You need to start off with a plan so you know just how much debt you have and your ability to pay them off. Also, it will provide you with a black and white scenario of your financial standing. The easiest way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet. If you don’t already have a spreadsheet on your computer you could use the free one that comes with Google Docs. You will want to create four columns – one for the name of your creditor, one for the amount owed, a third for your minimum payment (if applicable) and a fourth for the payment due date. Fill out these columns and you will have a good picture of your debt, which is the first important step in getting it under control.
Chapter 7: Bankruptcy has a dramatic affect on your score, and depending on where you started from, you’ll probably end up somewhere between 520 and 550. But, if you’re careful you can raise that score dramatically so that in about two to three years, you’re in the very good to excellent range. Chapter 7 will stay on your credit record for ten years. Check out How to Get New Credit to Survive and Thrive After Bankruptcy.
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.
Military credit and debt counseling is offered to active service members as part of the Military OneSource Program. The federal government created this program in partnership with non-profits such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Any member of the military, whether active duty or a reserve, may qualify for free advice and counseling. Clients can have a number of financial issues addressed, including excessive credit card or medical debts, sign up for budgeting workshops, credit repair and more. Read Military OneSource Program.
For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
Of course, $800 a month in credit-card bills is a lot to handle, which is where debt management comes in. One of the companies I profile further down, InCharge, can help reduce interest rates by an average of 6% to 9%. Assuming the best scenario (a 9% interest rate drop) and a four-year plan, your monthly payment could shrink to $576 (this includes a monthly fee of $49, which could be lower or dropped completely, depending on your situation) and your total interest paid would shrink to $5,276.
Tally will ensure that you never miss a payment or receive late fees again – as long as you pay Tally on time, then Tally will pay down your credit card balances on time each month. Service is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Tally line of credit is required to use the app. Interest rates are between 7.9% and 19.9% per year depending on your credit history (varies based on the Prime Rate). This information is accurate as of November 2018.
Each week when you make a payment, subtract the amount, so you have a new balance. The point of this is to see those numbers getting smaller each week. It’s motivating. We also didn’t list dates for the second debt on the list because as we get to the end of each debt, we might reach just a little further so we can pay it off a week or two earlier.
The other method is called laddering, which is Clark’s preferred method because it will save you the most money over time. The way it works is you list your debts, starting with the highest interest rate card first and end with the debt with the lowest interest rate. This method makes the most mathematical sense, because you will save the most money in interest over time. Regardless of which process you choose, the key is to stick with it.
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.
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.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies lists affiliated legitimate credit counseling services across the United States. Also, consumers can check with their state's attorney general’s office and the local consumer protection agency to determine if consumers have filed complaints about a credit counseling organization. As another resource, the United States Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.
Get a second job or work overtime, if available. I’ll be blunt, second jobs are no fun, but they sure do help pay the bills. Think of how tired/stressed/soulless you feel after your 9-5 already; now imagine getting in your car, battling rush hour traffic, and putting in another four hours from 6 to 10. Then you get home around 11, just in time to watch the Daily Show and pass out.
However, there are impacts to your credit that don’t affect your score. While on a Debt Management Plan, a client’s credit report will have a notation that he or she is currently enrolled in a Debt Management Plan. While that notation is active, they will not be granted new credit. Plainly, this is an impact to one’s credit that should be considered. But the notation goes away when the Debt Management Plan is complete, and doesn’t have a lasting impact on one’s credit.
If you have loads of debt but are current on all your payments, your credit score may drop when you enroll in debt management. That’s because as your debt management company renegotiates your credit obligations, they may change when payments are made to creditors, resulting in late payments being reported on your credit history. Additionally, many creditors will close your accounts while you are in debt management, and good history you have with those accounts will be taken off your credit history.
Debt education: National Debt Relief has one of the best collections of debt relief information available to anyone on its site. National Debt Relief has common FAQs about debt, a detailed explanation of every debt relief option from consolidation to settlement to bankruptcy, and gives you tips to help you manage and deal with your debt all by yourself, for free. Most debt relief programs only offer this information if you sign up for their service. However, National Debt Relief makes it all available to anyone who is interested.
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McClary advises following the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50 percent of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20 percent to savings; and 30 percent to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30 percent zone is the first area to target for cutting back, McClary says.
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.
Personal loans. Personal loans are another solution to refinance debt. You can take out a personal loan to repay credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or other types of high-interest debt. Many personal lenders do forbid you from using the proceeds of your loan to repay student debt, but otherwise you have almost endless flexibility in what you can use the borrowed money for.
Today, I have no consumer debt. By choice, I’m not debt-free. I do have a mortgage on my primary residence even though I could pay it off. I also did not pay off my student loans early. In these cases, I’m using debt conservatively and consciously to advance my financial goals. But all the nasty stuff—credit cards, personal loans, and an auto loan—is long gone.
Tax man awaits. If you have debt forgiven, that probably will count as taxable income and should be reported on your federal income taxes. The lender who forgives the debt should send you a 1099-C tax form detailing how much the original debt was and how much was forgiven. For example, if you owed $25,000 and had $10,000 forgiven, you would have to claim the $10,000 as income on your taxes.
How often interest compounds. Compounding occurs when interest is charged and added onto the principal balance. If interest compounds daily, interest is charged every day and added to your principal balance. So, the next day, interest is charged on principal balance that's slightly higher. The more often your interest compounds, the higher your actual interest costs are. If you borrowed $100 at 10% interest and interest compounded daily, you wouldn't owe just owe $110 at the end of the year if you never made a payment. Each day, you'd owe 1/365 of the 10% annual interest. Your daily interest cost would be added to your balance, so you'd be charged daily interest on a slightly higher balance every day. At the end of the year, you'd owe $110.52.
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.
For example, let’s say Credit Card A has a balance of $1,000 and a 12% interest rate, and Credit Card B has $1,500 at 6% interest. You put down $150 total every month, paying the minimum payment (3%) on one and whatever’s left on the other. You’re going to save more money by eliminating Credit Card A first ($147 in total interest) vs Card B ($188).
It will decimate your credit scores and stay on your credit report for up to 10 years even as you restore your credit history. That’s no small thing, because poor credit history can affect your eligibility for certain jobs, your chances of getting an apartment lease, and how much you pay for car insurance. When your credit is already bad, a bankruptcy may allow you to rebuild your credit much sooner than continuing to try to repay. (Learn more about when bankruptcy is the best option.)
Once a credit counselor has reviewed your situation and you both agree that a debt management plan is the next best step, the counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll agree to reduce interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. When your credit counselor reaches an agreement with all creditors, you'll begin making monthly deposits with the credit counseling organization, and it will use the money to pay your unsecured debts.
Pay more than the minimum on your accounts. See examples of how you can save thousands of dollars in interest costs and potentially late fees by paying more than the minimum balance on your credit cards. This is arguably one of the best ways to reduce your debts over a reasonable period of time, and it works for credit cards, medical bills, car loans, and really anything. You need to start with your higher interest rate commitments first. Find the benefits of making more than minimum payments.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
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.
You cannot use your existing credit cards while you’re on a debt management plan, nor can you open new accounts. McClary also said that if you do manage to open new credit card accounts during your debt management plan, existing creditors who find out may stop participating in your debt management plan and reset your account to its original terms and interest rate.
“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”
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. Make sure the agency doesn't charge any other maintenance fees (i.e. an annual fee) in addition to monthly fees.
I recently became fed up with the credit card debt that I have been carrying for 6 years and have *finally* taken action to eliminate it, such as making a budget (and sticking to it!), trying to negotiate a lower APR rate, selling stuff (au revoir, gitane bicycle) and making additional payments on my credit cards. This article was EXACTLY what I needed to read. It’s affirmation that I’m on the right track (:
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.