Gerri Detweiler focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of TalkCreditRadio.com.
Consider debt consolidation. A debt consolidation loan allows you to compile multiple high-interest debts, like credit card balances, into a single lower-interest debt. While debt consolidation can't lower the principal of what you owe, it can reduce the total amount of interest you'll pay over the life of the debt. Reducing interest expenses may make it easier for you to put more money toward paying down the principal of the debt.
Refinance your car loan - Many people do not know that they can refinance their existing car loan, and there is usually not a fee involved. With today’s historically low interest rates, even on automobile loans, individuals can potentially save thousands of dollars in interest. It is free to submit an application for this service. Learn how to refinance your car loan.
One factor I have not seen mentioned here is what I learned when entering the field of sales. A job is just that; a means to an end. A job produces a predictable income stream, which is why we were taught that j.o.b. = Just Over Broke, or, where most people are comfortable remaining for the majority of their working lives, whether out of habit, fear, or ignorance of what opportunitieseee are available to them.
Sometimes debt can just be an unintended consequence of too much holiday spending — or overspending any time of year. Many people try to get out of debt, but life slaps them in the face hard enough that they give up. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are so many people who are getting out of debt every single day, and not only that, but they are getting out of debt in a short period of time.
InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.
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Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
“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.
Debt settlement companies also charge a fee for their "service." Most of the time, settlement fees cost between $1,500 to $3,500. Fraudulent debt settlement companies often tell customers to stop making payments on their debts and instead pay the company. Once their fee is accounted for, they promise to negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts. Sounds great, right? Well, the debt settlement companies usually don’t deliver on helping you with your debt after they take your money. They’ll leave you on the hook for late fees and additional interest payments on debt they promised to help you pay!
Most of the major banks and card issuers are more aggressively offering their own debt reduction and settlement plans for unpaid debt and bills. It is in their best interest to do this as well. Not only are they cutting out the middle man, but they will also receive at least some payments from the customer, rather than nothing. Find a list of credit card company settlement programs.
A debt settlement plan in which you repay less than you owe hurts your credit. If your score is around 680 at the time you settle your debt, you could lose between 45 and 65 points. If your score was around 780, you'd lose between 140 and 160 points. However, it won't hurt your score as much as bankruptcy. For a 680 score, bankruptcy could take off 130 to 150 points, and for a 780 score, bankruptcy would cause a drop between 220 and 240 points. While the drop to your score is dramatic and it could take several years to recover, debt settlement could provide much-needed relief if you're struggling to pay bills.
First Republic Eagle Gold. The interest rates are great, but this option is not for everyone. Fixed rates range from 1.95% – 4.45% APR. You need to visit a branch and open a checking account (which has a $3,500 minimum balance to avoid fees). Branches are located in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Boston, Palm Beach (Florida), Greenwich or New York City. Loans must be $60,000 – $300,000. First Republic wants to recruit their future high net worth clients with this product.
If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.
Chapter 7: Bankruptcy has a dramatic affect on your score, and depending on where you started from, you’ll probably end up somewhere between 520 and 550. But, if you’re careful you can raise that score dramatically so that in about two to three years, you’re in the very good to excellent range. Chapter 7 will stay on your credit record for ten years. Check out How to Get New Credit to Survive and Thrive After Bankruptcy.
We value transparency in a debt settlement company, and National Debt Relief was one of the most forthcoming with information. When we spoke on the phone with a customer service rep, they explained the program in detail, spelling out the benefits and drawbacks and offering recommendations on alternatives. They were quick to respond to our follow-ups and provided some of their onboarding information for us to look over.
Once you’ve decided that debt settlement is the right option for you, National Debt Relief asks that you stop paying your creditors (if you can still make payments, you’re not in a financial crisis and the program isn’t right for you) and open a new FDIC-insured account that you will begin depositing money into regularly. The funds collected in this account will only get disbursed once terms of a settlement offer are reached between the creditor and borrower.
This is a very important first step before trying to start retiring debt. Having an emergency fund will help keep you from getting deeper into debt when unexpected events happen. If, for example, you have $1,000 in cash set aside and your car or house needs a sudden repair, you do not have to put that repair on a credit card. Ideally, you will want to get to the point where you have an emergency fund worth three to six months of expenses so you can support yourself temporarily if you suddenly lose your job, but the $1,000 is a great start.
They tell you to do something illegal. A certified credit counselor will never tell you to try and create a new identity to get away from your old debt. Companies that advise people to get new Social Security or Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) are scams! Credit counselors won’t even advise that you run or hide from creditors or collectors; they help you find ways to face your challenges directly.
In the United States, Credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services. Different states may regulate DMPs individually and Attorneys General are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud. Two professional associations represent Credit counselors: the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
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.
What if I have $60k+ student loans, $14k credit cards spent on medical bills, etc., from the last few years of waiting on disability? What do I do? I will never be able to do the job that my degree holds or most likely any job for that matter. My ss Will be around $1250/month. I don’t even know how I will live on that. I have never been able to get a mortgage to the student loans. Thank you.
Discipline yourself to make regular payments on your debts, prioritizing your smallest debt to make early wins in eliminating debts. Automate those debt payments, so it doesn’t just rely on discipline. Discipline will fail you sooner or later, so the more you can automate “good financial behaviors” like paying down debts and saving money, the more likely you are to sustain them.
Late fees and other penalties. If you are not actively paying down your debt, the lender will assess late fees and raise the interest rate so that your debt actually grows. Again, this applies specifically to debt settlement, but could happen with late payments in either a debt management program or debt consolidation loan. Be aware that not making at least minimum payments on your debt each month is going to cost you.
However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score.
Free advice from credit counseling agencies is available. Several different organizations, all of which are non-profits, operate across the country. A number of agencies operate regionally as well. They provide a number of low cost or free debt reduction programs, offer ways to improve credit scores, can advise on filing for bankruptcy, offer budgeting services, and in general provide information on ways to gain control of your bills. Find a listing of non-profit credit counseling agencies.