When evaluating whether a credit agency is legitimate, Kalkowski cautions against being too trusting of promises made by company representatives. "A lot of these people are so nice," she says. They may pressure people to sign up immediately, if for no other reason than to get peace of mind. While they may seem caring, Kalkowski stresses, "These people are not your friends. They are out to make a buck."

This is the last-ditch solution if your financial situation has become so overwhelming that there doesn’t appear to be a way out. Bankruptcy offers a “fresh start” though with lots of restrictive conditions. You can file for either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which cancels your debts, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which sets up a 3-5 year repayment plan to eliminate your debts.
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 (:

Make sure you are working with an NFCC-member nonprofit credit counseling agency like InCharge Debt Solutions. Nonprofit credit counselors provide impartial financial advice that has your best interest in mind. A nonprofit debt management program will have low fees and work to secure interest rate reductions on your credit card debt, so that you are able to pay off your debt by making consistent affordable payments.
Bankruptcy is not the credit catastrophe it once was. Certainly filing bankruptcy does not improve your credit and your credit score will suffer if you file. However, you can rebuild your credit within a few years by charging small amounts on a credit card and paying the bill on time every month. Taking out a personal or auto loan (not payday loans) can help improve your score quickly as well if you pay your bill on time every month. After a few years of doing this, your credit score should be in the 700 range. Post bankruptcy, you can thrive and not merely survive if you are diligent about getting back on the road to financial recovery.
Throughout all the years I carried this debt around with me, I never wanted to be in debt. But it wasn’t until I met the three criteria above that I was able to do something about it. First, I had to stop living in denial, telling myself my debt “wasn’t that bad.” I needed a reality check and to stare down exactly how much debt I had and what it would take to get out.
How Is Debt Negotiation Different From Bankruptcy? Bankruptcy is an option that is generally treated as a last resort. It will remain on your credit report for 10 years & you can be denied employment, state licenses, insurance, as well as tenancy of an apartment. Most importantly, you can be denied virtually any type of credit with a bankruptcy on your report for several years. In addition, since the bankruptcy laws have changed recently, it is even more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7, the method of liquidating assets to eliminate your debt. You will not be allowed to discharge alimony, child support, taxes, student loans, judgments, or any loan on the bankruptcy petition. Under Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your debt payments are simply restructured meaning you will still have to pay a percentage of your debts while you suffer the consequences of bankruptcy. Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy.
Reduce interest rates on credit cards and other debts. You can save money by reducing the interest rates you pay on your credit cards, loans and other debts. Depending on exactly your current terms and how much you owe, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in total interest expenses. It is generally free to try this. There is a 50-60% success rate of receiving a lower interest rate when you try on your own to gain better control over your financial obligations. Learn more on reducing credit card interest rates.
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?
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.

Hi everyone, in the UK we have student loans, but these are paid back through your salary when you start earning over £15,000 Gross Salary. Depending on when the loan was taken out, interest rates vary from 1-3% (so quite low). Basically if you’re not working, they cant take the money from you. Is this how it works in the US? Great site by the way it really puts things into perspective.

McClary advises following the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50 percent of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20 percent to savings; and 30 percent to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30 percent zone is the first area to target for cutting back, McClary says.


Nobody wants to declare bankruptcy, and it is true debt management provides a viable alternative to becoming legally destitute. However, enrolling in debt management or credit counseling is actually a prerequisite to filing bankruptcy. So even if you find yourself still unable to pay all of your creditors, bankruptcy is then an option for you after you have tried debt management.
Man, I’m in trouble! Just calculated my DTI ratio and it’s not pretty! A year ago I started taking charge of my credit problem and decided to do a debt consolidation. The problem is, now that I had this loan in the exact amount of what I owed in credit card and line of credit I figured I would pay most of it and then keep a little money to get stuff I needed (a new mattress and some furniture). Stupidest move I ever did! Now, a year later, I’ve maxed out my credit card once again (I should have lowered the limit after I had paid it off a year prior…..but I thought I was good), I still owe over $5000 on my line of credit and now, I also have to pay that consolidation loan! Within a year, my debt amount went from $14,500 to $33,500! And the worst part? I don’t even know how I managed that! I don’t think I spend a lot of money on trivial things………but clearly I’m spending somewhere. So according to your calculator, I’m at a 0.62 DTI ratio. I mean I make over 50K a year, if I cut down on…..everything, I should be able to pay this off. My car loan is at 0% interest so I’m not too concern with that one. I do put money away every month in an RRSP (it’s the Canadian equivalent of a 401(K)) which cuts down my income tax payment at the end of the year. I’m also a federal employee so I have a pension plan at work with a lot of good benefits so I’m set on the pension plan side. But I can’t manage to save enough money to cover even one month of my income. I mean I’ll be 30 in 3 months and I’ve always been a pretty smart girl……..but I can’t get a hold on my finances! Anyway, I’ve been going through your site and checking out all your tools. It’s giving me a hope.
Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
Watch out for common red flags. While good credit counseling agencies are transparent about their fees and services, unscrupulous ones can be evasive and pushy. Red flags include demands for payment before services start, failure to provide a contract, insisting on access to your bank account and promises of debt repair that sound too good to be true.
I really liked your article! It was well timed for me today! I have faced a little bit more my financial situation, I have paid some bills today and got a vision of the other ones coming in the next weeks and started an excel spreadsheet of my financial situation. So thanks for the swift kick in the situation! I allready have brought my lifestyle to a more aligned position I am currently in! Now for the rest! Now to face the fears of managing the money!
DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
There are, however, some downsides. If you die before the loan is paid back, your beneficiaries receive less money, because the outstanding balance of the loan -- including interest -- is taken out of the death benefit. Plus, since interest is added to the loan's balance if you don't make monthly payments large enough to cover it, the amount you owe could grow to exceed the cash value of the policy and cause the policy to lapse. This could lead to a big tax bill, as you'd have to pay taxes on the cash value of a lapsed policy. 
High-interest credit card debt: Credit card debt is revolving debt; you charge as much as you want up to your credit limits and make monthly payments. The average interest rate on credit cards was close to 17% as of July 2018. Because credit card debt provides no benefit and rates are substantially higher than investments typically produce, aggressive early payoff is smart. 
How it works: Settlement companies ask you to stop paying the credit card companies and instead, send regular payments to an escrow account. When the balance in that account has reached a sufficient level, the settlement company negotiates with the card company for a reduced, lump-sum payment. If the creditor agrees, money is sent from the escrow account. If there is not enough money in the account, a payment schedule is agreed upon.

Customer reviewers are mainly impressed with National Debt Relief’s quality customer service, which most report is helpful and patient, considering the situation. At least one customer was even able to start repairing their credit score. Negative reviews tend to have less to do with the drawbacks of National Debt Relief than debt settlement itself.


Do You Offer A Money Back Guarantee? We offer a 100% satisfaction money back guarantee. Our Guarantee: By joining our program, you will be on your way to reducing your debts. We are so confident in our professionalism and level of service, that we do not charge a single penny until your debt is settled. And, if you are unsatisfied with our program you can cancel at anytime without any penalties or fees.
Yes, all unsecured debts should be included on your debt management plan. This means that all revolving credit accounts will be closed to further use. The purpose of this debt repayment program is to help consumers get out of debt.  To do this, it’s important that no additional charges are made while are on the program. However, as with any rule, exceptions can occasionally be made. Discuss any accounts you’d like to keep open with your counselor.
You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.
Look into the fine print of any balance-transfer card you're considering to find out what your credit limit will be with the card. Many times, you won't be able to know until you get approved for the card. You won't be able to transfer more than that limit, less the balance transfer fee, if there is one, and if you exceed the limit you might face a fee.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this article – I’m planning to share it with my husband tonight. Your approach and honestly in the article is so freshing since I myself was in a crazy amount of debt as of last year ($22K at the peak). Essentially, I followed all the steps you mentioned (took a hard look at my total debt, got a higher ($7K more) paying job, transferred balances to a 0% card and paid off a load of consumer debt. I’m scheduled to pay off all my consumer debt by April 2011.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this article – I’m planning to share it with my husband tonight. Your approach and honestly in the article is so freshing since I myself was in a crazy amount of debt as of last year ($22K at the peak). Essentially, I followed all the steps you mentioned (took a hard look at my total debt, got a higher ($7K more) paying job, transferred balances to a 0% card and paid off a load of consumer debt. I’m scheduled to pay off all my consumer debt by April 2011.
Revolving (credit card) debt can have a great impact on credit scores as it will increase your balance-to-limit ratio and lower the amount of available credit that you have. The higher your revolving balances inch up to the limits, the more it hurts the credit scores. Depending on the situation and your credit scores, a bankruptcy, debt consolidation plan, or a setup of a budget and timeframe for getting out of debt could be options. Once you’re ankle-deep in revolving debt, it can be tricky to dig yourself out so getting professional advice is important.
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.
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.  

Yep, you read that right. And yes, we even mean stop contributing to your 401(k). Right now, you want all your income to go toward getting out of debt. Once you’re debt-free and have saved three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund, then you can resume your contributions. By then you’ll be on Baby Step 4 and can start putting 15% of your income toward retirement.
The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).
If a consumer’s financial problems resulted from too much debt or inability to repay their debts, a credit counseling agency might recommend enrollment in a debt management plan (DMP). A certified credit counselor will review a consumer's overall financial situation and offer customized money management advice. This advice may include a DMP designed for the client's unique circumstances. 
Kalkowski recommends finding a nonprofit rather than a for-profit agency. Reputable companies may be accredited or certified by one of three organizations: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Financial Counseling Association of America or the Council on Accreditation. Consumers can also check the Better Business Bureau for company ratings and reviews or discuss the matter with trusted friends and family members who may be able to make a recommendation.

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 bfay@debt.org.
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