Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.

Credit card debt is not the only type of debt that you can include in a debt management program. You can consolidate almost any type of unsecured debt, not including student loans. This includes debt consolidation loans, unpaid medical bills that have gone to collections, and even some payday loans. If you’re struggling with student loans, then you will need a specialized type of debt relief.

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.
There are, however, some downsides. If you die before the loan is paid back, your beneficiaries receive less money, because the outstanding balance of the loan -- including interest -- is taken out of the death benefit. Plus, since interest is added to the loan's balance if you don't make monthly payments large enough to cover it, the amount you owe could grow to exceed the cash value of the policy and cause the policy to lapse. This could lead to a big tax bill, as you'd have to pay taxes on the cash value of a lapsed policy. 
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.
You may think that while paying off debt, you don’t have money to save, but this is essential. Life happens, so if anything comes up, like a job loss, medical bill, or car repair, you’re covered. The suggested amount is three to six months’ worth of expenses, but if that’s not immediately possible, aim for one months’ worth – that’s a great starting point.
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]
No. All eligible unsecured debt must be accounted for in a debt management plan, even those bills that you typically have no problem making payments on. The credit counseling agency in charge of your debt payment plan will want a full accounting of income and expenses in order to arrive at an accurate amount available to make the monthly DMP payments so be prepared to include all eligible debts.
×