If you are currently serving or have served in the military, then you face a unique set of financial challenges. Consolidated Credit works closely with Southern Command, Army OneSource and the Department of Defense to help military Service Members and Veterans get the financial help they need. We also offer specialized debt help for military personnel.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”
The services provided by credit counseling services are nothing consumers can't do by themselves. "You could do it, but it's an involved process," says Kyle Winkfield, partner with financial firm O'Dell, Winkfield, Roseman and Shipp in the District of Columbia. The benefit of using an agency is that they have experience in negotiating debt payments and disputing incorrect information on credit reports. Paying an expert to do these tasks not only saves a person time, but can minimize the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar territory. "If you find a good one, they are worth more than they charge," Winkfield says.
How it works: Whether it’s at a bank, credit union office or online, the consumer must fill out an application and be approved for a loan. Your income and expenses are part of the decision, but credit score is usually the deciding factor. If approved, you receive a fixed-rate loan and use it to pay off your credit card balances. You then make a fixed monthly payment to the lender to pay off your loan.
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Borrowers also have protections from predatory lenders. Much of these is legal in nature. Many states and the federal government have created laws and rules that payday lenders need to follow. The regulations can cap interest rates, limit the number of times funds can be issued, and offer additional assistance. Read more on the payday laws in your state.
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.
Negative reviews: Common complaints include unprofessional behavior, being passed off between employees and being treated great during enrollment then the quality dropping once the process actually starts. The company provides an online dashboard to help clients keep track of their debt management program, but customers have still said they feel disconnected from the debt settlement process. Average user score is 2.4/10.
The big downside is, if you need to leave your job for any reason, including if you're terminated, you must pay back the 401(k) loan quickly -- often within 60 days. If you don't, the unpaid loan is treated as a taxable distribution and you'd have to pay a 10% penalty. Not only can a 401(k) loan trap you in your job, but you could also hurt your retirement savings goals, because you'll have less money invested and growing.
Personal loans. Personal loans are another solution to refinance debt. You can take out a personal loan to repay credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or other types of high-interest debt. Many personal lenders do forbid you from using the proceeds of your loan to repay student debt, but otherwise you have almost endless flexibility in what you can use the borrowed money for.
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.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) offers consumer credit solutions ranging from debt counseling and debt consolidation relief, to pre-bankruptcy counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education. If you are seeking debt consolidation options, ACCC offers a simple and effective consolidation program that's more prudent and beneficial than a debt settlement solution or taking out loans for debt consolidation. For personalized credit counseling advice and to learn about the best way to consolidate debt, contact an ACCC credit advisor today.
If you have unsecured debts that qualify for a debt management plan and secured debts that don’t qualify, a debt management plan can still work. When you sign up for a debt management plan with a nonprofit agency, the credit counselor assigned to your case will offer comprehensive financial advice that can help you pay down all your debts — not just debts governed by your debt management plan.
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:
If you're unsure of all the accounts you may have open, especially those that might be in collections, you can check your free credit report. It will show what creditors are currently reporting to the credit bureau, including your most-recently reported balances and contact information for the accounts. (Your banks and credit card issuers will have the most up-to-date information.)
Such a scam, they make you believe they're helping you but in reality they are ripping you off. They are charging you for something you can do on your own. There is nothing special about this company, please don't waste your time and money. Wish someone told me this before I signed up. I never write reviews but I feel so strongly about this that I had to try to stop someone else from making the same mistake and sign up with National Debt Relief.Read More
One thing to consider: If you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process can be over fairly quickly and with reasonable certainty that your unsecured debts will be forgiven. Debt management, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. The process can take years, and many people who start debt management plans ultimately drop out and may have to consider bankruptcy anyway.
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.
Understand the basics of good credit counseling. Many nonprofit credit counseling agencies offer both free and paid services, Kalkowski says. They may offer complimentary consultations, financial literacy workshops or even one-on-one budgeting sessions free of charge. However, if you sign up for a debt management plan, expect to pay for the service. Debt management plans through nonprofits often have a startup fee of $30 to $40 and monthly fees of $20 to $40.
I entered a DMP (Money Management Intl) 4 years ago with a pile of debt and am now a month away from being debt free. I will say the service wasn’t exactly what I expected going into it – the DMP was very hands off and didn’t provide much in the way of real conselling. They don’t even explain the process very well, so it’s worth doing a little research on your own. That said, I’m not sure I could have tackled my debt without the reduced interest rates and the one-payment structure.
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.