Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
Debt settlement. Debt settlement programs typically are offered by for-profit companies, and involve them negotiating with your creditors to allow you to pay a "settlement" to resolve your debt — a lump sum that is less than the full amount that you owe. To make that lump sum payment, the program asks that you set aside a specific amount of money every month in savings. Debt settlement companies usually ask that you transfer this amount every month into an escrow-like account to accumulate enough savings to pay off any settlement that is eventually reached. Further, these programs often encourage or instruct their clients to stop making any monthly payments to their creditors.
Also known as a DMP, a debt management plan is a debt-relief option offered through a debt counseling agency or debt management company. These companies typically are members of organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies. They work with your creditors to come up with a monthly payment solution that works for your situation.
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.
Chapter 13: Yes. Chapter 13 also discharges debts, but many of the nondischargeable debts like recent taxes and past due child support must be paid in full in the Chapter 13 plan. Unsecured debt like credit cards will only be paid in a Chapter 13 plan if you have the income to cover it. Sometimes unsecured creditors receive a portion of their debt and sometimes they receive nothing at all. But even if they’re not paid they’ll be discharged if you complete your plan. To see how this works, visit Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics.
We find that because our financial counseling is free, confidential, and carries no obligation, the best course of action if you may be interested in a Debt Management Plan is to call and speak directly to one of our certified coaches. In addition to the valuable budgeting assistance, we will help you assess whether a DMP is the right path for you.
It depends — is your credit in enough shape to qualify for a lower interest rate on a consolidation loan? Will you be able to make the monthly payment associated with the loan? Unlike a credit card, where you can pay the minimum, an installment loan locks you into a payment each month for a set period of time. You can also consider a balance-transfer credit card, which could help you save on interest. More info on the pros and cons of all those options here: