How to Protect Yourself from Debt Collectors While Working on Debt Settlement

If you’re in the process of trying to settle your debts, it’s more than likely that you’re getting harassed by debt collectors. They will say and do almost anything necessary to collect from you. It’s well documented that many debt collectors use abusive practices. And while they may try to convince you otherwise, you do have rights when it comes to debt collectors you are actually protected by federal laws better known as FDCPA or the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act.

What collectors can’t do

Thanks to the FDCPA there are regulations, rules and laws that collection agencies, debt purchasers and collection attorneys are supposed to adhere to. Of course, many of them will try to skirt the law and use illegal tactics to collect from you. However, this only works if you don’t know your rights. The key to dealing with debt collectors is to become educated in the FDCPA, which among other things prohibits debt collectors from:

  • Harassing you
  • Swearing at you or being demeaning in any way
  • Calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM
  • Calling you at work if they are told your employer prohibits such calls
  • Mentioning garnishments, lawsuits, levies, etc. without your prior consent

An abbreviated explanation

This, of course, is only an abbreviated version of the FDCPA. There are numerous other rules that collectors must abide by. Beyond this, there are probably statutes in your state that govern the behavior of debt collectors. So if you are dealing with one or more you should definitely call your state’s attorney general’s office to see what laws and guidelines apply that could be helpful.

Avoid these mistakes

The biggest mistake you can make is to talk to a debt collector without knowing your rights. Even the most ethical of debt collectors will use clever tactics to get you to pay as this is their job. In fact, most debt collectors are paid on a commission basis. So the more they collect from you, the more they earn. This, of course, is why they will say just about anything to convince you to pay your debt – even if you don’t have the money. But if they tell you that your only option is to “pay your balance in full” don’t believe it. This is rarely true and you do have options.

You may restart the clock

If you do decide to make a payment on your debt, it’s important to understand that this may restart the clock on it. For instance, let’s suppose you have a debt that’s four years old, which means it should be nearing the statute of limitations. If you make a part payment on the debt this could reset its clock to now, which would eliminate all possibility for it to pass the statute of limitations.

Stopping harassment

If you have a debt collector harassing you – despite the fact that this is illegal – you need to send a letter to his or her agency. This is called a cease-and-desist letter. You can find an example of it on sites such as Be sure to send your letter as certified mail so that you can track the fact it was received. And naturally you will want to keep a copy for your records. Once the debt collection agency receives your letter the law says it can only contact you one more time, in writing, and that’s to let you know what action it will be taking if any.

Request verification

If you feel the debt isn’t yours, you can ask the collection agency to validate it. This will require a debt validation letter. You will need to ask how the amount your owe was calculated, the identity of the original creditor and proof that the statute of limitations has not expired on this debt. You can also require the collection agency to provide you with copies of documentation showing you agreed to pay the amount you say is owed and that has my signature.


Even if you know the debt is yours, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay the full amount. Debt collectors typically buy debts for literally pennies on the dollar. This means there is room for negotiation. For example, you might be able to negotiate an $1800 medical bill down to $900 or less. Of course, you will need to have the $900 or whatever ready to send to the debt collection agency.

If all else fails

If all else fails, you could choose to wait it out until the statute of limitations kicks in and the debt falls off your credit report. This should not have a significant impact on you unless you’re about to buy a house or trying to get a new job. In this case, it could be a problem. But otherwise, your best bet might be to send the collection agency that cease and desist order and then, unless it actually sues you, just wait for the debt to fall off your credit report.

Why Debt Settlement Begins with Analyzing Your Debts

Debt settlement can be a good option for people struggling to repay their debts. In fact, it can be the best option because it’s the only way to get debts dramatically reduced. Other options for managing debt such as a debt consolidation loan, avalanche transfer or consumer credit counseling can’t reduce your debt. What these options have in common is that they just move your debt from one set of lenders to a new place or a new lender.

Do you have a budget?

If you haven’t yet budgeted your essentials, you need to do this first. For most people the essentials are food, shelter, transportation and insurance. Together, these should account for no more than 50% of your net or take home pay.

Next, analyze your debts

The next step in getting ready for debt settlement is to make a list to analyze your debt. If you have Excel, you could use it to list your debts. If not, there is the free Google Sheets. Or you could just use a pencil and a piece of paper. Your list should have four columns: Name of Creditor, Debt Amount Owed, Interest Rate and Minimum Monthly Payment. Make sure you list every debt up to and including payday loans, medical debts, unpaid cell phone bills, gas cards, department store cards, finance companies – everything.

You may be shocked

Once you’ve listed your debts you need to total up that first column and the result may shock you. Even though you already know you’re in trouble with debt you may not actually know how much trouble you ‘re in.

Order your credit reports

If you have not seen your credit reports recently you need to get them. The three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – are required by law to give you your reports free once a year. The website can give you all three of them simultaneously.

You need to review your credit reports carefully as they could contain errors. The Federal Trade Commission released a study two years ago that nearly 20% of us have errors in our credit reports that could be damaging our credit scores. If you do find errors, you need to dispute them. Getting them removed from your credit reports should help your credit score at least somewhat.

How to repay debts

Could you repay debts rather than choosing debt settlement? This would be a better alternative because of the negative effect debt settlement would have on your credit reports and your credit score.

The two most popular ways to pay off debt are the avalanche method and the snowball method. The avalanche method means ordering your debts from the one with the highest interest rate down to the one with the lowest and then focusing all of your efforts on paying off that first debt.

The snowball method is where you order your debts from the one with the lowest balance down to the one with the highest and then do everything you can to pay off that first debt. Of course, regardless of which of these you choose you will absolutely need to continue making the minimum payments on your other debts.

If you choose debt settlement

If you think debt settlement would be your best option, it’s important to understand that not every debt can be settled. For example, mortgages can’t be settled nor can auto loans. These are called secured debts because you were required to use an asset as collateral. There are also some unsecured debts that can’t be settled. This category includes spousal support, alimony, family support, back taxes and student loan debts. Cross these debts off your list and you’ll now know much of your debt could be settled.

To DIY or not to DIY?

Your final step will be determining whether to settle your debts yourself (DIY) or to use a debt settlement company. There are pros and cons to both these options. The biggest pro to DIY debt settlement is that it wouldn’t cost you anything. Its biggest con is that you would need to have cash available for the lump sum payments required in debt settlement.

The biggest pro of using a debt settlement company is that instead of needing to have cash to pay for your settlements you’d have one fixed monthly payment for a fixed period of time. It’s number one downside is the damage it will do to your credit score. Of course, if you’re already behind on your bills, which is probably the case, your credit score may have already taken a hit so that debt settlement would not make a big difference.

How much do debt settlement companies charge?

It’s pretty easy to spot a dishonest debt settlement company as it will insist you pay its fee upfront. Reputable debt settlement companies don’t collect their fees until they have settled all your debts. They charge from 15% to 25% depending on the amount of your debt. However, even after paying the debt settlement company’s fee you should still save from 30% to 37% of what you initially owed.

Debt Settlement Work and Fixing Bad Credit

Do you have bad credit? While it’s possible to live with bad credit it definitely makes life more difficult and more expensive. As an example of this, did you know that insurance companies usually charge higher premiums for drivers that have bad credit scores? Did you also know that if you’re getting utilities turned on the company will check your credit in order to see if you will need to pay a security deposit? And, of course, everyone knows that if you want to get a personal loan or credit card the bank will check your credit score.

Why fix bad credit?

Credit repair isn’t just important for saving money on loans, credit cards and insurance. There are other reasons why it’s critical. A better credit score can mean new opportunities for employment. And do you dream of starting your own business? Then you need to start credit repair sooner than later.

Get your credit reports

You can’t know about your bad credit until you get your credit reports from the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. They are required by law to provide you with your credit reports free once a year. Or you can get all three free simultaneously on the website

Look for errors

Review your credit reports carefully looking for errors that could be damaging your credit score. The credit bureaus process literally thousands of pieces of information a day and mistakes can be made. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission released a report several years ago that nearly 25% of us have errors in our credit reports that could be affecting our credit scores. If you do find errors in one of your reports, it’s important to dispute them. There are forms on the websites of the credit bureaus for this purpose. But it’s best to write to the appropriate bureau making sure to enclose any documentation that proves your claim.

The types of information that needs to be repaired

There are three types of information that you will need to repair.

  • Past due accounts that are late, that have been charged off or have been sent to collections
  • Incorrect information such as accounts that aren’t yours, payments that have incorrectly been reported as late, etc.
  • Maxed out accounts or those that are over their credit limits

Tackling accounts that are past due

The biggest factor in determining your credit history is your payment history as it makes up 35% of your score. If you have several past-due accounts on your credit reports they are significantly damaging your credit score. This means that taking care of them is crucial. Your objective should be to fix all your past due accounts that have not yet been charged off so they are reported as “current” or at least “paid”. You can save any debt from being charged off that’s less than 180 days past due. To do this you will need to contact your creditors to see what you can do to become current. In some cases, your lenders might even be willing to waive some of the late penalties or spread your past due balance over a few payments. Be sure to let them know that you want to avoid charge-offs but will need some help. This means actually talking to them to negotiate.

Accounts that have already been charged off

You’re still responsible for charged-off accounts. The good news here is that as those charge-offs get older they will have less of an effect on your credit score. However, the outstanding balance on one of these accounts will make it difficult – or even impossible – to get new credit and loans. This means an important part of your credit repair must include paying charge-offs.

When you pay a charged-off debt, your credit report will be updated to show your account balance is now $0 and the account is paid. The bad news is that the charge-off will continue to appear on your credit reports for seven years from the date the debt was charged-off. An alternative to this is to try to settle the charge-off for less than your original balance. If a creditor agrees to accept your settlement offer it will then cancel the remainder of your debt. However, the status of your debt as “settled” will also stay on your credit reports for seven years.

What to do about collection accounts

If you have accounts that have been sent to collection, then paying them off is much the same as for charge-offs. You could pay the debt in full and try to get a “pay for delete” in the process or try to settle the account for less than your balance. Again, the collection will stay on your credit report for seven years.

Fix your credit utilization ratio

The second largest component used in calculating your credit score is your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you have available divided into the amount you’ve used. For example, if you have total credit limits of $8,000 and have used $4000 of it, your credit utilization ratio would be 50%, which is too high. If you find that you have a high credit utilization ratio you should focus on paying down some credit card balances as this will improve your ratio and ultimately your credit score.

Are These Vampire Leaks Sucking Money Out of Your Bank Account?

Unless you were fortunate enough to be born to wealthy parents you probably have to work pretty hard for your money. You get up in the morning, cram  isdown a quick breakfast and then it’s off to eight hours (or even more) on the job.

Since you work hard for your money you’d undoubtedly notice if a large amount of money were to suddenly disappear from your checking account with no explanation. But you might not notice it if five dollars or even $10 quietly disappeared. This can happen and when it does it’s sort of like invisible vampires sucking out your hard earned dollars. And this can be especially true if you have most of your bills set on auto pay.

Those little vampires called bank fees

The first kind of vampire leaks to look for are bank fees. The banks have found numerous ways to cash in on fees. For example, consider those overdraft fees. Many banks formerly added overdraft protection automatically to their customers’ accounts at an average cost of about $35 per transaction. However, in 2010 our Congress enacted the Overdraft Protection Law so that customers are now required to opt in to get this “protection”. How much is this costing you if you opted in? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a study in 2014 showing that customers that had opted in for this protection paid seven times more in overdraft fees and nonsufficient funds fees than those that hadn’t opted in. The net/net here is to check to see what you’re actually paying your bank for. If you find your paying a monthly fee just to access your funds or for services you don’t need, then it may be time to think about making a change in banks.

Energy vampires

If you live where there’s a summer and winter your energy bill probably remains about the same year-round. But if not, your energy costs probably fluctuate throughout the year. And it may have nothing to do with the weather. It may be due to the energy saving efforts you haven’t taken. For instance, do you have a programmable thermostat? It can save you big money by turning down the temperature when you’re not at home or when you’re sleeping. You should keep shades closed during the summer and use thermal curtains as draft stoppers to prevent hot air from escaping during the winter. Other energy vampires include old, outdated appliances and incandescent lightbulbs. You could make just a few, small changes like unplugging your electronic devices at night and end up spending a lot less on your energy throughout the year.

Subscriptions and memberships vampires

If you’re typical you probably find it easy to sign up for subscription services but a lot harder to stop them when you no longer need them. This is because that five dollars or $10 a month charge isn’t very noticeable when it hits your checking account. But do the math. Suppose you’re getting razors by mail, a magazine you hardly ever open and paying for a health club membership you rarely use. The small fees you pay for these services can actually add up pretty quickly. Sit down, audit your subscriptions and memberships and eliminate the ones you no longer use.

The price creep vampire

The two biggest offenders in this category are probably Internet and cable providers. You sign up for an introductory cable package because it’s priced so low. But this new customer pricing will eventually expire and when it does you could see your monthly cost jacked up considerably. Ditto your Internet service. Also, these providers sometimes tack on fees incorrectly. So if you’re not paying careful attention you could be paying a lot more than you thought.

The water vampire

Just a small water leak can end up costing you good money. Do you need to irrigate your lawn? If you overwater this would be a real money-sucking vampire. And if you don’t have a water saving showerhead, you need to get one. There are many available that use tricks so that you’ll have a good shower without realizing you’re using less water.

The food waste vampire

Here’s yet another one that can suck good money out of your checking account. Americans, on the average, overspend on their food both at the grocery store and restaurants. In fact, there was a study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council that showed Americans were wasting 40% of their food purchases. Believe it or not, this turns out to be an average of $2000 per year per household. You can prevent this vampire from sucking money out of your checking account by doing meal planning and eliminating impulse purchases. And you could cut down on that eating out by inviting friends over for a meal.

The 5 Biggest Don’ts of Debt Settlement

If you’re not familiar with debt settlement this is where you offer to settle a debt for less than you owe. However, be forewarned that few lenders will agree to settle unless you can immediately send them a lump sum payment. As an example of this, if you owed $4500 on a credit card you might settle the debt for, say, $3000 – but only if you have the $3000 in a lump sum available to send the lender.

Debt settlement has saved thousands of Americans literally millions of dollars. It has become very popular for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s the only way to get debts reduced without having to file for bankruptcy. It’s also a way to get debts consolidated without having to borrow money.

The downsides

While debt settlement can be a good answer for many people it does have its downsides. For one thing, it will have a seriously negative effect on their credit scores. Second, it can have income tax consequences. And third, not all lenders will agree to negotiate their debts.

The first big don’t

If you choose DIY debt settlement, the first big don’t is — don’t wait. Be proactive. Don’t wait until your debt is charged off, which is what typically happens when it’s six months behind. When this is the case, your lender no longer has any reason to settle with you. If you want to try for debt settlement, do it immediately. Don’t wait thinking that the debt will just go away. What will happen is that it will most likely be sold to an attorney that specializes in debt collection or a debt collection agency. In fact, the only way that a debt will “go away” is when your state’s statute of limitations has passed.

However, if your debt hasn’t been charged-off, your lender may be willing to talk debt settlement as your account becomes more and more delinquent. That’s because as it becomes more delinquent it becomes a bigger loss risk.

Don’t ignore the consequences

As noted above, settling the debt will have a negative effect on your credit record. This is due to the fact that the debt will not be reported as “paid in full.” It will be reported as “settlement,” “settled” or “settled for less than amount owed.” As also noted above, a settlement where more than $600 is forgiven becomes a taxable event. As an example of this, if you were able to settle at $10,000 debt for $5000, you could be taxed on the $5000 you saved. However, this will depend on a number of factors and many people end up paying no taxes at all on the amount of their debts that were forgiven.

Don’t make any promises you can’t keep

If you promise to send a lender a lump sum to settle the debt you better send the money. And if the lender has agreed to let you pay off the settlement over a period of time you need to set your payments at something that you can easily handle. If you end up with a debt settlement plan, make sure that it’s realistic. If you promise too much and then fail to make your payments, your account will likely be referred to a collection agency – ending any possibility of settlement.

Don’t be unprepared

No lender will agree to settle with you just because you ask. You must be having a financial emergency and must be able to document it. This means you will need to have ready a list of your assets, your earnings and your debts. Lenders want to know that you need to settle because you’re having a hardship and can’t pay the full amount – and not because you’re just trying to save money. In other words, they don’t want to settle with people who are just looking for a deal.,

Don’t leave things unsettled

If you are able to successfully negotiate a settlement, be sure to get everything in writing. If your customer service representative refuses to send you an email with the details of your settlement, you’ll need to write the email yourself and send it to your customer service rep. It should include the customer service rep’s name and phone number, the amount of the settlement, the date and time, and if the two of you agreed to a settlement program you will need to include the amount you will be required to pay each month, the date your payment is due and when you will have the debt completely paid off.

Finally, you will need to check your credit report to make sure that the settlement shows up. Some creditors simply fail to report settlements to the credit bureaus despite the fact that they are required by law to do so. If a settlement is not reported to the credit bureaus it will stay in your credit reports indefinitely as delinquent. And that’s something you simply do not want in them.

The Hardest Part of Debt Settlement

In politics today we have only two parties – Democrats and Repbulicans – though Gary Jonhson is making a strong push as a third-party candidate. When it comes to debt, we also have just two parties – people that are in trouble with debt and people who aren’t.

So, to which debt party do you belong?

If you’re having trouble with debt, you’re a member of a pretty large party. American households today owe an average of more than $15,000 just in credit card debt. This year’s college graduates owe an average of $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year. Just imagine graduating from college – maybe with no job waiting – and owing more than $37,000. What a burden.

The options

If you owe $10,000 or more you have several options. You might be able to get a debt consolidation loan or you could choose consumer credit counseling. If all or most of your debts are credit card debts, you might be able to transfer their balances to one of those zero percent interest balance transfer cards. And finally, there’s a good solution that’s helped thousands of debt-strapped Americans – debt negotiation.

How debt negotiation works

The way this works is really simple. You contact each of your lenders and try to convince them to do something that would make it easier for you to repay the debt. In some cases, you might try to negotiate to have your interest rate reduced. For example, if you owed money on a credit card at 19% interest you could try to get it cut to, say, 12%. This would result in a much lower monthly payment so it should be easier for you to cover it.

In other cases, you might want to negotiate to have your payments waived for a few months. This would give you some breathing room and might be enough for you to get those debts under control.

The debt settlement option

A third option that’s become increasing popular the past eight or nine years is debt settlement.
This is where you offer a lender a lump sum payment for less than your balance to settle the debt. If you’re a pretty good negotiator you might get your debts settled for around 50% of what you owe. That will cut a $10,000 debt down to $5,000 and a $20,000 debt down to $10,000. Of course, you would need to have the cash available to pay for your settlements. Otherwise, no lender will agree to settle with you.

The hardest part

The hardest part of debt negotiation is what you will need to do before you contact your first lender.

Getting ready to negotiate takes a lot of time and effort. You will need to create a detailed list of all you debts, with the names and phone numbers of each of your creditors, your balances, the interest rates, minimum payments required and monthly due dates.

Once you have your list you will need to decide which debts to negotiate first and what it is you want from each of your lenders. You will need to either review your budget or create one. And, finally, you will need to pull together all your financial information such as a list of your assets and their approximate values.

As you can guess this will take a lot time and work but it will pay off when you begin negotiations with your lenders.

The easier part

The easier part is when you start contacting your lenders. You’ll be organized, have all the important information right at hand and know what it is you want from each of them.

Don’t be surprised if the first customer service person you reach doesn’t have the authority to negotiate with you. These are usually Tier 1 customer service representatives and about all their can do is tell customers their balances and accept payments. You might have to work your way up to a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 customer service rep before reaching someone who has the authority to negotiate with you.

Why any lender would agree to negotiate?

If you’re asking yourself this question, there’s a fairly simple answer. You need to convince your lenders that it’s in their best interests to negotiate with you. For example, maybe you’re having a severe financial emergency that’s made it impossible for you to keep up with your bills. If you’re goal is to settle an unsecured debt, you will need to make it clear that if the lender refuses to negotiate with you, you’ll be forced into bankruptcy. When most lenders hear this they usually decide they’ll settle for half a loaf rather than getting nothing, which would be the case if you were to file for bankruptcy.

Get it in writing

If you are successfully able to negotiate something – whether it’s a reduction in your interest rate or a settlement – be sure to get everything in writing. If you’re fortunate, the customer service rep will email you all the pertinent information. If not, you will need to get the rep’s name, email address and phone number as well as the details of what was agreed to and the date and time of the phone call. Then email this information to the customer service rep making sure to print out a copy for your files.

Four Ways to Earn Passive Income for Debt Settlement

There are any number of ways to earn income to pay for debt settlement but most of them are “active”. You could work 20 hours a week in a second job. You could drive for Uber or Lyft. You could haunt garage sales and then sell stuff on eBay. You could become a mystery shopper. Or you could join focus groups and get paid for it.

All these “gigs” are ways to generate extra income for debt settlement but they all have one drawback in common.

They are all “active” gigs. In other words, you must find ways to carve time out of your busy life to do them and they are all outside your home.

Fortunately, if your goal is to earn extra money for debt settlement there are ways to earn it passively – meaning that you wouldn’t have to participate in them actively as would be the case if you drove for Uber or did mystery shopping.

Sell information

Do you have an idea for a book or an information product you could sell on the Internet? If you’re successful, this is a great way to earn passive income. Once you’ve written the book or created the information product all you’ll need to do is sit back and watch the money pour in. Right? Well, not necessarily. While this is a passive way to earn income it’s not exactly a passive activity. You could spend literally weeks writing that book or creating an information product and would then have to spend hours promoting your stuff on the Internet. Also, one product is generally not enough to create a decent income stream. If you really want to generate a steady stream of passive income, you’ll have to do a second and then maybe a third or even a fourth book or information product. I guess you could call selling information a sort of active passive way to generate income.

Invest in rental properties

Rental properties can be a great source of passive income so long as you’re willing to pay a property manager. If not, this becomes an active way to generate income because of the maintenance that homes and apartment complexes often require. One expert says that in order to generate good passive income you must take into account three things: The financial risks of owning the property, its potential return on investment and the property’s costs and expenses. Houses can also be a good investment in that they almost always appreciate in value over the long run. But there can be valleys as well as peaks. The risk here is that if you had to sell a property in a down market you could actually lose money on it.

In terms of ROI, let’s say you’d like to earn $10,000 a year in rental income property that requires a $2000 monthly mortgage. You should include at least an additional $300 a month to cover taxes and maintenance expenses. You would then have to get $3150 in rent a month to get that $10,000. But charging more than $3000 a month might just not be realistic. As you can see, it’s important to do the math before buying a property.

Do affiliate marketing

The simplest explanation of this type of marketing is that you become an affiliate or reseller of someone else’s products. The biggest example of this is eBay with a close second. However, there are literally hundreds of companies where you could become their affiliate and market their products. This really is passive income because you just create a website and then add links to the company whose product you’re marketing. Of course, you’ll have to find ways to draw visitors to your site and will need to write engaging and arresting sales copy. But once you have a steady stream of visitors that are clicking on your links and buying the products of the businesses you represent, this does become very passive income.

Get involved in peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending gets its name from the fact that the money that funds the loans comes from individuals instead of institutions. Some of the most popular of these sites are Lending Club, Peerform, Prosper and Lending Tree. They all work similarly. Borrowers apply online, an algorithm then determines how creditworthy they are and the interest rate they will be charged. The interest rates are generally much lower than those offered by conventional lenders because there’s no middleman.

You could participate in one or more of the sites by providing money to be loaned out. Experts in peer-to-peer lending say that it’s best to invest small amounts in multiple loans and to use the site’s historical data on borrowers to make the right picks. For example, one expert has found that people borrowing money for home improvement products have lower default rates than people that sought loans from other sources in the last 4 to 6 months.

However, this form of passive income also requires some activity on your part. People who have been successful with peer-to-peer lending say you must be prepared to spend some time each week checking on the interest you’ve earned and deciding where to invest or reinvest.

Quit Stressing About Your Debts and say “Hello, Debt Settlement”

One of the most stressful things you can suffer is the stress related to your debts. You could actually be lying awake nights worrying about how you’re going to keep from losing your car because of late payments or just how you’ll pay this month’s utility bills. If you live in a constant state of fear over your debts it can affect you both emotionally and physically. Debt is a serious issue because unlike some things in life it just basically never goes away. Stress related to debt can occur if you become underemployed or unemployed or just because you did a poor job of managing your finances. For example, maybe you had the habit of spending more than you earned and so your credit card bills have become so huge they’ve damaged your credit rating.

How to manage debt-related stress

Managing stress is easy, right? All you need to do is take a deep breath and then tell yourself to relax and not stress out. Of course, that’s not really the solution because if it were that simple you wouldn’t be stressing out over your debts.

Unfortunately, the only guaranteed way to get rid of debt-related stress is to get rid of the debt. This is the time when you need to steal yourself and look for a solution to your problem. You want to pay down your debt – you do want to pay it down, right – and this could mean getting a debt consolidation loan from friends, family or some lending institution.

Just putting together a plan for getting out of debt is the best way to get rid of those sinking feelings in the pit of your stomach. When you don’t have a plan – or strategy for rectifying your debt problems – you will likely feel unprepared and overwhelmed and this can lead to depression and anxiety that you don’t really have time to deal with now.

Budgeting is a powerful tool

It’s just about impossible to pay off debt without first creating a budget. It’s also a powerful tool for reducing the anxiety and depression mentioned above. The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of work to create a budget. Where it requires work and commitment is staying on it.

You will need to start by tracking your monthly expenses and then comparing them to your net income or take home pay. Next, you will need to evaluate your spending habits and decide if you need to bring in more money every month or if the answer would be to decrease your spending in areas where you could cut back.

Say “Hello, debt settlement”

If you feel that budgeting wouldn’t help and that your debts are just totally out of control, there is a solution called debt settlement. This is where you hire a company to negotiate with your lenders to get your unsecured debts reduced. The way most debt settlement companies work is that you will have an agreement spelling out the amount of money you’ll need to transfer each month to an escrow-type account that you control. When there is enough money in your account to settle one of your debts, you will be contacted by the settlement firm and asked to release enough money to cover it. This will continue until all of your debts have been settled, which generally takes from 24 to 48 months.

Your unsecured debts will be consolidated

Debt settlement is actually a form of debt consolidation because you’ll have only the one aforementioned payment to make a month in place of the multiple payments you’re currently making. Plus, that payment should be for a good deal less than the total of the payments you’re currently making – because your debts have been reduced substantially. In fact, most good debt settlement companies are able to get their customers’ debts reduced by 27% to 30% – even after their fees.

There’s a cost

Most good debt settlement companies charge a straight fee that can be from 15% to 25%, depending on the amount of debt being settled. While this may seem somewhat steep it’s important to keep in mind the services that is providing. It’s doing all the negotiating for you, it’s relieved you of the burden of making lump sum payments to settle your debts and it’s doing all the bookkeeping for you.

Why debt settlement equals stress relief

Debt settlement is an excellent way to get relief from the stress related to your debts because you’ll be turning all of your unsecured debt problems over to the debt settlement company. Of course, this is true only if the majority of your debts are unsecured debts such as medical debts and credit card debts, as well as any other form of credit where you didn’t have to provide an asset to secure it. In comparison, auto loans and mortgages are secured debts and cannot be settled nor can some forms of unsecured debts including spousal support, family support, alimony, past due taxes and student loans. But if all or most of your debts are unsecured, then debt settlement would absolutely equal stress relief.

How to Know if Debt Settlement is Your Best Option for Debt Relief

Getting into debt has become as American as apple pie and the Fourth of July. In fact, American households are now carrying an average of more than $15,000 just in credit card debts. Even worse is the fact that U.S. households now carry an average of $48,988 in student loan debt. So if you feel as if you’re buried under a big load of debt, you’re far from alone.

You do have options

There are four popular ways to deal with debt. They are debt settlement, a debt consolidation loan, consumer credit counseling and bankruptcy.

How can you know which of these would be best for you?

Debt settlement

Most debt settlement companies say that you must owe at least $7500 (or in some cases $10,000) and be several months behind on your bills for debt settlement to be your best option. However, most people that choose this option owe a lot more than this — like $20,000, $30,000 or even more.

If you qualify debt settlement it could be your best choice for several reasons. First, it will save you money. Reputable debt settlement companies such as National Debt Relief are able to save their clients 37% on the average after their fees. This means if you owed $20,000, debt settlement could very well save you $7400.

Debt settlement will consolidate your debts as you will have just a single payment to make a month in place of the multiple payments you’re currently making. And this payment should be considerably less than the total of your current payments because your debts will have been slashed.

Third, when you hire a debt settlement company you’ll no longer have to deal with your lenders and with any debt collectors that have been hassling you. You’ll be able to relax, forget about your debts and get back to concentrating on the things in your life that are really important.

A debt consolidation loan

If you have reasonably good credit, then a debt consolidation loan could be your best option but it only works if you have multiple debts at high interest rates. For example, suppose you have four credit cards at 12%, 15%, 18% and 19% and a personal loan at 9%. This would mean an average interest rate of 14.6%. If you were able to get a personal loan at, say, 9.5% you’d then have just one payment to make a month and it should be much lower than the total of the payments you’re currently making. This again assumes you have relatively good credit.

Consumer credit counseling

Are your debts so much out of control that you don’t know which way to turn? Then consumer credit counseling could be your best option. If you contact a good, nonprofit credit counseling agency you’ll have a counselor who will review all of your debts and finances. Depending on the amount of your debt your counselor may develop a budget for getting it under control and paid off or she might recommend a debt management plan (DMP). If the answer is a DMP your counselor will contact each of your lenders and negotiate cuts in your interest rates and to have any late fees waived. Assuming your lenders agree to your DMP your debt will be consolidated in that you will no longer be required to pay them. Instead, you will make one payment a month to the credit counseling agency, which will then distribute the appropriate amount of money to each of your lenders.


If you’re completely buried under a load of unsecured debts (credit card debts, personal loans, personal lines of credit, payday loans, etc.) then your best option might be to file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, if most of your debts are secured debts such as a mortgage or auto loan or if your problem is spousal support, alimony, back taxes, student loan debts and family support then filing for bankruptcy won’t help.

You need to think carefully about hiring a bankruptcy attorney because a bankruptcy will have a very serious effect on your life for many years. For one thing, it will stay in your credit reports for seven years. You won’t be able to get any new credit for two to three years after the bankruptcy and when you do it will have a very high interest rate. It’s likely that your insurance premiums will go up and you may have a hard time renting an apartment or house. There have been relationships ended when one of the partners discovered the other had a bankruptcy. And that bankruptcy will be in your personal file for the rest of your life where it could continue to cause problems.

Which is Better Debt Settlement or Bankruptcy?

Have you fallen so deeply in debt you’re seriously considering bankruptcy? It can be very tempting. All you would need to do is hire an attorney, sign some papers and Presto! All or most all of your debts will go away as if by magic. You’ll be getting no more calls from angry lenders or debt collectors. Your life will be much less stressful. And you’ll be able to focus on the really important things in your life instead of your bills.

Before you contact a bankruptcy attorney

Filing for bankruptcy might be your best option. But before you pick up the phone to contact a bankruptcy attorney you need to know about an alternative called debt settlement and how it stacks up against bankruptcy.

What is debt settlement?

The simplest explanation of debt settlement is that you or a debt settlement firm contact your lenders and offer to make lump sum payments to settle your debts for less than their balances.

Why, you might ask, would a lender ever agree to this? It would be because you’re having a financial emergency and need help or because you’ve been able to convince the lender that if it refuses to settle, your only alternative will be to file for bankruptcy.

What a bankruptcy would do to your life

Unfortunately, there is a very serious downside to bankruptcy. It’s what it would do to your life.

First, it will be two to three years before you’ll be able to get any new credit. And when you are able to get new credit it will be what’s called low balance/high interest credit. As you might guess life without credit for a couple of years could be very challenging.

A bankruptcy will stay in your credit reports for 10 years and in your personal file for the rest of your life. You could lose out on a good job 15 years from now because your potential employer saw that you had had a bankruptcy.

If you’re a renter, you may find it very difficult to rent a house or apartment because of your bankruptcy. You may also see the cost of your insurance go up for the same reason.

Why debt settlement might be better

The primary reason why debt settlement might be a better choice is because it will have less of an impact on your life. While it will damage your credit score it won’t harm it as much as a bankruptcy. This is due to the fact that you did what you could to repay your debts instead of just wiping them out as would be the case if you filed for bankruptcy.

If you choose debt settlement you should be able to get new credit fairly quickly although that might not be a really good idea. In addition, debt settlement won’t prevent you from renting a new place nor should it cause your insurance premiums to go up.

How to know if you’d be a candidate for debt settlement

How can you know if you’d be a good candidate for debt settlement? Most debt settlement companies won’t accept people as clients unless they owe more than $10,000 and are least five months behind on their bills. If you’re seriously considering bankruptcy you would most likely meet these criteria.

The difference between the two processes

There’s no question about the fact that filing for bankruptcy is quicker and simpler than debt settlement. Once you hire a bankruptcy attorney, there’s very little more for you to do until your bankruptcy hearing as you will longer be required to pay your lenders.

The process for debt settlement is much different than this. You will first sign an agreement with the settlement company that will spell out how much money you will be required to transfer each month into an FDIC-insured trust account. This agreement will also spell out how many months before you’ll be debt-free.

When enough money has accumulated in your trust account to cover a settlement, the debt settlement company will contact you and ask that you release the money to pay for it. This process will continue until all of your debts have been settled satisfactorily.

Both have a negative in common

Debt settlement and bankruptcy have a bad thing in common. Neither may not be able to eliminate all of your debts. There are some debts that not even bankruptcy can discharge Including child support, alimony, spousal support, family support, back taxes or student loan debts. And none of these debts can be settled. In addition, some lenders will simply refuse to negotiate settlements. This means you could end up paying both the settlement company and several of your lenders.

The net/net

The net/net is that debt settlement is usually a better option than bankruptcy. However, before you decide between the two you need to get a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney and then talk with at least one debt settlement firm. That way you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to which of these would be your best path to debt relief.