Having said that, the fees for our services vary by state and the amount of your debt. The fee varies between 18-25% of your enrolled debt. Compared to the $1000s in interest you will pay on your credit cards while you struggle to pay them off, you can see that this fee is quite reasonable. Especially when you take into account the fact that you can become debt free in 24-48 months with our debt consolidation program.
At this point, you will need to continue following the advice of the credit counseling agency you hired to help and remember the benefits of being debt-free. Life is a lot more difficult when you’re juggling credit card bills and other payments each month. If you want to avoid winding up back in debt, it’s crucial to remember how far you’ve come and how wonderful freedom feels.
Those who are overwhelmed by debt often turn to credit counseling agencies to find help. They offer a variety of services, such as workshops, one-on-one coaching and debt management plans, all with a common objective. "The No. 1 goal is to leave people in a better financial situation," says Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University. The Financial Hope Collaborative is a financial education and counseling program for low- to moderate-income families living in Omaha, Nebraska.
Global criticism of credit counseling comes primarily from predatory practices that take advantage of debtors that are already struggling. These practices include failing to meet required standards, charging unlawful or unreasonable fees, failing to provide affordable solutions for consumers, and neglecting to make customers aware of free debt services available elsewhere.
Find information on credit counseling agencies in Texas near you. Numerous non-profit organizations operate in the state and can provide mortgage, debt, and various other forms of assistance to consumers and homeowners. The agencies deal with issues ranging from credit repair to debt management plans, bankruptcy filing, and other financial matters in Texas, and most services are free of charge. More information is below, including how to get help by county.
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.)
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.
The services provided by credit counseling services are nothing consumers can't do by themselves. "You could do it, but it's an involved process," says Kyle Winkfield, partner with financial firm O'Dell, Winkfield, Roseman and Shipp in the District of Columbia. The benefit of using an agency is that they have experience in negotiating debt payments and disputing incorrect information on credit reports. Paying an expert to do these tasks not only saves a person time, but can minimize the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar territory. "If you find a good one, they are worth more than they charge," Winkfield says.
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.
Try to manage your debt yourself. Even without the help of a credit agency, you can make a household budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and prioritize your debts. You can also call your creditors to request them to waive late fees, reduce interest rates, and/or work with you on a payment schedule. You can also ask about debt re-aging, also known as rollback or curing. This process can report past-due accounts as current, which can help you avoid delinquent status. Many times creditors will be happy to work with you if you make a good-faith effort to pay them.
Paying off credit card debt won’t hurt your credit scores, and often helps. As for closing accounts, it’s impossible for us to predict exactly what will happen if you close those accounts, Since they are department store cards they probably aren’t charging you an annual fee, are they? Why not just stop using them once they are paid off? You can even cut up the plastic if you don’t want to be tempted to use them again.
Asking for help with debt can be difficult. Those in trouble may be hesitant to let others know, but Kalkowski says there should be no shame in reaching out for a lifeline if finances become unmanageable. "There are a lot of Americans in this sinking boat," she says. Rather than going it alone, use the resources available to keep your finances afloat.
For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
For most people I would say that signing up for National Debt Relief is not a good idea. While on its face, having you pay no up front fees with the goal of making you debt free in 2 to 4 years sounds great. However the truth is there may be better options which can accomplish the same goals for a lower cost and that have less of an impact on your credit and your sanity from being sued by a debt collector. Debt settlement in my opinion is best suited for people who have already been delinquent with their debts and have lump sums to offer up front to negotiate settlements of 50% or less in many cases. Otherwise chapter 7 bankruptcy or chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the best fit to eliminate debt or pay off debt over a 3 to 5 year repayment plan and avoid being sued by a lawsuit.
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.
Each week when you make a payment, subtract the amount, so you have a new balance. The point of this is to see those numbers getting smaller each week. It’s motivating. We also didn’t list dates for the second debt on the list because as we get to the end of each debt, we might reach just a little further so we can pay it off a week or two earlier.
Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest.
Elsewhere in the European Union, regulation and non-regulation of Credit counseling agencies and their approaches, including DMPs, are widely varied. In Sweden, guidelines for credit counseling are loosely provided by the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) and creditors are encouraged to use them in lieu of the court system. In Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) provides debt resolution information directly to debtors. In Latvia, a debt advisory company called LAKRA works with employers to assist indebted employees.
Once you've got a list of counseling agencies you might do business with, check each one out with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about any one of them. (If there are no complaints about them, don't consider it a guarantee that they're legitimate.) The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. After you've done your background investigation, you will want to interview the final "candidates."
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.
One of the most effective ways to budget to eliminate debt is using the cash envelope system. This is where you place a predetermined amount of money in different envelopes labeled with different spending categories. Anytime you spend within a category, the money must come from the corresponding envelope. When the money is out, it’s all out, and you can’t overspend.
It could also help to reach out to a debt counselor or financial planner to take steps toward getting your finances in order, or at least developing a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said. “If the debt is beyond your means, you might also want to explore bankruptcy or whatever it might take to turn your situation around,” she said. A professional can help you weigh the pros and cons of different options.
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).
If you have a good salary and have established income/tax returns, there are lending companies like SoFi, Lending Tree and Lightstream that offer loans at competitive interest rates. Thus, you can take a low-interest loan and use it to pay off your high-interest debts but make sure to stick to your monthly budget so you won’t be spending beyond your limit, and you will be paying off the low-interest loan.
I can't say for sure that it is a scam. Many of the debt relief and national debt relief programs seem aggressive in their approach. Now that could be because of the workers. Many of them are being pressure to sale a product. I have seen a couple of debt relief/debt management programs that are pretty good. But. I must admit I have never seen a program like the one I listed in the source box below. This is one of the best because you are in control. You can also save money while getting out of debt. Now that is amazing!!!
Once a credit counselor has reviewed your situation and you both agree that a debt management plan is the next best step, the counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll agree to reduce interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. When your credit counselor reaches an agreement with all creditors, you'll begin making monthly deposits with the credit counseling organization, and it will use the money to pay your unsecured debts.
In my debt relief practice I am coming across more and more consumers who have used National Debt Relief to help them manage their debts and negotiate settlements on their behalf, only to regret the decision to sign up with National Debt Relief at a later date. With that said National Debt Relief is licensed in the State of Washington and appears to be complying with the Washington Debt Adjusters Act under RCW 18.28 which requires debt adjustors to charge no up front fee’s and limit their fees to 15% of the total debt listed on the signed contract which includes payments for any third party trust accounts used for holding client funds and making disbursements. If a consumer decides to cancel services with National Debt relief and debts are not settled, any funds in a third party trust account must be refunded. Consumers should know that attorneys such as Symmes Law Group, PLLC are exempt from the Washington Debt Adjustors Act and do not need to meet its requirements as attorneys are not considered debt adjustors.
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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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.
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.
The potential to be sued for debts due to non payment is what causes consumers to reach out to a debt settlement attorney to learn further about their options. In my experience consumers typically accuse National Debt Relief of not settling their debts in time to avoid the lawsuit or not informing them that they could be sued on the debts when it all could have been avoided in the first place had the consumer talked to a debt relief attorney from the beginning of their financial problems.
You might be wondering, “Why is having an emergency fund important”? Well, if you don’t have any money in the bank and an emergency does happen, how are you going to pay for it? For most people, credit cards become the funding source for those emergencies. If you are trying to get out of debt then you need to put a buffer between you and debt; that is exactly what an emergency fund does.
Declaring bankruptcy is one of the most harmful circumstances for your credit, and it should only be a last resort. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, the negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. You may either have all your debts eliminated or have to agree to a plan to repay at least part of your debt.
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. With a home equity loan, the lender advances you the total loan amount upfront, while a home equity credit line provides a source of funds that you can draw on as needed. But keep in mind, these are secured loans that require you to put up your home as collateral. If you are unable to make payments on time, you could lose your home.
Credit score is not a factor with credit counseling. The initial consultation, even with a credit check, won’t affect your score. There is no minimum score requirement to enroll in a debt management program. In addition, when done correctly the program has either a neutral or positive effect on your credit. In other words, if you still have good or excellent credit, this program won’t set you back.
Both Freedom Debt Relief and National Debt Relief are well-established companies that have been debt settlement providers for several years. Freedom Debt Relief was founded in 2002, and National Debt Relief was founded in 2009. This is important because there’s potential for scams in the debt settlement business. Some companies claim to be debt settlement companies but are really just fronts for collecting debtors’ money and putting it in the company operative’s pockets. The longer a company has been in business, the more likely it is that it is legitimate.
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!
NDR is a great place to turn to if you find yourself deep in financial woes. In my case it occurred via hardships but I can see where I was fiscally irresponsible before the hardships. No judgment from the employees, just good advice and definitely help. They are familiar with and have worked with most financial organizations. Got me a deal with my highest creditor within months of joining. Definitely recommend
The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.
First, if you want to avoid late marks on your credit report, you will need to make at least one month, possibly two months, of “double payments”: one payment to the debt management service and your regular payments directly to your creditors. Since most people cannot afford this, you must be prepared for the possibility of getting a late mark on your credit report.