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.
Credit counseling organizations are usually non-profit organizations. Typically, their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your financial situation with you and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. Here are some examples of what credit counselors might do:
Mortgage debt: Banks, credit unions, and online lenders provide secured loans to buy properties, which act as collateral. Mortgage debt is low-interest debt that comes with the ability to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million if you purchase your home before December 2018 or up to $750,000 if you purchased your home after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed.
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.
There are two ways to file for bankruptcy – a chapter 7 and a chapter 13. The difference is that a chapter 7 bankruptcy is called a liquidation bankruptcy as its goal is to liquidate your assets to repay your creditors. However, much of your assets such as your house, automobile, furniture and personal items are excluded in a chapter 7 bankruptcy so in practice you might not have any assets that could be liquidated.
Don’t be afraid to have many budget categories. It will help you have a greater understanding of where things are going. Some regular expenses include internet, cell phone, household goods, medical costs, pets, haircuts, car repair, and home repair. Not every item will have an expense every month, but by setting some money aside for those irregular expenses, you’ll be ready when they hit.
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.
The debt management program itself is not reported to credit bureaus and does not factor into credit scores. The largest % of anyone’s credit score is payment history and with a debt management program, our goal is to make on time payments to liquidate your debt in a reasonable amount of time. Initially, your score may dip when lines of credit are closed, however, people on a debt management program typically see their scores increase over time as they make on-time payments each month.
NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget: Keep essential expenses, like housing, to 50% of your income. Then allocate 30% for wants, and use 20% for savings and debt pay-down. Since you’re focused on paying off your debt, you may decide to use money from your wants category to make extra debt payments. That will wipe out debt faster and help you save on interest.
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.
i now have my creditors ringing my phone Non-Stop everything’s gone into collections. I started with a 780 credit score I now have a 403 credit score. I was recently laid off from my job and in my line of business I have to have good credit so I can’t get another job. I manage Apartments andI was living onsite I have to move but I can’t get an apartment because my credit so low and when I call them to see what they are going to do I’m being talked to like I’m a piece of garbage.
After the initial credit counseling session, if you need additional assistance to eliminate debt, your counselor will develop a customized debt management plan (DMP) for you. With the Union Plus Debt Management Plan (DMP) grant, you don't need to pay any of the DMP set-up fees. Union members who complete one year on a DMP are also eligible to apply for reimbursement of the monthly fees.
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I have debt which if I follow my plan should be paid off in two years (except for one huge student loan and my mortgage). I contribute to my work 401k plan. That money would be helpful to put towards my debt however I am also 62 and would like to retire in 2023. Am I doing the right thing in continuing with the 401k, or because I only have 25k in the 401k, should I stop and use the money towards the debt?
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.
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Chapter 13 is typically more expensive than Chapter 7 but I can’t give you a specific total cost for either. It will vary. Your best bet is to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney. If you can’t afford to file now, the attorney should be able to help you figure out other options. Keep in mind that they are used to seeing consumers who are at the end of their rope financially, so it’s not something you should be embarrassed about.
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 management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.