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.
Next, the creditor will do their own investigation, according to National Debt Relief, which means they will check on your payment behavior with other creditors. This is why the company “strongly encourages” that you stop payment to all qualified creditors if you’ve decided on a debt settlement program. If the creditor decides that you are unable to pay off your debts, they will be more inclined to settle for a reduced payment plan and accept the new terms set forth by the debt relief company.
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.
Look for a nonprofit credit counseling organization that belongs to either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). They ensure member agencies pass rigorous standards set forth by the Council on Accreditation or another approved third party, and that their counselors pass a comprehensive certification program. Even if they are members of such organizations, though, be picky.
While maybe not as widely known, this may be the leading non-profit organization to call for debt management plans, help for paying loans, and other credit counseling in western Texas. They can help qualified individuals refinance their debts and pay off outstanding bills over a period of time using DMPs, consolidation, or so called hardship programs. Services are offered in Spanish too.
Not all forms of credit are actively bad, and many folks are able to use debt as a responsible means of augmenting their purchasing power. When you're dealing with a million competing priorities, however, it can be tough to keep your finances straight. If your expenses are rising faster than your income, you can only keep up this dance for so long.
The negative impact is due to the fact that you must close your accounts while in the program, and this can affect your debt-usage ratio. This factor accounts for about 15% of your credit scores. (On the flip side, paying down your debts will improve your overall debt levels. Some consumers see their scores improve during and after one of these programs.)
If you're not able to secure a lower interest rate from your current credit card company, you may be able to transfer outstanding credit card balances to a card with a lower or zero interest rate (called a balance transfer credit card). Credit card companies often offer promotional rates for a limited period in exchange for you transferring a balance from an existing card to a new one. You'll need to meet the balance transfer card company's qualifications, and will probably need to pay a transfer fee that equals about 3 percent of the balance you're transferring.
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.
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.
Hi Angry – This is a great question and one that we may be covering in a future story with a more in-depth look at how sports teams manage season ticket holder accounts. Out of curiosity, which team were the season tickets for? We may be able to reach out to them for comment about how they handle collection proceedings with defaulted ticket holders.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.