The Federal Reserve says that the average household debt is up to $132,529 (including mortgages) a jump of 11% in the past decade. Credit card debt and auto loans are climbing over the $1 trillion mark. Student-loan debt has hit a staggering $1.3 trillion with 44.7 million borrowers, who owe an average of $37,172. That figure alone is up 186% in the past decade!
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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. 
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.
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. 
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. 
When you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the core of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Dave says, "Personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge." Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan.
There's also an important caveat: You need to determine if the lender you're thinking about repaying charges a prepayment penalty for early payoff. Some personal loans, auto loans, and mortgages charge if you pay off your debt before the designated time. If so, you may not want to put that debt on your early payoff list, as any money saved on interest might be lost to the penalty.
The typical debt settlement program lasts between 24 and 48 months. One important thing to know is that entering a debt settlement program can have immediate and lasting impacts on your credit score. You’ll stop paying your creditors and your accounts become delinquent. This can lead to calls from collection agencies. National Debt Relief advises you to give its contact information to your creditors and collections agencies when you join.
If you want to get out of debt fast, you have to stop using debt to fund your lifestyle. This means no more financing furniture, no more signing up for credit cards, no more test driving brand new cars that you don’t have the cash to pay for. This will help you focus solely on the debt that you currently do have so that you can develop a game plan to pay it off quickly.
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.
Other times, we just become sick of living paycheck to paycheck, and decide we want a better life — and that’s OK, too. You shouldn’t have to confront disaster to decide you don’t want to struggle anymore, and that you want a simpler existence. For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.

You may also be able to obtain a debt consolidation loan if you have more than one student loan. Consolidating multiple student loans, which you can also apply for through StudentLoan.gov, will allow you to have a single monthly payment at a fixed interest rate that's based on the average of the interest rates on the loans you're consolidating. There's no cost to consolidate multiple federal education loans into one loan. However, you may lose certain student loan benefits, such as the ability to defer repayment.
A debt management plan can also reduce the number of payments you have to remember each month. A credit counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll accept reduced interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. Then, you pay the credit counseling agency once a month and the organization distributes the funds to your creditors per their agreement. If you enroll in a Debt Management Plan, it could be noted on your credit report.
Find out how your personal information will be protected. When you enter a debt management program, you have to share some of your most sensitive financial information with the counseling agency. You'd better make sure they won't sell it to others or disclose the information to anyone except the creditors you've agreed to include in the plan. Get a written privacy policy from them, and ask what safeguards they have in place to protect your information.
InCharge Debt Solutions boasts one of the most polished websites of the companies I evaluated. The company’s debt management FAQs and financial education resources are very thorough. They are clear about fees ($50 to enroll and $49 monthly). They are also among the few companies that give you an idea of how much your interest rates might drop under a debt management plan (6% to 9%). InCharge is accredited by the BBB with A+ rating; other certifications include the NFCC and COA.
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.
Reduce interest rates on credit cards and other debts. You can save money by reducing the interest rates you pay on your credit cards, loans and other debts. Depending on exactly your current terms and how much you owe, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in total interest expenses. It is generally free to try this. There is a 50-60% success rate of receiving a lower interest rate when you try on your own to gain better control over your financial obligations. Learn more on reducing credit card interest rates.

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.


Since debt management plans are individually tailored to each consumer, one plan can be wildly different than the next. McClary said your plan can vary depending on how much debt you owe, your current interest rates and payments and how your interest rates and fees are negotiated down. This is a huge benefit for consumers since debt management plans come with specific advice instead of blanket solutions that may or may not work.
While National Debt Relief claims that people who finish its debt relief program save on average 30% off their original debt, it’s important to consider the interest and fees you’ll accrue during the time you’re enrolled in the program. Furthermore, If you don’t finish the program, or if National Debt Relief is unsuccessful at negotiating the terms, you can end up stuck with a higher balance than you started off with.
This is a form of assisted debt consolidation that works extremely well if you have a large volume of debt and a less-than-perfect credit score. You enroll in a program through a credit counseling agency, who works out a payment plan that works for your budget. Then they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf to reduce your interest rates. Total monthly payments are typically reduced by 30-50% and most people complete the program within 60 payments or less.
I have a rental duplex and it is underwater, owe about 85,000 worth about half that much. At 65 I am thinking about walking away because it is getting too costly to maintain. Detroit is in crisis and I don’t feel safe going there for rents. I spoke to my mortgage company and they stated they couldn’t help me under the President new laws for rental property. I am concern about my credit if I walk away, even at my age. When you are not rich you need good credit.

You see, when you consolidate your debts or work with a debt settlement company, you’ll only treat the symptoms of your money problems and never get to the root of why you have issues in the first place. You don’t need to consolidate your bills—you need to delete them. To do that, you have to change the way you view debt! Even though your choices landed you in a pile of debt, you have the power to work your way out! You just need the right plan. 
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?

That being said, I do not believe that National Debt Relief is a scam. Debt settlement is not the right debt relief solution for everyone, but it is the right option for some. National Debt Relief is a member of the American Fair Credit Council, whose members strictly adhere to a code of conduct that includes not charging any fees for settling an account until that account has been settled. Anyone considering debt settlement should avoid any firm that charges advance fees.


A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.
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