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3 Signs That Consolidating Debt Will Just Waste Your Time

man with credit cardsConsolidating debt is one of the solutions that can effectively solve credit problems. However, you need to understand that it is not necessarily true for everyone. Some people may find out that debt consolidation loans is the best way for them to achieve debt freedom. However, some consumers will not have the same experience.

When selecting a debt solution for your credit situation, you need to be sure that you are using the right program. If not, you may find yourself wasting your time, effort and money on a solution that does not fit your financial situation in the first place.

The truth is, consolidating your debt is logical. Why will you complicate things when you have the option to deal with just one debt instead of multiple ones?

The NewYorkFed.org revealed early this year that the household debt in the country increased by $117 billion towards the end of 2014. That means the total household debt is now at $11.83 trillion. The data revealed that the increase happened in almost all kinds of debt – mortgages ($39 billion), student loans ($31 billion), auto loan ($21 billion) and credit cards ($20 billion).

In most cases, households have all of these credit problems. Mortgages, credit cards and student loans are among the prominent debts in every American family. When you are managing your credit, you need to keep track of all these accounts, due dates, minimum payment requirement, interest rates and other charges. It can all be very confusing at times and if you are not careful with your monitoring, you can end up forgetting payments. That can lead to a late penalty charge and a possible negative effect of your credit score.

If you can relate to this problem, then consolidating debt may have already crossed your mind. But before you finalize your decision to use this debt solution, make sure that it will not waste your time first. Fortunately, there are three signs that will help you realize if this is a solution you can pursue or not.

3 signs that debt consolidation is not the right debt solution

If you need to make sure that consolidating debt is the answer to your credit difficulties, you need to make sure you do not exhibit these three signs.

You need a debt reduction.

Let us make one thing clear: debt consolidation loans do not pay off your debt. It is true that you will use the loan to pay off and close the multiple debts that you owe. But after all of that, you need to remember that you still owe the same amount of money. You simply restructured your debt so it is under one lender. If this is not enough for you, then you need to reconsider a mere consolidation of your debts.

According to an infographic created by TransUnion and published on PressPage.com, the average credit card debt during the first quarter of 2015 is $5,142. That is a huge amount to pay off. If you add to it mortgages, auto loans and student loans, you could very well be drowning in debt at this point. You need to be very honest with yourself about your ability to pay off your debt. Can you afford to pay off your loan or do you need a debt reduction?

You do not have a stable income.

One of the requirements of debt consolidation loans is a stable income. You should not only have a steady income each month – you need to be sure that you will be having it for a couple of years in the future. A benefit of consolidating debt is you can lower your monthly payment requirement. Ideally, the debt consolidation loan that you will get should have a longer payment period so you can stretch your current balance over that time. The result will be a lower payment contribution each month. This longer payment period means you should have the resources to support your contributions. A stable income is the answer to that. If you are earning an irregular income or you only have a temporary job, you need to reconsider if debt consolidation loans is the answer to your problems.

You want to get out of debt fast.

The third and last sign that you need to look out for is your intention to get out of debt fast. If you want a fast relief from your debt, you may want to look elsewhere for your debt solution. Debt consolidation sometimes take a long time to finish. This is especially true if you combined certain debts like your credit cards with your mortgage. A home loan takes more than a decade to complete. If you are retiring soon, you probably want to finish paying off your debts as soon as possible. That way, you will have enough time to save up for your upcoming retirement. According to an article published on Fool.com, four out of ten baby boomers do not have anything saved for retirement. If you are in this situation, you need to get out of debt fast so you can maximize your extra money and add it to your retirement fund.

Apart from these signs, you also have to consider other factors like the type of debts that you owe. Consolidating debt that has a low interest already may not save you money – especially if the loan you will get has a higher interest rate than your existing. Loans with prepayment penalties may also be better off left alone and not consolidated.

Settle debts instead of consolidating them

There are other options to get out of debt if you think that debt consolidation loan is not the right solution. If you need a debt reduction and you want to get out of debt because you know that your income is not stable, then you may want to consider debt settlement instead.

Settling your debts involves an agreement between you and the creditor or lender that will allow you to pay only a portion of your current balance. What you will do is to negotiate so you can pay a settlement amount that is just a percentage of your balance. Once this amount is met, the creditor or lender will forgive whatever is left of your debt. It is like paying your debt pennies for every dollar.

While this debt reduction is very appealing, there are a couple of things that you need to understand about debt settlement.

  • You need to be in a financial crisis. It is important to note that only people who are in a financial crisis can find it easy to settle their debts. No creditor or lender will take notice of your proposal to settle unless your loan is already on default – or you have gone months without paying off your loan. If they know that you can still afford to pay each month, they will not settle with you. But if you can prove that you are in a financial crisis, things will be easier for you.
  • The decision to settle is in the hands of the creditor. Regardless of how strong your proof is that you are in a financial crisis, debt settlement will be completely under the discretion of the creditor or lender. There is no law backing you up here. So if they decide not to grant you a settlement, there is nothing that you can do about it. Your creditors consider your loan payments as part of their profit. If they allow you to pay only a portion of that, they are cutting into their earnings.
  • Debt settlement can ruin your credit score. Since creditors will hardly pay attention to your settlement proposal unless you are on default, you can expect that your credit score will not go unscathed. Regardless if you are successful in negotiating a lower payment or not, you will always end up with a damaged credit score.

The road to debt freedom, whether that is through debt consolidation loan or debt settlement, will always be tough. You need to make sacrifices if you want to eventually have financial freedom. But if you choose the right debt solution, it will be easier and less damaging.

Here is a video that will help you make better decisions about your personal finances.

“I’m Gonna Get Out of Debt Or Die Trying”

Has your financial situation gotten so bad that you actually feel this way? Struggling to pay off debt can take a serious toll not only on you emotionally but even physically. The stress caused by trying to cope with debt can cause heart disease, diabetes, asthma, headaches and more. It can even shorten your life.woman drowning in debt

So what can you do if you’re desperate to get out of debt?

For one thing you could declare bankruptcy. A chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is often called a liquidation bankruptcy, would get rid of all or most all of your unsecured debts such as credit card debts, personal lines of credit and medical debts. It typically takes about three months to get through bankruptcy after you’ve filed. If you hire an attorney to help you he or she will probably charge you somewhere around $500 to $1000. Be aware that it’s not as easy to qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy as it was until just a few years owe. The rules were tightened when Congress passed The “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act” in 2005. For example, you now must attend and complete a credit-counseling course that’s been approved by the US Trustee’s office, the purpose of which is to give you an idea as to whether you really need to file for bankruptcy. There is now also a means test that would be applied to see if your income and ability to pay would exclude you from filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and force you instead into a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

A fresh start but at a cost

Bankruptcy is something that’s guaranteed in the United States Constitution as a way to give people a fresh start. And it can do just this. But that fresh start comes at a high cost. For example, a bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for 10 years. Many employers now routinely check the credit reports of prospective employees so a bankruptcy could keep you from getting a job.

Filing for bankruptcy will drop your credit score by as many as 200 to 250 points. This will make it very difficult for you to get new credit for two or even three years after the bankruptcy. When you are able to get new credit it will have a very high interest rate. Your insurance premiums will probably go up and you could have a hard time renting a house or an apartment as your prospective landlord is sure to review your credit report and your bankruptcy could be a real deal breaker.

Here, courtesy of National Debt Relief is a short video of an attorney with more information about a chapter 7 bankruptcy and what your life will belief once you file.

A better alternative

If you’d rather not have the stain of a bankruptcy in your credit reports for the next 10 years there is a better alternative. It’s called debt settlement. And it’s been used by literally thousands of people to achieve debt relief. Spoiler alert – debt settlement will also have an adverse affect on your credit score but it won’t be as severe as a bankruptcy.

Would you be a good candidate for debt settlement?Video thumbnail for youtube video How To Be A Smart Credit Card User

Unfortunately, debt settlement isn’t for everyone. To be a good candidate for debt settlement you must have a legitimate financial hardship which has caused you to fall behind on your bills or that will cause you to fall behind in the near future. You must owe at least $7500 in unsecured debt and unable see any way to pay it off in two or three years. And you must have money to send the debt settlement company each month to fund your program.

How debt settlement works

The idea behind debt settlement is pretty simple. You hire a company to get your debts paid off by offering your creditors lump sum payments but for less than your balances. In fact, in most cases debt settlement companies are able to settle debts for roughly fifty cents on the dollar. If you owed, say, $20,000 this could mean your debts would be reduced to $10,000. Just think how much easier it would be to repay that amount of debt.

You pay the debt settlement company instead of your creditors

Once you sign an agreement with a debt settlement company you will no longer have to pay your creditors. In fact, you won’t have to have any interaction with them at all. What you’ll do instead is send a check once a month to the debt settlement company. Once there is a sufficient amount of money in your account the debt settlement company will begin negotiations with your lenders.

Debt settlement will eliminate most or all your debts

As we mentioned in an earlier paragraph to be a good candidate for debt settlement you must have a lot of unsecured debt such as medical debts, credit card debts and personal lines of credit. The reason for this is that secured debts such as automobile loans and mortgages cannot be settled. There are also some types of unsecured debts that can’t be settled including spousal support, child support, alimony, tax debts and student loan debts. You can’t get these types of debts discharged in a chapter 7 bankruptcy either.

The negatives of debt settlement

While debt settlement represents an excellent way to get relief from your debts it does come at a cost. Debts that have been settled are never reported to the credit bureaus as “paid in full.” They will be reported as “settled,” “settlement” or some similar verbiage. This will drop your credit report by maybe as many as 80 points – or far fewer than if you were to file for bankruptcy. Of course, if you’ve missed payments on your credit cards or other debts your credit score is already in the tank so an 80 point hit might not make that much of a difference.

The cost of debt settlement

As a very wise man once said, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” And there is no such thing as free debt settlement – unless you do it yourself. Debt settlement companies are a business no different from an automobile dealer or an accounting firm. What the debt settlement company will cost you will depend largely on the size of your debt. Some settlement firms will take a percentage of the amount of money that they are able to save you but the better ones charge a flat fee. This fee will range from 15% to 25%. Most experts consider this to be a better option because it allows you to know going in exactly what the debt settlement company’s charges will be. Ethical debt settlement companies prorate their fees and will incorporate them into your monthly payments. However, they won’t actually take the money until all of your debts have been settled. This means that the good debt settlement companies such as National Debt Relief cost you nothing until they have settled all of your debts. Most also offer 100% satisfaction guarantees so that if you were to become dissatisfied with your program for any reason you could drop out, get all of your money back and end up not paying a single dime.

11 Questions You Absolutely Must Ask Any Debt Settlement Company

A young female business manager behind a computer talks on a mobile phone.

If you’re laboring under a big cloud of debt the idea of getting relief from it probably sounds very good. If you were able to get those debts paid off you could stop worrying about them, quit sweating every time the phone rings because you’re afraid it’s yet another debt collector calling … and get back to having a better, less stressful life.

What exactly is debt relief?

Debt relief is a sort of an umbrella term that covers several different ways to deal with debt including forbearance, debt restructuring and debt settlement.

Forbearance generally means that the lender or lenders forgive your past due interest payments so long as you start making your payments. Debt restructuring is where an existing debt is replaced with a new debt. This usually involves a reduction in your principle or a change in the terms of the debt. For example, you might consolidate your credit card debts into a new personal loan that would be repaid over five or even 10 years. This would allow the same principle (your balance) to be amortized over more time resulting in smaller monthly payments.

Debt settlement

This form of debt relief grew in popularity as a result of the Great Recession that left many people either unemployed or underemployed. The way it works is that you contact with a debt settlement company that then offers lump sum payments to your creditors to settle your debts but for much less than their balances. In fact, good debt settlement companies are usually able to settle unsecured debts such as credit card debts for about fifty cents on the dollar.

Why would lenders ever agree to settle?

Lenders can be persuaded to settle debts when they are made to believe that it’s either that or you will be forced to file for bankruptcy. This comes under the old “half a loaf is better than none” idea. Companies that hold unsecured debts understand that if you file for bankruptcy they will get nothing. This is why most of them will settle.

Questions to ask any debt settlement company

While debt settlement can be an excellent way to get debt relief, it’s important to choose a reputable company. Here are 11 questions to ask any debt settlement company to gauge its honesty and reliability.

How long have you been in this business and how much debt have you settled?stash of cash

Young companies have very little experience in settling debts and may not have settled many at all. The company you chose should have been in business for at least five years and should have settled many millions of dollars in debts.

What do you charge?

The Federal Trade Commission has outlawed upfront fees so if a settlement company tells you that you must pay something upfront, run away. No reputable debt settlement company will charge you any fees until it has settled your debts. Before your sign an agreement with a debt settlement company be sure to ask for a full disclosure of is fees in writing.

Do you pay my creditors monthly?

Honest debt settlement companies do not pay your creditors monthly. As noted above they settle debts in the form of lump sum payments. If the settlement company says that it will be making monthly payments to your creditors, big red flag!

Will this affect my credit report?

The correct answer to this is, “yes.” Debt settlement will impact your credit report and credit score. If a debt settlement company claims anything to the contrary – another big red flag.

When will you settle my first debt?

When the debt settlement company will be able to settle your first debt will depend on your creditors and the amount of money you can save for your settlements. The more time the debt settlement company takes to settle your debts the greater are the chances you will end up getting sued over one of them.

How long will this take and how much will it cost?

It’s really impossible for a debt settlement company to tell you how long it will take to settle your debts. However, under the new rules for debt relief the company should be able to give you an estimated time frame based on the amount of debt you owe and how much you are able to save for your settlements. Most of the leading debt settlement companies operate on a fee basis, which varies from 15% to 25% depending on the size of your debt. Once the settlement company and you reach an agreement as to how much of your debt it will be settling it should be able to give you a very clear idea of what it’s fee will be.

Where is my money while you’re settling my debts?

Your money should be in an escrow account held by a third-party while your debts are being settled. This account should be FDIC insured. You must have control of the account and the ability to close it and get your money back without a penalty at any time. The best debt settlement companies offer a 100% satisfaction guaranty that you can withdraw from your program at any time for any reason and not be charged a single cent.

Are there alternatives to settling my debts?

A reputable debt settlement company will explain to you that there are alternatives available to debt settlement. For example, it will tell you if you would be a good candidate for a debt management plan. It should also not discourage you from talking with a bankruptcy attorney about that option. If the debt settlement company discourages you from looking into other options that’s another big red flag.

When will I hear from you?

Reputable debt settlement companies practice transparency. This means they will keep you in the loop with updates all along the way as to the status of their negotiations with your creditors.

Does debt settlement have tax consequences?

The answer to this is also “yes.” Lenders are required by the IRS to report any settlement of more than $500. However, many lenders simply do not do this. Plus, if you can show the IRS you are insolvent you’ll probably get those taxes waived.

How do you calculate my estimated savings?

Let’s assume for the sake of the example that the debt settlement company says it will save you 50% of your debt. It must base this estimate on the total amount of debt being settled plus any fees or interest that accumulate after you enroll in its program. Plus, they must include the fees that you’ll pay before they calculate your savings. If the debt settlement company doesn’t provide a complete disclosure of the savings it estimates it can get you, tell it so long.

What debt settlement companies may not tell you

Unfortunately, there are some things that the less than reputable settlement companies may not tell you. The following video discusses five of them.

Is Debt Management Or Debt Settlement The Best Option For Dealing With Debts?

Couple Using Laptop And Discussing Household Bills Sitting On Sofa At HomeUnfortunately, it’s easy to become confused about debt management and debt settlement. There are a lot of conflicting claims out there in terms of what debt management or debt settlement could do for you. We have seen claims from debt settlement companies that they can get your debts reduced by 60% or more. This is a bald faced lie. There are legitimate pros and cons to debt management and debt settlement but the net/net is that either one can be helpful if done correctly. What this essentially means is choosing the right company (more about this later).

What is debt management?

What the term debt management usually means is going to a consumer credit counseling agency for help when you can’t pay your creditors even the minimum monthly payments required. When this is the case you will have a debt counselor that will help you organize your finances so that you can pay your lenders. This person should spend at least 45 minutes to an hour with you discussing your finances and you should ultimately have a written action plan. The best consumer counseling is free.

In the event that credit counseling won’t solve your problems your counselor will help you develop a debt management plan or DMP based on what you could afford to pay your creditors. Your counselor will contact your lenders to see if they will accept your debt management plan. If all or most of them agree to it you will no longer be required to pay them. Instead, you’ll send one check a month to the credit counseling agency and it will pay your creditors per your debt management plan. While a DMP has helped thousands of people get out of debt it’s important to understand that it generally takes five years to complete one and you will be charged a monthly maintenance fee although it’s likely be $25 or less. Plus, you’ll be required to give up your credit cards and you will be strongly encouraged to not take on any new debt until you have completed your plan. These are the reasons why nearly 50% of those people that agree to a DMP never complete their plans.

What is debt settlement?

The simplest explanation of debt settlement is that it’s where you contact your creditors and agree to make lump sum payments to settle your debts but for less than you actually owe. It will require some amount of negotiation but it’s often possible to settle a debt for 50% of its face value. To do this yourself you will need to be a tough negotiator and have the cash in hand to pay for any settlements you are able to negotiate. In fact, if you can’t pay for the settlement immediately, either via a wire transfer or certified cashier’s check, it’s unlikely that any lender will agree to settle with you. You also need to be at least four or five months behind in your payments and be able to prove to your creditors that you have a serious financial hardship and that if they refuse to settle, you will be required to declare bankruptcy. You don’t actually have to be really close to filing for bankruptcy but you need to be able to convince your lenders that this is a real possibility.

Hiring a debt settlement company

The harsh truth is that people who are seriously in debt rarely have enough money just sitting around they could use to pay for any debts they can settle. In addition, many people just can’t face up to the idea of trying to negotiate with their lenders. When this is the case, the best option is probably to hire a debt settlement company. Naturally, this would cost you money as no reputable debt settlement company is going to work free. However, the money that one of these companies saves you should more than offset its charges. Some debt settlement companies charge a percentage of what they are able to save you. The reputable ones tend to charge a flat fee of 15% to 25% depending on the amount of your debt. Let’s say that you owe $20,000 and the settlement company charges you the maximum of 25%. This means its fee would be $5000. However, if it is able to reduce that $20,000 down to $10,000 through debt settlement you would come out $5000 ahead even after paying the $5000 fee. In addition, reputable debt settlement companies don’t charge anything until they have settled all of your debts and you have approved all their settlements. Some such as National Debt Relief have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, which is that if you are dissatisfied for any reason at any time you can cancel out of your program and you won’t be charged a single dime.

Choosing a debt settlement company

There were times when the Internet was like the wild West and some debt settlement companies were the guys in the black hats – charging big upfront fees, failing to deliver on their promises, closing up shop and then reappearing in a few months under a different name. The FTC (Fair Trade Commission) has clamped down on many of these companies but there are still some out there so you need to be careful in choosing one. Here are some of the criteria to use when evaluating a debt settlement company.

  • Does it belong to the Better Business Bureau? If so what is its rating?
  • Has it been in business for more than five years?
  • Does it belong to the American Fair Credit Council, which is the watchdog of the debt settlement industry?
  • Does it have a lot of online reviews you could read?
  • Does it not charge any upfront fees?
  • .Are its counselors friendly and seem to really want to help you instead of just trying to sell you their services?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions then you’ve probably found a good, reputable, ethical debt settlement company to help you.

Get everything in writing

You’ll have an initial discussion with a counselor at the debt settlement company who will discuss your options and help you decide if debt settlement would be your best choice. In some cases the two of you may decide the answer to this is “no” and that you would be better off getting a debt consolidation loan, going with consumer credit counseling or in a worst-case scenario filing for bankruptcy. If you do decide that debt settlement is your best option the settlement company will send you a contract or agreement to sign. It should set out in detail what the debt settlement company will do, what you will be required to do, the terms of your debt settlement plan and how much it will cost you. This agreement should be written in clear, easy-to-understand language. If not, you might want to find a different debt settlement company, as those “bad guys” will often use tiny print and confusing, incomprehensible language to try to hide their fees. If the agreement is written in clear language but you still are not sure you understand everything it might pay to spend a few hundred dollars to hire an attorney to review the agreement for you. This is money that could be very well spent.

How To Negotiate With A Debt Collection Agency

man shouting at phoneIf one or more of your debts has gone to a collection agency, we don’t have to tell you how nasty things can get. Debt collectors are generally paid on commission. If they’re unable to collect on your debt this is basically money out of their pockets`. This gives them a powerful incentive to stay on you until you pay up. There are things that debt collectors are prohibited from doing by law such as contacting your employer without your permission or calling you early in the morning or late at night. Once a debt collector has contacted you you can send the company a cease and desist letter demanding that it not contact you again. When you do this it’s allowed by law to contact you only once more to tell you that it won’t be contacting you again or to what legal action it intends to take such as suing you. However, in practice a debt collector can continue to harass you because your only recourse is to file a complaint against the company with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or to file a lawsuit of your own.

You could reduce the amount you owe

The only good news if you’re being hassled by a debt collector is that you can negotiate a debt collection settlement. This means that you would not pay the total amount you owe but instead you might pay 50% or even less. Your credit reports would list this as negative information but it will show that at least you paid much on your debt as you could. Your credit report will no longer show your debt as “outstanding” but as “settled,” “settlement” or “settled for less than full balance” — depending on the individual credit bureau.

Step one

The first step before you contact that debt collection agency is to figure out how much you can afford to pay. This means you should carefully review your budget. The goal here is not to offer or to settle for more than what you can afford. Of course, when you contact the debt collection agency you will want to offer less than this amount. And when you begin negotiations, make sure that you don’t provide any information about your bank account, references or anything about your employment.

Step two

If you are able to negotiate a settlement, the next step is to request that the debt collector removes all information from your credit reports related to the fact that the debt was settled. While the collection agency cannot remove any negative information that was added to your credit file before it received the debt, it can remove any information that the collection agency added to your report after it got the debt. Then go online and review your credit reports to make sure that the collector did remove the negative information. If you’re not familiar with the three credit reporting bureaus they are TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.

Step three

This will probably be your final step. It will be to get a written agreement before you pay the collector anything. In fact, you might want to hire an attorney that does consumer law to check out the settlement agreement that you’ve reached. In either event, the agreement should include what you have said you would pay, whether you will pay it over time or in a single sum, and when the payments or the lump sum payment is due. It should also include whether you will make the payment via a cashier’s check or electronic funds transfer. Do not give the collector your personal check as this will give him or her all the information needed to sue you and take money out of your account.

Your settlement agreement should also include any debt concessions that have been made by the collection agency and any conditions that would violate the agreement and what would be the consequences if a violation were to occur. Don’t sign it until it contains everything to which you agreed and you fully understand the document. Make a copy of the agreement yourself after you sign it and put it away somewhere safe.

Here’s a brief video courtesy of National Debt Relief that underscores the things that are important when negotiating with a debt collector.

 

If the collector refuses to negotiate

In the event that the debt collector won’t negotiate, your best option would be to contact the initial creditor that sent your debt to the collector. Maybe that creditor would be willing to compromise with you. You could also suggest to the debt collector that if he or she refuses to settle you will be forced to file for bankruptcy. This could motivate the collector to negotiate with you and settle your debt for less than you owe.

If you don’t feel you’d be a good negotiator

If you don’t feel that you would be good at negotiating with a debt collector, your only recourse will be to hire a consumer law attorney to do this for you. Of course, this may not be worthwhile unless it’s a very big debt.

Hire a debt settlement company

If you’ve been unable to make payments on multiple debts – whether they’ve gone to collection are not – your best option could be to hire a debt settlement company. Companies such as National Debt Relief have counselors who are experienced at debt negotiation, have good working relationships with lenders and can almost always negotiate better settlements that you could do yourself. Plus, they know how to handle debt collectors. When you work with a debt settlement company this will stop phone calls from your lenders and any harassing phone calls from debt collectors. You will be required to send the money to the debt settlement company each month that you would’ve paid your creditors. The company should deposit this money into an escrow account that you control. When it successfully settles a debt it will request that you release the money to pay for it. If you’re typical there won’t be enough money in your escrow account to pay for all your settlements. When this is the case, the debt settlement company will offer you a payment plan. Assuming you accept the plan it will take you anywhere from 24 to 48 months to complete it. But just think. You will be totally debt free. And how good would that feel?

How debt settlement companies charge

The one thing an honest debt settlement company won’t ever do is force you to pay any up front fees. Instead, it will either charge you a flat fee for its services or take a percentage of the money it saves you. In either event, you will pay less than if you were to pay off the debt. In most cases a debt settlement company will be able to settle your debts for 50% of what you owe. Even after it’s assessed its fee you will end up paying less than the total amount of your debts.

Before you sign up with one of these companies be sure to do the math so you will know exactly what it will cost you. And again, get everything in writing and make sure you understand any documents you are required to sign.

Debt Relief Options For Different Financial Situations

Debt Relief Options For Different Financial SituationsThere are many debt relief options to help you get out of your current financial crisis. Of course, it all begins with you understanding what got you in this situation in the first place. This will help keep you out of debt and also allow you to achieve debt freedom a lot faster.

Once you have identified that, you may want to take a look at your finances and the type of debts that you owe. There is no shortage of debt solutions. However, you need to know the right program that will suit your problems best. There is no one formula and to maximize your limited resources, you need to base your debt relief program on how much you can afford to pay your debts.

There is a specific solution depending on your financial situation. Each of our status is unique but we usually fall under one of three categories when it comes to our debts.

Before you find the category and debt solution that suits you best, take a look at your budget first. Identify your income and expenses (excluding debts) and get the difference. Whatever is left will be the disposable income that you can allot for your debt payments.

Debt relief options for people with money for minimum payments

The first financial situation is having enough disposable income to cover your minimum payments. The extreme scenario is having a little deficit on your monthly bills – but nothing significant. If this is your financial standing, you can afford to use a debt consolidation loan to solve your problems. The benefits of this includes the following:

  • Lower monthly payment

  • Possible lower interest rate

  • Longer payment period

  • Single monthly payment

  • Does not affect your credit score.

What you have to know, which is important too, is that this option will not reduce your principal balance. The lower monthly payment is possible because your current balance is stretched over a longer term. The lower interest rate is also responsible for this. But in terms of reducing what you owe, there will be none of that. You will still end up paying for everything that you owe. This means a steady and stable income is needed. You should also boost your savings so that you can meet your debt payments without a problem. This program takes 5 years or more to complete so you need to be sure that your income can keep up with such a long payment period.

There are two popular ways to consolidate your debts.

Debt consolidation loans. This option involves getting a low interest loan that you will get to help you pay for your multiple debts. Once the loan is approved, you can simply go to your creditors, pay them all completely and just concentrate on the single payment that is required from this one loan. To maximize this option, you need to make sure you will get a low interest – which means you either have a good credit score or a collateral.

Debt management. In case you do not have the ideal credit score or collateral, you can use debt management instead of getting a loan. This option allows you to work with a credit counselor who will help you come up with a debt management plan that will contain your proposed lower payment terms. The counselor will present this to the creditor. When approved, you will send a single monthly payment to the counselor who will take charge of distributing the funds to your different creditors.

With the latter, you need to be careful about your choice of company. Make sure you brush up on your knowledge of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to help you identify the legitimate companies from the not.

Best debt solution when you cannot make your minimum payments anymore

In case your financial situation cannot afford to meet your minimum payments, you obviously need a more drastic debt reduction plan. This is when debt settlement becomes the better option for debt relief. The whole idea of this program is to convince your creditor that you are in a financial crisis. You want them to allow you to pay only a portion of your debts and have the rest forgiven. This program will give you the following benefits:

  • Eliminate collection calls (if you work with a debt negotiator).

  • Reduce your current balance significantly.

  • Get you out of debt in 2-4 years.

  • Possible elimination of interest rate and other charges.

The catch here is that you need to default on your payments in order to convince your creditors that you are in a financial crisis. This would mean you have deal with a damaged credit score temporarily. Instead of paying your creditors, you will send your money in a secured account and grow it there until you and the creditor comes into an agreement.

While you can do this on your own, you will get a lot of benefits by getting a professional to work with you. The debt negotiator will bring their expertise into the whole process. You will also be left in peace because part of their service includes taking over communication calls. Just make sure that they are certified by authority training organizations like the IAPDA or International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

Credit relief for people in severe financial conditions

In case your conditions are quite severe, your last resort option is to file for bankruptcy. This means your income is barely enough to pay for your basic necessities or you have very little income coming in (or none at all). Most financial advisers will tell you to exhaust other options first before opting for this one. This will have severe effects on your credit score and that will make it even more difficult to recover after getting debt freedom. Having bankruptcy on your credit report will make it hard for you to get financial assistance for a home or a business that you want to put up.

When you file your petition, the court will assign the type of bankruptcy that you qualify for. This involves the means test. If your income is lower than the state average, you can qualify for Chapter 7 wherein your assets will be liquidated and anything that does not get paid will be discharged. If your income is above the average, you qualify for Chapter 13. This means you will be subjected to a repayment plan. This type of bankruptcy is not so different from debt settlement.

The US Courts website hold a lot of information about bankruptcy that will help you understand the whole process. It is best to gather information first so you know your options very well. That will help you make smart choices about your debt solution.

Consult with a debt relief expert to discuss all your options

National Debt Relief, a BBB accredited business, has debt relief experts standing by during extended business hours to explain all your debt relief options and find a plan that is right for you and your specific financial situation. You get a free debt analysis with no obligation and no judgment. Click here to speak with a debt relief expert or call 888-703-4948 today.

“Should I Choose Debt Management Or Debt Settlement?”

when debt settlement makes senseIf you’re being harassed by your lenders or collection agencies, you may be wondering which would be of most help – a debt management plan or debt settlement. While both options could help, each has its own pros and cons.

How To Get A Debt Management Plan

Debt management plans (DMPs) are usually offered by what’s called consumer credit counseling agencies. The best of these agencies are nonprofits such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and Money Management International (MMI). The NFCC has member agencies in most cities and towns. Money Management International has branch offices in many areas. If you can’t find an NFCC or Money Management International office near you, you could go online and find one. However, it pays to be careful of online credit counseling companies as some of them are outright frauds.

How a DMP works

The goal of a debt management plan is to help you manage your debts until you can get them paid off. Once you have chosen a credit-counseling agency, it will analyze your finances and help you create a debt management plan. Your counselor would then work with your creditors to restructure your debts and reduce your interest rates to make your payments more affordable. Nonprofit agencies usually offer a free initial one-hour consultation and then charge a minimal amount such as $25 per month until you have completed your plan.

The pros and cons of a DMP

A debt management plan is a form of debt consolidation in that once your lenders sign off on your plan, you won’t be paying them any longer. You’ll pay the credit-counseling agency instead. This means you would make just one payment a month, which should be lower than the payments you’re now making. The downside of a debt management plan is that you would have to surrender all your credit cards and not get any new ones until you finish your plan. You will also have to make all of your monthly payments when they are due or your plan could be canceled.

How debt settlement works

A debt settlement company will negotiate with your creditors to get your balances reduced so that you would typically be out of debt in 24 to 48 months and pay back only a fraction of what you owe.

Here’s a short video explaining the process:



The pros and cons of debt settlement

The pros of debt settlement is that it’s the only way to get your debts reduced, which usually means getting out of debt quicker than with a debt management plan. You wouldn’t be harassed by lenders or debt collection agencies any longer and would make only one payment a month, which in this case would be to the debt settlement company. The cons or downside of debt settlement is that you would have to stop making payments to creditors and this would definitely affect your credit score. However, the damage would not be as severe as if you had filed for bankruptcy.

Debt management versus debt settlement

Which of these would be your best option? That’s a decision only you can make. However, many families have found that debt settlement is a better solution as it’s a way to get debts reduced. In comparison, if you owed $15,000 and chose credit counseling, you’d still owe the $15,000 and it would definitely take you longer to pay it off then if you had your balances reduced to $7,500.

10 Things It’s Important To Know Before Choosing Debt Settlement

woman looking at documentsIf you’re seriously in debt and by that we mean you owe $10,000, $15,000 or more, you’re probably lying awake at night wondering how in the world you’re ever going to get out from under that burden. Fortunately, you have several alternatives such as a debt consolidation loan, consumer credit counseling, debt settlement or filing for bankruptcy. While you might be familiar with debt consolidation loans or even consumer credit counseling, you might not exactly understand what debt settlement is and whether or not it would offer you a good way out of that debt burden. If this is the case, here are things you need to know about debt settlement.

1. What exactly is debt settlement?

Debt settlement is sometimes called debt negotiation or debt arbitration. It’s where your lenders accept less money than you actually owe but agree to treat the debt as paid in full.

2. How a debt settlement program works

The way a debt settlement program works is that when you sign up, you make monthly payments to the debt settlement company, which is deposited into a trust account. You are then not required to make any more payments to your creditors. Only you can manage your trust account and you do this through a secure login. When you have deposited enough money into your account, the debt settlement company will begin negotiations with your creditors.

In these negotiations, the debt settlement company will work with your creditors or collection agencies to settle your debts for sums that are acceptable to both you and your creditors. Once the settlement company has settled on an amount with your creditors, you then pay off the settlement either in installments or as a lump sum. Debt settlement usually means a substantial reduction in the amount of your outstanding debt. However, how much of a reduction that you get will depend mostly on how good the debt settlement company is.

Here’s a short video that explains a bit more about debt settlement and how much of a reduction you could expect based on the type of your debt.

3. When it makes sense to choose debt settlement

  • There are certain circumstances where debt settlement makes sense. They are:
  • You can’t pay your bills
  • You have unsecured debts
  • You could repay if your debts are reduced
  • You’re thinking of declaring bankruptcy
  • You’re five to six months behind in your payments

4. Debt settlement is legal

There is nothing at all that’s illegal about debt settlement. In fact, it is one of the most popular options for paying off debts. Unfortunately, there are swindlers that have made money off people struggling with debt. Fortunately many of them have been shut down because of their failure to comply with state and federal laws.

5. Why lenders accept debt settlement offers

If a lender accepts a debt settlement offer it is forgiving a part of your debt. This means it’s losing money on the deal. So why would a lender agree to work out a debt settlement? It’s because they are smart people. They understand that when your finances are in very bad condition, you could decide to file for bankruptcy. In this case, your creditors would recover very little if any money from you. This makes debt settlement a better deal for them because they will get back at least a significant part of what you owe.

6. The biggest pros and cons of debt settlement

The biggest pro of debt settlement is that you will have your debts reduced and you will no longer have to put up with debt collectors. In addition, debt settlement can help you avoid the hazards of bankruptcy, which can be severe. As an example of this, if you were to file for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, your credit score would probably drop by 180 to 200 points, you will have a tough time getting any new credit for two to three years and the bankruptcy will stay in your credit report for 10 years.

The biggest con to debt settlement is that your credit score may drop although it won’t be as severe as if you had filed for bankruptcy. The reason for this is that any time you don’t pay back the full amount of the debt, your lenders will report the account as “paid as agreed” or “paid as settled” to the credit reporting bureaus. And this will stay in your credit report for seven years. However, if you’re already having a serious problem with debt, this might not be that big a negative.

7. How long  debt settlement usually takes

How long it would take you or a debt settlement company to settle your debts will depend on how many debts you have, the type of debts and the amount of money you would have to pay for your settlements. In general, debt settlement programs require two to three years. However, the more you owe, the longer it will take. For example, if you owe $10,000 or more, it might take you two to four years to complete your program.

8. How to know you would be eligible for debt settlement

Debt settlement isn’t for everyone and although it can be beneficial, not everyone will qualify. However, it is likely that your lenders will agree to settle your debts if you have defaulted on a loan, are continuously missing payments and have some source of income. You would also likely be able to have your debt settled if you have a very large amount of debt and are facing a financial hardship.

9. Why choosing a debt settlement company could be better than doing it yourself

You might be able to do debt settlement yourself, depending on what kind of person you are. You need to be patient, a good negotiator and able to understand complicated legal documents. Plus, you must have the cash available to pay for any settlements you are able to negotiate because that’s one of your chief bargaining tools – that if the lender will settle with you for less than you owe, you will send immediate payment. If you don’t have the requisite cash on hand to pay for your settlements or if you don’t feel that you would be good at negotiating with lenders, your best option would be to turn your debts over to a professional debt settlement company.

10. How to select  good debt settlement company

There are numerous debt settlement companies available via the Internet but as noted previously, some of them are swindlers. Here are some tips that could help you select a good and ethical one.

  • Does the company require you to pay an upfront fee? It is actually illegal for debt settlement companies to charge upfront fees but some will try. Avoid them at all costs.
  • How much does the debt settlement company charge? Ethical debt settlement companies will tell you upfront how much they charge for their services. If fact the good ones won’t charge you anything until they have settled your debts to your satisfaction and presented you with a payment plan that you approve.
  • Read reviews. There are reviews available of all the top debt settlement companies. Check them out to make sure that most of the reviews are positive. Some of them will be negative as that’s just the nature of the business – it’s impossible to make everyone happy when it comes to money and debt.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau. The top debt settlement companies will be members of the Better Business Bureau and will have a rating of at least an A.
  • Make sure it’s licensed in your state. Not all debt settlement companies are licensed in every state. Be sure to check to make sure the company you’re thinking of using is licensed in your state.
  • Be certain to understand your contract. Your contract with a debt settlement company should be clear and easy to understand. If the one you’re offered is complex, complicated and difficult to understand you should either take it to a friend or an attorney for help or find another company.

Do You Have What It Takes For DIY Debt Settlement?

woman drowning in debtIf you feel as if you were drowning in a sea of debt and saw a sign advertising “bankruptcies for as little as $500″ you might be very tempted to call that attorney and say “sign me up.” However, this could be a very serious mistake. A bankruptcy will stay in your credit report for up to 10 years and in your personal file for the rest of your life. Once you file for bankruptcy it will be at least two to three years before you will be able to get new credit. And when you are able to get credit it will have a very high interest rate. You may even have to pay more for your auto insurance, your utilities and your rent.

A better option

If you’re five months or more behind in your credit card and loan payments a better option might be to settle those debts yourself. This will cost you less than hiring a professional to do it for you and puts you in control of the settlement process. However, many people won’t try DIY debt settlement because they just don’t want to have to interact with banks, collection agencies and other creditors. DIY debt settlement can seem like it would be a very scary experience and you may have heard that it can be a brutal process. And it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. DIY debt settlement requires hard work, persistence and the willingness to deal with debt collectors for months or even years.

The goal

Of course, the goal of debt settlement is to settle your debts for less than you actually owe. In fact, if you have the guts, time and negotiating skills you should be able to settle your debts for 50% or even 40% of what you owe.

What you need to know

Debt collector hollering into micBefore you decide to try to settle your debts yourself, there are some things you need to know. First, it will probably be a time-consuming and frustrating process. You will have to be ready to field calls from angry lenders and possibly even debt collection agencies. Debt settlement will damage your credit though not as badly as a bankruptcy. Many financial experts believe that a bankruptcy will drop your credit score by as many as 200 points, while debt settlement might reduce it by only 140 points.

How to determine if debt settlement is for you

The first important question you need to ask yourself is whether debt settlement would be your best option. To answer this question you will need to look at your whole financial picture and alternatives such as a family loan or consumer credit counseling.

How to do debt settlement

As noted above, you will probably have to wait anywhere from three to five months before you initiate negotiations with your lenders. The reason for this is because they are usually unwilling to negotiate until they believe that if they refuse to settle you will file for bankruptcy and they will then get nothing.. Many experts say that the best way to begin is by writing a simple letter stating that you had run into financial problems, that your situation had improved somewhat and that you wanted to settle your debts. You should offer a partial payment of each debt if the lender agrees to remove the delinquent payments and collections from your credit report. Be sure to ask each lender to sign and send back the letter. This way you would have a paper trail in the event you needed to prove that the lender had agreed to settle for the amount you offered.

A small silver lining

While debt settlement will have a negative affect on your credit, there is a small silver lining. If you can take your outstanding balances down to zero, this might help mitigate the damage to your credit because 30% of your FICO score is determined by how much you owe. Also, many lenders will not provide credit to people who have outstanding delinquencies. So if you can settle your debts, this can put you in a position to start rebuilding your credit.

Settling debts like a pro

If you feel you have what it takes to settle your debts yourself, here are some tips that could help.

1. Talk first to an expert.

Get some expert advice from a tax accountant before you plunge into DIY debt settlement. This is because there it could have tax implications.

2. Write out a timeline

You want to settle your debts as fast as possible as this increases your chances of success and cuts the risk that you would end up being sued. The ideal is 12 months or less and you should never go beyond 24 months. Take a hard, realistic look at your finances and assets to determine how quickly you could come up with the money you will need to make the lump sum payments that will be required to settle your debts.

3. Find the money

Your chances of successfully settling your debts will increase if you can find assets or other ways to come up with the money you will need. For example if you have a motorcycle sitting in the garage or a second car that’s not absolutely necessary, think about selling it. You might also have collectibles such as coins, antiques and baseball cards you could sell. Or you might consider refinancing your mortgage, getting a loan from a family member or taking on a second job.

4. Ditch the emotions

If you’re you’re typical, you may feel shame, guilt and fear about debt you can’t manage and collection agencies and banks will try to take advantage of those emotions. Forget all this and treat the settlement as if it were a business transaction. Also, try not to get angry if you are turned down or if a lender makes a ridiculous counteroffer. Remember, it’s not about the emotions. It’s about your money.

5. Create a system

If you’re average, you will have about six accounts that you will need to settle. Multiply this by several calls a day – especially if there is one or more collection agencies involved – and you can see that you will be receiving a lot of calls. You might want to assign those people a silent ring tone on your cell phone to help manage the calls. You might also get collection calls routed to another phone – a second cell phone, a Skype account or a magicJack. Then you can listen to those messages and return the calls on your own schedule.

6. Explain the problem

There’s no way you’re going to be able to settle your debts unless you have a real hardship. This needs to be something such as you lost your job or your spouse or got hit by a tornado. It’s best if you can detail your situation so that your lenders and debt collectors will understand just how underwater you are. For example, if you’re trying to settle a credit card debt you may not need a lot of evidence. But if you’re trying to negotiate on a second mortgage, you may have to provide copies of bills and even tax documents.

7. Get it all in writing

Always get everything in writing before you pay a cent. This is especially important if you reach an agreement with the original creditor or a collection agency over the phone. If you fail to do this, the amount of money you thought would take care of your debt might end up being counted as just a partial payment. Understand that when talking to a debt collector, he will say anything to get you to pay. It’s up to you to not pay anything until you have the entire settlement in writing.

Student Loan Debt Settlement: What You Need To Know About This Debt Solution

hands chained while holding coinsStudent loan debt settlement is one of the options for those who are struggling with their debt payments. But while it is an option, you need to possess the right qualifications before you can opt for this debt solution.

Debt settlement is when you pay your creditors with a lump sum payment that is usually smaller than your current balance. You will convince the lender or creditor to accept this smaller amount and whatever it cannot cover will be considered forgiven. There are many techniques to get them to agree to this. One is to tell them that if they will not agree to settle with you, you have no other choice but to opt for bankruptcy. Most of the time, people going through debt settlement are on the brink of bankruptcy.

In student loan debt settlement, you cannot use the bankruptcy argument. That is because student debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. It is one of the debt types that will not be affected when you file that you are bankrupt. This makes the settlement process a bit more complicated as a student loan debt relief.

Current predicament of graduates and their student debt

Settling your debt becomes an option for consumers when they have stopped paying their monthly obligations or they are just about to do so. The only way that they can qualify for this debt solution is when they are in a real financial crisis.

Well if the qualification is a financial crisis, then a lot of consumers and new graduates will qualify for debt settlement. Based on the information from the Student Aid website, the delinquency statistic for the past two quarters are as follows:

Direct Loan Portfolio.

  • In Q3 of 2013, out of the 27.8 million student loan borrowers, 2.1 million have defaulted on their student loan. The amount of delinquent loans is $30.5 billion of the total $569.2 billion.

  • In Q4 of 2013, out of the 29.2 million student loan borrowers, 2.2 million have defaulted on their student loan. The amount of the delinquent loans is $33.8 billion of the $609.1 billion total debt.

  • The percentage of direct loan delinquents in Q4 slightly went down to 7.53% from 7.55% of Q3.

Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL)

  • In Q3 of 2013, out of the 22.9 million FFEL borrowers, 4.4 million have defaulted on their student loan. The amount of delinquent loans is $58.8 billion of the total $429.5 billion.

  • In Q4 of 2013, out of the 22.5 million FFEL borrowers, 4.4 million have also been delinquent on their student loan. The amount of the delinquent loans is $59.7 billion of the $423 billion total debt.

  • The percentage of FFEL delinquents increased in Q4 to 19.5% from 19.2% in Q3.

Source: National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) or http://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/fsawg/datacenter/library/PortfoliobyLoanStatus.xls

The report defines the default as loans that are over 360 days delinquent. Overall the percentage of delinquent borrowers slightly decreased from 12.8% in Q3 to 12.7% in Q4. Although there is a decrease, it is too small to be considered a real improvement.

And when it comes to improvement, the job market does not give much confidence. Based on the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market in October was not as promising as we hoped it will be. This is probably because of the government shutdown and the persisting issue about the debt ceiling. The highlights of the report for the month of October are as follows:

  • Civilian labor force decreased by 720,000.

  • The unemployed for more than 27 weeks or more is at 4.1 million.

  • Part time employees changed slightly to be 8.1 million.

  • 815,000 are discouraged workers – meaning they are not looking for a job because they feel that there is no job for them.

Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

How to settle your student loans?

The statistics above gives us reason to believe that the borrower’s ability to pay the student loan is not improving at all. If the job market does not improve soon, the number of borrowers falling behind on their payments could increase. This means more people may look into student loan debt settlement to help with their monthly payments.

But how exactly can you use debt settlement for student loans? FinAid.org defines it as offering a lump sum payment for a portion of the debt that equivalents the full payment. The site is firm to say that it is not a new payment plan. There are two ways that the US Department of Education want to get their settlement payment.

  • Lump sum payment to be received within 90 days of the offer.

  • Installment payments that has to be completed within the fiscal year (October 1 to September 30).

Here are the other important facts that you need to know about student loan debt settlement.

  • The US Department of Education will not entertain settlement offers from debts that are involved in fraud or are results of a court judgement.

  • The US Department of Education will not settle for anything less than the default claim on a FFELP loan or principal balance of a direct loan. They will also not accept anything less than the recovery rate (percentage of disbursements). Most of the time, they accept at least 115% of the default claim or loan balance – but they can accept lower than that if the default is recent.

  • The US Department of Education considers settlement offers together with the cash flow being received from income tax refunds or wage garnishments.

  • Delinquent borrowers are advised to begin their negotiations by offering to pay half of the current amount owed less the amount of the default claim.

  • Debt collection agencies are authorized to agree to settlement that also result in the waiving of collection fees, 90% of the principal and interest balance or the full principal balance and half of the accrued unpaid interest.

Tips when settling your student debt

If there is one thing that you need to remember, it is that student loans need to be repaid at all cost. Obviously, settling student loans will not offer much debt reduction compared to other types of debt. But if that is what will get you out of debt, you may want to go through with it. A small reduction is better than nothing. But whatever settlement agreement you go into, make sure that you remember these tips:

  • Get everything in writing. It is very important that you specifically ask them to include in the document that the rest of your debts will be forgiven once you have paid the settlement fund.

  • Never agree to an amount that you cannot afford to pay. If you are dealing with debt collectors, they usually profit from commissions on the settlement fund that you will both agree on. So expect them to try and get more out of you.

  • Call the US Department of Education if you feel like the negotiation with debt collectors are going nowhere.

  • Know about the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act). Although the employees of the US Department of Education is not under this law, the debt collection agency that they will hire is. Do not let yourself be abused or bullied into paying more than what you can afford.

The settlement fund is ideally something that you need to possess already so you can successfully settle your dues before the time limit. If you do not have the money, you can opt to borrow from a friend or relative to help you out. If you get them to agree, you can lower your debt amount and help control the interest rate on your new loan.

You can also use your tax refund and have it considered as part of the settlement – but only if the release falls under the 90 days period after you make the settlement offer.

In the end, student loan debt settlement is effective for people who are in a real financial crisis and cannot afford their monthly payments. But do not expect too much of it and make sure you have a plan in place for the settlement fund that you have to pay off.

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