Make sure you are working with an NFCC-member nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge Debt Solutions. Nonprofit credit counselors provide impartial financial advice that has your best interest in mind. A nonprofit debt management program will have low fees and work to secure interest rate reductions on your credit card debt, so that you are able to pay off your debt by making consistent affordable payments.
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Next, the creditor will do their own investigation, according to National Debt Relief, which means they will check on your payment behavior with other creditors. This is why the company “strongly encourages” that you stop payment to all qualified creditors if you’ve decided on a debt settlement program. If the creditor decides that you are unable to pay off your debts, they will be more inclined to settle for a reduced payment plan and accept the new terms set forth by the debt relief company.
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 

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We all know that didn’t happen, and soon enough, the debt caught up with me. As I approached my 26th birthday, I maxed out with debt of around $80,000. All of a sudden, I couldn’t keep borrowing my way out of trouble anymore. At the same time, I realized that the stress of barely making my monthly payments and owing twice what I earned in a year was taking its toll.

As the debt relief company is negotiating with your creditors, you stop paying the bills involved (e.g. monthly credit card bills). Instead, you will be making smaller payments to a separate trust account to pool in your resources. Ultimately you will need to come up to the pre-planned amount that you agreed to with the debt relief expert handling your case.
Afterward, a National Debt Relief specialist will contact you to discuss options and require that you provide proof of your debt balance, income, assets and basic necessity expenses. Any proof that you are struggling with financial hardship needs to be provided during the initial financial review to assess whether a debt settlement program is right for you.
Another consideration is whether or not you can become disciplined in spending and creating financial obligations without credit counseling assistance. These counselors can coach you into staying on target with your financial goals. The reason you're considering these services is that you've fallen off a sound financial path. Utilizing the help of a credit counseling agency could help you gain financial stability.
“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. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.”
Cons: Specific to National Debt Relief, it is not available in all states, so if you are one of the 16 states it doesn’t operate in, you can’t use it. In generally, there are always risks to debt relief. If you choose debt settlement or bankruptcy, it can affect your credit score. Know the risks before you decide to go forward with any debt relief program.
The federal government allows you to consolidate eligible federal student loan debt from multiple loans into one big loan for convenience. Doing so will not lower your interest rate -- the new rate on the consolidation loan is determined by a weighted average of debt you're consolidating -- but it makes sense if you have many loans from multiple years of school and keeping track of all of them is difficult. 

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.
One thing to consider: If you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process can be over fairly quickly and with reasonable certainty that your unsecured debts will be forgiven. Debt management, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. The process can take years, and many people who start debt management plans ultimately drop out and may have to consider bankruptcy anyway.

They charge you 18% of all the debt you enroll with them as a fee which means if you owe 15k in debt, you pay them $2700 in fees. But the catch is you pay nothing up front. Your money goes into a savings account monthly but once your first debt is settled, they collect that entire fee from your dedicate savings account. So you then have minimal saved cash available for the next debt that you owe to be settled. So that debt can end up going to a law firm and you get sued.
Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.
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.

Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
Walking or biking to work have benefits beyond just saving money too. More exercise, less pollution, less aggravation. When I worked in an office, I always walked to and from work. Sometimes as much as 45 minutes each way and in all kinds of weather. Such was my mania to avoid giving the MTA one cent I didn’t have to give their crummy service. And to save money of course.
If you decide to start a debt management plan, there will likely be a one time set-up charge and a monthly fee for the cost of administering the plan. These fees are determined in part by your state of residence and will be calculated by your counselor during your credit counseling session. If you feel that a fee will be too much of a burden for you to pay, talk to your counselor.  If you qualify under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, you may be eligible to a fee waiver.
The convenient answer is: When your debt is so small that you can handle it yourself by doing a better job of budgeting; or when your debt is so large that there isn’t enough income to pay for basic living needs AND make a payment toward your debt. The truth is that everyone’s circumstances are so different that an interview with a credit counselor is the only way to know whether you qualify for a DMP.
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