A debt settlement plan involves understanding your overall financial position, setting clear priorities, and developing realistic and sustainable payment strategies.
When you have more debt than you can manage, you’re likely looking for tips on how to settle debt quickly and easily. You may notice advertisements from a debt settlement company offering to show you how to settle debt for just a tiny fraction of what you owe. And while this may seem too good to be true, it may feel like your only option.
Here’s the problem with debt settlement: when you enter a debt settlement program to settle credit card debt or debt from personal loans, you’ll need to stop making monthly payments to your creditors for a long period of time, often six months or more. This is designed to encourage your creditors to accept a settlement offer; the theory is that they’ll be more likely to accept a small lump sum payment if they believe it’s all they can get from you. But regardless of whether your settlement offer is accepted or not, the debt settlement process will inevitably ruin your credit rating for years to come. Also, negotiating credit card settlement or debt settlement may not save you as much money as you think. You’ll have to pay a settlement company up to 25% of your savings, and the IRS may take another 25% in taxes on any amount of debt forgiven.
Before you accept any offers from companies promising to show you how to settle debt, it’s important to get debt settlement advice and learn more about debt settlement pros and cons from a trusted and objective financial professional. That’s exactly what you’ll find at American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).
A DIY Guide to Debt Settlement: Step by Step
DIY debt settlement involves negotiating with your creditors to pay off a portion of your debt, instead of the full amount. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to approach this:
- Assess your financial situation: Understand your overall financial situation. Calculate your total debt, monthly income, necessary expenses, and discretionary spending. Use this data to determine how much you can realistically afford to pay towards your debts each month.
- Prioritize your debts: Not all debts are the same. Prioritize paying off high-interest debt first as it grows the fastest. Also, consider whether any of your debts are secured by assets you want to keep, like your home or car.
- Set aside funds: Debt settlement often requires a lump sum payment, which means you’ll need to have cash on hand. Start setting aside money every month in a separate savings account. Cut back on non-essential spending if necessary.
- Contact your creditors: Once you’ve saved enough to make a reasonable settlement offer (typically, a significant portion of what you owe), reach out to your creditors. Explain your financial situation honestly and express your intent to pay off the debt.
- Negotiate the debt: Offer to pay a portion of the debt and ask if the creditor will consider this payment as a full settlement. Be prepared to negotiate and remember, it’s usually in the creditor’s interest to recover some money rather than nothing at all.
- Get it in writing: If your creditor agrees to a settlement, get the agreement in writing before making the payment. This document should clearly state the amount of the settlement and that the payment will be considered as full satisfaction of the debt.
- Make the agreed payment: Pay the agreed amount by the agreed date. Keep a record of the transaction.
- Follow up: After making the payment, ensure the creditor updates your account as “paid” or “settled” on your credit report. If not, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus.
- Continue with remaining debts: Repeat the process with your remaining debts, using the funds you continue to set aside.
Remember, settling a debt often impacts your credit score negatively because you’re not paying the full amount that you originally agreed to pay. It’s recommended to consider this as a last resort and after consulting with a financial advisor.
If the DIY approach seems overwhelming, you can also consider working with a reputable credit counseling agency or a debt settlement company, although the latter often charge fees for their services. As always, it’s important to understand the potential impacts on your credit score and financial situation before choosing a debt management strategy.
Get advice from ACCC on how to settle debt effectively.
ACCC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating consumers on how to settle debt successfully and how to live debt-free in the future. We provide free credit counseling and low-cost services that help consumers understand all their debt relief options and know how to settle debt and pay off credit cards most effectively. In your free credit counseling session, you can get answers about the benefits of debt settlement vs bankruptcy and debt consolidation, as well as referrals to social service agencies and access to financial education materials that can help you with the skills you’ll need to avoid debt in the future.
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How to settle debt with a debt management program.
When you want to know how to settle debt without severely damaging your credit, a debt management program may be the answer. With ACCC, a debt management program helps you to manage your money more carefully in order to pay down your debt more quickly. Our counselors will help you create a budget you can live with and will provide support that ensures your creditors are paid on time each month. We’ll also work with your creditors to try to lower your interest rates and waive finance charges and over-limit fees to help reduce the total amount you owe so you can pay it off faster.
To learn more about how to settle debt through debt management, contact us today for a free credit counseling session.