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.
I started today while reading this article by putting 5 dollars into my savings account. I feel like I’m drowning in debt and living from emergency to emergency. I know they key for me to getting out is establishing savings…and I’ve procrastinated. No more! Today I started, next pay check I’ll put in 50, next 100, maybe I’ll get to 200 in a few months. I want to see $2000 in there so I can afford things like car maintenance and medical co-pays!
It is also important to be aware of any debt settlement and debt relief and elimination scams that may be going around. Always research the companies or the debt relief programs you are interested in and make sure they are offering legitimate and reliable services. Also, make sure that the debt consolidation program you work with informs you of all the risks that may be associated with the particular programs they are offering.
Avoid outrageous upfront fees. A small initial fee (up to $50 or, in rare cases, as much as $100 if you have a lot of debt or high income) is normal, but large upfront fees are out of line. If any agency asks for a fee (or donation) make sure that you know what it will cover, and get it in writing. Find out if you'll have to pay any additional fees to start the program. Don't get tricked into paying one "consultation fee," and then an "application fee" or "an enrollment fee." If you're truly unable to pay, look for an agency that is willing to waive the fee or spread it out (without charging additional fees for doing so).
The debt management program itself is not reported to credit bureaus and does not factor into credit scores. The largest % of anyone’s credit score is payment history and with a debt management program, our goal is to make on time payments to liquidate your debt in a reasonable amount of time. Initially, your score may dip when lines of credit are closed, however, people on a debt management program typically see their scores increase over time as they make on-time payments each month.
Before discussing anything else, we’d like you to know that you have the option to fix everything yourself. Unfortunately success is not guaranteed as you have proven that you haven’t been able to manage your finances. But it could be worth a try. The good thing is that you will not be burdened with the additional costs of hiring someone to help you out. You will be able to concentrate all your funds on paying off your debts.
Find out exactly how the company's program works. The terms "debt management," "debt consolidation," and "debt negotiation" are often used interchangeably, sometimes in an effort to confuse or deceive people and sometimes quite innocently. They do, however, refer to three different options, so regardless of what a program is called, find out what it is. For more information on the differences between these options, check out how to consolidate loans.
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.
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.
In addition to using the free services from a non-profit, or working with the lender, there are steps that you can take yourself that can help you reduce your debt. It often combines budgeting as well as working out a solution with the lender. Some of those assistance programs range from payment plans to interest rate reductions or forbearance. It is also important for families to know the difference between bad debt and good debt, so when someone should borrow money or not. The fact is that families, no matter their income, need all the assistance they can get in order to become debt free and pay outstanding bills.
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Pros: National Debt Relief is one of the most affordable debt relief programs. It has a plethora of options to choose from, depending on your debt. National Debt Relief also is offered in 34 states, which is more than most debt relief programs. National Debt Relief also has one of the best reputations in the debt relief world. And the obvious pro, National Debt Relief can help you pay down your mountain of debt.
As the debt relief company is negotiating with your creditors, you stop paying the bills involved (e.g. monthly credit card bills). Instead, you will be making smaller payments to a separate trust account to pool in your resources. Ultimately you will need to come up to the pre-planned amount that you agreed to with the debt relief expert handling your case.
If you are overwhelmed by debt, you might consider hiring a debt settlement company to help you. Debt settlement companies negotiate payments with each of your creditors. You then pay a monthly sum to the debt settlement company, who distributes your payment among your creditors. By doing this, you can get out of debt faster. Here’s a breakdown of how the companies compare against each other and other debt relief companies.
Keeping a budget helps ensure you have enough money to cover your monthly expenses. Plan far enough in advance and you can take early action if it looks like you won't have enough money for your bills this month or next. A budget also helps you plan to spend any extra money you have left after expenses are covered. You can use this extra money to pay off debt faster.
Debt management plans, or DMPs, will lower your interest rates and therefore monthly payments. These so called DMPs are available directly from a credit card issuer, lawyer, debt management company or a non-profit credit counseling agency. The company that you enter into a plan with will negotiate on your behalf with your creditors. This can help you get lower interest rates, waive fees, provide you additional time, and will reduce the total amount of your monthly payments. More on debt management plans.
InCharge Debt Solutions clients have access to a Debt Management App that makes managing your accounts, checking your balances, and rescheduling payments easy and convenient. The Debt Management App also allows you to check your up-to-the-minute “debt free” percentage: “You Are 55 percent Debt Free.” Research shows that tracking a goal makes you more likely to stay motivated and accomplish it. With the Debt Management App, InCharge strives to be the “Fitbit” of the personal finance world.
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.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
Another gray area involves paying to become an authorized user on someone else's credit card. Winkfield says he's heard of people paying $1,500 a month for this service. Credit repair companies solicit people to "rent" their good credit score to others by adding authorized users to their credit cards. The credit repair agency gets a cut of the monthly payment in exchange for setting up the arrangement. The credit account will appear on the report of an authorized user and factor into an improved credit score. Known as piggybacking, the practice isn't illegal, but may violate the terms of service for card issuers.
Much of what debt management companies do involves simply contacting your creditors and negotiating alternative repayment plans, hopefully with reduced interest rates and fees. If you are struggling to make payments, you can usually do this yourself. Most creditors will be eager to help you meet your debt obligations because they want to help you avoid bankruptcy, which sucks for them. Talking to your creditors directly isn’t pleasant, and it may not be easy, but it can be done.