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge at no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees. Regulations on credit counseling and Credit counseling agencies varies by country and sometimes within regions of the countries themselves.[1] In the United States, individuals filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are required to receive counseling.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”
As for your options, it doesn’t sound like your mortgage lender is interested in working with you. (I have no idea what “new laws” they are talking about but the last time I heard, Congress passes laws and the President can either sign or veto them!) I’d recommend you read my series: Underwater On Your Home? Your Six Options and then get some professional advice. In particular, you may want to look into whether bankruptcy or a short sale can help you.
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.
This is the last-ditch solution if your financial situation has become so overwhelming that there doesn’t appear to be a way out. Bankruptcy offers a “fresh start” though with lots of restrictive conditions. You can file for either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which cancels your debts, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which sets up a 3-5 year repayment plan to eliminate your debts.
They make you think they are helping and word it as such. its only after I had “qualified for a loan” with another company to pay off my debt that I was informed of the fees and debts still in collection and no settlement was ever made. I have been paying for over a year and half of each payment went to fees for the “services” they provide.All these services they offer you can do yourself with just 30 minutes of your own time.
Best Answer:  That National Debt Relief is a Scam! But they are slick in the way that they operate and know tricks to cover up their dirt so it's hard to prove. A friend of mine signed up for their debt settlement program about 7 months ago and they screwed her over so much in fees and ruined her credit in the process that it sent her into a great depression. I knew they were up to no good because they kept relentlessly pursuing her to sign up with their scam program just like you described. I wouldn't trust this National Debt Relief with a 10 foot pole no matter how they look on the surface..they are nothing but some crooks preying on people who are already struggling! WARNING: I did a search and even found how they could be operating under different names (see source). I been around a long time and am aware of companies like this that keep changing their names, locations, and phone numbers to cover up their dirt and then keep coming back under a clean slate with clean BBB record, and more fake testimonials and all to just repeat the process, keep duping the public, and making tons of money . This makes me sick to my stomach! I sure hope the FTC and other authorities will continue to pursue and put a stop to these scams - no matter slick these crooks operate the people are getting wiser & wiser everyday not to fall for these scams. I commend you for being smart enough to ask around on this matter. Also you can check with your creditors and usuallly they will be willing to work with you if you come at them honestly and sincerely. This is what I did years ago -on my own- to settle my debt and my creditors reduced my payment and debt amount until it was cleared. Remember: If you are behind on your debt, creditors will usually like to get paid something rather than nothing at all - so this makes them highly motivated to work with you.

However, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. While some are accredited nonprofits, others are for-profit ventures that charge high fees and use questionable tactics, such as asking clients to dispute legitimate debts on credit reports or pay to become an authorized user on a stranger's credit card. Unscrupulous agencies may drain the wallets of already cash-strapped families and fail to address the underlying issues like budgeting, which are needed to ensure long-lasting financial success.
About a week later I checked my accounts to see if there was anything else settled and I noticed what’s the balance of my account had drop tremendously. So I I clicked on the transactions and see they’ve made a small payment to my creditor plus $10 for 2 day air which it actually cost $6.70 and then I see a deduction for their fee which was more than 6 times the payment they had just made to my creditor leaving my account at less than $10 balance. I contacted clear one expressing the fact I settled the account not them and why was I being charged such a fee and why would they drain the account leaving no money to make the next payment to my creditor or to settle any of the other accounts what I was told was they had a right to pay themselves. After I did explain to them that I settled the account not them they dropped it to half of the fee for the account that I had settled but mind you this is the only 1 account after four months that have been settled. At this point all of my accounts are now going into collection,the amounts owed to my creditors have gone up considerably my credit has dropped tremendously so I start sending them the collection agencies information. In the six months they finally settled the second account. Lo and behold their fee amount because the amount due has gone up there fee has gone up the amount due is gone up because he never made contact what’s the Creditor to make a settlement. They make one $25 payment to that creditor and then pay themselves thier fee draining all the money out of my account again leaving me nothing in the account to make the next payments to both those creditors intern lost both of the settlements.
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.
Not all forms of credit are actively bad, and many folks are able to use debt as a responsible means of augmenting their purchasing power. When you're dealing with a million competing priorities, however, it can be tough to keep your finances straight. If your expenses are rising faster than your income, you can only keep up this dance for so long.
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
I entered a DMP (Money Management Intl) 4 years ago with a pile of debt and am now a month away from being debt free. I will say the service wasn’t exactly what I expected going into it – the DMP was very hands off and didn’t provide much in the way of real conselling. They don’t even explain the process very well, so it’s worth doing a little research on your own. That said, I’m not sure I could have tackled my debt without the reduced interest rates and the one-payment structure.
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. 
Companies like Consumer Credit Counseling Service can help you get better interest rates and lower payments, but at a price. When you use one of these companies and then try to get a Conventional, FHA, or VA loan, you will be treated the same as if you had filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Mortgage underwriting guidelines for traditional mortgages will consider your credit trashed, so don't do it. Real debt help is found only in changing your behavior.
Everyone I've talked to has been professional and courteous. They have truly helped to alleviate some of the stress of feeling like you are drowning with nowhere to turn. There didn't seem to be any daylight at the end of the debt tunnel until I spoke with the folks at National Debt Relief. Everyone is very helpful and the explanations of the process have been very thorough. I feel confident that with their assistance this program can work and I can get out of debt within a reasonable amount of time and save money in the process.
Without a proven track record of success, we simply wouldn't be in business. In fact, National Debt Relief only enrolls clients who have a strong chance of benefiting from our debt settlement program. We predicate our reputation on our ability to help consumers move past their debts and begin rebuilding their financial lives - not on our ability to enroll as many clients as possible or charge unnecessary fees.

This is an easy way to make the debt repayment process less painful if you're able to do it: Reduce your interest rates. Changing the interest rate on your mortgage requires refinancing -- but it might be worth looking into. One rule of thumb suggests that it's worth it if the interest rate you're likely to get is a percentage point lower than the one you have.
Reduce interest rates on credit cards and other debts. You can save money by reducing the interest rates you pay on your credit cards, loans and other debts. Depending on exactly your current terms and how much you owe, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in total interest expenses. It is generally free to try this. There is a 50-60% success rate of receiving a lower interest rate when you try on your own to gain better control over your financial obligations. Learn more on reducing credit card interest rates.
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The Federal Reserve says that the average household debt is up to $132,529 (including mortgages) a jump of 11% in the past decade. Credit card debt and auto loans are climbing over the $1 trillion mark. Student-loan debt has hit a staggering $1.3 trillion with 44.7 million borrowers, who owe an average of $37,172. That figure alone is up 186% in the past decade!
Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems.  Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do: 
*Clients who are able to stay with the program and get all their debt settled realize approximate savings of 50% before fees, or 30% including our fees, over 24 to 48 months. All claims are based on enrolled debts. Not all debts are eligible for enrollment. Not all clients complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Estimates based on prior results, which will vary based on specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that you will be debt-free within a specific period of time. We do not assume consumer debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Not available in all states. Please contact a tax professional to discuss tax consequences of settlement. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney for more information on bankruptcy. Depending on your state, we may be available to recommend a local tax professional and/or bankruptcy attorney. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.
McClary advises following the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50 percent of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20 percent to savings; and 30 percent to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30 percent zone is the first area to target for cutting back, McClary says.
Who Is Holding My Money While I’m Waiting On A Settlement? Your funds will be held at Global Client Solutions, which is an FDIC insured trust account. This account will be opened in your name with you having ultimate control over its funds. The monies collected in this account get disbursed only at the time a negotiation is reached with the creditor and you agree with the settlement offer.
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.

InCharge does not report your participation in a debt management program or plan to the credit bureaus, however your creditors might. Your credit score may decrease when your credit cards are closed and then increase as you make consistent on-time payments over the course of the program. Every person’s credit situation is different. In order to better understand how a debt management program may affect your credit score, learn more about how credit scores are calculated.
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