Debt settlement has become a very popular way to deal with large amounts of debt. But would you be a good candidate for this option?
One website defines a good candidate for debt settlement is a person that’s looking for quick debt relief, that has a large amount of unsecured debts and doesn’t want to have to file for bankruptcy.
So how do you stack up against these criteria?
What are unsecured debts?
The simplest explanation of unsecured debts is those debts where you were not required to use any kind of an asset as collateral. For example, credit card debts are unsecured debts as are personal loans, personal lines of credit, medical bills and department store credit card bills.
In comparison, mortgages and auto loans are secured debts because they’re secured by your house or your car.
How much unsecured debt do you have?
Some companies say you need to have only $8000 in unsecured debts to be a good candidate for debt settlement. However, this is a case where the more you owe the more debt settlement can help. In fact, the people who get the most benefits from debt settlement generally owe $20,000, $30,000 or even more.
The two types of debt settlement
The two types of debt settlement are DIY debt settlement and using a debt settlement company.
DIY debt settlement is cheaper than hiring debt settlement because these companies charge for their services. If you are able to settle your debts yourself, there’s no cost involved.
How much debt settlement companies charge for their services varies. However, most charge a percentage of the debt they’re settling. This generally ranges from 15% to 25%.
How the two are different
Both DIY debt settlement and using a debt settlement company have the same goal – to settle your debts for less than you owe. However, they use two different approaches. If you choose DIY debt settlement, it’s you that will be contacting your lenders and you’ll need to have enough cash on hand to pay for any settlement you negotiate.
In comparison, if you use a debt settlement company it will contact your lenders for you. And instead of having to make cash payments to your lenders you’ll send money every month to an FDIC-insured, escrow-type of account that you control. You’ll continue to do this until all of your debts have been settled, which typically takes from 24 to 48 months.
The cons of DIY debt settlement
You’ve already read the biggest con of DIY debt settlement which is that thing about needing to have the cash available to pay for any settlements you negotiate. Saving up enough money to pay for just one settlement can take several months and it can take literally years to accumulate enough cash to pay off all your debts through settlements. And all the time you’re saving money to cover your settlements your interest charges will continue to grow and some of your debts may be sold to debt collectors.
Both will damage your credit score
Both these options have their downsides. The first is what debt settlement will do to your credit score, which is damage it severely. The reason for this is that debts that have been settled are reported to the credit bureaus as “settled for less than full amount due” or some similar wording instead of as “paid in full”. This could reduce your credit score by as many as 80 points. Of course, if you’re four or months behind on your bills, your credit has already been seriously damaged.
Second, whether you choose to settle your debts yourself or use a debt settlement company, there can be income tax implications. When a creditor writes off part of your debt settlement, the money may be reported to the IRS as income. This could or couldn’t have an effect on your income taxes depending on other factors such as your earnings and your deductions.
The biggest con of hiring a debt settlement company
You’ve also read the biggest con of this option, which is that debt settlement companies will cost you. However, using one of these firms can still save you money. Here’s an example: Let’s suppose you owe $12,000 and the settlement firm is able to settle these debts at 50% or $6000. Also, supposing it charges a 20% fee or $2400 you would still save $3600., Plus, you’d be free from the frustration and headaches of having to deal with your lenders and maybe with bad-tempered debt collectors.
Which of these options would be best for you is something that only you can decide. But most people choose to use a debt settlement company for the reasons you’ve read – fixed monthly payments and not having to negotiate debts themselves, which can be frustrating and very time-consuming.