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.
If you have a good salary and have established income/tax returns, there are lending companies like SoFi, Lending Tree and Lightstream that offer loans at competitive interest rates. Thus, you can take a low-interest loan and use it to pay off your high-interest debts but make sure to stick to your monthly budget so you won’t be spending beyond your limit, and you will be paying off the low-interest loan.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
Once you’ve decided that debt settlement is the right option for you, National Debt Relief asks that you stop paying your creditors (if you can still make payments, you’re not in a financial crisis and the program isn’t right for you) and open a new FDIC-insured account that you will begin depositing money into regularly. The funds collected in this account will only get disbursed once terms of a settlement offer are reached between the creditor and borrower.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
While National Debt Relief claims that people who finish its debt relief program save on average 30% off their original debt, it’s important to consider the interest and fees you’ll accrue during the time you’re enrolled in the program. Furthermore, If you don’t finish the program, or if National Debt Relief is unsuccessful at negotiating the terms, you can end up stuck with a higher balance than you started off with.

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.

Find out how payments will be disbursed to your creditors. Fraudulent debt management companies are notorious for sending payments late and getting their clients into trouble with creditors. Make sure the agency will send your payments to creditors on time and within the correct billing cycle. Ask how soon they will disburse your payment after they receive it, and find out how you can track the payments made. They should send you a statement each month or have some way for you to look it up online.


Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
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.
When you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the core of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Dave says, "Personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge." Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.
Some of them include debt consolidation, foreclosure and mortgage delinquency counseling, and budgeting. Review alternatives to a foreclosure that may be available to you such as mortgage modification. A counselor can sometimes work directly with your creditor or bank to enter into installment plans with them, or they help facilitate a solution with all impacted parties.
If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.
It’s important to know that as part of this first call National Debt Relief will run a soft credit check to see who your creditors are, how much you owe and if your debts are eligible to be included in a debt settlement plan. We recommend taking quick stock of your budget and your monthly expenses. The debt specialist you speak to will ask about this so they can calculate how much you can afford to pay into a debt settlement plan.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
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Debt settlement companies, also sometimes called "debt relief" or "debt adjusting" companies, often claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Consider all of your options, including working with a nonprofit credit counselor, and negotiating directly with the creditor or debt collector yourself. Before agreeing to work with a debt settlement company, there are risks that you should consider:


If you have a good salary and have established income/tax returns, there are lending companies like SoFi, Lending Tree and Lightstream that offer loans at competitive interest rates. Thus, you can take a low-interest loan and use it to pay off your high-interest debts but make sure to stick to your monthly budget so you won’t be spending beyond your limit, and you will be paying off the low-interest loan.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.

Step 1: Open a dedicated savings account. At the start of your debt settlement program, National Debt Relief requires that you open a savings account where you will begin making monthly payments. The amount you pay each month is decided on by National Debt Relief, and is generally lower than the total payments you’re currently making to creditors. You are in total control of the funds in your account, which is only disbursed once a settlement is reached between National Debt Relief (on your behalf) and your creditors.
When we were getting out of debt, there were several times where extra money fell in our laps that we had not factored into our debt elimination originally. We decided to take this cash and use it to tackle our debt. Some good examples would be a tax refund, selling a car, an inheritance, winning a bet, etc. The more cash you can put towards your debt, the faster it will disappear.
The second thing that you can do is trim your expenses. Go over each line item on your budget and ask yourself, “how can I make this number smaller?” It may involve cancelling services that you rarely use like a gym membership, Netflix subscription, etc. It might even involve reducing the amount of times that you eat out at restaurants each month. The amount that you slash depends upon your commitment level to getting out of debt.  The more committed you are, the easier it will be for you to give up some of the unnecessary amenities in life. You might not even need to sacrifice much if you can find these items or services for less. Check out Clark’s Free and Cheap List to help you with this process.
Put a spending freeze on your entertainment costs for a little while. This means no going out to the movies, concerts, mini-golf, bowling or whatever you do for fun that costs money. Instead, challenge yourself to find free ways to stay entertained. Take the kids to the park, go for a walk or a hike, enjoy a free concert, or look for a free event in your community.

My husband and I have always had separate bank account and financially we did what we wanted and never talked to the other about our spending. I feel like I make decent money and I am at my wits end because I get paid and everything goes to bills or to minimum payments. I stopped about 1.5 years ago putting more money on my credit card payments because I needed the money for bills. Today I just calculated my debt to income ratio (putting my husbands debt and income with mine) I was shocked! even after taking our mortgage out oft he equation we owe $40,972. When I was looking at just my credit cards or my car payment it didn’t seem like an awful lot of credit. But now, I feel like the wind is knocked out of me. I am not even 30 years old and I owe almost as much as I may. I feel really really scared. but I am thankful for this article but it is just what I need to motivate me! things are going to change! things NEED to change.
Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
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.

This year, my husband and I made a few changes… we put ourselves on a strict budget and gave ourselves a cash allowance so we wouldn’t even be tempted to use the debit cards “just to grab lunch,” squirreled our credit cards away so we wouldn’t use them, and went through TONS of stuff that we weren’t using anymore and are planning a neighborhood yard sale for the spring.
The exception? If you take out a loan from your retirement account to consolidate credit card debt, you’re more likely to see your credit improve. Retirement account loans aren’t reported to credit reporting agencies, so your credit reports will show less debt with no new loan. However, retirement loans carry their own risks, so proceed with caution.
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
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.
It’s crucial that you monitor the statements received from your creditors each month (The creditors will not disclose this information directly to us). You should compare that information to what’s in our monthly progress report and ensure that everything matches. If anything is different between the creditor statement and what we show in our paperwork, give us a call.
Both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief are well-established companies that have been debt settlement providers for several years. Freedom Debt Relief was founded in 2002, and National Debt Relief was founded in 2009. This is important because there’s potential for scams in the debt settlement business. Some companies claim to be debt settlement companies but are really just fronts for collecting debtors’ money and putting it in the company operative’s pockets. The longer a company has been in business, the more likely it is that it is legitimate.
Bad handling of a credit card occurs when a person has more than one in his power and use each one of them to their credit limits. This can generate a total expense that can exceed your monthly income in two or more times. It’s best to establish a limit like a margin of guarantee of at least 30 percent lower than the credit limit. For example, if your credit limit is $3,000 per month, then with a security capacity of 30 percent, you can define your own spending limit as $2,100.
The benefit of professional help: A debt management program is the solution you use if you can’t make progress on your own. If you don’t have good credit or you’ve missed some payments, your creditors may be resistant to working with you. Having the help of a credit counseling agency means you get a team of negotiators on your side. That makes it easier to craft a repayment plan that your creditors will actually accept.
Tax man awaits. If you have debt forgiven, that probably will count as taxable income and should be reported on your federal income taxes. The lender who forgives the debt should send you a 1099-C tax form detailing how much the original debt was and how much was forgiven. For example, if you owed $25,000 and had $10,000 forgiven, you would have to claim the $10,000 as income on your taxes.
I have a rental duplex and it is underwater, owe about 85,000 worth about half that much. At 65 I am thinking about walking away because it is getting too costly to maintain. Detroit is in crisis and I don’t feel safe going there for rents. I spoke to my mortgage company and they stated they couldn’t help me under the President new laws for rental property. I am concern about my credit if I walk away, even at my age. When you are not rich you need good credit.
I know they stay on your report for 7 yrs……….but out of all of them while the others of course are on the report as not paid, they are not listed in a separate section that says “in collecions”……the ones that were on the report under the collecions status concern me because I ws sued on two of them……the small claims Calvary was very nice….after they obtained the judgment, I offered thme 300.00 and hey volantrly dismissed the judgment……….do you know how many points affect a credit score with a judgment? Portfollio will never get dime from me…..I offered them 1500 when a cousin offered me a loan and they scoffed………the only thing I have in the bank is my own money however I took out a collateral loan against its is secured……assuming if Portfolio tried to get it, then the bank has first dibs……….
You might be wondering, “Why is having an emergency fund important”? Well, if you don’t have any money in the bank and an emergency does happen, how are you going to pay for it? For most people, credit cards become the funding source for those emergencies. If you are trying to get out of debt then you need to put a buffer between you and debt; that is exactly what an emergency fund does.

Global criticism of credit counseling comes primarily from predatory practices that take advantage of debtors that are already struggling.[4] These practices include failing to meet required standards, charging unlawful or unreasonable fees, failing to provide affordable solutions for consumers, and neglecting to make customers aware of free debt services available elsewhere.[5]
Find out how your personal information will be protected. When you enter a debt management program, you have to share some of your most sensitive financial information with the counseling agency. You'd better make sure they won't sell it to others or disclose the information to anyone except the creditors you've agreed to include in the plan. Get a written privacy policy from them, and ask what safeguards they have in place to protect your information.
I have read many blog posts, but this one seemed to spark something in me and re-motivate me to pay off my debt. I know that I am not alone in this, but I can do this on my own. I’m ready to refresh my system of repayment, earn more cash, and limit my spending activities. With Christmas around the corner, it’s hard not to push getting seriously about paying off debt until the new year, but I know if I can manage it now, I can do it all year. And that’s one less month I’ll be in debt.

When you take a balance transfer, you'll move the balance on an existing credit card that's at a high interest rate over to the card with the 0% promotional rate. From that time on, you'll pay no interest for 12 to 18 months, or whatever the time limit on the promotional rate is. Every dollar you pay toward your debt goes to reducing the principal. You'll repay debt much more quickly when you have no interest to pay. 
Find out exactly how the company's program works. The terms "debt management," "debt consolidation," and "debt negotiation" are often used interchangeably, sometimes in an effort to confuse or deceive people and sometimes quite innocently.[6] They do, however, refer to three different options, so regardless of what a program is called, find out what it is. For more information on the differences between these options, check out how to consolidate loans.

In most cases, medical debt has no interest rate attached to it so there really is no gain by including it in a debt consolidation program. Remember the key elements of debt consolidation are: a) a reduced interest rate; and b) lower monthly payment. The one advantage to medical debt consolidation is that it becomes part of your single, monthly payment and could help you pay off the debt faster.
When we were getting out of debt, there were several times where extra money fell in our laps that we had not factored into our debt elimination originally. We decided to take this cash and use it to tackle our debt. Some good examples would be a tax refund, selling a car, an inheritance, winning a bet, etc. The more cash you can put towards your debt, the faster it will disappear.
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The benefit of going for this type of debt relief option is that your monthly payment will most likely be much lower than the sum of the payments you are currently making. You may also have any penalty charges waived as well as any fees. Most of all, you will no longer be harassed by your creditors as they will be handling everything through the debt management agency.
Debt management programs serve the dual role of helping you repay your debts while creditors receive the money owed to them. These debt management plans are a systematic way to pay down your outstanding debt through monthly payments to your credit counseling agency. Your creditor accounts will always be credited with 100 percent of the amount you pay through an NFCC agency. By participating in this type of debt management program, you may benefit from reduced or waived finance charges or fees, and experience fewer collection calls. When you have completed your payments-which typically takes 36-60 months- it may help you reestablish credit.
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