Although there is variation from country to country and even in regions within country, consumer debt is primarily made up of home loans, credit card debt and car loans. Credit counseling includes an array of services to address consumer debt that is not within the debtor's ability to pay, such as education about credi personal finance, budgeting and debt management. In addition to education, a popular credit counseling option is the ‘‘Debt management plan’’ (‘‘DMP’’, known in the United Kingdom as the Individual voluntary arrangement or "IVA"). In order to initiate a DMP, a consumer would authorize the credit counselor to contact each of the consumer’s unsecured creditors and negotiate with each creditor to lower the consumer’s monthly payment amount, to lower the interest rate, and to waive any outstanding late fees. The debt was then ‘‘consolidated’’ into a single payment.
If you choose to do your counseling over the telephone, we’ll connect you with a certified credit counselor who will do the following: collect information about your income, assets and expenses. They will then pull a copy of your credit report and review your debts with you. Based on your income, assets and debts, your credit counselor will make a debt relief recommendation to you which may include bankruptcy, a debt management program and/or recommendations for how to reduce items in your budget to help you pay off your debt faster.
Another option is consolidating your debts into one manageable account. The main purpose of this is to eliminate the higher interest rate debts, arrive at lower monthly payments and allow you to concentrate on making just one payment. However, this does nothing to your total balance. What you will be doing is shifting all of your debts into just one account.
Credit card balance transfers. One of the simplest and easiest ways to lower the interest rate on credit card debt is to make credit card balance transfers. When you transfer a balance, you take advantage of a credit card offer that provides a low promotional rate for a limited period. It's common for credit cards to offer 0% interest on balance transfers for anywhere from 12 to 18 months. Balance-transfer cards sometimes charge a fee, such as 3% of the amount transferred, but there are some cards that don't impose charges, and those can be an especially good deal.
DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
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Negotiating with creditors can take a lot of time and effort. Many people decide to let companies like National Debt Relief do the work for them. If you take this option, National Debt Relief will contact your creditors to discuss ways to lower your debt. Some companies will agree to lower the amount that you owe. Others will agree to lower their interest rates and waive fees.
McClary says the best time to go to creditors for help is before the situation is out of control. Don’t wait until an account is about to be closed because you’ve had several months of late or missed payments. Tell the creditor you’d like to pay down your balance faster and want to know what services are available to help you manage your debt better.
Debt Settlement is making a deal with creditors to pay less than the total balance owed. As attractive as that sounds, there are some severe penalties, notably to your credit score and tax liabilities. Debt settlement costs include attorney fees (typically 10-20% of amount settled) and taxes owed on forgiven debt. Debt settlement negatively impacts credit for several years.
Student loans:The federal government and private lenders issue loans to cover education costs. Federal student loans generally have a low interest rate and important borrower protections. Working in a qualifying public-service job entitles you to loan forgiveness after 120 on-time payments. Income-based payment plans also cap payments and allow a portion of your loan to be forgiven. While private student loans don't come with all these protections, rates may still be relatively low. And if your income is below $80,000 as a single or $165,000 if married filing jointly, you can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest from your taxes. Because of these perks, you may not want to pay off student debt early.
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.
Step 1: Open a dedicated savings account. At the start of your debt settlement program, National Debt Relief requires that you open a savings account where you will begin making monthly payments. The amount you pay each month is decided on by National Debt Relief, and is generally lower than the total payments you’re currently making to creditors. You are in total control of the funds in your account, which is only disbursed once a settlement is reached between National Debt Relief (on your behalf) and your creditors.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.
This was a really great article! It is true that you can’t approach debt like a fad diet, it needs to be a lifestyle! And everyone has different lifestyles so it’s okay to approach paying off your debt differently than your friends or family! It just is important to keep at it and make a change to the way you used to live when you were getting yourself in debt! Thanks for sharing this with us!
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.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
People are creatures of habits and spending money is no exception. We shop at the same stores, eat in the same restaurants and drive the same car, because it’s comfortable. It’s also costing you more than you can handle financially. Remedy: If you won’t change your spending habits, you won’t ever get out of debt. Start with your morning habits (have your coffee and breakfast at home). Go to lunch with a brown bag, not a wallet. In the evening, watch games or movies on TV, while eating a home cooked meal. You will see an immediate impact on your daily spending habits. You don’t have to do without. You just have to make better choices with what you do.
One of America's leading nonprofit debt consolidation companies, American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) provides credit consulting services and debt management solutions to consumers who are struggling with credit card bills and other types of unsecured debt. Unlike some debt relief companies, we can help you consolidate your credit without having to take a credit consolidation loan. If you're wondering how to consolidate debt in the more prudent, effective way, contact us for a free consultation with one of ACCC's consolidation counselors. Be sure to check out our debt consolidation reviews to hear from our customers what makes ACCC such a trusted and effective debt consolidation company.
Should I Keep Paying My Credit Card Bills? Due to your legitimate financial hardship, you are able to participate in this savings program in order to help pay your debts in the future. We are not here to advise you not to pay your debts now, however if you continue to make payments to your creditors, there may be less debt or possibly none left at all for us to settle. If you are able to save money in this program & make payments to your creditors at the same time, then you probably don’t actually have a legitimate financial hardship.
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
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.
The company is clear about average fees ($40 for setup and $25 monthly, not to exceed $75 and $50, respectively) as well as average interest-rate and payment reductions on its website. They also publish detailed “transparency reports” that include debt management dropout rates, savings rates, and client satisfaction rates tracked over several years.
Our experience with Clearpoint Credit Counseling is remarkable as they have helped us understand how to remove that overwhelming and disastrous financial burden from our lives. Our Clearpoint counselor is always welcoming, empathetic, professional and experienced and he has allowed us to live our lives as we had dreamed—free from the nightmare of the intimidating phone calls, the threatening letters and the guilt we felt.
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
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Everyone I've talked to has been professional and courteous. They have truly helped to alleviate some of the stress of feeling like you are drowning with nowhere to turn. There didn't seem to be any daylight at the end of the debt tunnel until I spoke with the folks at National Debt Relief. Everyone is very helpful and the explanations of the process have been very thorough. I feel confident that with their assistance this program can work and I can get out of debt within a reasonable amount of time and save money in the process.
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There are four debt consolidation programs that can eliminate credit card debt: debt management programs; debt consolidation loans; debt settlement; and bankruptcy. The first two are aimed at consumers who have enough income to handle their debt, but need help organizing and dealing with it. The other two apply to consumers in desperate situations where the debt has reached drastic levels.
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