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Problems with mortgage debt don’t just affect your credit and finances, they can have a very real impact on your life, too. Foreclosure could mean that you’re forced to uproot your family and scramble to find housing. The good news is that there are plenty of paths available to homeowners who are struggling to keep up with their payments. You have two paths you can take. The first path is to prevent foreclosure entirely. The second path is to make a quick and graceful exit when you can’t avoid foreclosure.
"The first step to solving your debt problem is to establish a budget," writes former U.S. News contributor David Bakke. You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs. "If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole," Bakke warns.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.
The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 3.7 percent in September 2018, making the unemployment rate the lowest its been since 1969. Consumer credit card debt is at an all-time high, exceeding $1-trillion. The price for consumer goods, like groceries and gas, has also risen. What these statistics illustrate is that the economy is improving, but that consumers are relying more and more on credit cards to survive. For many Americans, financial freedom is all that they seek.
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Whether you can use your credit cards after debt consolidation depends upon the debt consolidation option you choose. If you opt to participate in a debt settlement program, you’ll likely close all your credit cards and thus be unable to continue using them. On the other hand, if you obtain a debt consolidation loan, you’ll retain control of your credit cards and be able to use them if desired. However, since the purpose of the debt consolidation loan is to pay off those cards and become debt-free, continuing to use them while undergoing debt consolidation could be counterproductive.
If you’re dealing with multiple debts, you may want to consider debt consolidation,or combining all of your debts into a single loan. This may allow you to pay off your debt with one monthly payment, which is often much lower than all of your previous monthly payments combined. Depending on your payment strategy, you may end up paying this consolidation loan for a longer period of time, so take a look at how these extended payments will impact your financial plan.
Debt consolidation loan: If your credit scores are decent, you may be able to use a consolidation loan. With it you bundle all or most of your debts into one loan that offers a lower interest rate. Even if the lender charges an origination fee of a few percentage points, you may still come out ahead. And if the term is longer than five years, the monthly payment may be far lower than what it would be with a DMP.
It is important to remember that this part is usually for free. However, after the initial consultation, you will be given a quotation so the company can work on your debts. Be wise in selecting the debt reduction service that you will avail. No upfront fees should be charged and there should be evidence of guaranteed results before you pay for any service. In fact, there are government agencies that offer free counseling services.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling agency offering a free credit counseling service and low-cost debt management program. As a leader among credit counseling companies, we offer access to certified and highly trained debt advisors who provide credit card counseling to help consumers create an effective get out of debt plan. Our counselors can also offer information about the pros and cons of a debt consolidation plan, provide details about debt consolidation for bad credit, and answer questions like "Is debt consolidation good or bad?"
That’s an odd situation Chet. If you didn’t make that request, then I would call the lender first to see what is going on/ Maybe they did that as a courtesy since they had not gotten payment from you? That’s one possibility. If you can show that interest accrued when it shouldn’t have or that you weren’t adequately notified about the status of your loan, then you might have a case to make with the lender. Good luck!
Consider a hardship program. Most credit card companies offer unadvertised hardship programs that feature reduced interest rates, lower monthly payments and minimal fees. These improved terms may allow you to get on top of your debt. Keep in mind that your account may be closed as part of the hardship program, and you might see that your credit score suffers temporarily as well.
You’ll start the process by putting away money in preparation for debt negotiations. Your settlement company will tell you the total amount you need to save in advance. You’ll make a monthly payment into a dedicated bank account for several months or years, depending on your monthly budget and anticipated amount to be resolved. The account will be in your name and should be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It will be overseen by a trustee or account administrator.
Debt arising from credit card use represents less than half of the total average unsecured debt held by Americans. In 2011, the average total unsecured debt was $21,281, and credit cards accounted for just 36% of that figure. For a clearer picture of America's indebtedness, it is critical to look at total outstanding debts - arising from both credit cards and other sources.
There are good ways and bad ways to use the Internet to check debt relief companies. Bad is simply going to the company’s website and trusting what they tell you. Good is going to independent third-party review sites to get the real scoop. Most companies will cherry-pick their best customer testimonials for their website. They won’t show you anything bad.
So, before you waste months (or years) of your life paying off your debt the hard way, make sure there’s not an easier way first. Look into credit card consolidation or call a credit counseling agency. Even though these agencies administer one type of solution – debt management programs – as nonprofit organizations they’re required to review all your options. They’re supposed to tell you what’s the best way to pay off what you owe.
Ashley Dull is the editor-in-chief of CardRates.com, where she works closely with industry leaders in all sectors of finance to develop authoritative guides, news, and advice articles read by millions of Americans. Her expertise lies in credit cards and rewards programs as well as credit reports and how credit scores affect all aspects of consumerism. She is often asked to serve as an expert source on financial topics for national media outlets, such as CNN Money, MarketWatch, Money Matters, ABC News, and NBC News, and has recurring contributions to several leading finance websites. Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn and Twitter.
In extreme cases, you may consider pulling money from your retirement account to pay off your debt. Beware, if you’re not at least 59½, you’ll face early withdrawal penalties and additional tax liability. The specific penalty you'll face depends on the retirement account you draw from and how you spend the money, but the standard early withdrawal penalty is a 10% tax. Plus, when retirement comes around, your savings will be short—not only from the money you withdrew but also from the interest, dividends, and capital gains you could have earned with that money.
Credit utilization accounts for about 30% of your credit score. A healthy utilization ratio hovers between 10% and 30% of your total credit limit. Personal loans and home equity loans don’t have much, if any, impact on your utilization ratio. If you use either of those vehicles to consolidate credit card debt and avoid racking up more credit debt, you may initially see your credit score spike after paying off your credit cards.
You can settle the debts yourself or hire a debt settlement company. These companies negotiate with each creditor to reduce the amount owed. The settlement company will likely tell you not to pay your creditors but put that money in a trust account. When the funds reach the total needed to settle the debts, the creditors are paid. Until that happens, interest and late fees build up. While the debt settlement company may have attorneys on staff, they work for the company, not for you.