Consolidate with a home equity loan. If your total debt load, including credit card, medical, and other unsecured borrowing seem insurmountable for you to pay off, then you can use a home equity loan to consolidate and even pay off these bills. While there are some potentially major risks if you do not do this correctly, the approach is an option. A home equity loan can help you eliminate your higher interest, unsecured debt and improve your financial situation.

Kevin – Let’s look at it this way. You’re paying roughly $3600 a year in interest on that debt. Over five years that’s a little over $18,000. The counseling agency can get that down to 0 (you won’t even find a debt consolidation loan for that rate) and you’ll be debt-free at the end of those five years. The damage to your credit won’t be anywhere near what it would be with debt settlement.
If your expensive habit is smoking or drinking, that’s an easy one — quit. Alcohol and tobacco do nothing for you except stand between you and your long-term goals. If your expensive habit is slightly less incendiary – like a daily latte, restaurant lunches during work hours, or fast food — the best plan of attack is usually cutting way down with the goal of eliminating these behaviors or replacing them with something less expensive.
Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
But sometimes, disaster strikes and people are forced to confront their circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock one’s finances so off track they can barely keep up with their monthly payments. And it’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situations are.
The top benefit is that you are on a plan that should eliminate debts in 3-to-5 years and you will stop receiving harassing calls from debt collection agencies. Convenience is another plus. You make only one payment a month for your debt payment plan as opposed to numerous payments with numerous deadlines. You receive free educational material that should help you better understand how to manage debt. Finally, you can always call a credit counselor and receive free advice should your situation change.
Here’s how balance transfers work: As a way of attracting new customers, credit card companies will let you transfer a balance—in other words, a debt—from one credit card to a new credit card at 0 percent interest for a certain number of months. For example, if you were to transfer a $2,000 balance from one card (15 percent APR) to a new card (0 percent APR for 12 months), you could save up to $300 in interest.
Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.
“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Specifically, look for credit card debt with the highest interest rates, and begin to chip away at that. Also keep in mind that credit card debt, though concerning, is a common type of debt. In a recent report, MagnifyMoney found that Americans paid back $110 billion in interest and fees in 2018, up from the $98 billion in interest paid the year before. Although it might seem overwhelming, others have found their way out of the debt — and it’s likely that you can, too.
The negative impact is due to the fact that you must close your accounts while in the program, and this can affect your debt-usage ratio. This factor accounts for about 15% of your credit scores. (On the flip side, paying down your debts will improve your overall debt levels. Some consumers see their scores improve during and after one of these programs.)
Speaking with consumer credit counseling agencies is just the beginning. Next, you have to determine whether the services are actually what you need, or if you can accomplish more on your own. Remember, credit counseling doesn't do anything that you can't do; they simply provide guidance for the best approach to managing your debt. You can contact creditors and negotiate the payment terms of your account. Anybody can do this on their own, but sometimes people need a little extra help staying on track.
The company has an A+ rating with BBB, where there are currently more than 130 customer reviews. Of the lowest ratings, complaints are centered on National Debt Relief’s customers sales and marketing tactics. Some complaints were also about representatives not being upfront or clear about the potential negative consequences of entering a debt relief program, like your credit score plummeting. Between 2015 and 2018, 77 complaints were filed against National Debt Relief on BBB. Out of this number, 36 are marked as resolved and closed and 41 marked as answered.
If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
In 2015 we finished our lease prematurely, we got all our deposit back and 300 bucks extra (we were in a very desirable but cheap location) and then we lived with brothers and parents. In this time I made a 4000 lump payment to my wife’s highest interest loan and increase by 50 bucks the monthly amount that goes against it. We owe just a bit over 2K on that account. She has another 11-13K in student loans.
Once you’ve decided that debt settlement is the right option for you, National Debt Relief asks that you stop paying your creditors (if you can still make payments, you’re not in a financial crisis and the program isn’t right for you) and open a new FDIC-insured account that you will begin depositing money into regularly. The funds collected in this account will only get disbursed once terms of a settlement offer are reached between the creditor and borrower.
Savings: National Debt Relief claims its clients realize an approximate savings of 30% when including its fees. This savings applies only to clients who stay with the program until all of their debt is settled. While National says the majority of people who enroll in the program complete it, some customers drop out for various reasons, including the inability to save enough money to settle debts.
Getting out of debt is a long-term commitment; there’s not an overnight solution. The most important step you can take is to develop a realistic plan and set a time-bound goal for paying down your debts. For example, you plan to pay off your $10,000 in credit card debt in three years by paying $280 toward your debt every month. However, make sure your goal is realistic for your budget. If you can’t afford that $280 per month, then you’ve set yourself up for failure and may need to consider extending your timeline to five years for a more affordable payment. Having your goal planned out and written down can go a long way to helping you successfully get out of debt.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.
You’ll still need good credit to get a personal loan, but you may be able to get a loan when you wouldn’t be approved for a credit card. And if you’ve got excellent credit, you might even get a lower interest rate with a personal loan. Either way, the thing I love about personal loans is that you get a fixed term, usually three or five years, and monthly payment—you can’t be tempted to make minimum payments and you know your debt will be paid off at the end of the term.

Find out if there's a penalty APR, too. That's when the card company jacks your interest rate up to 25% or even 30% if you pay a bill late or commit some other transgression. Many cards don't feature them, and that's preferable. Remember that any time you apply for a new credit card, even for a balance transfer, your credit score may be affected negatively as a result.

This isn't good news for the millions of American consumers who struggle with mounting debts and less-than-perfect credit scores. Since carrying long-term debts increases your chances of missing a payment, running up excessive balances or damaging your credit in either ways, debt consolidation lenders don't have a very big pool of potential applicants at their disposal. Unless you've been fortunate enough to maintain a stellar credit score during your debt struggles, you might have to look elsewhere for help.
Home equity. Another way to refinance your debt is to tap into your home equity to repay what you owe. If you have equity in your home -- that is, you owe less than your mortgage balance -- you can get money out of your home using a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. You could also refinance your entire mortgage and do a cash-out refi wherein you get a new loan to repay your old mortgage and give you extra cash in the process.
If your expensive habit is smoking or drinking, that’s an easy one — quit. Alcohol and tobacco do nothing for you except stand between you and your long-term goals. If your expensive habit is slightly less incendiary – like a daily latte, restaurant lunches during work hours, or fast food — the best plan of attack is usually cutting way down with the goal of eliminating these behaviors or replacing them with something less expensive.
No guarantees. Lenders usually want to work with you, but they can choose not to. This is especially true with debt settlement. You may contribute to the fund used to make a settlement offer for 6-8 months and then find out the lender won’t accept the offer. If you choose this route, be sure to get a written agreement from the lender that they will work with you.
Fully certified. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is the largest, longest serving and most well-respected credit counseling network in the country. All Clearpoint counselors must be NFCC-certified, which means they have studied counseling principles, understand consumer rights and responsibilities, and have passed examinations showing their proficiency in these and other areas.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.
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