Avoid high monthly fees. Most debt management plans charge a nominal monthly fee to cover the administrative expenses. Depending on the number of creditors you have, the monthly fee may vary, but it generally should be between $2-5 per creditor or, at most, not more than $50 per month. Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
It’s also worth noting that working with debt counselors doesn’t negatively impact your ability to qualify for new financing. Even if you enroll in a debt management program, you can still get approved for loans, such as a mortgage or an auto loan. You can’t open new credit accounts during enrollment. However, you can get approved for major financing to purchase a home or car or to fund a higher education. This way, you don’t have to put your life on hold while you pay off your credit card debt.
You must be able to demonstrate financial hardship, so that the company can negotiate with your creditors and show you are eligible for debt relief. Some examples of financial hardships, according to the company’s website, are a recent job loss, a separation or divorce which has led to a reduction in income, death of a spouse, unexpected medical bills, student loans or IRS taxes.
Savings: National Debt Relief claims its clients realize an approximate savings of 30% when including its fees. This savings applies only to clients who stay with the program until all of their debt is settled. While National says the majority of people who enroll in the program complete it, some customers drop out for various reasons, including the inability to save enough money to settle debts.
Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.
Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates and waive certain fees.
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Home equity loans involve borrowing a fixed amount of money based on the equity in your home. As a simplified example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $50,000 on it, you might be able to borrow between $30,000 and $40,000 in equity. Most home equity loan lenders won't allow you to borrow so much that you owe more than 80% to 90% of the value of the home.
In fact, certain aspects of a debt management plan will have a positive impact on your credit score. These aspects are the amounts owed, payment history, and inquiries for new credit. Your payment history, which makes up 35% of the FICO credit score, will have a positive impact assuming your payments are made every month. In terms of amounts owed, which makes up 30% of the Fico score, this aspect will be positively impacted as the accounts are paid down.