Having trouble paying your bills? Getting dunning notices from creditors? Are your accounts being turned over to debt collectors? Are you worried about losing your home or your car? You’re not alone. Many people face a financial crisis at some point in their lives. Whether the crisis is caused by personal or family illness, the loss of a job, or overspending, it can seem overwhelming. But often, it can be overcome. With the right counsel, and a strategy that suits your personal financial situation, things don’t have to go from bad to worse.
If you or someone you know is in financial distress, consider these options: self-help using realistic budgeting and other techniques; debt relief services, like credit counseling or debt settlement from a reputable organization; debt consolidation; or bankruptcy. How do you know which will work best for you? It depends on your level of debt, your income, your level of discipline, and your financial prospects for the near and distant future. Contact us and we will be happy to help you find a solution that is right for you.
Of course you can work with your creditors directly to settle the accounts yourself. There is a lot of information publicly available to assist with this, however, the structure and the guidance of a knowledgeable professional is considered by many, well worth the savings and peace of mind.
Debt settlement is by no means an exact science. And it’s difficult for an individual lacking experience with creditors to determine whether a settlement is fair or not. In addition, you have to directly handle all creditor calls and the harassment that comes with the job. Many people are simply unable or uninterested in handling that kind of pressure, especially with the daily complexities of managing a job, household or family at the same time.
Hiring a professional debt settlement firm with a good reputation can no doubt save you more money, give you better advice, and get you out of debt in a much less stressful manner, enabling you can move on with your life.
Bankruptcy may allow you to eliminate most of your debts quickly and this is typically referred to as a “Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.” In other cases, you may be required to pay back a percentage of your debts over time. This is typically referred to as a “Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.” Bankruptcy also offers legal protection under the court so that you don’t have to worry about being sued or harassed by creditors while completing the bankruptcy process. While most reputable debt settlement firms will work to assist in minimizing creditor calls and harassment where possible, debt settlement does not provide the guaranteed legal protection that bankruptcy does.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not an option for everyone and it has gone through some changes since the bankruptcy reforms of 2005. Unlike the not so distant past, it has become more difficult to qualify for full liquidation (forgiveness) of your unsecured debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires five years of court-ordered payments to a trustee, and may require you to surrender some of your assets.
However, as getting all of your options will help you make a more informed decision, speaking to a bankruptcy attorney may be a worthwhile discussion. Most reputable debt settlement firms can refer you to a trusted bankruptcy attorney if you have detailed questions or if they determine that you might be better served by speaking to them instead.
Debt settlement is the process by which a service provider, working on behalf of a Client (a financially distressed consumer enrolled in the service provider’s debt settlement program), negotiates the settlement and discharge of the Client’s unsecured indebtedness. Debt settlement generally serves those consumers who are goal oriented, have overcome a past hardship, and are now financially stable and are either not interested in Bankruptcy, or are unable to satisfy the means test required as a prerequisite to personal bankruptcy.
Although the debt settlement process involves functioning as the intermediary between the debtor and the creditor, debt settlement service providers do not provide legal representation, nor do they provide tax or bankruptcy advice or counseling services. Similarly, debt settlement service providers do not provide assistance with secured indebtedness, such as mortgages or any other type of secured indebtedness (a creditor holding secured debt has no incentive to negotiate, or reason to accept, a settlement of less than the value of the underlying security).
Debt settlement has been available to commercial enterprises for many years, although it only became widely available as an option for consumers in 2003 and took off, as an industry, following the passage of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 made it much more difficult and expensive for consumers to seek discharge of their debts, particularly credit card-related debts. (See Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Forgive and Forget: Who Gets Credit After Bankruptcy and Why?, Working Paper No. QAU09-2, July 23, 2009, p.9.)
If you are current on your payments, it is very difficult, if not impossible to settle your debt. Creditors typically want to see that you are in a hardship situation before they are willing to negotiate. Therefore, you would have to voluntarily stop paying your unsecured debts; allowing them to become delinquent, or go into default before settlement discussions become a viable solution. Keep in mind also that your creditors and/or collections agencies may review your credit report, and a better credit score will make them less willing to negotiate. Debt Settlement services are best implemented while you are still recovering from a hardship. Secured debts, such as a home loan or car loan are collateralized; you should continue to pay these accounts on-time to avoid repossession or foreclosure proceedings.
By not paying your creditors, your credit will be adversely affected by debt settlement. However, having to experience this circumstance may be better than having to file for bankruptcy, especially on your credit rating.
Finally, as debts are settled, the date of last activity will be updated with the credit bureaus, also negatively impacting your credit score however. By coupling debt settlement with a reputable credit repair and rebuilding program, this damage can often be mitigated by other tactics including the removal of the negative account from your credit history, a best case scenario.
In general, in the United States, the IRS considers debt which is forgiven as income. This means if you borrow $15,000 on your credit cards and settle it for $8,000, the $7,000 difference is taxable as income since it is not repaid. However, the IRS will often waive this tax liability if you can show that you were insolvent during the time in which your debt settlement took place. We highly recommend a quick call to your accountant or tax professional for further discussion. You may be relieved with what they have to say!
There are always very clear and real responsibilities when dealing with debt, especially when you don’t pay back 100% of what you owe. However, once you can remove your debt problem from your life, a whole new world of opportunity can open up for you.
A record of an obligation owed by a Client to a creditor. An Account may have one of three different statuses: an “Active Account” is an Account that is currently enrolled in an active debt settlement program; a “Settled Account” is an Account that has been successfully settled; and a “Terminated Account” is an Account that has been withdrawn prior to settlement by a Client from a debt settlement program.
A proceeding in federal court in which a debtor is ordered to follow a repayment schedule for 3 to 5 years in order to satisfy their debts; reported on credit profile for 7 years.
A proceeding in federal court in which an insolvent debtor’s assets are liquidated and the debtor is relieved of further liability; reported on one’s credit profile for 10 years. Commonly referred to as liquidation bankruptcy.
A consumer who has enrolled in a debt settlement program.
approach to debt resolution that involves working with creditors to create a repayment schedule with reduced interest rates and late fees. Also known as debt counseling.
rating used by banks and financial institutions to determine the credit-worthiness of an applicant; a measurement of the probability that a candidate will default on any credit extended to them; of the bankruptcy alternatives available to consumers, only debt settlement will affect one’s credit score negatively.
An unsecured obligation, represented by an Account, owed by a Client to a creditor.
a loan used to pay off outstanding debts and in turn, the consumer pays back the loan at a presumably lower interest rate; the loan is typically but not always secured by property
the services provided by debt relief companies, whether credit counseling or debt settlement, or an individual strategy for debt reduction.
The difference between the amounts owed by a Client to a creditor at the time of settlement and the amount for which that Debt is actually settled. By way of example, if a Client owes $10,000 at the time of settlement and the Debt is settled for $4,000, the Debt Reduction would be $6,000.
the total or partial forgiveness of debt obligations through either a reduction in interest, the balance owed, payment terms, or all of the above; commonly refers to debt settlement, bankruptcy, and credit counseling, but can refer to anything that alleviates one’s debt burdens.
approach to debt resolution that involves negotiating with creditors and resolving an outstanding balance for a lump sum payment of less than the principal. Also known as debt negotiation or debt reduction.
The compensation charged by a debt settlement services provider. Note that fees charged by both debt settlement companies and credit counseling organizations are very different from each other and vary widely by state.
The Federal Trade Commission, the United States governmental agency responsible for oversight of certain aspects of the debt settlement industry.
The Amended Telemarketing Sales Rules (16 C.F.R. Part 310 et seq.), as issued by the FTC on July 29, 2010, which rule implemented the “advance fee” ban, effective as of October 27, 2010.
The net economic value of a settlement to a Client. “Savings” represents Debt Reduction minus Fees. By way of example, the settlement of a $10,000 Debt for $4,000 with a 20% Fee yields Savings of $4,000 ($6,000 of Debt Reduction minus the $2,000 Fee).
Back in the day, unwinding once the clock hit 5 P.M. meant a pow-wow with coworkers at a local watering hole. But as work pressures have ex..
Seventy-one percent of non-homeowners repaying their student loans on time believe their debt is stymieing their ability to purchase a home, and s..