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.
With debt settlement, your attorney will ask you to stop making payments to your creditors and instead, contribute money on a regular basis to a fund. When the fund reaches a certain level, the attorney will approach creditors and seek an agreement to settle for that amount. If the creditor accepts the agreement, the debt is considered settled. Read more about debt management vs. debt settlement.
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest.
Seek the help of a psychologist or another mental health expert if your concerns about debt are negatively impacting your day-to-day life. A licensed health expert can help you confront your anxieties head on and offer strategies for dealing with them effectively. Also, reach out to your personal network and let those close to you know that you could use their support. It helps to know that you’re not in it alone.
However, outside of these types of package services, there is little difference with the actual debt management service provided. If money is already tight and you can’t afford the bills you have now, there’s little reason to add another. You’re usually better off going through a nonprofit agency in order to keep fees low and ensure your plan is affordable.
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.
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.
Everyone has bills and most everyone wants to get out of debt, but some people simply can’t get a focused. It’s not a priority for them. Remedy: The best solution could be to consolidate your debts and make just one payment every month. Another way to get focused would be to take a piece of paper the size of a credit card and write down the five debts you want to get rid of. Tape that piece of paper to your credit card. Every time you reach for that card, you’ll be reminded that you’re adding, not subtracting to the problems on that page.
But with the help of her credit counselor, she worked out a plan that got her out of debt in just 3 years. When she saw her credit card balances going down, she knew she made the right decision. With the money she’s saving, she plans to make a great down payment for a brand new car. And she looks forward to not stressing about how she’ll be able to afford the payments.
As for your options, it doesn’t sound like your mortgage lender is interested in working with you. (I have no idea what “new laws” they are talking about but the last time I heard, Congress passes laws and the President can either sign or veto them!) I’d recommend you read my series: Underwater On Your Home? Your Six Options and then get some professional advice. In particular, you may want to look into whether bankruptcy or a short sale can help you.
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.
On the plus side, if you pay off a card balance that’s close to the credit limit, you may improve your “utilization ratio”—the ratio that compares your credit limits with the balances you currently have—provided you leave the card open after paying it off. But simply moving balances from one card to another is unlikely to do a whole lot for your scores.
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Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge most debts, which means the debt disappears after bankruptcy proceedings. But there are strict income limits to be eligible -- generally your income must be below the median in your state -- and you might have to turn over some of assets to be sold so proceeds can be used to repay creditors. Your house, a very low-value automobile, and tools used for business are usually exempt from being sold.
Credit Limitation: This option only works if you have good credit; excellent credit is better. Balance transfer credit cards offer 0% APR on balance transfers when you open the account. An excellent credit score means you qualify for the longest 0% APR introductory period possible. Some cards have promotions that run up to 18 or 24 months. That gives you up to two years to pay off your debt interest-free.
A debt settlement plan in which you repay less than you owe hurts your credit. If your score is around 680 at the time you settle your debt, you could lose between 45 and 65 points. If your score was around 780, you'd lose between 140 and 160 points. However, it won't hurt your score as much as bankruptcy. For a 680 score, bankruptcy could take off 130 to 150 points, and for a 780 score, bankruptcy would cause a drop between 220 and 240 points. While the drop to your score is dramatic and it could take several years to recover, debt settlement could provide much-needed relief if you're struggling to pay bills.
Another obstacle that trip up so many is thinking you'll make progress on debt repayment by making your minimum payments. Yes, it minimizes inconvenience and will seem easier than other strategies, but it's costly. Imagine, for example, you owe $20,000 on your credit card(s) and that you're being charged a 25% interest rate. If your minimum payments are 3% of your balance, you'll be starting out paying a whopping $600 per month, meaning you'll have to come up with $150 per week. If you can't, your balance will be growing, digging you deeper in debt. In that situation, it can take more than 30 years to pay the debt off, with your total payments exceeding $63,000 -- all for a $20,000 balance owed.
Gerri Detweiler focuses on helping people understand their credit and debt, and writes about those issues, as well as financial legislation, budgeting, debt recovery and savings strategies. She is also the co-author of Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights, and Reduce Stress: Real-Life Solutions for Solving Your Credit Crisis as well as host of TalkCreditRadio.com.
There's also a substantial risk associated with taking out a loan on your home, because the house secures the loan. When you owe unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, personal loan debt, or medical debt, there's nothing guaranteeing the loan except your promise to repay it. While lenders could sue you for unpaid debt and perhaps get an order to garnish wages or put a lien on your house, it's very unlikely your home could ever be put at risk of a forced sale because of unpaid unsecured debt. But when you've borrowed against your home, the house is collateral, and if you don't pay, the lender will probably foreclose and take the house. Converting unsecured debt to debt secured by your home isn't typically advisable for that reason.
Imagine, for example, that you have $20,000 in credit card debt and $10,000 in other non-mortgage debt. You might set yourself a goal of paying it all off in two years. (Set a specific time frame, too, lest you keep extending your deadline.) You can set sub-goals, too, such as having a quarter of it and half of it paid off by certain dates. Write down the goals and post them where you'll see them.
If your finances have taken a turn for the worse and you find yourself drowning in debt, a debt management program may help you keep your head above water. These programs, also known as debt management plans or DMPs, are a form of debt relief in which a counseling agency works with your creditors to reduce your monthly payment to a level more suitable to your current situation. A DMP may be able to help you negotiate lower interest rates, get late fees waived, work out a payment schedule that's acceptable to you and your creditors, and consolidate your monthly payments into one. However, keep in mind that all DMPs charge fees, and some can be excessively expensive or even fraudulent.
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).
You didn’t get into debt quickly, and you won’t get out of debt quickly. If you aren’t willing to devote three to five years to wipe out your credit card debt, then you might as well hire a attorney and file for bankruptcy, Ulzheimer says. Just keep in mind that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is expensive, and a bankruptcy will stay on your credit record for seven or 10 years (depending on the type of bankruptcy).
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.
Credit counseling (known in the United Kingdom as Debt counselling) is commonly a process that is used to help individual debtors with debt settlement through education, budgeting and the use of a variety of tools with the goal to reduce and ultimately eliminate debt. Credit counseling is most often done by Credit counseling agencies that are empowered by contract to act on behalf of the debtor to negotiate with creditors to resolve debt that is beyond a debtor's ability to pay. Some of the agencies are non-profits that charge at no or non-fee rates, while others can be for-profit and include high fees. Regulations on credit counseling and Credit counseling agencies varies by country and sometimes within regions of the countries themselves. In the United States, individuals filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy are required to receive counseling.
But debt consolidation is not for everyone. If you have a lot of debt, you may not be able to secure the low debt consolidation rates that this approach depends on. And consolidating debt doesn't necessarily help you reduce it — consumers taking out consolidation loans often find their debt remains the same or actually increases over a period of a couple years. Your ACCC credit counselor can help you decide if debt consolidation makes sense for you.
I have a creditor that has reported my account as a charge off bad debt. Two years ago I had made an agreement with the creditors third party collection agency to pay the bad debt on a monthly basis. I have paid each month on time to the creditor, but they have not reported this, and now my credit score is sinking because of this. Is this right? I have made my payments on time and they refuse to have this changed. I had requested the creditor to please change the repoting, but they have refused. Is this right? By law are they able to do this?
Within five days after a debt collector first contacts you, the collector must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money. If you owe the money or part of it, contact the creditor to arrange for payment. If you believe you do not owe the money, contact the creditor in writing and send a copy to the collection agency informing them with a letter not to contact you.
Bankruptcy is not the credit catastrophe it once was. Certainly filing bankruptcy does not improve your credit and your credit score will suffer if you file. However, you can rebuild your credit within a few years by charging small amounts on a credit card and paying the bill on time every month. Taking out a personal or auto loan (not payday loans) can help improve your score quickly as well if you pay your bill on time every month. After a few years of doing this, your credit score should be in the 700 range. Post bankruptcy, you can thrive and not merely survive if you are diligent about getting back on the road to financial recovery.