Debt Consolidation Primer – Four Things You Can Do to Get Out of Debt
Problem debt is rampant throughout America. In addition to mortgages and auto loans, the average household in the U.S. has nearly $10,000 in credit card debt. As the major credit card companies have recently doubled their minimum payment requirements, now is a good time to outline the various options available to most consumers who have more debt than they can handle.
Stop spending money on nonessential items. “Nonessential” is difficult to define, but it more or less means anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to live. Phone bills, mortgages, and groceries are essential. Lattes at Starbucks, satellite television, and meals from fast food restaurants are not. By cutting out all extra spending, you can probably save several hundred dollars per month. That money can be used to reduce debt.
Consolidate your debt. If you have more than one credit card and your accounts aren’t all at their limit, you can transfer balances from higher-interest accounts to those with lower interest accounts. Alternatively, if you own a home, you probably have accumulated some equity. You can obtain a home equity loan or line of credit and transfer some of your debt to that loan. As a bonus, the interest on home equity loans is tax deductible. Be careful, though. If you transfer your debt to a home equity loan, you can lose your home if you do not repay it.
Find a reputable credit counselor. This will soon be a prerequisite to filing for bankruptcy, thanks to a recently passed Federal law. Counseling agencies can negotiate with your creditors to help you establish a repayment plan that you can afford. They may be able to have interest rates reduced or have late fees waived. Most agencies charge for their services, but the reputable ones limite their fees to what you can afford to pay.
File for bankruptcy. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, as a bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit record for ten years. By filing for bankruptcy, you declare to the courts that you cannot repay your debts. Most consumers are currently allowed to file under Chapter 7 of the Federal code, which allows the courts to wipe out most debts. This will change this fall, as recently passed Federal legislation takes place. The new regulations will likely require a repayment schedule, and attorney, and higher filing fees. Bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start, but it’s not a magic solution. It will be quite difficult to reestablish credit after a bankruptcy filing
Having more debt than you can handle is a serious problem, but like most problems, it is one that has available solutions. The first step is to act promptly, as unattended debts only grow larger. With time, patience and diligence, most consumers can overcome the burden of excessive debt.
©Copyright 2005 by Retro Marketing. Charles Essmeier is the owner of Retro Marketing, a firm devoted to informational Websites, including End-Your-Debt.com, a site devoted to establishing credit, debt consolidation and credit counseling.