Most people are involved in some type of financial transaction or decision every day. Sometimes they can get way behind in their debts and financial obligations with no clear way to pay them off. Some resort to debt management plans, which can help if you are careful in setting up the plan. Do you know how to avoid the pitfalls?
Credit and debt issues are critical life altering realities for almost everyone. The daily decisions we make in handling the balance between the two determines our credit worthiness in the eyes of financial institutions.
As we all know, if you have a bad credit rating, then borrowing funds or purchasing many items will become difficult or impossible. But what happens when you get so far in debt that you have no clear way to pay it all off? Many people resort to a debt management plan (DMP). These are payment plans structured in a way so that the borrower is better able to pay off their debts, and is agreed to by the borrower and creditors. The benefits can include lower interest rates and fee waivers.
Once you and the creditors have accepted the DMP, it is important to:
• make regular and timely payments
• always read your monthly statements to make sure your creditors are getting paid according to your plan
• contact the organization responsible for your DMP if you will be unable to make a scheduled payment, or if you discover that creditors are not being paid
If the payments are not made to your DMP and creditors on time, you could lose the progress you’ve made on paying down your debt, or the benefits of being in a DMP, including lower interest rates and fee waivers.
The creditors may not forgive any more late payments and you will incur more ‘late’ marks on your credit report as well as more late fees, increased debt and a longer pay off period. So, once you are on a debt management plan, make sure that you are never late on any payments.
DMPs are not for everyone. You should agree on a DMP only after a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you specific advice on managing your money. You may be able to work out a payment plan directly with your creditors. But if you decide that you need to work with a credit counselor and get additional advice and assistance, ask questions like these to help you find the best counselor for your situation and make sure you get full and complete anwsers.
Some Important Questions to Ask When Choosing a Credit Counselor to Handle your DMP:
1. What services do you offer? Look for an organization that offers a range of services, including budget counseling, savings and debt management classes, and counselors who are trained and certified in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors should discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems now and avoid others in the future.
2. Are you licensed to offer your services in my state? Many states require that an organization register or obtain a license before offering credit counseling and debt management plans.
3. Do you offer free information?
4. Will I have a formal written agreement or contract with you?
5. What are the qualifications of your counselors? Are they accredited or certified by an outside organization? If so, which one? If not, how are they trained? Try to use an organization whose counselors are trained by an outside organization that is not affiliated with creditors.
6. Have other consumers been satisfied with the service that they received? Once you’ve identified credit counseling organizations that suit your needs, check them out with your local consumer protection agency, and Better Business Bureau.
7. What are your fees? Are there set-up and/or monthly fees? Get a detailed price quote in writing, and specifically ask whether all the fees are covered in the quote.
8. How are your employees paid? Ask them to disclose what compensation it receives from creditors, and how they are compensated.
9. What do you do to keep my personal information confidential and secure? They should have safeguards in place to protect your privacy.
Get the information you need to make an informed decision.
Individuals in debt who wish to make use of the services of a debt management firm should do research before committing themselves. An unscrupulous debt management firm can harm a debtor’s interests in many ways, so make sure to keep the following 4 things in mind before hiring a debt management firm:
1. Avoid any agency that calls you by phone or sends you spam: Most debt management firms advertise in the yellow pages or on the Web, but do not over-aggressively solicit clients. Therefore, there is a good chance any company which does so is not on the level. Debt management companies that follow a cold calling policy or send unsolicited emails will usually not be able to provide any solid references. Most of these companies do not even keep a reserve fund, which serves as a guarantee for the debtor that his creditors will be paid.
2. Non-profit agencies do not necessarily offer better service: First, not all non-profit debt management firms offer their services free; some firms charge up to 15% of the debt amount. Being a non-profit organization does not make a debt management firm a better and more efficient service provider than those that charge for the services. In fact, companies charging for their service are under an obligation to free their clients of debt as efficiently as possible because they are making a profit from their work and their profitability is directly linked to their credibility and reputation in the market.
3. Never part with credit card information on the phone: A reputed and honest debt management firm will never ask you to provide your credit card number or bank information on the phone. This is because they understand that callers can be impersonated; moreover, the increase in online frauds is reason enough for individuals in debt to be extra cautious when checking out debt management firms. Debt management companies that are acting in good faith will never ask a prospect or an existing client to part with sensitive information of any kind over the phone.
4. Don’t believe anyone who offers a deal that’s too good to be true – it probably is: Often debtors come across debt management deals that promise to reduce their debt by half in short time. This rarely happens; however, the debtor does end up paying high fees and a substantial upfront amount to the debt management company. Such companies also discourage debtors from communicating with their lenders; this is never a good idea and invariably leads to a negative impact on the debtor’s credit rating. If a debt reduction company promises to offer more than some interest reduction and counseling on getting out of debt and staying debt free, the claim should ideally not be taken at face value.
Figuring out a budget is something that too many people have difficulty with and there is definitely no doubt about that. Unfortunately people, including myself, are just not educated enough about finding debt relief by having the ability to properly manage a well balanced budget. Following a strict budget each month or week, however you would want to do it, is no doubt the best way for everyone to improve their debt condition. This is something that you should all really have already started thinking about because knowing how to manage your money properly and being consistent with it, will drastically pay off down the road. You will finally be able to enjoy your life completely, without all of the worries that come along for anyone who is just totally overloaded with debt over debt over debt. Your budget will make it possible for you to recognize that you can survive every single month, not just survive though, much better than that, you could potentially have a little bit of extra money each and every month! How fabulous would that be people? You know you want it, you know you are exhausted thinking about your debt, so get up off that couch and stop pitying yourself, try fixing your debt problems instead of forgetting about them! Allow your budget to work for you, no matter what might come up unexpectedly. If you can do this month after month, I do believe that you are just really going to be shocked by the wonderful results. You will have so much more confidence each day just knowing that you can make it on your own, you are a responsible, mature and highly intelligent individual. Learning about managing your money and following strict budgets at an early age in life sure did pay off for you as an adult, aren’t you so proud of yourself! Most of us do have a great deal in common unfortunately, whenever it comes to spending more money than we can truly afford to spend each month and it is definitely a very serious problem, or could eventually become a serious debt concern of yours. Creating this amazing budget for yourself can dramatically improve your severe debt issues for good, how fantastic does that sound? Take the time out of your busy and very hectic schedule, sit down, take a deep breath and prepare yourself for this fun and exciting learning experience. You will learn so much about yourself once you have prepared a budget for yourself, to follow each and everyday that passes, that is going to rid you from all your debt. It will definitely be an eye opener for many of you out there that tend to go a little overboard from time to time when you are out shopping around for things. Debt is your worst enemy so if you can do anything at all to prevent this from occurring with you all throughout your fun life, start at an early age figuring out how you will follow your budget each month and make it work.