Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your finances have taken a turn for the worse and you find yourself drowning in debt, a debt management program may help you keep your head above water. These programs, also known as debt management plans or DMPs, are a form of debt relief in which a counseling agency works with your creditors to reduce your monthly payment to a level more suitable to your current situation. A DMP may be able to help you negotiate lower interest rates, get late fees waived, work out a payment schedule that's acceptable to you and your creditors, and consolidate your monthly payments into one. However, keep in mind that all DMPs charge fees, and some can be excessively expensive or even fraudulent.
Consolidating student loan debt can also make it possible to get more borrower protections. For example, while Parent PLUS loans aren't eligible for income-based repayment, when these loans are consolidated under the Direct Loan program, they can become eligible. Income-driven repayment programs can result in a lower monthly payment and open up the door to loan forgiveness after a sufficient number of payments are made.
Can I Negotiate With My Creditors On My Own? Yes, you can negotiate with your creditors yourself and save yourself an extra 18-25% off your debt. (Our fee is 18-25% of the debt amount depending on the state they live in and the amount of debt they have.) Not everyone wants to talk to their creditors on a regular basis so they trust us to do it for them. Our debt negotiators have extensive knowledge in Federal & State consumer laws & exercise the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Credit Billing Act, as well as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to help settle your debt.
If you don’t own your home or if you don’t have much equity you might be able to get and unsecured or personal loan. If you were able to get this type of loan you would probably still have a lower monthly payment but not as low a one as with a home equity loan or HELOC because you would not be offering anything as collateral to offset your lender’s risk. The upside of these types of loans is that you would be rid of all those angry creditors or debt collection agencies that have been harassing you. The downside is that you would have a much longer term than if you were to simply repay your debts as a HELOC can be for seven or even 10 years and a home equity loan might be for 30 years. In either case you will end up paying more interest over the long run than if you were to just repay your debts short-term. And you would need to be very careful to not take on any new debt or you could end up back where you started – struggling to make your payments.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
Fees for services. Regardless of which form of debt relief you choose, there will be a fee to the company providing that service. The fees for debt management are part of your monthly payment. The fees for debt settlement are based on the amount of debt you have. Lawyers’ fees for bankruptcy vary. That just adds another layer of debt that you will have overcome.
Hybrid loan option: CommonBond offers a unique “Hybrid” rate option in which rates are fixed for five years and then become variable for five years. This option can be a good choice for borrowers who intend to make extra payments and plan on paying off their student loans within the first five years. If you can a better interest rate on the Hybrid loan than the Fixed-rate option, you may end up paying less over the life of the loan.
Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates and waive certain fees.
A second option is consumer credit counseling. There is any number of consumer credit counseling agencies available on the Internet or you may be able to find one locally. The best of these are nonprofits. When you contact one of these agencies either via a website or in person you will have a counselor that will spend from 45 minutes to an hour with you discussing your finances. The best of these agencies charge nothing for that service.
To get out of debt using the ladder method, start by attacking the balance on the account that charges the highest interest rate, McClary says. While you’re ramping up payments on that account, you make minimum payments on the others. When your highest-interest balance is gone, you move down a rung of the ladder and apply all your extra payments to the account with the next highest rate. You repeat the process until all your debt is eliminated.
DMP: If you search the internet for “debt management plan,” you’ll come up with perhaps hundreds of companies and non-profit agencies willing to help you formulate a debt management plan. Some of these are for-profit companies, and some claim to be non-profit. Your best bet is to go with an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which is truly non-profit, experienced, and respected. The NFCC website has a search function that will help you find an affiliated agency, or search for Consumer Credit Counseling of [your city or region].
However, outside of these types of package services, there is little difference with the actual debt management service provided. If money is already tight and you can’t afford the bills you have now, there’s little reason to add another. You’re usually better off going through a nonprofit agency in order to keep fees low and ensure your plan is affordable.
Consolidate debt using a low interest rate credit card. Discover the 10 best low interest rate credit cards as determined by CardRatings and Consumer Reports. They also tend to have very competitive fees. A low interest rate credit card can greatly reduce the amount you need to pay on your outstanding credit card bills and debt. Find a list of the 10 best credit cards for consolidation.
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.
Elsewhere in the European Union, regulation and non-regulation of credit counseling agencies and their approaches, including DMPs, are widely varied. In Sweden, guidelines for credit counseling are loosely provided by the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) and creditors are encouraged to use them in lieu of the court system. In Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) provides debt resolution information directly to debtors. In Latvia, a debt advisory company called LAKRA works with employers to assist indebted employees.
If you want some early small victories, some people recommend the “snowball” method, where you pay minimums on the largest bills while you work at paying them off, smallest to largest. Once the smallest one is paid off, you put the money you had been paying toward the next-smallest and so on. Another way is to pay the highest-interest-rate balance first. Use the one that makes the most sense to you. Read more here: 5 Ways To Get Out of Debt: Which Will Work for You?
If your credit card interest rates are so high it feels almost impossible to make headway on your balances, it’s worth calling your card issuer to negotiate. Believe it or not, asking for lower interest rates is actually quite commonplace. And if you have a solid history of paying your bills on time, there’s a good possibility of getting a lower interest rate.
They also have a wider range of customer-friendly features than the average debt management company. These include a clear, intuitively designed website, online chat, Saturday credit counseling hours, and dozens of branches nationwide for those who want to do business face to face. Fees range from $0 to $50 for setup, and $0 to $75 monthly, depending on your state.
Guy who signed me up was professional BUT dealing with the company afterwards was a complete run-around. Transferred 5 times and not given an honest answer. Had to call back and confirm my exit from the program. Then asked personal questions in a resell attempt. Mailing address given to submit cancellation request to is NOT a valid mailing address. Percentage higher than advertised – 23%. Customer service transfers you immediately somewhere else – couldn’t even finish my sentence. Very shady.
Consider debt consolidation. A debt consolidation loan allows you to compile multiple high-interest debts, like credit card balances, into a single lower-interest debt. While debt consolidation can't lower the principal of what you owe, it can reduce the total amount of interest you'll pay over the life of the debt. Reducing interest expenses may make it easier for you to put more money toward paying down the principal of the debt.
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Not into starting your own business? Then consider becoming a driver for Lyft or Uber. A pizza delivery job at night could also bring in extra money. You can even deliver other types of food in your spare time by working for places like uberEATS or Grubhub. Sure, you’ll have to put aside your pride and give up some nights and weekends of downtime. But that’s a small sacrifice for extra cash in your pocket.
The debt relief company has had minor legal issues in the past, but it has overcome those obstacles to become one of the most popular accredited debt relief companies online. Despite negative reviews, it’s clear that Freedom Debt Relief isn’t a scam. In fact, many Freedom Debt Relief clients credit the company for getting them out of debt and teaching them how to avoid future debt. You should always compare several companies before choosing a debt relief option, but this one stands out as one of the top debt management companies.
You didn’t get into debt quickly, and you won’t get out of debt quickly. If you aren’t willing to devote three to five years to wipe out your credit card debt, then you might as well hire a attorney and file for bankruptcy, Ulzheimer says. Just keep in mind that hiring a bankruptcy attorney is expensive, and a bankruptcy will stay on your credit record for seven or 10 years (depending on the type of bankruptcy).
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?
If you cash in your IRA early, you will not only pay taxes on it (unless it is a ROTH), you also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. That means that money is not going to go very far. Before you use your retirement money to pay off consumer debt, I would suggest you at least talk with a reputable credit counseling agency to see if there’s a way to get out of debt without using this money that you will no doubt need when you do retire.