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Choosing the Right Debt Settlement Company

Jun 11, 2008
A Google search for "Debt Help" will generate page after page of financial service companies offering different solutions to help you get out of debt. The various "Debt Help" options are generally Debt Settlement, Credit Counseling, Debt Consolidation, and Bankruptcy. In this article I will focus on Debt Settlement and what you can look out for in the consultation process to help you make your decision with confidence.

Most Debt Settlement (also known as Debt Reduction) companies follow a similar process in qualifying and enrolling their clients into the program. I will break this down into 5 steps:

1. Initial Contact: Many customers will find a list of "Debt Help" companies by typing phrases into search engines such as Credit Card Debt, Get out of Debt, or Debt Relief. The initial contact will be initiated by filling out a form or calling the company directly. This first call will give you the most clues on what kind of business you are dealing with. The most important thing to remember is that Debt Settlement does not work for everybody. If a Debt Consultant makes the program sound like everyone gets accepted, you do not want to go with that organization. The only way a company can successfully reduce your debt is if you are in a financial hardship. Basically, if you don't need the help, the program will not work because the creditors will have no reason to lower your debt amounts. If you're current on the bills you still might qualify for debt reduction but only if you are struggling to make the minimum payments. If a Debt Consultant neglects to ask about your state of affairs and pushes you to send in your credit card statements, hang up and call a firm that cares about your specific predicament. An ethical Debt Consultant representing a reputable firm will discuss all the aspects of Debt Settlement, both positive and negative. Remember If it sounds too good to be true, it is. If the initial phone conversation is going well and you have a general understanding of how Debt Settlement works, then it is time to have the company review your credit card/loan statements or a credit report.

2. Submission of Credit Report or Statements: If a company approves you without reviewing your statements, this is a bad sign. Reputable Debt Reduction services will want to review your statements or a credit report to do a comparative analysis. Having the company review your information is part of the approval process and in no way should commit you to anything. This part of the process is crucial because the specific creditors that you are indebted to historically settle at different amounts. The amount by which a creditor will reduce your debt will vary depending on the debt settlement company, financial hardship, creditor collection practices, and credit card delinquency. The job of the Debt Reduction Company is to take everything into account and give you the most accurate quote possible. If you speak with a Debt Relief company and this step is missing, I would not recommend taking the process any further.

3. Underwriting: The underwriting (also known as approval, qualification) process is designed to ensure that only qualified applicants are being approved for the program. This is an extremely important step to a reputable Debt Settlement firm because it's a system intended to help ensure that approved applicants make the transition to satisfied clients with the highest rate of success possible. If a company is letting everyone in the door, chances are many of these clients are getting settlements rejected by their creditors because they are not qualified to have a Debt Reduction.

4. Approval: If you are approved for a Debt Settlement program the consultant will be able to tell you how much your monthly payment is and for roughly how long it will take for you to be debt free. In the field of Debt Settlement the successful programs are usually not more that 3-4 years in length. Every creditor has a window of opportunity when they are willing to accept settlements and the vast majority will be approved within 3 and 42 months. If a company says that they can reduce your debt by fifty percent and offers you a 5 year program, be cautious. In Debt Settlement the creditors will be paid off one at a time and the possibility of legal action from the creditor increases as the debt becomes more delinquent.

5. Agreement: If the approval is within range and you would like to move forward the next step is to look at the agreement. The agreement should clearly state your monthly payment and fee schedule. Make sure to read the entire document and write down any extra questions that come up. You should be able to cancel the Debt Settlement mid-program if needed, without being responsible for future monthly payments. Of course nobody enters a Debt Settlement Program intending to cancel 10 months down the road but if something unexpected happens to your income, you need to be able to sever the relationship. If you read the agreement and it seems the opposite of what your Debt Consultant explained to you, it is not a wise idea to sign up with that company.

Now that you have found the best company for your needs focus on your new monthly payment. If you ever can afford to pay above your minimum monthly, I highly recommend doing so. Remember, the goal is to pay off this debt as fast as possible. Stay in communication with the customer service department and refer communication from your creditors to the Debt Relief Company. Before you know it the debt will be showing $0 balances and you will be on the road to financial freedom. If you ever get discouraged in the program and the anticipated 2-3 years to pay off the debt, just remember the alternative of making minimum monthly payments or the financial position you were in before the program started.
About the Author
Adam Jasa is the Founder of Select Debt Relief www.selectdebtrelief.com. Previously Adam worked with the Freedom Financial Network in their Financial Consulting Department. He is an expert in the different options available to consumers with unmanageable debt burdens. His company, Select Debt Relief is a member of Debt Resolution Partners which currently manages over $950 million of consumer debt.
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