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Debt relief comes in many forms — credit counseling, debt consolidation loans, settlement and even bankruptcy. Each solution will help you get out of debt, but the long term impacts and fees can vary greatly. Understand the myth and reality behind your debt relief options.
Myth: All credit counseling programs are the same.
Reality: Unfortunately, there are people and companies out there that make a living taking advantage of people in financial trouble. Please be careful. Please do your homework — check around; ask questions. Beware of hidden fees. If a company requires you to make a payment to them (a payment that they'll keep) before they will make payment to your creditors — find another company. For more information, read the U.S. Federal Trade Commission article Fiscal Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor.
Myth: If I check with multiple Credit Counseling Agencies (CCAs), I may find one with a lower creditor payment than another.
Reality: The creditor benefits you will receive on a debt management program are standardized within the industry. Agencies providing the CareOne service, as industry leaders, work with thousands of creditors on your behalf, allowing efficient and accurate processing of your payments and benefits.
Myth: If a CCA is non-profit it must be reputable.
Reality: There are more than a thousand credit counseling agencies in the United States, having very different service levels, fee structures, and reputations. Find out if the service has member access by phone and online, electronic debt repayment processing, and 24/7 customer service. Also, check out your local Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) for complaints.
Myth: A debt consolidation loan is the best way for a homeowner to get out of debt.
Reality: For some homeowners the answer can be yes. But it will depend on several factors, such as the amount of equity in your home, the current interest rate on the mortgage, and the value of your property. However, if you are having trouble paying your credit card debt as it is, rolling it all together in with the security of your home could be a risk not worth taking.
Myth: Debt settlement is a good, new alternative to get out of debt.
Reality: If you still can't afford your reduced monthly payment with credit counseling then debt settlement may be an option. Like bankruptcy, debt settlement may have a lasting impact on your credit report which will affect your ability to get credit at favorable interest rates. Fees for this service vary significantly from company to company, so do your homework. For the differences between debt consolidation and debt settlement, see the Wikipedia entry about debt settlement and the article Debt Consolidation Company vs. Debt Settlement Company.
Myth: Bankruptcy isn't such a bad alternative.
Reality: If you still can't afford your reduced monthly payment with credit counseling then bankruptcy may be an option. Bankruptcy will have a lasting impact on your credit report (10 years). Filing bankruptcy may also be the most expensive alternative — if you decide to buy a car or a house your interest rates could dramatically increase (more than double). Also, the 2005 bankruptcy reform law has made it more difficult to file for bankruptcy and there are stricter rules in the bankruptcy process. For more information about bankruptcy, see the U.S. Courts Bankruptcy Basics webpage and the American Bankruptcy Institute Overview of Bankruptcy.
Your Debt-to-Income Ratio is a crucial personal financial health indicator. Find out how to calculate it and what it means to you.
Regardless of whether you binge on shopping or simply use credit cards to make ends meet, there may come a time when you need a financial intervention to help organize your bills, repay your debt, and improve your finances. For some, debt consolidation is the answer. But before you jump in head first, it's time for a course in Debt Consolidation 101.
If you have lots of debt, consolidation may save you time and money. Depending on your financial situation, there may be a solution that's right for you.
Feeling overwhelmed by your debts? Having trouble making ends meet? Unable to get ahead of your credit card debts? A Debt Relief plan may be your solution to getting control of your finances.
When faced with mounting bills, many consumers explore debt consolidation loans as a way to get their finances back on track as quickly as possible. And while a debt consolidation loan may be a great solution for you, it's important to weigh your options to determine the best plan for you and your specific financial situation.
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