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The Real Story on Debt Management Programs

Jul 26, 2008
What most people are looking for in a debt management program does not exist. I find myself constantly on the phone with clients who are drowning in credit card debt, looking for the perfect debt management program. This is the criteria they are usually seeking: - Eliminate all debts quickly - Have a positive effect on their credit - Not have to deal with any phone calls from creditors

Reality Check: There is no such program!

I have found throughout years of helping people free themselves from debt, that most are initially looking for the option that does not exist. To reiterate, there is no debt relief option in existence that will give you the above benefits. Let's take a good look at the options that are available and provide some basic information about each one.

Debt Consolidation: Debt consolidation is, in nearly all cases, a home equity loan or second mortgage. This is the process of taking equity out of your home to pay off your other accounts. The good thing is that you can get rid of unsecured debts for a lower-interest, single payment that can sometimes have a tax benefit. The bad thing is that most people in a bad debt situation do not qualify for a home equity loan.

Credit Counseling: Credit counseling companies have been getting a lot of trouble lately with consumer protection agencies. Most of them are non-profit and claim to lower your interest rates and provide a low monthly payment. Typically, they take your payment and distribute to pay each creditor a small payment. The good thing is well there is no good thing. Credit counseling programs hardly ever do what they claim, and many creditors no longer participate. Most have found this to be a serious waste of money and time. The bad thing is that your creditors will enter a statement onto your credit report for every account in credit couseling that states that the account is handled through a program. This is a seroius negative for anyone looking at your credit.

Debt Settlement: In the past couple years; this has become the most popular and most effective program for getting out of debt quickly. However, you must truly be in a financial hardship and not able to pay your current minimum payments. The strategy here is to negotiate with your creditors and get them to accept a settlement pay-off of less than the balance owed. All creditors will accept settlements as long as you have successfully shown hardship. In my experience, attorneys have been most effective in negotiations with creditors because they cannot be bullied by savvy collectors. The upside is that you can completely settle your debt for pennies on the dollar in a very short period of time; usually 3 years or less. The downside is that your accounts must become very delinquent before creditors will accept settlements. This is not a problem if you are in a financial hardship; after all, you are already not able to make your min payments, so going delinquent was happening anyway.

Bankruptcy: In past years, anyone could file bankruptcy chapter 7 and easily eliminate any amount of debt quickly. Now, since the Bankruptcy Reform Act, most do not qualify for bankruptcy, and you are forced to try other solutions such as debt settlement first. Bankruptcy is a legal court process where those who are completely insolvent are able to possibly protect their primary residence and eliminate debts. The upside is that once a chapter 7 bankruptcy is completed, the creditors literally write off the debt and cannot pursue you further. The downside is that it is a permanent court record, and will also remain on your credit reports as a public record for up to 10 years.

I hope you find this information helpful, and that it provides you with a foundation that will allow you to choose the best plan given your circumstances.
About the Author
This article was written by Jon Ochs, President/CEO of Nationwide Debt Solutions. You can learn more at the website about Debt Relief Options.
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