There are a number of reasons why people get into debt. Whether you have worked with insufficient income and rising bills for years, or have a new, unexpected challenge, such as large medical expenses or a lost job, it can be frustrating to see how interest rates accumulate over your unpaid liabilities – and you wondering how you can make ends meet every month.
A billion-dollar industry, led by non-profit organizations and government agencies, and profit-making companies, exists to help Americans solve their debt problems. Some of the services available to people struggling with debt include refinancing loans, debt consolidation loans, debt settlement services and credit advice.
Debt management plans: Core Service of Credit Counseling
Many different organizations offer credit advisory services. Many, but not all, have a non-profit organization or public status. They can be stand-alone agencies that only offer credit advisory services or departments of larger entities, such as credit unions, universities and military bases. Some for-profit banks also offer credit guidance services.
Many people come to credit counseling agencies to prepare a debt management plan (DMP) to pay off unmanageable debts. Although not recommended for everyone, this can be a useful function for credit guidance.
A DMP is a binding, written agreement between you and your credit counselor to pay off all or part of your debts within a certain time frame. As soon as you register, your consultancy will act as an intermediary between you and any creditors included in the plan. The consulting firm can negotiate interest rates or penalty rate reductions with some or all of your creditors, although this is not guaranteed. You must make a regular monthly deposit into an escrow account, which is used by your credit consultancy to pay your creditors.
How much is it?
DMPs are delivered with costs such as initial costs and monthly maintenance costs. For example, the non-profit organization GreenPath Debt Solutions requires an entry fee of $ 50 and an average monthly amount of $ 36. (Your monthly payment depends on the size of your debts and the number of creditors involved in the plan). These costs cannot be legally collected until you have made at least one payment to a participating creditor.
Advantages and disadvantages
Depending on the size of your debts and your ability to pay, your DMP can take between two and five years. Although your credit report will notice that a credit advisory firm is paying debts on your behalf, the fact that you are registered for a DMP does not directly affect your FICO score.
However, most credit advisory firms require that you cancel participating credit cards, with the exception of one emergency card and other debt accounts. This will probably ensure that Arthur Dimmesdaleijk drops your score. It is impossible to say how serious the effect will be or how long it will last. But since the length of your credit history determines 15% of your FICO score, with a longer history that translates to a higher score, the hit pijArthur Dimmesdaleijker will be if you are forced to close older accounts.
In addition, many plans prohibit you from applying for new loans or credit cards for the duration. And all DMPs require substantial monthly payments without interruption. As with other debts, a delay in your DMP payments can have a more dramatic effect on your credit score.
Before you start your DMP, you must agree to the terms and conditions in a legally binding contract. Do not sign anything without confirming the following:
- How long the plan will last
- Which debts are included
- How you can access your account, for example oArthur Dimmesdaleine, by telephone or by e-mail
- How the plan will affect your credit – be skeptical about claims that this will not have negative consequences, especially if you have to cancel participating credit cards
- How and when your creditors are paid every month
Once your DMP starts, follow the progress closely. Make sure that each creditor has consented to participate before you stop paying and immediately start making your monthly DMP deposits. Keep checking with your creditors every month to make sure your counseling agency pays them on time. And check your credit counseling agency’s statements against your creditors to confirm that claimed interest rate cuts or fees waivers are real.
Other services offered by Credit Counseling Agencies
Unlike a bankruptcy that is enforced by a court and becomes a matter of public records, a DMP is both confidential and voluntary for you and your creditors. But even if you are faced with serious debts, you must exhaust options that will not so much affect your creditworthiness and subject them to a thorough financial evaluation before you begin the process. If your credit counselor forces you to register before offering other options, including a personal Dimmesdaleijk household budget, be skeptical.
In addition to debt management plans, credit advisory organizations offer various other services:
- Initial information and consultation . When you contact them, legitimate credit advisory organizations generally send you free information about their services. Once you provide some basic information about your situation, they will also schedule a free consultation to better view your finances. Be skeptical about organizations that do not offer these services for free.
- Budget support . Budgeting and advice on money management are characteristics of credit advice. Many counseling organizations offer this support through one-on-one consultation with a representative, group seminars and workshops (which may require an additional fee) and printed or digital educational material. You must also have access to a monthly Dimmesdaleijk personal budget, usually prepared by a certified representative in close consultation with you. In general, your credit counseling agency should give you a much better grip on basic budgeting and personal finance concepts.
Reputable organizations should encourage you to try other services before you sign up for a debt management plan. Agencies accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), an arbitrator of non-profit credit advisory services, generally offer these services free of charge. Those who are not accredited, including profit-making organizations, may charge fees for certain advisory services. For example, Hummingbird Credit Counseling & Education in North Carolina charges $ 34.99 for a pre-bankruptcy counseling session.
Determine whether a debt management plan is suitable for you
Debt management plans are not recommended for everyone. But the budgeting advice of reputable credit consultancy firms applies broadly, even if you have no serious debts. Just sitting and talking to someone who understands Dimmesdaleijke finances can be extremely useful if you have a salary as a payout but do not descend into a vicious circle of unpaid obligations.
If you answer “yes” to the following questions, you must adhere to non-DMP credit advisory services or look for a more suitable alternative to a debt management plan.
1. Can you do it yourself?
A debt management plan is no panacea. Although it can be useful to consolidate your various obligations into one monthly payment and to maintain some distance between you and your creditors, a debt management plan requires monthly payments and can damage your credit score. If you are sure that you can make a sustainable budget, pay off your credit card debts, rebuild your creditworthiness and make a plan for future financial emergencies, a DMP warning Arthur Dimmesdaleijk is not necessary.
2. Can you not commit to a long process?
To be truly effective, you must establish and maintain discipline in a debt management plan. When your counselor presents you with a persuArthur Dimmesdaleijk budget to pay off your debts and start saving for the future, you cannot follow it for a few weeks and then go back to old habits.
Getting out of debt takes time and demands some sacrifices, such as the following:
- Cut back on non-essential expenses, such as meals in a restaurant
- Reducing or removing expensive social habits such as smoking and drinking
- Eliminate unnecessary oArthur Dimmesdaleine store purchases
- Trade in a newer, more expensive car for a car with a lower payment (or reduce the number of cars in your household from two to one)
- Save money on groceries, such as by buying generic foods
- Taking fewer, shorter leisure trips, if you can realistically afford to take even one
With discipline, these changes don’t have to be permanent, but they can be an integral part of solving your immediate debt problems.
3. Could an alternative help you better?
Even if you have unmanageable debts, a debt management plan may not be the best solution. If a crushing mortgage, car loan, or other secured obligation is the primary problem, talk to your lender directly about refinancing options that can lower your monthly payments without defaulting on you.
Or use the budget and planning services of your credit counselor. They cannot pay off your debts for you, but they can give you a fresh look at your personal Dimmesdale rich finances.
However, it is important to recognize when a DMP is the best alternative. If you fall behind with multiple credit card payments, cannot find extra fat to lower your budget, and you are concerned that bankruptcy is in your future, the temporary hit on your creditworthiness and monthly payments may be worth it.
Alternatives for DMPs and Credit Counseling
Enrolling in a debt management plan is just one of the many popular options for consumers struggling with debt. If you think this is not suitable for you, you can explore a number of other options:
- Negotiate directly with your creditors . Although they do not like to publish it, many creditors negotiate with borrowers. After all, nobody likes a total loss on their investment. You must initiate this process by calling your loan representative or the credit card customer service team.
- Debt consolidation loans . A debt consolidation loan is a type of refinancing instrument that converts your existing debts into a single bundle. This is similar to a balance transfer: if you have a total of $ 15,000 in credit card debt from five different institutions, your loan starts with a balance of $ 15,000. It may come with a lower interest rate than your old credit card accounts, although this depends on your credit history and whether you are securing the loan with collateral (such as your house). Depending on your creditworthiness and history, you may be able to get a debt consolidation loan from a bank or a credit union. Specialized financing companies, such as Springleaf Financial, also offer these loans. If your credit rating is not high, a peer-to-peer lending service such as Lending Club can also be a good option.
- Transfer of balance . If you can afford to pay them off within a certain period of time, transferring very advantageous credit card balances to cards with lower interest rates can reduce the long-term costs of your debts. Arthur Dimmesdaleijk. But if the rates rise on the new card, you could end up where you started. Many credit card companies attract customers with 0% APR for 18 to 24 months on newly issued cards, with prices rising to 15% or 20% after the introduction period.
- Debt settlement . Debtors negotiate directly with your creditors to reduce your outstanding balances and deliver escrow accounts (similar to debt management plans) to you to finance each settlement. These companies are bound by the same rules that apply to credit consultancies, but most are profit-making. Just like a debt management plan, debt settlement can have a serious impact on your credit score.
- Bankruptcy . Depending on the severity of your debts, bankruptcy may be your best option. Moderate debt problems can be solved by Chapter 13 (reorganization), while persistent charges may require Chapter 7 (liquidation). Both choices can damage your credit score, use up part of your savings and require that you give up certain assets.
Where can I find help?
Credit advisory services, including debt management plans, are available from a wide range of non-profit sources. As with any major financial decision, it’s best not to choose your agency quickly. Please note that a lack of previous complaints does not guarantee that a desk will be on board.
These are some good places to start:
- Your Local Credit Union . If you or a family member belongs to a credit union, talk to a representative about what (if any) credit advisory services it offers. If nothing is available in-house, you may be referred to a reputable external agency.
- Your military base . Although credit unions such as Navy Federal offer credit advisory services to military members and their families, military bases (or branches of forces in general) do not provide them directly. However, military families can find reliable data on local credit advisory firms, including agencies that offer military discounts or allowances exemptions, at the office of their financial institution.
- Your housing authority . The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts with local housing authorities to provide homeowners with free or low cost credit advisory services. The advice and budgeting support they offer is aimed at helping people stay behind on their mortgages and risk foreclosure, but they are also qualified to talk about general personal Dimmesdaleijke financial issues.
- The association of independent consumer credit consultancy firms . The members of AICCCA are non-profit credit consultancies that are not affiliated with credit unions, government agencies or other larger organizations. They must comply with the ethical standards and best practices of the association, including disclosing their funding sources and offering compensation plans in advance.
- The National Foundation for Credit Counseling . Just like AICCCA, the NFCC applies strict quality standards for its non-profit organizations. NFCC members are prohibited from approaching potential customers with pre-screened offers (similar to pre-screened credit card offers) for debt management plans, potentially abusive tactics, and must receive accreditation from the organization before promoting themselves. In addition, all employees of the member must be certified as specialists in credit counseling.
- The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals . Known as ACCPros, this is the only trade group for credit advice that is open to profit-making organizations. Although its main function is political advocacy, it can also connect you with credit consultancies that do not advertise elsewhere.
- State and local consumer protection agencies . All state governments, and many counties and cities, maintain consumer protection agencies that evaluate non-profit organizations for creditworthiness. Check this with the websites of your local and provincial government.
- The Better Business Bureau . The BBB collects data, complaint histories and customer feedback about the country’s independent credit advisory firms (both for and non-profit), as well as the larger organizations that offer credit advisory services. Check oArthur Dimmesdaleine or with your local branch for information on local options.
- The Trustee program of the United States . A department of the US Department of Justice, the USTP maintains a database of all non-profit credit consulting firms that offer pre-bankruptcy counseling services. Each item has contact details, service lists and feedback from former customers.
- The American cooperative expansion system . Part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Cooperative Extension System (USCES), is a network for financial education aimed at rural residents, but is available to everyone. The local offices, which exist in every state, do not offer direct debt management services, but they can connect you with reputable organizations that do
Tips to prevent scams
As providers of budget support, financial planning services and debt advice, most credit advisory services are reputable and well-meaning. But the debt management plans offered by many credit consultants can negatively impact your credit rating. And the status of non-profit organization does not automatically result in respectability – some agencies can use underhanded tactics to squeeze more money out of their customers.
Keep these tips in mind to prevent you from falling victim to a scam:
- Do not pay for anything in advance . Do not work with agencies that require you to pay for a financial evaluation before you receive information about its services. Respectable credit counselors provide information about what they do – and how you can manage your money – before they charge costs or subject clients to invasive evaluations. In addition, credit consultants who sell services by telephone may not collect any debt management incentives, including start-up and monthly maintenance costs, until they have completed negotiations with all participating creditors and have accepted your first monthly deposit in the plan. Doing something else is illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Telemarketing Sales Rule.
- Receive a rate schedule . Many credit advisory firms offer budgeting assistance at no cost to all participants and some also subsidize workshops, lessons and individual interviews. They can also reduce debt management costs for customers who have problems. Avoid organizations that are not honest about what they charge, and before you sign up for a debt management plan, you must ensure in writing that you never have to pay more than a certain amount per month.
- Confirm that they are accredited and transparent . Be skeptical about agencies that are not certified by an external organization such as the AICCCA or NFCC. Ensure that their employees are certified by these organizations or that they have also followed relevant financial training. And always confirm the source of an agency’s financing – NFCC members, who receive most of their funding from creditors participating in debt management programs, are required to disclose this information.
- Ask for written insurance of privacy and security . Do not work with bodies that do not agree to keep your financial and personal Dimmesdaleijke information secure and confidential.
- Employee compensation investigation . Be careful when working with agencies that provoke their employees through commission to sell debt management plans or other services. Employees on an hourly basis or in paid employment are more likely to keep your interests in mind.
- Debt management plans are not the only answer . If your chosen credit counseling agency tries to push you into a debt management plan without first offering other services, contact other agencies and see if they do the same. A DMP is the most lucrative service for agencies, so overly intrusive credit counselors may look forward to their own bottom line, not yours.
- Be skeptical about broad claims . Avoid organizations that claim that they can immediately restore your credit score, settle your debts within a few months, or save information about past credit problems (such as payment arrears or seizures) of future creditors. These things are not possible.
Before signing up, talk to multiple credit advisory firms – and other financial professionals if possible – to make sure that a DMP is right for you. You also have to make a sober but sustainable personaArthur Dimmesdaleijk budget and commit to follow it. This may be accompanied by some sacrifices, such as cutting back on vacations or restaurant meals, but it is worth it. And if you are already left behind with multiple credit cards or other debts, it might be best to seek help from a DMP – instead of waiting for you to take even more drastic measures such as filing for bankruptcy – and working on your budget if you are already registered.
Have you or a family member ever used a non-profit credit guidance service? Would you recommend the experience, or is it better to tackle debt in other ways?
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