You could consolidate your debts by getting a loan from a bank, credit union or some other source of funds. If you own your home and have some equity you could most probably get a home equity loan or homeowner equity line of credit (HELOC) and use the funds to pay off all of your other debts. These are called secured loans because you’re required to secure them by using the equity in your home as collateral. In fact, home equity loans are often called second mortgages. Whichever you choose you should end up with a much lower monthly payment than the sum of the payments you been making.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
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.
It sounds like you have done what you can to protect yourself (credit freeze, law enforcement etc.) I am not sure what your bank will do but I can’t imagine they will pursue you for a crime committed against you. Have you changed the bank account you deposit your Social Security check into? If not, talk with your bank. It would seem to be a reasonable precaution.
This is paramount to mapping out a plan to pay off your debt. There are two approaches that are worth considering. The first is where you list your debts smallest to largest regardless of the interest rate. This is the method that we used to pay off $52,000 in debt in 18 months and it worked great because it helped us build momentum. When we paid off our first debt it put wind in our sails. Even though we had higher interest debts, this gave us something that was very powerful: the belief that we could get out of debt quickly if we stuck to the plan.
Financial education. You'll have access to a wide variety of educational resources for help getting out of debt. These include newsletters, articles and tools on our website that can help you manage credit card debt, budget your finances more effectively, learn about how to stay out of debt, and get answers to questions like "How can I improve my credit score?" and "What is debt consolidation?"
Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest.
Yes, but this is a real commitment of time and resources. Here is how it works. List all your debts (except your mortgage) from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on all debts, but the smallest. Attack the smallest debt with as much money as you have available — $100 a month, for example – until it is paid off. When that is paid off, take the $100 a month, plus whatever the minimum you were paying on the second smallest debt, combine them and go after the second debt. Keep repeating until you have gone through each debt. The idea is to gain momentum in your bill paying by having success.
You’re ready to begin your debt snowball once you’ve saved your $1,000 starter emergency fund. That’s what we call Baby Step 1. An emergency fund covers those life events you can't plan for. Think busted hot water heater, dental emergency or flat tire. You get the drift. An emergency fund protects you from having to go further into debt to pay for an unexpected expense.
The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.
Credit card forbearance programs are offered by companies. Once again, the major lenders including Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Discover Card, and others offer credit card forbearance programs that may allow consumers to delay monthly payments from six months to over a year. These programs may also lower interest rates, reduce a customer’s minimum monthly payment, or waive all fees.
If you are really unable to repay your debts because you have no source of income at the moment or if there is just no realistic way that you could repay them in two to three years the final option is to file for bankruptcy. However, this would tarnish your credit history very seriously. You will be unable to get new credit for at least two or three years after your bankruptcy and when you do it will come with a very high interest rate. You will be required to pay more for your auto insurance and may have a problem renting a house or apartment. The bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for 10 years and in your personal file for the rest of your life. Many employers now routinely check the files of prospective employees and some may decide to not hire you if they see a bankruptcy in your history.
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.
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.
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