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How To Talk Your Way Out Of Debt

woman looking at her credit cardDid you know that you could talk yourself out of debt?

Yes, really you could talk your way out of debt.

The solution is called debt negotiation, debt settlement or debt arbitration. But whichever you call it, it’s basically the same thing. It’s where you contact your creditors and talk them into helping you get out of debt.

Sound too good to be true?

Does this sound just too good to be true – that you could just talk your creditors into helping you? Well, it is true but only under certain circumstances. For one thing it’s not worth trying unless you owe a good amount of money. And second, you should already be behind in your payments.

How it works

For the sake of an example let’s say you owe $5000 on a credit card and you haven’t been able to make a payment for the last three months. Before you contact the credit card provider you need to have a goal in mind. It could be to get a reduction in your interest rate, to ask for forbearance (where you make no payments for some period of time), a temporary reduction in your payments or to settle your debt for less than you owe (debt negotiation).

The first thing you will need to do is get through to a person that has the authority to work with you. In many cases this isn’t as easy as it might sound. The first customer representative you reach probably won’t have that authority. In fact, you may have to keep making phone calls and talking with people until you finally work your way through all the various levels to get the someone who has the authority to really help you.

As a general rule it’s easier to get a concession such as a reduction in your interest rate, forbearance or a temporary pause to your monthly payments then debt settlement. Why is this? It’s because the whole idea behind debt settlement is to pay that credit card company less than what you owe – maybe much less than you owe. As you might guess, credit card companies are pretty much opposed to doing this.

If your goal is debt settlement

If your goal is to negotiate a debt settlement, you will need to be further behind in your payments than three months – probably something around six months. The reason for this is that most credit card companies are loath to talk settlement unless you’re this far behind. Plus, after six months most of them would sell off your debt to a third party such as a collection agency. This means it’s important that you contact that lender sometime between when you haven’t made a payment for five months but it hasn’t quite yet been six months.

Be honest

When you do finally reach a person that has the authority to help you be honest about your finances and explain them as clearly and comprehensively as possible. What you’re doing at this stage is building a case for settlement. You may also need to convince that person that if he or she fails to settle you will have to to file for bankruptcy. This is the old “half a loaf is better than none” deal where the credit card company understands it would be better to get a substantial chunk of what you owe than nothing at all.

What to ask for

Unfortunately there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much of your debt you should first offer to pay. If you have the necessary intestinal fortitude you might offer to pay 30% or 40% of your debt. You can just about figure that this offer will be refused. However, your customer rep will have to come back with a counter offer – after all this is called debt negotiation. Where you end up will depend largely on how good a negotiator you are and how much you owe. But if you are pretty good and if you do owe $5000, you might end up settling for 50%.

Get it in writing

Assuming that you are successful in talking your way into a settlement make sure you get it in writing. Also be prepared to pay for the settlement almost immediately. In fact, this can be one of your best bargaining chips – “settle with me today and I’ll send you the money by cashier’s check or wire transfer tomorrow.” Of course, this does mean you will need to have the necessary cash on hand. The Catch-22 here is that if you did have $5000 on hand you might not have to ask for any concessions let alone debt settlement. So where would the money come from? If you are fortunate you might be able to borrow it from a relative. Barring that you will need to get creative. For example, if you have a 401(k) or IRA you might be able to borrow the money from it. The best thing about this is that you will have to pay the money back with interest but you will be paying interest to yourself. And you will need to repay it within six months or it will be treated by the IRS as ordinary income and you will be taxed accordingly.

What can you do if you don’t have either a rich relation, a 401(k) or an IRA? You could get a second job and use the extra income to pay off your settlement. Our economy has rebounded to the point where there are a number of part-time jobs available. For example, we recently saw that both our local Best Buy and Staples stores were looking for help. While these jobs generally don’t pay more than $10 an hour you should be able to easily net $600 a month or more.

Does this sound just awful?

Make no mistake about it; DIY debt negotiation takes time, patience and steel nerves – as well as the cash to pay off any settlements you negotiate. Plus, it will seriously ding your credit score. This is why debt settlement should be low on your list of ways to deal with your debt.

Bankruptcy is worse

The one thing that can be said without argument about debt settlement is that it’s better than filing for bankruptcy. Yes, a chapter 7 bankruptcy would get rid of all or almost all of your unsecured debts such as medical debts, credit card debts and personal loans. But it comes at a very serious cost. For one thing, a bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for either seven or 10 years and in your personal record forever. You could be turned down for a really great job 10 years from now because the prospective employer won’t hire anyone that has had a bankruptcy. It will probably be two to three years after your bankruptcy before you can get any new credit and when you do it will come with a very stiff interest rate.

couple with debt management consultantA better option

This means that for many people a better option is credit counseling. There’s undoubtedly a nonprofit credit-counseling agency near you that either provides its services free or at very low cost. When you go to one of these agencies you will be assigned a debt counselor that will review all of your finances and help you develop a budget or plan for getting out of debt. He or she will probably also work with your creditors to get your interest rates or even your monthly payments reduced. If you’re really stuck in a black hole of debt your counselor will probably offer you what’s called a debt management plan or DMP. This is where you send the agency one payment a month and it then distributes the money to your various creditors. The benefit of this is probably fairly obvious – that you get all of those creditors off your back and would make just one payment a month versus the multiple payments you’re probably now making. However, like many things in life there are downsides to a DMP. For one thing, it will probably take you as many as five years to complete it. And second, all of your accounts will be closed and you will be required to give up your credit cards. Sadly enough a large percentage of people who sign up for DMPs never complete them and these are probably the reasons why.

About The Statute Of Limitations And Your Old Debts

payment overdueOld debts can still be a pain. It can still haunt you for as long as it remains unpaid. It is either you pay it off, settle it or suffer the consequence of having debt collectors call on you to pay what you owe.

This is where the Statute of Limitations on debts come in. This is like an expiration date for your credit accounts. The time varies per state but it usually means that if your debt reaches beyond this time frame, no debt collector can win in a legal court against you. That is because you can use this as justification for not paying it. Even the original creditor whom you owe this debt to cannot win in court as long as your old debts have already gone past the statute of limitations.

This law does not remove your responsibility to pay back the debt. It is also known as a “time-barred” debt. Although you can use it as justification for leaving it unpaid, it will always remain to be your debt. You can still pay it off if you wish but most people will not do so.

If you have any old debts, you may want to understand how to use the statute of limitations to your advantage.

What does the statute of limitations say about old credit accounts

One of the most important protections that you can get from the statute of limitations is being abused by a debt collector. Although the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibit abusive debt collection for all types of credit, some states have made it illegal to collect old debts that are past the statute of limitations.

Here are some of the important facts about this that you should know.

There are two debt expiration dates.

When it comes to old credit accounts, it is important for you to define two important expiration dates.

  • Credit Reporting Time Limit. This is the time when your debt is removed from your credit report by the major credit bureaus. The general rule is that after 7 years, all of the old credit in your history will be removed. This excludes debts that are discharged by bankruptcy because that usually takes 10 years before it can be removed from your credit report. The longest debts that will be removed from your report are tax liens – which can stay there for up to 15 years.
  • Statute of Limitations. The other expiration, as we have been defining, is the one that will discourage debt collector from suing you in court for old debts. This is separate from the credit reporting time limit. Even if your debt is still in your credit report, as long as it is past the statute of limitations, both the original creditor or debt collector cannot win in court against you.

The statute of limitations vary per state.

First of all, you need to know the specific time frame in the state where you owe that debt from. Even if you moved, the time frame that you need to follow is the state where you borrowed the money from. For instance, you acquired the debt in Texas where both written and oral debt contracts expire in 4 years. Even if you moved to Louisiana (where the time frame is 10 years) your old debts will still follow the expiration of 4 years. You can view the statute of limitations per state online. There are website like NOLO.com that provides a complete list.

When does the time frame begin.

One of the most confusing parts about the statute of limitations is when will you know if your debt is already expired. This starts on the last date of activity that you have made on your credit account – not the due date. Do not confuse it with the date when your debt officially goes to default. If your last payment was March 2010, your debt usually goes to default after 90 days – which is on June 2010. If you live in Texas, your debt will go past the statute of limitations by March 2014 and not June 2014.

It is possible to restart the statute of limitations.

This is what debt collectors would want to happen. You have to be careful about what you say when you are talking to them about old debts. If you know that your credit is past this time frame, you should not feel intimidated by the threats that they will make. If you make a payment, promise to pay the debt, go into an agreement to pay it back or reuse the credit account, your statute of limitation will restart. When that happens, the debt collector now has a fighting chance when they sue you in court for that debt.

Not all debts are covered by this law.

Be careful about using this as justification that you do not have to pay back a debt. There are certain credit types that are not covered by this. These include child support, income taxes and federal student loans. When you are sued in court for these, the statute of limitations cannot protect you.

3 things the law about old credits will not do

It is important to note that while the statute of limitations will release you from the legal obligation to pay back unpaid old debts, there are certain things that it cannot do. Here are three important aspects of your debt that it cannot help you with.

  • It cannot stop the debt collector from suing you in court. You can use it to keep them from winning but if the collection agency decides to file a case against you, this is not illegal for them to do. It will bring you a lot of hassle of course, and that is probably what they want to happen. Their intention is still to intimidate so make sure you know the law enough to keep yourself from making any rash actions to restart the statute of limitations.
  • It will not erase the debt. Even if you are legally obligated to pay it back, you still have the moral obligation to do so. It will forever be your debt and it is up to you and your conscience to live with the fact that you left the debt unpaid.
  • It will not keep the debt from being included in your credit report. As long as it is not beyond the 7, 10 or 15 year mark, this credit account will remain in your credit report. It will continue to bring your credit score down – although the longer it stays there, the less impact it will have. But it will still be a stain on your records.

Be careful about zombie debts

The knowledge of the statute of limitations on old debts will help protect you from the burden of zombie debts. You have to know that there are certain practices wherein debt collectors will purchase unpaid credits from creditors and lenders. According to an article published on BloombergView.com, there are debt collection agencies who buy these debts for pennies on the dollar. Then, they call up the list of debtors, hoping that they know nothing about the statute of limitations. But even if these debtors know about it, these collectors will go through abusive methods to intimidate, threaten and harass consumers so they end up paying off the debt anyway. At the very least, they will try to trick you into restarting the statute of limitations.

Well there are certain ways to deal with zombie debt collectors and here are some tips that we have for you.

  • Always ask the collector to send you a written notice about the debt.
  • Ask them to validate the debt and send you a document proving that you owe it.
  • Make sure you are already past the statute of limitations before you decide to do anything.

When you have confirmed it is an old debt, there are two things you can do.

First option is to send them a letter asking the collector not to call you again. The FDCPA states that they should honor this if you requested it. However, that will not stop them from selling your old debts to another collection agency so the process will start again.

The second option, if you want to avoid the consequence of the first, is to check your finances if you can try to settle the debt. These companies bought your debt for pennies on the dollar so they should not mind you paying lower than what you really owe. They will still make profit from it. Remember that getting into a settlement agreement will restart the statute of limitations but if you get a good deal, it can stop future collectors from ever calling you again.

Good News: You Can Have Your Own Government Stimulus Package

money raining on womanThere was much talk a few years ago about the government stimulus package. It was a $787 billion bill termed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It contained a huge array of spending projects as well as tax breaks designed to stimulate a swift revival of the US economy. The theory behind this package was Keynesian economics, which teaches that increased government spending can lessen the effects of a recession.

It may or may not have worked

Whether or not the American Recovery and Investment Act actually lessened the impact of the recession we were suffering is still up for debate. There are those who believe that it was successful while others say it was a waste because most of the money was used to pay down debts and reduce borrowing. Be that as it may it did lead to one thing that could be your own government stimulus package. It’s called the Home Affordable Refinancing Plan or HARP.

Never a better time

Thanks to HARP there has literally never been a better time to refinance your home. This is because you could use HARP to refinance it at an amazingly low rate and in doing so reduce your payments by $3000 a year or even more.
Would you be eligible?

To be eligible for HARP you would need to have a mortgage for $625,500 or less – unless your home is in a high-cost area in which case the loan limits might be higher. The whole idea behind this program is that the federal government wants banks to cut your mortgage rates to put more money in your pocket, which is good for the economy.

Unhappy banks

Of course, the banks are not very happy with HARP because it means you could shop several different lenders and not just your current mortgage holder. In addition, your home’s loan-to-value ratio (LTV) can be 80% to 125%. Banks would rather keep you at the higher interest rate you got when you financed your mortgage many years ago. In fact, this is such a good deal that it’s practically a no brainier to jump on HARP now. But you will need to act quickly if you want to refinance your house at these current low rates.

The benefits

Most Americans that do a refinance through HARP save $250 a month. Could you use an extra $250 a month? We thought so. Depending on your current rate you might even be able to shorten the term of your loan. And what typically happens is that one or two payments are deferred or skipped, which would put even more money in your pocket.

Where do you find these low rates?
There are several free websites where you can compare the rates on mortgages and then choose the lowest one. This, of course, is one of the best things about the Internet. It allows you to do business with banks and other lending institutions all over the country – not just in your city or state. One of the biggest and best respected mortgage refinance comparison websites is RateMarketplace.com. It is one of the few online companies that have HARP lenders in its network.

There is no cost or obligation to use RateMarketplace.com and its service is both easy and fast. In fact, it will take you only about five minutes to calculate what your new payment would be. The service is free. You can also calculate what your payments would be if you chose to refinance with cash out, consolidate your debts, get a home equity loan or buy a house. The net/net of using RateMarketplace.com is that you have nothing to lose but maybe your high mortgage interest rate.

Speaking of debt consolidation

If you feel as if you are sinking in a quicksand of debt and have equity in your house, one good solution is to use that equity to consolidate and pay off those debts. Many people have found debt consolidation to be a good way to get their finances under control. While a debt consolidation loan can come in the form of a secured loan, an unsecured loan or even by borrowing from your retirement plan, the best idea is probably to tap into the equity in your home because you end up repaying yourself.

The two types of home equity loans are a straight home equity loan and a home equity line of credit or HELOC, which resembles a credit card in that you pay interest only on the amount of money you withdraw. Most HELOCs have a variable rate of interest and low minimum payments. If you are approved for a HELOC you will probably have 10 years to take out the equity and then another 15 to 20 years to repay it.

man pushing a wheelbarrow full of moneyHow much could you borrow?

How much you could borrow to pay off your debts usually depends on a combined loan-to-value ratio of 80% or 90% of the value of your home. Naturally, the interest you’re charged will depend on your credit score and how good you’ve been about making payments on your debts.

A lower rate of interest

One of the biggest advantages of a home equity loan is that the interest on it will be less than the average interest of your current debts. These loans are relatively easy to get if you have equity built up in your house. In addition, the interest you pay on a home equity loan or HELOC is deductible just as it is with a conventional mortgage — if you itemize your taxes. In fact, a home equity loan is the only type of interest you can deduct under any circumstances except for qualified student-loan interest.

The downside

The biggest possible problem with a home equity loan is pretty obvious. If you don’t repay the loan, there can be horrible consequences. If you can’t make your loan payments, you might lose your house. Your credit score will suffer dramatically and it may be some time before you can get any other type of financing.

Do a careful analysis

You can avoid this by doing a careful analysis of your cash flow to make sure you will be able to make that new payment every month. It’s also good to make more than the minimum payment required although this may not be important if you are using the money to consolidate high-interest debts that are causing you serious financial problems.

A hypothetical example

Here is a hypothetical example of how you could use a home equity loan or home equity line of credit to consolidate your debts. For the purpose of this example let’s assume you have the following debts:

  • $10,000 in high-interest credit card debt with a monthly payment of $172
  • A $4500 car loan with an 8% interest in a monthly payment of $330
  • $3300 in student ßdebt where you defaulted on the loan but that prior to this your monthly payment was $150.

Again for the sake of the example we will say that you have a 30-year mortgage on your house and $50,000 in equity. However, you still owe $100,000. This means that you have debts totaling less than $40,000 and could consolidate them with a home equity loan or HELOC, as you would be well under the 80% loan-to-value ratio. You would trade three monthly payments for a single, lower payment and the interest would be deductible. In addition, if you pay off those three loans, it will improve your credit – especially because that student loan you defaulted on will now be off your credit reports.

The net/net

A home equity loan or line of credit can be a useful tool if you are a responsible homeowner and need to consolidate your debts. One of these loans will provide easy access to capital at lower rates of interest, reduced payments and even a tax deduction. Unfortunately, homeowners who abuse these loans and don’t make their payments can literally find themselves out on the street.

Want To Be Debt Free? Be A Minimalist

woman with arms stretchedThe US economy is 70% driven by consumers who are all looking for ways to be debt free. The more people spend and buy, the better the economy will be. A Gallup.com survey revealed that as the consumer spending in the country goes up (currently at $98 as a daily average), that is good news for the economy. It shows that Americans are confident about their finances – more than they had been in the past few years.

However, that does not mean the economy is asking consumers to throw caution in the air and buy items left and right. It will not help the economy in the long run if people purchase a lot of items and and are unable to meet the payments. Getting in debt is a big possibility if purchases are made on a whim.

Some people say it is better to spend two dollars for a one dollar item that you need rather than spend one dollar for a two dollar item you do not need. Smart spending is at the core of US economy. Stopping altogether with consumption could be the end of the economy. But at the same time, smart spending and careful expense budgeting is the key in moving forward.

This is where minimalism comes in. Sometimes referred to as life hacking, frugality or simple living, being a minimalist comes down to being able to focus on what is important. But this is not about eating on the floor and dumpster diving. Even a frugal lifestyle can be fun and minimalism can be just the same. It is also a very real solution to a very real problem. There are successful people who took on a minimalist lifestyle and became debt free.

Finding debt freedom through minimalism

There are people who took on being a minimalist and even has the results to show that it is possible to pay down debt with this particular mindset. One such story is of an olympic rower Rachel Jonat who was staring down at $82,000 in debt with her husband. Using a minimalist approach, they were able to pay everything down in just one year and seven months after they started. Below are their learnings from the experience as shared by Businessinsider.com.

Recognizing the problem

The number one point in trying to be debt free is recognizing the problem and the source of it. For Rachel, she admits that debt has been a way of life from the time she was 17 and got her credit tool. She has been charging expenses and as an olympian, she racked up these items quickly. She had a dream of going into the olympics and participating as a rower.

Rachel was able to pursue her dream while the financial obligations that came with it was left for the credit cards to handle. She was charging items to her card and at one point, her mom even took out a second mortgage on their house just to help out. This is not the usual circumstances where you take out a second mortgage but they did it just the same and debt just became a part of their life.

Even after Rachel got married, they all charged the expenses on their credit card. This will take them back in their attempt to be debt free but it was already done. It was only when they had to renovate their home where they able to sit down and look at their expenses and debt. This is when they realized that they have racked up debt that they do not know what to do.

Minimalism can be a debt solution

Among the other debt solutions out there, the family opted to makeover their lifestyle entirely by letting go of consumerism and becoming minimalists. Here are the reasons why this lifestyle helped them get rid of their debts.

  • It opened their eyes about the role of “stuff” in their lives. Rachel initially got into the idea of minimalism when her sister sent her links to articles about it. She was skeptical at first but she soon realized that it is not about the number of stuff – it is about the idea of the stuff “owning” you. When they own you, the compulsion to have a lot of “stuff” becomes a measurement of your success.
  • It promotes frugality. Frugality can help change lifestyles just as minimalism can be a great help in reaching your objective of being debt free. Being frugal is similar to minimalism in the sense that it encourages you to to focus on the important things. It is not about the quantity but the quality of what you own.
  • It taught them how to choose the things they need to sacrifice. When the couple decided to change their lifestyle, they just had their first child. They were honest enough to admit that it was not an easy adjustment but it made them more determined to identify the things in their lives that they can sacrifice. For instance, Rachel decided to sell her wedding gown. It was very painful but when she found the perfect buyer and glimpsed how happy the bride-to-be was, she realized it was easier to let it go. When she did that, it became very liberating. It became easy to let go of the other stuff as well.

All of these helped the family break free from the clutches of material possessions – especially the need to amass a whole lot of them. Since the compulsion to buy is no longer there, you are able to free funds to help you pay off your debts a lot faster.

Do you have what it takes to eliminate debt and be a minimalist

Towards the end of the article, the Jonat family revealed that although they credit minimalism in being debt free, it was not without any challenges. This is why you need to understand minimalism completely so the changes that will happen to your life will be more acceptable.

There are three important truths about being a minimalist.

  • You have to change your perspective. It is on how we see things that can propel how far we can go. We need to change our outlook on life and see that minimalism isn’t deprivation of material possessions, it is discerning what is essential in your life and leaving behind those that serves no purpose.
  • You need to find what is important. Having focus and knowing your goal is an important aspect of minimalism. You need to put your goal on top of mind and everything you do should push you towards that direction. In this process, you get to appreciate the more important things in life. It can be more time to pursue your passion of reading and writing rather than being glued to the TV. Eliminating the clutter gives you focus and clarity.
  • You learn to put money in its rightful place and role in your life. You start to see money as a tool and not as a master. Minimalism makes you realize that you need to be in control of your money – not the other way around. Once you do that, you will find yourself more in control of your financial decisions. It will give you that initiative to spend not based on what you can afford, but what you really need in life.

Here is a video of Graham Hill as he talks about how less makes you more happy. He gives three important steps to help you achieve a minimalist lifestyle. It is not about how much you own but how much room you have for the important stuff.

Debt Relief In The Form Of Donation

Graduation cap with money

In today’s time, debt relief is goal because of all the debt around us. From the time we get in college, to our first employment, to our first house and even when we have kids. Debt varies in amount as well as various multinational companies are millions in debt to that 6th-grader in Houston-area middle school whose breakfast was trashed because he was short of 30 cents in credit as reported by Washingtontimes.com.

Even colleges are also in debt. But one learning institution recently made headlines as they went down a route not usually wandered on by those in debt. As reported by Mlive.com, Calvin College, a private school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, put together a fundraising project to raise the money to address their debt problem.

The school was looking at a long-term debt of $116 million. At the moment, the school needs to raise $25 million to pay down debt and start on the right track. The school has been around for quite some time now being built in 1876 but the way it handled its finances in the past years got the school deeper in debt. Debt relief could be a far dream with the amount of payments they had to make. Then they started fundraising.

The school was able to raise the target amount in 8 months time. It was a herculean task and made possible by a strong alumni network and the hope of quality education being turned-out by the school in its students.

Though unconventional, this is not the first time fundraising was done to pay off debt. Washingtontimes.com carried a story early this year about an eight year old student from Michigan who started the “Pay It Forward: No Kid Goes Hungry” campaign. This was when his friend was denied hot lunch because he did not have enough credits for lunch.

Why debt relief is a goal for the school

There were missteps along the way that got the school deep in debt. As they are in the rebuilding stage, it would benefit a lot of institutions and even individuals if we look back and see what went wrong. Analyzing and looking at the insights and lessons from the circumstances that lead them to debt would yield a lot of learnings.

Proper use of money

We have different goals in life and a lot of them requires financial counterpart. That house we dream about would need to be bought first or taken into a mortgage. That car we always wanted to drive would require finances as well so we can purchase and  drive it around town. That college degree we want to graduate with needs tuition fee so we can carry it in our job hunt.

To make these happen, we save up for it or we allocate funds to pay for it. That power tool we need to start making DIY repairs at home, we can put away a few dollars a week so we can purchase it at the end of the month. But if we use that saved up money to buy something else, we forego the original intention for the money and would have to save up for it again.

That is what happened with Calvin college. They had funds to start construction on some buildings on the campus. Good move considering they had the money and a 390 acres space to build around in. But the problem was they took the money and put them in investment instruments. The intention was to use the the income from the investment to pay off for the construction expense.

There are several investment options to choose from. Some people and companies use them as a debt relief option but using them and maximizing the tools needs careful planning and thorough understanding of the risks.This is where Calvin college’s problem started.

Below par investment income

The school had the best intention in mind. Invest the capital and earn off from the income to pay off for construction expenses. If done right, they would finish the building project and still have the capital intact. They can even use it for other building projects. The forecast might have been favorable that the school voted on it.

What the school did was to take out a loan so the monthly payments can be in small amounts enough for the investment income to cover. This is one form of passive income where the you make your money work hard for you. The problem was the investments did not yield the expected results and payments are not made.

Unbudgeted payment

Knowing how much money comes in is essential to plan who much money comes out and vice versa. This budget plan allows you to keep track of finances and avoid having to think about debt relief options. The school did not budget the payments for the year and when the time came that payments had to be made and the investments did not yield expectations, they had to cut budgets from different areas.

Rebuilding the finances

After Calvin college raised the money, there are the steps they took to ensure they are on the right track in terms of their finances. Calling it budget prioritization plan, the school laid out a plan to get them out of debt and ensure they are out of debt. Consumers can learn a lot from these and how to handle finances the right way.

Internal audit

The school took a good close look of their internal processes and procedures to ensure there are not any loopholes in their planning phase. This is essential before they can reach out again for benefactors to believe in the system .

Consumers can do this as well in their own quest of financial freedom using any debt relief programs. Study their own spending and income and see where they can improve. There is always a big room for improving any process whether as big as a learning institution or as small as those of a family of five.

Budget cuts

As soon as the internal audit was complete, the school now has a clear picture of where budget cuts can be executed. Whether to strike out non-performing courses or control utilities, the school can save up and add that up to debt payments.

Same thing with consumers, taking on a frugal living can do wonders for the budget. It can free up some funds that you can redirect to either savings or retirement or emergency funds. See where you can lower down or eliminate expenses altogether. This will do wonders for your financial standing down the line.

Revenue increase

The school will also concentrate on increasing revenues from enrollment and cashing in on non-performing real estate. This means prioritizing those performing sources of income and letting go of those that can be sold. Increasing their revenue will help the company pay for their debt and provide cushion in case the same incident strikes their finances.

We can learn from this move by looking for ways to increase income. It could be from taking on a second job, putting up a side business or doing yard sales. The additional income can be used to pay off debt and save up for the future.

Debt refinancing

There are several options depending on the financial situation. There is no single formula that can apply to all. Each situation has to be carefully studied to discern the most suitable course of action. The school is now refinancing their debt as a way to address their debt problem.

This is one of the many possibilities to achieve debt relief. Consumers can take refinancing or consolidate their debt to make it easy to make one payment every time.

There are a lessons consumers can learn from even the biggest institutions including colleges. They have their own share of financial difficulties and their own take on how to solve them. We can look into their process and learn from their mistakes and apply those debt relief options that works.

Could You Buy A 2004 Subaru For What Your Credit Cards Are Costing You?

frustrated looking woman looking at a laptopDid you know that if you have $30,000 in credit card debt at 19% you’re paying enough in interest in just a year to buy a 2004 Subaru WRX or a 2004 Ford Focus SVT? Those two cars were recently on a list of AOLAutos.com’s best used cars for $5000. And $5000 is what you’d be paying a year if you did owe $30,000 on credit cards.

Not good long-term loans

Don’t get us wrong. Credit cards definitely have a place in your life. They can be great for buying an item when you don’t have enough cash with you to pay for it or as a short-term loan. But credit cards should never be used as a long-term loan – due to their prohibitively high interest rates — vs. a personal loan or a homeowner equity line of credit where you’d pay something like 3.99%.

If you’re working to get out of debt

If you want to get out from under that load of debt, the first thing you need to do is get a handle on your spending. The reason why you’re in debt is simple. You’re spending more each month than you have money coming in. And the only way to fix this is to determine where your money’s going. You need to then sit down and develop a budget to get your spending under control. If you find that your budget won’t handle both your living expenses and paying down your debts, you’ll have to either find ways to earn more or to cut your expenses.

Credit card transfer vs. a home equity line of credit

In the meantime there are two ways to get your interest rates reduced while you’re working to pay off your credit card debts. The first is to transfer it to several 0% interest balance transfer cards and the second – if you own your house – is to get a home equity line of credit.

So, which would make the most sense?

0% introductory rate vs. a home equity line of credit

Transferring your high interest credit card debts to new ones with 0% introductory rates or getting a home equity line of credit would both give you a lower interest rate. And either could help you pay off that debt as quickly as possible.

The fog of war

This is a phrase that is often used to describe what happens once a battle begins. It’s a shorthand way of saying that no matter how carefully a general crafts a battle plan once the fighting begins a sort of fog sets in and things don’t go according to plan. Unfortunately, the same is true about a plan for getting out of debt – things don’t always go according to plan.

A home equity loan

As an example of this, take a home equity line of credit. If you were to get one of these loans to pay off that $29,000 in credit card debt and then pay it totally off as quickly as possible, this would be a great solution. But what happens to many people is they get a line of credit with all the best intentions for paying it back. But then a bank offers them a higher limit than they need to pay off their credit card debts. They believe that’s okay and convince themselves they won’t use that extra credit.

By the way — if you’re not familiar with home equity loans here – courtesy of National Debt Relief – is a video that explains the differences between a home equity loan and a home equity line of credit.

Twice as much debt

What happens to many people is they then run into a bunch of bad luck, use up the entire line of credit and are forced to once again run up their credit card debts. And before they know it, they have twice as much debt as before they took out the loan. The same thing can happen with 0% interest balance transfer cards. People use the money to pay off their high-interest credit cards but forget to close them. They eventually find themselves short of money and begin using the old cards again and end up having both the old cards and the new ones and their balances just keep ballooning.

Have an emergency fund

If you create a budget to get your spending under control, try to make one that includes money for an emergency fund. Ideally, this fund should be the equivalent of six months of living expenses. But if that doesn’t seem doable, shoot for at least three months’ worth. Then when an emergency hits — and trust us that one eventually will — you won’t have to use a credit card to pay for it.

To escape the debt trap

If your goal is to get out of the debt trap, there are some things you should do besides creating an emergency fund.

For one thing you should close those old credit cards the minute you pay them off — whether you use new 0% interest cards or a home equity line of credit. This will cause your credit score to drop but totally eliminates the possibility that you would be tempted to use them again.

Second, if you opt for a home equity line of credit, try to get one with a limit that’s no higher than what you need to pay off your old credit cards. Some financial experts might advise you to get the highest line of credit possible, as this would help your debt-to-available-credit ratio, which could boost your credit score. But the extra points you would earn is less important than getting out of debt. The best way to improve your debt-to-available-credit ratio is to pay down your debt and not to expose yourself to taking on even more. And if you don’t get a higher line of credit than you actually need, you will never be tempted to use that extra credit.

A 0% transfer card might be best

Between the options of transferring your high-interest balances to 0% interest cards or getting a home equity line of credit, we recommend the balance transfers – but only if you’re positive you can pay off your balances before your introductory periods end. The reason for this is the transfer fees you might be charged ($300 to $500 per transfer) will be far less than the interest you would pay on a home equity line of credit over the same time period. But you need to be really careful that you do pay off the balances on those new cards before your introductory periods expire or you could end up right back where you started or in even worse financial shape.

It’s not easy but it should be worth it

Paying off a huge pile of debt like our hypothetical $29,000 is not an easy task. It takes time and self-discipline. The reason you got into trouble with debt is because you were living a lifestyle you couldn’t afford. The only way to fix this is to change your lifestyle to match your income, which will mean you will need to make some sacrifices. You might have to find a cheaper place to live, trade in your car for a used one with more miles (and not as much pizazz), quit eating out three or four times a week or stop hanging out with friends so often.

But just imagine how you will feel when you become debt free. You’ll be able to sleep better at night, which means waking up feeling refreshed and looking forward to your day. If you’ve had debt collectors hounding you unmercifully, they will go away. You won’t be paying interest on your debts so you’ll have more money to save and invest for your long-term goals such as buying a home or for your retirement. You’ll have money for an emergency so that you won’t be wiped out when you have an unexpected medical bill or car repair. You’ll be able to face the world knowing that you’re in debt to no one and that no creditor can make your life miserable.
Wouldn’t this be worth some short-term sacrifices?

Three Simple Steps For Getting Out Of Debt

frustrated looking woman

1. Add up the damage

There’s a thing about we humans that we sometimes find it easy to ignore problems. In fact, there’s even the old expression about “turning a blind eye.” And make no mistake about it, being heavily in debt is a bad problem. But turning a blind eye to it doesn’t make the problem go away. It will just make things worse. If you haven’t done this already, sit down and determine exactly how much you owe and to whom and at what interest rates. You will need to look at everything and not just your credit card debt. This includes personal loans, student loans, car loans and even your mortgage. You will then need to do three important calculations and determine:

  • What you owe on your consumer loans and credit cards
  • The amount that interest costs you each year
  • How much of your monthly salary goes towards paying your debts

2. Determine the root of the problem

Before you do anything else, such as using your retirement savings to pay off your debts, you need to be honest about what got you into trouble in the first place. What you don’t want to do is put a fix in place while ignoring the cause of the problem. This means you need to determine where your money goes. If you have not been keeping track of your spending, it’s critical that you begin to do this. This will help you understand those areas where you could cut back. There are two ways to do this. You could do it the old way by saving your receipts and then typing the numbers into a spreadsheet program or you could use one of the numerous financial management programs available like Mint.com or Quicken. Mint is free and can be used on your computer or on virtually any smart phone. It’s by far the most popular online tool for managing personal finances and for good reason. It’s sort of the Swiss Army Knife of personal financial management.

3. Create a teamfamily reading a book

If you’ve followed the first two steps for getting out of debt you now have all the information you need. You know whom you owe, how much you owe and how much interest you’re paying. You should also have learned your soft spots or those areas where you could cut back on your spending. But before you decide where to make those cuts, hold a family team meeting. You’ll get better results when this is a joint effort. If you have children you should even involve them in tracking your spending and creating ideas for trimming expenses. As a general rule, reducing your spending is usually better than cutting out categories. This is because it’s practically pointless to come up with a budget if you can’t stick to it. Of course, you don’t have to tell your kids every little detail of how you stand financially but it’s important that they understand why it is that you need to make changes and what this will require.

While this may not be true for you, most people who have chosen to cut back on their spending have found it’s easiest to do this in categories like clothing, dining out, entertainment and groceries. Your “team” might even be able to find ways to cut back on “fixed” expenses such as automobile insurance, utilities and transportation.

Building a better budget

If you don’t already have a budget it’s important that you create one. Whether you use Quicken, Mint.com or some other app it’s critical that you do this in order to get a fix on your finances. This can also help you stop wasting money on things such as overdraft penalties and late fees. Plus, it will enable you to eventually reach the point where you’re spending less money than you earn and will have money to put into savings. Assuming that you’ve already added up your income and tracked your monthly spending, here are four other steps you could use to build your budget.

Remember the little things. It’s easy to group your spending into the big categories such as food or transportation but you may be spending a lot that’s hard to group into major categories. This could be money you withdraw from an ATM and use for your day-to-day needs. But it’s critical to track where that cash is going. What this may require is for you to keep a journal of your cash expenditures for the next four weeks. You would then be able to use that information to extrapolate the amount of cash you’re going to need for a typical month and then build this into your budget.

Expect unexpected expenses. There are unexpected expenses that you should expect or they can totally derail your budget. Unexpected expenses you should expect are things such as holiday gifts for your kids’ teachers or for your trash pickup guy. Or how about getting hit up with requests that you buy stuff for fundraisers or chip in for a birthday cake for a fellow employee? You know these are coming so set aside enough money to handle these recurring one-off expenses. Then be sure to include them in your budget.

Watch out for items you could cut. As noted above, you should by now have been able to find places we you can reduce the fat. You might be able to cut membership in an expensive gym, cancel a monthly subscription to something or slash those premium cable channels. You should always wait until things go on sale to buy them. You should turn down your thermostat in cold weather and up in summer. Also, when you get your car paid off, don’t immediately trade it in for a new one.

Get some high tech help. As mentioned above, personal finance program such as Quicken or Mint offer built-in tools to help you develop a budget. With almost all of these services, whenever you make a deposit, pay a credit card bill, write a check or send off an electronic payment, you will be asked to assign it to a specific category. If you bank online as we do, you should be able to download those payments and deposits directly from your bank. This would save you from having to enter them by hand.

Getting out of debt is certainly not as easy as getting into debt but it’s doable. We know of people who put together debt management plans that helped them become debt-free in three years or less even though they owed more than $20,000. If you follow the information in this article, there is no reason that you also couldn’t be debt-free in three years or less. And just think how good it would feel to be able to open the day’s mail or to answer the phone without that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.

10 Things You Can Give Up To Increase Your Debt Payment Fund

frustrated looking woman looking at a laptopDespite the rising confidence of consumers towards our economy, it remains to be a fact that we need to continue working hard to finance our debt payment fund. The recent data from the Federal Bank of New York revealed a continuing rise in consumer debt. The number itself is already alarming. If you take into consideration the long term effects of debt, you will realize just how important it is for us to lower our current debt level.

An article published early this March on USAToday.com revealed how student loans are expected to have a long term impact on our economy. The article mentioned how more 40 million Americans owe $1.2 trillion worth of student loans. It has now surpassed all types of consumer credit – save for housing loans.

It is a devastating picture for young adults to be so buried in debt even before they have been given a chance to prove themselves in the corporate world. While this may drive when to work hard to finance their debt payment fund, it puts them in a compromising position when it comes to investments. At an age when they should have been driving their own vehicles, they could not afford it. Home ownership is also something that is delayed because of this debt. Instead of buying their own home, they are forced to live with their parents just so they can save up and pay down their student loan debts.

If you scrutinize the statistics about debt, you will realize that we need to look for extreme measures to increase debt payment fund. But in some cases you will realize that the changes does not have to be too drastic. You can spot a little sacrifice here and there and it can add up as a huge amount in your monthly credit payments.

10 things you can cut off to have more money for debt payments

Whether you are in the midst or still trying to survive a looming financial crisis, you should know that no small feat is too little for you to try. Do not think that the small savings you get from simple changes will not matter. When it comes to your money, even a penny will matter.

Given that thought, here are 10 things that you may want to consider cutting off to help you grow your debt payment fund.

  1. Less dining out. Compared to the frequency that we spend eating in our homes or in restaurants and the amount that we spend on each, you need to realize that the latter costs us so much more. If you are used to grabbing that take out every night – you need to change that habit. Just do your grocery every weekend and cook your meals at home.

  2. Brown bag your lunch. Another simple change that can accumulate to be a huge addition to your debt payment fund is when you brown bag your lunch to work. If you do not like cooking in the morning, you can prepare your lunch at night. Just heat your food in the microwave when you get to the office. That will really cut back on your daily expenses by $5-$10. If you compute that at 25 days a month, it will add up to $125 to $250. In a year, that can add $1,500 to $3,000 towards your credit contributions.

  3. Cancel gym memberships. Inquire with your local community center if they have their own gym equipment. You can utilize that to save on gym membership fees. This can save you around $100 a month and you do not have to sacrifice your exercise routine. You can also access training videos via Youtube. Jogging and making use of your trusty bike can also help you with your cardio exercises.

  4. Bundle your Internet. You do not really have to cut your Internet subscription but you may want to bundle it together with your phone or cable subscriptions. The savings will not be as great as your other options but it can add up.

  5. Cut the cable. Some people think that they cannot live without a cable subscription when it fact, they can. If you find yourself wanting to catch the latest sports event, why not organize a get together a friend’s house (who has cable) and watch as a group? Not only will it cost you less, it will also give you a chance to bond with your peers.

  6. Eat healthy. If you are wondering how you will cut down on food costs, prioritizing the healthy food choices will do the trick. Believe it or not, the unhealthy food are sometimes the ones that cost you unnecessary money. Why not cut back on potato chips, soda, chocolate and other junk food? Concentrate on rice, beans, vegetables and oatmeal. These will fill you up without having to eat a lot. Not only as your saving, you are taking in healthier food choices.

  7. Avoid new clothes. Unless it is really necessary, do not buy new clothes. Who cares if you wear the same thing over and over again? With all the tips you can see online or in magazines, you can accessorize the same outfit and make it appear like you are not repeating your wardrobe.

  8. Buy used everything. From furniture to clothing and electronic, you may want to consider buying only used things from now on. At least, until you have paid off your debts. If you really have to buy clothes, just buy used and whatever you save should be placed in your debt payment fund.

  9. Use coupons. For some people, coupons have become their way of living. We even have reality shows dedicated to this purchasing tool. The dollar or two that you save for every purchase can really boost your credit payments.

  10. Lower car expenses. You do not have to go to the extreme by getting rid of your vehicle but you may want to stick with just one. Not only will you benefit from the sale of the second car (if you have one), you will also cut back on costs when it comes to insurance, gas, car repairs, etc. You can check how much your car will really cost you if you go to Edmunds.com. They have a true cost to own calculator that can really help you out.

You can opt to choose only a few from these or you can come up with your own set of saving strategies. Do not worry about the amount at first. No matter how small, remember that it will all add up in the end.

Pay off debt fast to avoid the negative side effects

The Bank for International Settlements published a study on BIS.org that discussed the effect of debt in general. The study revealed that when you borrow in moderation, debt can improve your personal wealth and aid in the growth of your finances. But if it is already too high, it can be destructive already. The study mentioned that for household debt, 85% of the GDP is the limit. Anything more than that can drive the consumer down.

In truth, debt can dictate how you live your life. If it eats up a huge portion of your income, you cannot do anything but comply. Even if you want to move to a new job, you need to make sure that the income is enough to pay for your debt payment fund.

But beyond all of this is the alarming effect of debt in your emotional well being. Here are some of the negative effects that you can expect from being in debt.

  • Debt stress. This is a serious problem that borrowers are facing. It can affect not just your everyday disposition, it can also affect your health.

  • Relationships. Money is a powerful influence in a marriage, or any relationship for that matter. If you are not careful, you could end up putting a serious strain in the relationship if you do not deal with your debt trouble.

  • Delay financial investments. Another effect of debt is it can delay your personal wealth. It can keep you from investing in a car, a business or a home. That will seriously set you back.

These are more are some of the reasons why you have to work hard to grow your debt payment fund. Deal with your credit situation before things get out of hand.

How To Pay Off Debt If You Are Not Paid Enough For A Job You Love

telemarketerHow’s this for a difficult scenario. You spent months after graduation stressed out about getting a job despite a tough job market. When you finally found a job opening, you are ecstatic to learn that it is a job that you know you will love to do for decades. But here’s the catch – it will not pay you enough for the type of lifestyle that you want to lead. How will you decide between your dream job and having the finances to support your dream lifestyle?

Most people will actually choose the latter. They will sacrifice their sense of personal fulfillment and happiness with work just so they can earn more money. And guess what the main reason is: to pay off debt. They will lean towards the practicality of being able to pay for their debts instead of pursuing the career that they know they love to do.

But there is some logic to pursuing the job that you love despite not giving you enough money to pay off debt. It may seem impractical but we have some sound reasoning that could help you decide. The work that you will do will take up at least 40 hours of your time every week. Imagine feeling miserable for 40 hours each week. If you think that the lifestyle you can afford will make you happy, think again. In most cases, people who come home from a bad day at work will bring that negativity with them. It will be felt by the people they live with.

But if you pursue a job that you love to do, your sense of personal fulfillment and happiness will be greater compared to the other scenario. And even if you start out with a low paying job that you are passionate about, you will most likely be more productive because of the happiness level that you have towards it.

Do not be too quick to shut out the jobs that you love to do just because it will not pay you well. There are two options for you to make ends meet so you can afford to pay off debt accounts that you owe. You can either earn more or spend less during a debt crisis.

Lower your expenses if you want to increase debt payments

The first option is for you to cut back on your expenses. If you are a new graduate, this may be easier for you. People who are older and have families will usually have a harder time changing their lifestyle to fit their low income. The longer you have grown accustomed to an affluent life, the more difficult it will be for you to make the change. But if you concentrate on the priceless benefit of doing a job that you love, it should be a sacrifice worth making.

The reason why it is difficult to make this transition is because Americans are spenders. That is according to an article published on CNBC.com. The article even cited a statement by former President George W. Bush back in 2006. Apparently, he said that the best help that Americans can give their country is if they went shopping.

In this country, everything around us encourages us to spend. But that is a lifestyle that we can no longer follow. You need to pay off debt by lowering your expenses. That will free up more money from your limited income.

To start, you need to simply concentrate on your priority expenses. According to the latest consumer expenditure data published on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website (BLS.gov), the average expense per consumer in 2012 is $51,442. It is noted to have increased by 3.5% from the previous year, 2011. Here are the top expenses that people usually spend on.

  • Housing: $16,887 (32%)

  • Transportation: $8,998 (17%)

  • Food: $6,599 (13%) (at home $3,921; away from home $2,678)

  • Personal insurance/pension: $5,591 (11%)

  • Healthcare: $3,556 (7%)

  • Entertainment: $2,605 (5%)

  • Cash Contributions: $1,913 (4%)

  • Apparel and services: $1,736 (3%)

  • Other expenses: $3,557 (7%)

If you notice, the food expense is high and that is alright. But we are wasting a lot of money on eating out. You can cut back on expenses if you only opt to cook and eat more at home. Not only that, transportation costs can find more room for savings. You can carpool with colleagues or opt to bike to work – if the distance can make it possible. There are so many ways that you can cut back on your expenses at home. And if you cannot afford, it simply opt not to spend on it. Prioritize what is important like the funds you will use to pay off debt.

Increase income to grow your credit contributions

The second option to make your low income job work for you is to set up side jobs that will earn you more income. In fact, this is common for Americans.

An article published on BostonGlobe.com revealed that Americans hold multiple jobs to help supplement their primary source of income. The article said that 4.9% of working adults hold more than one career. Half of them have one full time job and a part time job. They are called the moonlighters.

A lot of people have opted to increase their income through a second career but we encourage you to set up a passive income source to avoid burning yourself out. The article mentioned that people seek to get payment for the amount of time that they spend working on their hobbies and interest. They will spend some time doing handyman repairs, some will tutor or work on computers in their spare time. Any skill or interest that you have can be capitalized on so you can earn money on side to pay off debt without feeling too burnt out.

Here are some of your options to earn more money.

  • Freelancing. This is when you use your skill to earn money and get paid on an output basis or based on the time that you spend working on a job.

  • Passive income. There are so many options to earn a passive income. You can use a spare room in your home and rent it out. You can let other people rent out your extra vehicle. You can also convert your garage into a storage space for other people to rent out. These are options that will help you earn without necessarily having to work for it all the time. Writing a book and earning off it’s sales is also an option.

  • Earn from a hobby. If you love to garden, offer to plant and take care of the garden of your neighbors. Not only will you be going something that you are good at, you can help your neighbors cut costs on food. You can also offer to cook for colleagues and brown bag their lunch. That will help you earn extra through the lunch payment they will give you. Babysitting is also one way to earn more.

  • Teach a skill. If you are good at playing instruments, you can opt to take on student and teach them what you know. Cooking and baking classes will also work. If you love sports, this is also something that you can coach every summer.

Of course, you can always opt to simply ask for an increase from your boss. Given that it is something that you love to do, you will find the motivation to be as productive as you can be and improve your skill. That can be a leverage in negotiating for an increase.

Debt relief options for low income households

While you work on your options to increase the money that you can allocate to pay off debt, you need to choose a debt relief program to further improve your chances of achieving a debt free life. You have three options to help you out.

  • Income based repayment for student loans. This option will help you set a monthly payment on your student loans depending on the amount that you earn every month.

  • Loan forgiveness for those working in public service. This is mostly for student loans too. You may be qualified for a loan forgiveness if you work in the military or another career in public service.

  • Debt consolidation. For all the other debts that you owe, you can opt to use debt consolidation. This type of debt solution will help you restructure your payment plan so you can make lower monthly contributions towards your debts without being penalized for it. Here is a video that discusses your different options to consolidate debt.

Sacrificing a high paying job to do something that you love is rewarding. Do not worry about how you will pay off debt because you have so many options to help make it a less of a burden.

Top 10 Debt Collection Complaints Filed With The CFPB

final notice signIf you are being abused by a debt collector, you should know that you are not alone. There are thousands of consumers who have filed debt collection complaints in the past 6 months alone. These debt collection agencies make profit when they successfully get a consumer to pay off what they owe. The more they receive, the more profit or commission they will get. With that type of business model, you can assume that they will do everything they can to get debt payments. That includes implementing abusive and harassing practices.

According to a news report published on the CourtHouseNews.com this March 4, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going after 15 abusive debt collectors. The debt collection complaints revealed that they used word like “US,” “American,” “Federal,” or “State.” They have mostly misrepresented the data they have provided consumers by implying that they are connected with the government. Consumers who they call upon will naturally be intimidated to pay the debt. This is in direct violation of the law. They have forced consumers to pay for debts even when the latter have challenged the debt.

It seems that intimidation, fear and harassment are common tactics of these debt collection companies to force consumers into making debt payments. To make things worse, there are several incidents when they do not even have to pay it back in the first place.

What are the 10 most common complaints against debt collectors

There are many debt collection complaints filed by consumers and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group conducted a research that identified the top 10. They dug into the data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to see the most popular complaints filed by consumers. The report was released on February of this year by the US PIRG Education Fund to make important suggestions to the CFPB so they can enhance the regulations that will keep the debt collection industry in check.

Based on the data published on the USPIRGEdFund.org, these are the 10 most common debt collection complaints reported by consumers.

1. Debt is not mine – 25%, 2,711

The leading complaint is about debts that are not even owned by the consumer. This can either be caused by wrong information or the debt collector really intended to dupe the consumer into paying something that they really did not owe.

2. Frequent or repeated calls – 13%, 1,470

The law prohibits consumers from being harassed by debt collection calls. However, this is one of their tactics to make the life of the consumer miserable enough to force them to pay. They call repeatedly and during hours that inconvenience the consumers.

3. Not given enough information to verify debt – 13%, 1,385

Close in third place is the collection agency’s failure to provide enough information about the debt. One of the requirements for debt collectors is to provide consumers with the data that will verify the debt that is being collected. This is usually to confirm that the consumer is really liable to pay the debt.

4. Debt was paid – 11%, 1,247

The fourth of the debt collection complaints is about incidents wherein the consumer is pestered for a debt they already paid off. This can also be caused by wrong information or the company really wants to trick the consumers into paying again. This is why after completely paying off your debt, you need to ask for a document from your creditor that will prove you already paid off what you owe.

5. Attempted to collect wrong amount – 6%, 667

It is probably okay if they are collecting a lower amount but what if they are trying to collect more than what is really owed? You have to be careful about these things because they could say it was accumulated interest but in truth, they slipped in some fees and charges into your debt bill.

6. Right to dispute notice not received – 4%, 440

All consumers have the right to dispute a debt collection claim and if it is not received, that is something that they can also report. Make sure that if you send in a dispute letter, you have to issue a return receipt.

7. Talked to a third party about my debt – 4%, 414

If the debt collector talked about your debt to anyone other than you, a spouse or an authorized attorney, that is another reason to file a complaint against them. They are only allowed to call someone else to ask about your contact details – but never about the reason for it.

8. Threaten to take legal action – 4%, 378

The eighth of the debt collection complaints involve the false threat to take legal action. While they can sue you in court, you have to understand that they should not use it to bluff. If they always threaten you but you are sure they will not push through with it, you can report them to the CFPB.

9. Debt resulted from identity theft – 2%, 263

If the debt is something that was caused by an identity theft incident, you have to tell that to the debt collector while you get help from the authorities to solve the crime. If they continue to pester you about it, you can file a complaint too.

10. Contacted me after I asked them not to – 2%, 244

The last is about continuous communication by the debt collector even if the consumer said that they do not want to be called about it anymore. According to the law, the debt collection agency should comply and make only one last communication. That last attempt will be to say that they wills top calling but they will take legal action against the consumer.

Most of these debt collection complaints are already stated in the law that the FTC is implementing – which is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But although this is already in effect, a lot of debt collection agencies are violating them. The report was based on information taken from July 2013 to January 2014. That means the CFPB have to make new rules or give a more grave sanction to violators of the law.

How to protect yourself from rule breaking debt collection agencies

If you have debt and you have no means to pay it off, you should expect that debt collectors will start calling you very soon. To protect yourself from being abused, here are some tips that we have for you.

  • Do not panic. We might feel threatened, intimidated and harassed but you should not feel panic. As long as you know that you are in a real financial crisis, there is really nothing much that the debt collector can do to you.

  • Know the laws protecting you. There are many debt collection laws that you should know so you can identify the bad practices of debt collection agencies. If you know your rights, you will not be rattled by any threats or bluffs given to you.

  • Organize your debts. You should also keep your debts in order so you will know which are paid off. This will also help you identify if the debt being collected from you is bogus or a result of an identity theft.

  • File a complaint. In case you can identify with some of these debt collection complaints, you have to speak up. If the debt collector violated your rights, you can go to the ConsumerFinance.gov to file a complaint against them. If not to help you case, it will save someone in the future from being tricked by these malicious debt collection companies.

It also pays to know the different tactics of debt collectors to help you prepare for them. Here is a video created by National Debt Relief to discuss some of the tricks that debt collection agencies commit to get consumers to make debt payments.

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