Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
A DMP is a payment plan that helps you repay your debts. By using a non-profit credit counseling agency to pay down and off your debt, creditors may also offer to reduce or waive fees, finance charges, or interest rates to ensure success on the plan. Simply, under the plan, you deposit a consolidated payment with us each month, which we in turn disburse to all of your creditors. We also handle calls from your creditors directly. The vast majority of our payment processing is electronic, so funds are transferred directly to the creditors without delay.
No guarantees. Lenders usually want to work with you, but they can choose not to. This is especially true with debt settlement. You may contribute to the fund used to make a settlement offer for 6-8 months and then find out the lender won’t accept the offer. If you choose this route, be sure to get a written agreement from the lender that they will work with you.
With debt management, you’re also paying for something you can do yourself. Even if you have tarnished credit, you may be able to get a debt consolidation loan yourself and pay off your debt without the aid of a debt management company. You can also try to negotiate lower interest rates and payments with your creditors on your own. But either solution would require more self-control than debt management, since the burden would be completely on you to stop acquiring new debt.
Making extra payments should allow more money to come off the principal -- so next month, you'd pay interest on a smaller principal balance and your interest cost would be lower. That's why paying extra can be so helpful in becoming debt free. Not only do you reduce the remaining balance owed, but you also reduce the interest cost that causes your balance to grow.
It’s true that many people get into debt because they lose their jobs. But some people get into debt despite having well paying jobs. It’s good to share information so that people have a plan to save while they have a job so they can weather a job loss. And for those who accumulate debt beyond their means while employed, it’s good to give them a plan of action to “right the ship.” Hope you find something that helps you weather your storms.
And yes, it’s not always that simple. There are people who deal with some scary, painful, and expensive health issues in a broken system that just makes it harder. It’s all too easy to become one of them. And there are people who’ve been dealt a bad hand in other ways, by growing up in generational poverty, starting out behind, and/or being thwarted at every turn by a lack of access to the advantages others take for granted or don’t even notice.
A debt management plan can also reduce the number of payments you have to remember each month. A credit counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll accept reduced interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. Then, you pay the credit counseling agency once a month and the organization distributes the funds to your creditors per their agreement. If you enroll in a Debt Management Plan, it could be noted on your credit report.
Take steps to rebuild your credit and improve your credit score, which in turn, could give you access to more credit in the future. For starters, focus on implementing a plan for paying off debt, and work to keep your balances low on credit cards. Keep in mind that improving your credit score requires small, responsible actions over time, so be patient and set long-term objectives. For more tips on how to improve your FICO score, take a look here.
Finally, you should know there’s a chance your credit can still suffer. Technically, entering a debt management plan shouldn’t hurt your credit score. But if your debt management company ever misses a payment on your behalf, your score will take a hit. Also, prospective lenders may shy away from making loans if they see a notation on your credit report that you’re in a debt management program.
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.
I recently became fed up with the credit card debt that I have been carrying for 6 years and have *finally* taken action to eliminate it, such as making a budget (and sticking to it!), trying to negotiate a lower APR rate, selling stuff (au revoir, gitane bicycle) and making additional payments on my credit cards. This article was EXACTLY what I needed to read. It’s affirmation that I’m on the right track (:
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I entered a DMP (Money Management Intl) 4 years ago with a pile of debt and am now a month away from being debt free. I will say the service wasn’t exactly what I expected going into it – the DMP was very hands off and didn’t provide much in the way of real conselling. They don’t even explain the process very well, so it’s worth doing a little research on your own. That said, I’m not sure I could have tackled my debt without the reduced interest rates and the one-payment structure.
However, outside of these types of package services, there is little difference with the actual debt management service provided. If money is already tight and you can’t afford the bills you have now, there’s little reason to add another. You’re usually better off going through a nonprofit agency in order to keep fees low and ensure your plan is affordable.
There are four other popular options that you could discuss with your creditors. The first is to have your interest rates reduced. If you have high interest debts of, say, 15% or higher and could get them reduced to maybe 12%, you would end up with much lower monthly payments, which could make it possible for you to meet your obligations. A second option worth discussing would be a timeout period of two or three months during which you would no longer be required to make any payments. This would give you time to get your finances reorganized and to save money that might allow you to catch up on your payments. A third possibility would be to have some or all of your credit card debts converted into repayment programs. You would likely be required to give up your credit cards but in turn you would have fixed payments for a fixed amount of time after which you would be completely debt-free.
Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
DMPs for consumers are often negotiated by a credit counseling agency on behalf of the debtor. Credit counseling agencies often address the debt by working with the debtor to set a budget based on their regular income and expenditures that will then include one regular bill payment that is allocated across the creditor(s). Agencies will negotiate on behalf of the debtor to lower payments and interest rates with creditors. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees. The effect on the debtor's overall credit score will vary. In the United Kingdom, as well as DMPs, residents can also apply for an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVAs), which can give the debtor a discount on their debt.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.