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Finance

Coping With Debt

You’ve been wrestling with debt forever. It’s got you in a half Nelson, and you need to make some kind of move to get free. Here are some maneuvers for coping with debt to prevent it from pinning you to the mat.

The Issue

First, know that you’re not alone. Many people at some point face some kind of financial crisis. But just because you can’t see your way out, doesn’t mean you don’t have options. In fact, you do. But how do you know what would work best for you? Well, let’s examine what’s available.

Help Yourself

There are steps you can take to begin wresting control of your finances, and No. 1 is making a budget. You need to be able to have in front of you a realistic look at what’s coming into your household, and what money’s going out.

Get going by listing all your income, followed by fixed monthly expenses such as rent, mortgage, insurance, etc. Then list your expenditures that vary, like entertainment for example. Now you’re able to identify and track spending patterns. Getting a grip on your spending may permit you to find better ways to use your cash and pay down your debt.

Also, you may not want to, but you really should contact your creditors immediately if money woes are brewing. Explain what’s going on and try to work out a new payment schedule. Just don’t wait until your accounts are in collections.

Knowing your rights where debt collectors are concerned is another way to cope. In fact, federal law directs how and when collectors can contact you: not before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you’re on the job if the collector knows your boss isn’t cool with it. Collectors also must be truthful and honor a written request from you to cease further contact.

Debt Relief Methods

 

Consolidation: If you have a lot of debt and can’t negotiate a repayment plan by yourself, you might want to consider a debt relief service such as credit counseling or debt settlement. Run an online search for credit card consolidation companies near me.

Be sure to pass the name of any company you’re interested in by your state’s attorney general and local consumer protection agency to see whether there are any consumer complaints. While you’re at it, ask the AG whether the firm must be licensed to work in your state, and if so, whether it is.

Credit Counseling: These outfits can advise you on your situation, assist you with making a budget, and provide complimentary educational materials and workshops. While many agencies are free, some ask for a nominal fee.

Debt Management: With this strategy, you deposit funds monthly with the credit counseling agency, which uses them to pay your unsecured debts according to a payment schedule developed with you, your counselor, and your creditors. Your creditors may decrease your interest rates or waive certain fees. Completing a debt management plan could take four years or more, though; be sure to ask the counselor how long it will take for you. You also may not apply for, or use, any other credit while you’re working your plan.

Debt Settlement. This approach entails getting your creditors to accept partial payment to settle your debt. To ensure you have funds to offer, the company will ask you to set aside a certain amount monthly and deposit it into an escrow-like account. When you have accumulated the necessary pile, the settlement company will pay off your debt according to the terms of the agreement they reach with your creditor.

Note that during the negotiation process, you likely will be asked by the company to cease making payments to your creditors. This will, of course, damage your credit. On the other hand, if settlement is where you’re at, that ship has likely already sailed.

Beware of scam companies, though. Run away at the first sign of pressure, or if false “guarantees” are made. Do your homework.

Now you have some ways of coping with debt. Take a deep breath, start on your budget, and figure out the best plan for you. Better financial days are ahead.

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