For most people who are struggling with debt, non-profit credit counseling is the better option. You pay fewer out-of-pocket costs, which can be helpful. That last thing you need as you get out of debt is a big bill. If you’re looking for non-profit counseling services, fill out the form at the top of this page. Debt.com only refers you to the best accredited non-profit consumer credit counseling services.
Credit counseling works because it provides people with the time and tools to focus on their financial situation. The nonprofit version of this service provides a holistic, high-level view of an individual or family’s debts, assets, income and expenses before recommending a debt relief strategy. These services work because the solutions provided are personalized and specific, and because counselors are well-trained and non-biased.
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.
Those who are overwhelmed by debt often turn to credit counseling agencies to find help. They offer a variety of services, such as workshops, one-on-one coaching and debt management plans, all with a common objective. "The No. 1 goal is to leave people in a better financial situation," says Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University. The Financial Hope Collaborative is a financial education and counseling program for low- to moderate-income families living in Omaha, Nebraska.
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.
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.
Getting out of debt goes beyond making monthly payments, it takes discipline and self-control to avoid taking on new debt. Stop using a credit card to fund your lifestyle. Make a conscious decision to stop borrowing money, whether it be from a credit line or credit cards. By putting a stop to borrowing money you don’t have, you can focus solely on your existing debt and avoid any new debt from forming.
Some companies make use of unethical practices in order to quickly boost a person's credit score. For instance, some companies will instruct people to dispute all debt on their credit report, even accounts they know are legitimate. Since debts are removed while credit bureaus investigate, this can provide a temporary boost in a person's credit score but no long-term benefit. Some state laws, such as the Michigan Credit Services Protection Act, make this practice illegal as well.
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.
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.
If you negotiate a payment plan or a settlement offer, get it in writing. And don't give creditors access to your bank account, as this could make it easier for them to get a court order to freeze your bank account or to put a lien on it -- and unscrupulous collectors could take out more money than you give permission for. Instead, send payments in the mail.
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.
Other times, we just become sick of living paycheck to paycheck, and decide we want a better life — and that’s OK, too. You shouldn’t have to confront disaster to decide you don’t want to struggle anymore, and that you want a simpler existence. For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.