Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.
While it seems to make sense to devote every dollar possible to eliminating debt today, in the long run, it’s a costly mistake. Remedy: Contribute at least 5%-10% of your income to retirement savings as soon as you begin working and don’t let eliminating debt cut into that. Time is the most powerful tool in retirement savings. The earlier you start contributing to a 401(k) or other retirement fund, the better off you’ll be at retirement. Find other places in your budget to pay down credit card accounts.
However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score.
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.
We write about a range of topics like reducing debt, finding student loans, getting the best strategy to pay off student loans, understanding credit cards and planning for retirement. In addition to our comprehensive site, we have relationships with a variety of trustworthy debt service providers who can ensure that readers’ financial needs are met.
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.
But having this mini-emergency fund before devoting extra to your debt is vital to breaking the debt cycle. If you don't have some savings, you might find yourself trapped in a cycle you can never escape. You'll start paying off debt, and then your car breaks down, and you'll end up right back where you started with the same level of debt or more. This is discouraging, can cause you to get off track on repayment, and can make it impossible to ever make real progress.
How Long Will It Take To Get Out Of Debt? It depends on how quickly you can build up your settlement funds and save for the settlement offers. The program length varies between 24-48 months, the faster you can save, the quicker you can get out of debt. If you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you could be in debt for the next 10-20 years and pay back 2x, 3x, or even 4 times as much as you originally borrowed.
Through a nonprofit credit-counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to resolve your financial problems on your own, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can enter what’s called a debt management plan. Through that plan, you can consolidate your credit card payments and get the cards’ interest rates reduced, making your financial obligations easier to tackle.
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.
What Does It Cost? First of all, there are no upfront fees and second, we only get paid when your debt is reduced. We only get paid for delivering results. Having said that, the fee varies by debt amount and the state you live, it ranges from 18-25% of the total debt enrolled. You can compare this to the 15-29% average interest charges you pay every year to your credit card companies and see our option can be an affordable option.
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.
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.  
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).
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
I entered a DMP (Money Management Intl) 4 years ago with a pile of debt and am now a month away from being debt free. I will say the service wasn’t exactly what I expected going into it – the DMP was very hands off and didn’t provide much in the way of real conselling. They don’t even explain the process very well, so it’s worth doing a little research on your own. That said, I’m not sure I could have tackled my debt without the reduced interest rates and the one-payment structure.
Avoid high monthly fees. Most debt management plans charge a nominal monthly fee to cover the administrative expenses. Depending on the number of creditors you have, the monthly fee may vary, but it generally should be between $2-5 per creditor or, at most, not more than $50 per month.[7] Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
This is where it helps to talk to a professional. Consumer credit counselors understand all the options available to pay off credit card debt. They can impartially evaluate your debt, credit and budget to help you identify the best solution for your needs. You get an unbiased, expert opinion on your best course of action so you can move forward with confidence.
The exception? If you take out a loan from your retirement account to consolidate credit card debt, you’re more likely to see your credit improve. Retirement account loans aren’t reported to credit reporting agencies, so your credit reports will show less debt with no new loan. However, retirement loans carry their own risks, so proceed with caution.
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
You’re ready to begin your debt snowball once you’ve saved your $1,000 starter emergency fund. That’s what we call Baby Step 1. An emergency fund covers those life events you can't plan for. Think busted hot water heater, dental emergency or flat tire. You get the drift. An emergency fund protects you from having to go further into debt to pay for an unexpected expense.
About a week later I checked my accounts to see if there was anything else settled and I noticed what’s the balance of my account had drop tremendously. So I I clicked on the transactions and see they’ve made a small payment to my creditor plus $10 for 2 day air which it actually cost $6.70 and then I see a deduction for their fee which was more than 6 times the payment they had just made to my creditor leaving my account at less than $10 balance. I contacted clear one expressing the fact I settled the account not them and why was I being charged such a fee and why would they drain the account leaving no money to make the next payment to my creditor or to settle any of the other accounts what I was told was they had a right to pay themselves. After I did explain to them that I settled the account not them they dropped it to half of the fee for the account that I had settled but mind you this is the only 1 account after four months that have been settled. At this point all of my accounts are now going into collection,the amounts owed to my creditors have gone up considerably my credit has dropped tremendously so I start sending them the collection agencies information. In the six months they finally settled the second account. Lo and behold their fee amount because the amount due has gone up there fee has gone up the amount due is gone up because he never made contact what’s the Creditor to make a settlement. They make one $25 payment to that creditor and then pay themselves thier fee draining all the money out of my account again leaving me nothing in the account to make the next payments to both those creditors intern lost both of the settlements.
Debt management companies are springing up everywhere. These companies help "manage" your debt by taking one monthly payment from you and distributing the money among your creditors, with whom they've often worked out lower payments and lower interest. This is not a loan as with debt consolidation. Sometimes people get the two confused. However, because Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt, the debt management business has become one of the fastest-growing industries today.
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.
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