Debt settlement is a process by which you can greatly reduce or maybe even eliminate the total amount of debt you are currently paying or committed to pay in the future. Solutions are available for various types of accounts, including credit card, medical, and even personal loans. Learn about debt settlement companies as well as the process that is available.
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.
Depending on how serious are your financial woes your counselor may recommend a debt management plan (DMP). The way this would work in brief is your counselor will determine how much you can pay and then negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The negotiation can be for longer terms or lower monthly amounts determined by what payments you could afford to make. In some cases your counselor may attempt to negotiate a reduction in your interest rates. If all or most all your creditors agree to your debt management plan you would stop paying them. Instead, you would send one payment a month to the credit-counseling agency and it will distribute the money to your creditors per your DMP. The biggest downside to one of these plans is that they typically take five years to complete. You would most likely be required to give up all the credit cards that are in your plan and would be strongly urged to not take on any new credit until you’ve completed your plan. These are the biggest reasons why nearly half of those debtors who sign up for DMP never successfully complete it.
And yes, it’s not always that simple. There are people who deal with some scary, painful, and expensive health issues in a broken system that just makes it harder. It’s all too easy to become one of them. And there are people who’ve been dealt a bad hand in other ways, by growing up in generational poverty, starting out behind, and/or being thwarted at every turn by a lack of access to the advantages others take for granted or don’t even notice.
The average length of a DMP is 3-5 years, but is shorter for clients who decide to aggressively deal with their debt. Many clients pay down debt faster by using income tax returns, inheritance money or some other unexpected source of income. There is no penalty for paying the debt off early. You can make additional payments while on the plan and pay off your debt faster.
Consumers with multiple sources of debt – credit cards, mortgage, student loans, etc. – often try and address each one every month. Bad move! Remedy: Go back to your budget, trim spending to bare bones on everything but essentials, and create a $100 (or preferably $1,000) surplus that goes directly at the credit card with the highest interest rate. When that’s paid off, go after the card with the next highest interest rate and keep going until all credit card debt is eliminated.
Student loans:The federal government and private lenders issue loans to cover education costs. Federal student loans generally have a low interest rate and important borrower protections. Working in a qualifying public-service job entitles you to loan forgiveness after 120 on-time payments. Income-based payment plans also cap payments and allow a portion of your loan to be forgiven. While private student loans don't come with all these protections, rates may still be relatively low. And if your income is below $80,000 as a single or $165,000 if married filing jointly, you can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest from your taxes. Because of these perks, you may not want to pay off student debt early.
A debt-settlement firm is typically a private company that works to settle your debt with a creditor. They may charge fees upfront and promise to help you pay off debt. Beware of debt settlement companies, and if you’re unsure of the difference between a debt settlement company and credit counselor, review this chart by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Credit counselors at nonprofit credit counseling agencies operate under strict state and organizational guidelines designed to insure they act in their client’s best interests. Non-profits are frequently audited by states to insure they comply with all of that state’s regulations, and they must demonstrate that they are acting in the best interests of all of their clients. For example, InCharge offers clients monthly newsletters with money-saving tips and stories of people who have gotten out of debt to help motivate clients to do the same.
DISCLAIMER - Debt.com does not provide direct debt adjustment services, but, upon request, acts as a locator service for BBB registered companies. It is ultimately up to you to determine whether the companies that we may introduce you to are appropriate for your situation. For debt consolidation programs, where permissible by law, companies may charge a one-time enrollment fee typically from $25 up to $75 for account establishment and for debt relief proposals submitted on your behalf to each of your creditors. Monthly program administration fees will vary from $5 but no greater than $75 depending on your state of residence and/or the number of creditors who agree to accept proposals and become enrolled in the program. Fees subject to change if permissible by law. For debt settlement programs, by law, you may not be charged any fee until a debt settlement is arranged on your behalf, you approve the settlement, and at least one payment is made towards the settlement. Each program offered by independent financial service providers is unique so ask them for their complete details of the program and fees.
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On the flip side, the Debt Management Plan is designed to be paid off with regular monthly payments over approximately four years (our clients use an automated payment system so their consolidated debt payments are transferred electronically). These timely payments over the course of years have a very positive impact on the client’s payment history, which is the largest factor in calculating one’s FICO score. (That also means, of course, that if a client is late with their Debt Management Plan payments, there will be significant negative impact on his/her score.)
Who’s it best for? If you can’t part with your smartphone, InCharge has a mobile app that lets you manage your account on the go. You can add creditors, change payment due dates, and even see whether creditors have accepted proposals regarding reduced monthly payments or interest rates. They even have a fully online credit counseling option if you prefer that over phone or in-person counseling.
It’s crucial that you monitor the statements received from your creditors each month (The creditors will not disclose this information directly to us). You should compare that information to what’s in our monthly progress report and ensure that everything matches. If anything is different between the creditor statement and what we show in our paperwork, give us a call.
Howard – The problem with Chapter 7s is that you must meet minimum income requirements (based on the minimum income threshold in your state). This means there’s a possibility that you may not qualify for a Chapter 7, so it may not be an option for wiping out credit card debt. Before you decide to go the bankruptcy route, have you considered a Debt Management Program? I know 45k is an huge burden and it’s stressful, but there are other options that may help. Before you decide on bankruptcy, we’d advise exploring all of your options. It’s worth contacting a consumer credit counseling service. They’ll be able to review your individual personal financial situation and debt load to determine whether or not you’d be a good candidate for a DMP. If you are a good fit, they’ll work with your creditors to lower you interest rate and lower your monthly payments to one monthly payment you can afford. If a DMP isn’t a good fit, and bankruptcy is your best option — they’ll be able to tell you that as well. A consultation is free, but make sure you choose a consumer credit counseling service that is accredited by the National Foundation for Consumer Credit Counseling.
Debt management programs serve the dual role of helping you repay your debts while creditors receive the money owed to them. These debt management plans are a systematic way to pay down your outstanding debt through monthly payments to your credit counseling agency. Your creditor accounts will always be credited with 100 percent of the amount you pay through an NFCC agency. By participating in this type of debt management program, you may benefit from reduced or waived finance charges or fees, and experience fewer collection calls. When you have completed your payments-which typically takes 36-60 months- it may help you reestablish credit.