The other approach is more efficient, though: Paying off your highest-interest-rate debts first. Remember that you compiled a list of your debts and their interest rates. Well, the ones with the highest rates are costing you the most, over time. So to minimize your interest expense, you should pay off a debt carrying a 21% interest rate before you tackle a debt with a 12% interest rate.
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.)
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.
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.
Having said that, the other posters are correct. You can settle debt on your own without the help of a debt settlement company. It does take a lot of time and energy though. That is why some people choose to use a company to do it for them. Due your due diligence and search for reviews of the companies you are interested in and see what others have to say.
Chapter 13 is a three- or five-year court-approved repayment plan, based on your income and debts. If you are able to stick with the plan for its full term, the remaining unsecured debt is discharged. It will take longer than a Chapter 7 — but if you are able to keep up with payments (a majority of people are not), you will get to keep your property. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years from the filing date.
When you first create a financial plan, you never know what the results will be. Sometimes, it can even be a little scary to see how things will look if you don’t make any adjustments. The key is to have patience. Financial planning is a process and not an overnight event. In creating a financial plan, focus on the things that you can control and keep a long-term perspective.
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