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.
Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest. 
Dave Ramsey is the way to go! My wife and I took his course through our church but you can take it online. He’s funny, informative and gets to the point. I like the facts and my wife likes to have fun so his course was perfect. It even helped our marriage. When BOTH husband and wife are cleaning up the debt mess it makes it that much easier however, we did see a lot of single people taking the course too. We started in Oct. 2014 with 48K between all the loans we had together and now our debt free day is September 18th 2015!
I’m about 70k in debt (which includes a car loan and student loans). I was very naive in thinking that earning a Bachelor’s degree would award me with a high paying job and I would be able to take care of this mountain of debt no problem. Of course, that’s not reality, and I make 25k a year. I’ve been working at this job for about a year and a half now, and I have FINALLY found a better paying job after a year of active searching. Although it’s not much, I’ll be moving up to 29k a year. While I pay off my 10k car loan at 250 a month, I’ve been completely avoiding my student loan debt, I don’t even look at it. Right now my loans are in deferment but I owe my first payment in August. I’m really starting to panick. I appreciated your article and found a lot of useful advice in it. I think my first step to paying off my loans will be to work as hard as possible at my new job so maybe after another year or so I can increase my salary more substantially…. Other than that I’m really at a loss for what to do. Any specific advice regarding such a high amount of student loans? (That honestly, I’m almost too embarassed to admit to in this post)
Debt management companies are springing up everywhere. These companies help "manage" your debt by taking one monthly payment from you and distributing the money among your creditors, with whom they've often worked out lower payments and lower interest. This is not a loan as with debt consolidation. Sometimes people get the two confused. However, because Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt, the debt management business has become one of the fastest-growing industries today.
Some of them include debt consolidation, foreclosure and mortgage delinquency counseling, and budgeting. Review alternatives to a foreclosure that may be available to you such as mortgage modification. A counselor can sometimes work directly with your creditor or bank to enter into installment plans with them, or they help facilitate a solution with all impacted parties.
If your finances have taken a turn for the worse and you find yourself drowning in debt, a debt management program may help you keep your head above water. These programs, also known as debt management plans or DMPs, are a form of debt relief in which a counseling agency works with your creditors to reduce your monthly payment to a level more suitable to your current situation.[1] A DMP may be able to help you negotiate lower interest rates, get late fees waived, work out a payment schedule that's acceptable to you and your creditors, and consolidate your monthly payments into one. However, keep in mind that all DMPs charge fees, and some can be excessively expensive or even fraudulent.
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.[7] Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
I think I made a HUGE mistake with this company. I signed both my mother, who had a stroke and I take care of, and myself with NDR. Our creditors were getting paid monthly and on time. Now we are stacking up late fees and overlimit fees on a monthly basis. I feel none of our creditors are going to get anything for at least six months or more. Our phones ring non-stop from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also NDR is charging fees each month against our deposits. Credit wasn't the greatest due to the large amount of credit cards, but at least they got money every month. Credit score is totally in the toilet now.
Find out how payments will be disbursed to your creditors. Fraudulent debt management companies are notorious for sending payments late and getting their clients into trouble with creditors. Make sure the agency will send your payments to creditors on time and within the correct billing cycle. Ask how soon they will disburse your payment after they receive it, and find out how you can track the payments made. They should send you a statement each month or have some way for you to look it up online.

Rates can vary depending on where you live: The rate that is advertised on LendKey is the lowest possible rate among all of its lenders, and some of these lenders are only available to residents of specific areas. So even if you have an excellent credit report, there is still a possibility that you will not receive the lowest rate, depending on geographic location.
It depends — is your credit in enough shape to qualify for a lower interest rate on a consolidation loan? Will you be able to make the monthly payment associated with the loan? Unlike a credit card, where you can pay the minimum, an installment loan locks you into a payment each month for a set period of time. You can also consider a balance-transfer credit card, which could help you save on interest. More info on the pros and cons of all those options here:
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest. 

They also have a wider range of customer-friendly features than the average debt management company. These include a clear, intuitively designed website, online chat, Saturday credit counseling hours, and dozens of branches nationwide for those who want to do business face to face. Fees range from $0 to $50 for setup, and $0 to $75 monthly, depending on your state.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most debts, which means the debt disappears after bankruptcy proceedings. But there are strict income limits to be eligible -- generally your income must be below the median in your state -- and you might have to turn over some of assets to be sold so proceeds can be used to repay creditors. Your house, a very low-value automobile, and tools used for business are usually exempt from being sold. 
Debt management companies are springing up everywhere. These companies help "manage" your debt by taking one monthly payment from you and distributing the money among your creditors, with whom they've often worked out lower payments and lower interest. This is not a loan as with debt consolidation. Sometimes people get the two confused. However, because Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt, the debt management business has become one of the fastest-growing industries today.
I have my creditors calling me 30 times a day threatening me. And every single one of them told me that it never heard from Clear one advantage when I emailed clear one Advantage for documentation of each time they contacted my creditors, that their website it says “In Negotiations” they have to have some kind of documentation of each time that they called or emailed or mailed something to my creditors and I wanted copies. I received an email back from them saying they didn’t have any documentation.
Tax man awaits. If you have debt forgiven, that probably will count as taxable income and should be reported on your federal income taxes. The lender who forgives the debt should send you a 1099-C tax form detailing how much the original debt was and how much was forgiven. For example, if you owed $25,000 and had $10,000 forgiven, you would have to claim the $10,000 as income on your taxes.

Declaring bankruptcy is one of the most harmful circumstances for your credit, and it should only be a last resort. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, the negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. You may either have all your debts eliminated or have to agree to a plan to repay at least part of your debt.
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.

If you're unable to pay your creditors, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start by liquidating your assets to pay off your debts or create a payment plan. But you should first consider other debt management options. Bankruptcy information stays on a credit report for 10 years and can make it difficult to get credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.
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.
Bad handling of a credit card occurs when a person has more than one in his power and use each one of them to their credit limits. This can generate a total expense that can exceed your monthly income in two or more times. It’s best to establish a limit like a margin of guarantee of at least 30 percent lower than the credit limit. For example, if your credit limit is $3,000 per month, then with a security capacity of 30 percent, you can define your own spending limit as $2,100.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
Not all consumers are able to complete debt relief programs for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. The use of debt resolution services could negatively impact your credit and may result in legal action on the part of creditors or collectors for unpaid balances. Consumers enrolled in debt consolidation programs who fail to adhere to the terms of their debt management plan (DMP) may forfeit the benefits of debt relief and revert to the terms of their original creditor agreements. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment. Please contact a debt relief specialist for complete program details.
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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