Debt Relief

How to Choose a Debt Relief Program

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debt relief programs

Today, millions of Americans need help with their debt.

Although the 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate is 4.21 (as of 10/08/2010), down by 17.5% on a year-to-year basis (5.1 in 2009), consumers find it hard to meet their financial obligations.

Besides, late credit card payments generate extra fees that add up to the financial strain.

Even if a credit card bill is paid on the last day is due, some lenders still charge late fees or increase the late fees by moving the due dates earlier in the month without prior notice.

This creates a vicious cycle of debt that distresses consumers more and more.

A debt relief program is a form of debt repayment that intends to offer relief to those who cannot meet their minimum monthly payments.

In effect, a debt relief program allows you either to negotiate your debt with your creditors by choosing a plan to repay your debt and avoid bankruptcy (debt settlement) or to get a new loan to consolidate all your debt in one monthly payment that will be lower than all the individual monthly payments you currently make (debt consolidation).

However, between debt settlement and debt consolidation, it makes more sense to choose a debt settlement.

By negotiating with your creditors a settlement of your debt for 40%-60% of your current balance you will be potentially able to pay off your debt earlier and you will not owe any money to the creditors.

You will be making payments to the debt negotiator company.

Instead, with debt consolidation, the number of payments will be reduced due to a lower annual percentage rate (APR), but your debt will be transferred to a new creditor and your credit record will be damaged because you will be required to pay for a longer period.

Should you find yourself in a difficult financial situation and you decide on choosing a debt relief program, there are several factors you need to take into consideration.

In particular:

a) The legitimacy of the settlement company

Some scammers take advantage of the increasing problem of debt in the United States and set up fake debt relief companies that actually charge fees for their services and provide no service to the people who are in desperate need of debt settlement.

To protect yourself from such frauds make sure you check the legitimacy of the settlement company you are considering a debt relief program with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org/).

b) Variety of solutions offered

Many settlement companies do not offer a great variety of options in regards to debt relief, which means that you may not be able to find the right solution to settle your debt.

The greater the variety of options, the higher the probability of finding a suitable debt relief program to solve your debt problems.

c) Fees charged

It goes without saying that you will be asked to pay the settlement company fees for their services, which typically equal a percentage of the amount they will help you save up.

However, some settlement companies may charge you for more than the legitimate fee or they may charge you even if their negotiations fail and your debt is not settled.

Therefore, before signing a contract with a settlement company authorizing them to negotiate your debt on your behalf, make sure to clarify what is their fee policy.

Overall, choosing a debt relief program requires serious consideration of your options to avoid finding yourself in a worse position than before.

Do your research over the Internet; ask other people who have worked with a settlement company; consider the impact of the debt settlement on your credit score.

All these are additional factors that you need to consider before actually assigning your debt settlement to a settlement company for a debt relief program.

If you follow all these steps you are more likely to have your debt settled for what you actually owe.

Spending Lifestyle

How to Repair Your Credit by Changing Spending Lifestyle

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spending habits

A poor credit rating is not something that an individual strives to obtain.

Often times good and responsible people find that circumstances beyond their control lead to credit problems.

Fortunately, by changing spending habits and working hard to pay off debts, a credit rating can be improved.

Make positive changes to your spending habits

In order to improve your credit rating or to maintain a good one once it is achieved, you need to change your spending and credit habits starting today.

Examine how much income you have coming into the household each month compared to how much is going out.

If your expenses are almost as much as you earn each month or if they actually exceed your income, you need to cut down on expenses immediately.

Some quick ways to cut expenses are to give up or downgrade services that are not necessary.

For instance, you do not really need 150 channels of television to watch. Eat out less often and buy off brand name products.

Be committed to reducing your outflow of money each month in order to get out of and to stay out of debt.

Obtain a copy of your actual credit report

If you suspect you have poor credit, you will want to obtain a copy of your credit rating so that you know exactly where you stand in terms of your credit.

Obtain your credit rating by requesting your free credit report by visiting the Annual Credit Reporting Site.

View your credit report to ensure that there are not any suspicious entries. Make certain all debts listed are actually your debts in order to protect yourself from identify theft.

You will also want to scan your credit report to make sure that the reporting agency does not have any inaccurate information listed.

The above-mentioned websites will provide information on how to dispute details or to have details corrected on your credit report.

Take a different approach to credit cards and lines of credit

Use the credit to get yourself out of trouble, not into a deeper financial crisis.

Stop using credit as a way to own things that you really cannot afford.

If your poor credit rating does not prevent you from obtaining a credit card, you should apply for a card.

You will use this card to make common purchases each month and then pay the balance in full each month.

This will help you to reestablish credit by showing creditors that you can pay your bills on time each month.

Use this credit card only for purchases you can pay off at the end of each month.

Never use a line of credit or credit card for anything that is not a necessity or a means to improve your credit rating.

Pay off debts

Work to pay off your debts. Apply for as much extra money as you can to credit cards and other creditors each month.

You can pay off your balances much sooner and in the end pay back less interest.

As your debt to income ratio improves, so will your credit score. You should also work to make arrangements to pay off bad debts.

In some cases, if you work with the creditor or collection agency to pay off your debt in a timely manner, they will change their report on your credit rating to show that the debt was paid in full and no longer delinquent.

Divorce

The Dark and Ugly Financial Side of Divorce

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divorce expensive

Divorce is expensive.

Not only is there the cost of the attorneys and court-mandated marriage counseling which can run into the thousands of dollars, but there’s also the splitting of community debt and assets which is never as simple as it seems.

When I went through my divorce some 22 years ago, the dark financial side of divorce came as a complete surprise to me. Here they are:

You are jointly responsible for all community debt until it’s been paid off in full. In a community property state like mine, spouses are jointly responsible for all debt no matter how it’s been divided in a divorce.

The problem here is if the ex fails to pay his part of the divided debt, the creditors will demand payment from you instead.

When this happens, your only recourse is to pay the bills and then try to collect from your ex-spouse through a lawsuit.

The house may have to be sold. Just because you are awarded the house in a divorce decree, it doesn’t mean you’ll get to keep it.

Your ex-spouse can force the sale to collect his part of the equity or remove his name off the mortgage. The bank may also call the loan “due” and ask that it be refinanced which may be impossible in this economy.

There will be financial shenanigans. There’s nothing like a divorce that brings out the worst in people.

Liquid assets will quietly disappear while previously unknown IOUs (from your spouse’s relatives and friends) will filter to the surface to pad the community debt.

IRAs and retirement plans may be community assets.

If you’ve got a retirement plan, this too will have to be thrown on the pile of community assets to be divided in a divorce.

Your ex-spouse’s repayment patterns can impact your credit score. As long as there’s joint debt, how your ex-spouse pays off his portion of the debt will impact your credit score.

This can make it tough for the newly divorced to obtain credit or bank loans.

In retrospect, there were all sorts of things I could have done to protect both my assets and credit rating during the aftermath of the divorce while minimizing the community debt as well. What

I should have done follows:

  • Closed all bank accounts and credit lines, and reopen new ones in my name only.
  • Moved liquid funds out of the joint account and into my own separate account to pay off community debt and attorney fees.
  • Paid off the credit cards with community funds and then cancel them to prevent new charges
  • Reopened new credit cards in my name only. Getting divorced often takes a toll on a credit rating, which is why it makes financial sense to open new cards while your credit rating is good.
  • Filed a legal separation to limit my liability on any new debt.
  • Assumed all the community debt during the divorce and ask that the assets be adjusted accordingly.

The reality of divorce is that it’s both expensive and can impact your credit for several years. Anticipating these problems and taking the proper precautions will minimize the damage.

Kids

Teaching Kids About Personal Finances

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kids finances

As a disabled, stay-at-home mom, teaching our daughter about money is something I believe is important.

I want to save her the heartache of poor financial decisions I experienced.

Even though she is only six years old, I have found several ways to make learning about personal finance fun and engaging.

No Allowance – Unlike many of her friends, our daughter does not get an allowance.

kids money habitsWe know that the only way to make money is to work for it – to actually earn it.

She needs to learn early that you can’t get something for anything.

Our daughter is paid for doing additional chores around the house, but only for things, she is not expected to do anyway.

Tithing – The first thing I ever taught my daughter about money was that she should tithe the money she has.

I learned as a small child that I could do much more with 90% of my money than I could with all of it after I gave 10% of it to God.

Saving – Our daughter is learning that she must save a portion of the money she earns.

At the moment, we have her saving 10% of the money she has after she pays her tithes.

Her savings goes into actual savings account that her father and I contribute to as well.

We all make the trip to the bank and she makes the deposit herself.

We help her to see how her money is adding up and explain how she can use it for college.

Spending – I take special care to watch how our daughter spends her money.

Although her math skills need some work, with a little help, she is able to figure out if she has enough money to buy something she wants.

I help her to understand how long it will take her to save enough money for specific items.

Costs – I always take our daughter shopping with me so she can see the value of using coupons, comparison shopping and finding the best deals.

She understands that we have a specific amount of money that is to be spent and we can not go over that amount.

She works hard to help me find ways to stay under that amount.

I love to the wheels in her head turn as she crunches the numbers with me. She even gets excited when we spend less than we had expected to.

This may sound like a lot of responsibility for a six-year-old, but we keep it fairly simple and make it into a game for her.

I am hoping these lessons will last her a lifetime.

If she can learn the value of money and the importance of saving money now, it is more likely she will use that information later in life.