But sometimes, disaster strikes and people are forced to confront their circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock one’s finances so off track they can barely keep up with their monthly payments. And it’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situations are.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.

If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Throughout all the years I carried this debt around with me, I never wanted to be in debt. But it wasn’t until I met the three criteria above that I was able to do something about it. First, I had to stop living in denial, telling myself my debt “wasn’t that bad.” I needed a reality check and to stare down exactly how much debt I had and what it would take to get out.
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.
Debt management plans, or DMPs, will lower your interest rates and therefore monthly payments. These so called DMPs are available directly from a credit card issuer, lawyer, debt management company or a non-profit credit counseling agency. The company that you enter into a plan with will negotiate on your behalf with your creditors. This can help you get lower interest rates, waive fees, provide you additional time, and will reduce the total amount of your monthly payments. More on debt management plans.
Find out if there's a penalty APR, too. That's when the card company jacks your interest rate up to 25% or even 30% if you pay a bill late or commit some other transgression. Many cards don't feature them, and that's preferable. Remember that any time you apply for a new credit card, even for a balance transfer, your credit score may be affected negatively as a result.
When it comes to student loan debt, you might consolidate federal student loans into one loan through the Department of Education's Direct Consolidation Loans. Also, or alternatively, you might take out a private loan to consolidate debts -- that's generally referred to as refinancing student loan debt. The advantages of consolidating can include lower monthly payments (if you extend your payment period) and getting out of default, while drawbacks can include less flexibility and a longer payback period -- which can mean more interest paid, overall.
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
hi. if they are over 7 yrs old dont worry about them. in addition, some companies will sell the debt to 3rd party collectors to try to collect even will attempt to threaten or scare you to pay. let it go. if it is student loans etc, pay those with a consolidation contract (not loan) with the federal student loan org……Fedloan.org. they will work with you.
Nobody wants to declare bankruptcy, and it is true debt management provides a viable alternative to becoming legally destitute. However, enrolling in debt management or credit counseling is actually a prerequisite to filing bankruptcy. So even if you find yourself still unable to pay all of your creditors, bankruptcy is then an option for you after you have tried debt management.
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?
When I expressed my concern about not paying my creditors because I had never been late on a payment ever…. I was told not to worried about it. It was going to slightly lower my credit score, you stated that not to worry it will drop off slightly but they will have everything settled within 3 to 4 months and it will go back up after they settle with my creditor and we start making the payments.
Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
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.
Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).

Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy:  Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.

Hello i am 29 i have 3 credit cards all with a balance totaling about $28k. I have had the cards long term and never missed a payment or late on a payment the interest is the lowest they offer at 12.9%. I always make at least the minimum payment, mostly double or even more but it seems they are taking forever to pay off. Talked to a debt settlement company’ which seemed very high pressure into getting me to sign up with them assuring me this was the best route sounded to good to be true so i decided now to go with them. Also spoke with a credit counselling society, they offered to put me in a debt management program which would bring all the cards down to 0% interest and have them all payed off with one monthly payment in 5 years. My concern with this is I would not be able to purchase a home or finance anything for a long time. I have good credit just high debt ratio also have a mortgage for 4 years in good standing and many car loans paid off through the years. What do you think my best option is to pay down this unsecured debt faster and be debt free? Applied for a debt consolidation loan through my bank was not approved because my income was to low last year (self-employed) and cannot borrow from my home equity because they changed the mortgage rules here in BC this year.
You see, 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 root 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! 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. 
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.
Bankruptcy and debt settlement can reduce or eliminate debts, but they severely impact your credit. However, continuing to struggle may actually be a slower, less effective way to get rid of the debt. Debt management doesn’t reduce debts, but its effect on your credit is less severe. And be aware that some types of debts typically can’t be erased or reduced: federal student loans, child support, and secured loans on cars and homes.

Checking your credit report for inaccuracies is an important step in your journey to reduce your debt. Remedy: You are allowed a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Split them up, one every four months. Check them closely for incorrect delinquencies and/or balances that hurt your credit score and could make a difference in your ability to buy a house or car, or obtain more credit.
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.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.
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.
Whether you’re worried about being able to make ends meet, considering filing for bankruptcy, or just totally lost about the debt relief process, give us a call. Our specialty is connecting you with trained experts who are able to help you get the debt relief you want regardless of your specific situation. Better yet, the advice we give is always 100% free!
It’s hard at first, because most of us aren’t used to doing that. (Especially if we’re living on a low income.) But it’s absolutely doable, and gets easier with practice. And once you start paying stuff off, it becomes even easier because your money isn’t flying out the door to service debt. You have MORE money available, which makes things easier still. It’s the exact opposite of a vicious circle.
As you begin to work this system, keep in mind that it’s not easy. Just like losing weight, losing your debt takes work, but if you genuinely want to slough of that stressful debt, your perseverance can make it happen. And don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way. This isn’t about a quick fix, it’s about changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.
Credit score is not a factor with credit counseling. The initial consultation, even with a credit check, won’t affect your score. There is no minimum score requirement to enroll in a debt management program. In addition, when done correctly the program has either a neutral or positive effect on your credit. In other words, if you still have good or excellent credit, this program won’t set you back.

If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”
Yes, they are different. Debt management plans are designed to pay off the entire amount you owe in 3 to 5 years. If we can lower your interest rates, the total amount you pay to your credit card company is typically less than if you paid on your own. Debt settlement typically involves requesting credit card companies to forgive a portion of your debt in exchange for a lump sum payment.
Using your home and your equity to secure a consolidation loan can be one of the quickest and safest ways to eliminate high interest debt. By using your home for collateral, you can greatly improve your chances of acquiring a low interest loan, and you also can borrow more than you would be able to through a personal loan. There are important differences to understand between second mortgages, refinances, and home equity loans, so please read our guide, browse our articles, and use our solution finder to receive your quote.
Ok, so what if I DID max out all my credit cards and couldn’t get another loan? I’d have piles of debt, with little or nothing to show for all my hard work, and payments like crazy. In short, I’d be desperate, but…I’d find another way to solve the immediate problem facing me. So why not just find another way NOW and save myself a world of hurt and a pile of debt…
When you have a small emergency fund, you won't have to reach for your credit cards when disaster strikes. You can use the saved money and not slide back into debt. Of course, when you use the money in your emergency fund, you may need to pause debt payment to rebuild it again. But at least you won't have gone deeper into debt when trying to climb out of the hole. 
Finally, if you or the credit counseling agency fail to make payments on time under the debt management plan, those late or missed payments will appear on your credit report. Because your DMP can cover many debts, one late payment to the credit counseling agency may be reflected as a late payment for each account that is part of the DMP on your credit report. A late payment will also harm your credit scores.

Credit card balance transfers. One of the simplest and easiest ways to lower the interest rate on credit card debt is to make credit card balance transfers. When you transfer a balance, you take advantage of a credit card offer that provides a low promotional rate for a limited period. It's common for credit cards to offer 0% interest on balance transfers for anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Balance-transfer cards sometimes charge a fee, such as 3% of the amount transferred, but there are some cards that don't impose charges, and those can be an especially good deal. 

Bankruptcy can't solve your problems if you have substantial student loan debt. Student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy except in extreme cases where you can show severe hardship, such as becoming unable to ever work because of total permanent disability. You also can't get rid of mortgage or car loan debt if you hope to keep the assets; you'll need to become current and eventually repay these debts in full to avoid foreclosure or repossession of the vehicle. But for unsecured debt -- which is debt not guaranteed by your assets that you simply promised to repay -- bankruptcy could provide relief. 
As you begin to work this system, keep in mind that it’s not easy. Just like losing weight, losing your debt takes work, but if you genuinely want to slough of that stressful debt, your perseverance can make it happen. And don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way. This isn’t about a quick fix, it’s about changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.

“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Specifically, look for credit card debt with the highest interest rates, and begin to chip away at that. Also keep in mind that credit card debt, though concerning, is a common type of debt. In a recent report, MagnifyMoney found that Americans paid back $110 billion in interest and fees in 2018, up from the $98 billion in interest paid the year before. Although it might seem overwhelming, others have found their way out of the debt — and it’s likely that you can, too.
Since debt management plans are individually tailored to each consumer, one plan can be wildly different than the next. McClary said your plan can vary depending on how much debt you owe, your current interest rates and payments and how your interest rates and fees are negotiated down. This is a huge benefit for consumers since debt management plans come with specific advice instead of blanket solutions that may or may not work.
Even better, when you refinance to a lower-rate loan, it lowers your monthly payment. You could continue to pay the higher payments you were making before the refinance to get debt paid off on an accelerated timeline. That $10,000 at 18% over seven years would have monthly payments of around $210 monthly. If you refinanced to a 9% loan with a seven-year repayment period, the required payment would drop to $161. But if you kept paying the $210 you were paying before, you could repay the loan in just five years and pay only $2,418 in interest. You'd make payments for two years less and save yourself $5,252 in interest. 
Debt forgiveness is another potential strategy for anyone ready to admit "I need help with my debt." This involves paying your creditors a lump sum payment that is less than what you owe and ask them to wipe out your debt. While this is sometimes effective, it can also backfire and add even more debt to your totals. While ACCC does not get involved in debt forgiveness plans, we can help you understand the benefits or potential risks this approach may pose.
Do yourself a favor, if you were ripped off like me by National Debt Relief, submit a complaint to ConsumerFinance.Gov. My lawyer counseled me on this. When I called from my job, they did not disclose they were a for profit agency, I had to ask them. They did not tell me the percentage that they would take as profit. I did not learn that until about 3 weeks ago when I demanded to know the profit they took. Their answer after a long time of questioning was they took 25% off the original debt for themselves. When I said that I did not know this. Their response was : “it is in page 3 of the contract.” I could not find this information anywhere nor it was said to me. The representative who enrolled me Berlinda C only said ” We take a small fee” but would not specify the amount. So far, they have taken from me $2,500 and my creditors have hardly seen any money. When a settlement is negotiated, they take everything they have taken from my account for themselves and on top of that charge about $60 monthly extra in order to make the payments to the creditors. I find this sum exorbitant. I now closed my account with them because I have realized the rip off that this company is. I have lost $2,500 for their profit.
Not all consumers are able to complete debt relief programs for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. The use of debt resolution services could negatively impact your credit and may result in legal action on the part of creditors or collectors for unpaid balances. Consumers enrolled in debt consolidation programs who fail to adhere to the terms of their debt management plan (DMP) may forfeit the benefits of debt relief and revert to the terms of their original creditor agreements. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. Please contact a debt relief specialist for complete program details.
As far as options go, I’d recommend you start by talking with a reputable credit counseling agency – one of the options I mentioned in the story. That will give you a baseline to start with. If they can help you with DMP, it’s likely to do the least damage to your credit (with the exception of just paying the debt off) over the long run. If you/they determine a DMP isn’t feasible then you’ll know you have to look at more drastic options like negotiation or bankruptcy.

A debt management program consolidates your debt without you having to take out a loan. In other words, you don’t need a loan to pay off a loan. It is administered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge Debt Solutions, which offers financial education alongside the program so that consumers learn from the experience and aren’t likely to repeat it again.


You didn’t get into debt quickly, and you won’t get out of debt quickly. If you aren’t willing to devote three to five years to wipe out your credit card debt, then you might as well hire a attorney and file for bankruptcy, Ulzheimer says. Just keep in mind that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is expensive, and a bankruptcy will stay on your credit record for seven or 10 years (depending on the type of bankruptcy).
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Debt settlement: This is what National Debt Relief is best at. National Debt Relief has been doing debt settlements for years and knows the ins and outs of the laws around debt settlements. While debt settlement is a good option for people who are drowning in debt, it does have some downsides, including wrecking your credit score. Be sure to know the risks surrounding debt settlement before you start the process. National Debt Relief has all the information you need to know about debt settlement on its website.
InCharge Debt Solutions clients have access to a Debt Management App that makes managing your accounts, checking your balances, and rescheduling payments easy and convenient. The Debt Management App also allows you to check your up-to-the-minute “debt free” percentage: “You Are 55 percent Debt Free.” Research shows that tracking a goal makes you more likely to stay motivated and accomplish it. With the Debt Management App, InCharge strives to be the “Fitbit” of the personal finance world.
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