While it seems to make sense to devote every dollar possible to eliminating debt today, in the long run, it’s a costly mistake. Remedy: Contribute at least 5%-10% of your income to retirement savings as soon as you begin working and don’t let eliminating debt cut into that. Time is the most powerful tool in retirement savings. The earlier you start contributing to a 401(k) or other retirement fund, the better off you’ll be at retirement. Find other places in your budget to pay down credit card accounts.

However, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. While some are accredited nonprofits, others are for-profit ventures that charge high fees and use questionable tactics, such as asking clients to dispute legitimate debts on credit reports or pay to become an authorized user on a stranger's credit card. Unscrupulous agencies may drain the wallets of already cash-strapped families and fail to address the underlying issues like budgeting, which are needed to ensure long-lasting financial success.
Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.
Not sure where to find this information? Check your credit report for a complete listing of creditors. You can obtain a copy for free from annualcreditreport.com from each of three major credit reporting agencies. You're entitled to one report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- so you can space out your requests and get a report once every four months. Sign into online accounts for each creditor if you have them, look back at your most recent statement, or give your creditors a call to get the info you need. 
Who’s it best for? Face-to-face counseling isn’t an option with all debt management companies, but it is with GreenPath. The company has offices in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If you want a personal touch, the company could be worth a look. It’s also willing to include some secured debt in the debt management program.
This is a form of assisted debt consolidation that works extremely well if you have a large volume of debt and a less-than-perfect credit score. You enroll in a program through a credit counseling agency, who works out a payment plan that works for your budget. Then they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce your interest rates. Total monthly payments are typically reduced by 30-50% and most people complete the program within 60 payments or less.

Debt settlement sounds like a sexy option to consolidate debt. Who wouldn’t want to pay half of what you owe on credit card debt? But this is considered a desperation measure for a reason. The ads boasting that settlement companies like National Debt Relief can get 50% of your debt forgiven, don’t tell the whole story. That figure doesn’t include the fees you will pay, the penalties you incur while settlement negotiations take place and whether a creditor will even accept the offers made. Do all the math before you choose this option.


The most important first step to getting out of debt is to create a budget and take a hard look at your spending. This can be eye-opening for people who have never tracked their expenses. You have to get serious about reducing or eliminating certain unnecessary expenses. Be prepared to make sacrifices. This might mean a zero-dollar budget for things like date nights and new gadgets. Steer clear of temptations as much as possible, which might involve avoiding the mall or unsubscribing to emails from your favorite online retailer.

Depending on how serious are your financial woes your counselor may recommend a debt management plan (DMP). The way this would work in brief is your counselor will determine how much you can pay and then negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The negotiation can be for longer terms or lower monthly amounts determined by what payments you could afford to make. In some cases your counselor may attempt to negotiate a reduction in your interest rates. If all or most all your creditors agree to your debt management plan you would stop paying them. Instead, you would send one payment a month to the credit-counseling agency and it will distribute the money to your creditors per your DMP. The biggest downside to one of these plans is that they typically take five years to complete. You would most likely be required to give up all the credit cards that are in your plan and would be strongly urged to not take on any new credit until you’ve completed your plan. These are the biggest reasons why nearly half of those debtors who sign up for DMP never successfully complete it.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
Yes, National Debt Relief is a legit company. It’s been accredited with the BBB since 2013 and has an A+ rating based on factors like transparency and time in business. While it has over 80 complaints filed against it with the BBB as of December 2018, it earns an average 4 out of 5 stars based on 340 mostly positive customer reviews. Meanwhile, more than 11,000 customers have reviewed it on Trustpilot, earning it an average 9.5 out of 10.
Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
American Consumer Credit Counseling is a nonprofit organization that offers credit counseling services, debt management services, and financial education to consumers nationwide. With branches in various parts of the country, as well as certification to do business in all 50 states, ACCC aims to help Dallas residents manage their credit card debt and gain financial peace of mind.
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.
Learn about other types of assistance programs from credit card companies. While it is true that many are increasing fees and in general turning up the pressure on credit card holders, there are also an increasing number of companies that are creating assistance programs to take a more pro-active approach in an effort to truly help people. They are more willing to reduce and cancel unpaid debt, reduce interest rates, allow payment plans, and offer other assistance.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. They discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
This company works with unsecured debt – typically credit cards – as well as medical debt, private student loans and personal loans. Its debt settlement plans require you to stop paying your creditors and instead make payments into an escrow account set up by National Debt Relief. You control the money in this account. After several months of making installments into this account the settlement firm will begin negotiating with your creditors.
Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.
Debt consolidation loans can help you pay off bills as well. They are a type of personal loan in which you can consolidate all types of outstanding debts as well as other expenses, including credit cards, other higher priced borrowing, and medical bills. The individual will take out a new loan, at a lower interest rate, and use that money to pay off other accounts. This will reduce your monthly payment, and therefore will save you money. Debt consolidation loans are just one option available to help consumers get better control of their finances.
Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, these programs can be very risky and have serious negative financial consequences for consumers. Additionally, some debt settlement companies deceive consumers by making promises they do not keep and engaging in other illegal conduct (like charging fees before obtaining any settlements, in violation of the TSR). For information, read Coping with Debt and Settling Credit Card Debts.
The convenient answer is: When your debt is so small that you can handle it yourself by doing a better job of budgeting; or when your debt is so large that there isn’t enough income to pay for basic living needs AND make a payment toward your debt. The truth is that everyone’s circumstances are so different that an interview with a credit counselor is the only way to know whether you qualify for a DMP.
×