Life After Debt – Strategies for Dealing with Problem Debt
Honorably and ethically rid yourself of burdensome debts using the little known Negotiation Strategy, without having to experience the loss of control and privacy associated with filing for bankruptcy, consolidation, or credit counseling.
The inability to reduce debt and saving money are the two biggest obstacles preventing Americans from living financially sound lives. National statistics show that money problems play a role in 80 percent of all divorces. One in 54 households will declare bankruptcy. Debt is at an all-time high, particularly credit card debt. The total amount of consumer debt in the United States is nearly $1.4 trillion.
If you are one of the millions of Americans burdened with debt and have trouble making those never-ending monthly payments, help is available. You don’t need to go it alone. If you are a typical American family, you have $25,000-$30,000 worth of credit card debt (excluding mortgages, car loans, and student loan payments), and you’re paying $500 to $900 every month in endless minimum payments.
Like you, many people continue making their minimum monthly payments believing that they are making progress. They are living in a state of denial saying “Someday, somehow, something will happen. Things will get better, and my debt problem will be gone.” Then years go by and they only find themselves in a downward spiral getting nowhere. They have paid their creditors thousands of dollars but their debt load never gets lighter. For example, if you were to continue making minimum payments on a $9,000 debt, and not add any more debt, it will take you over 10 years to pay it off. You will end up spending many thousands more than the original amount and 80% of the money paid will have gone to interest and fees. Most people add more debt as they go, so the reality is this – Without an aggressive approach to terminating debt once and for all, you will NEVER get rid of debt.
Today, people have options. There are four strategies for dealing with problem debt you will see advertised: Debt Consolidation, Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCC), Bankruptcy, and Debt Negotiation. Each strategy must be considered carefully!
Debt Consolidation – The Common Approach
Unfortunately debt consolidation is the most common solution people think of when they fall victim to financial problems. It is a sad fact that about 75% of people who consolidate their debt find themselves in much deeper financial trouble than they were in to begin with. All consolidation loans do is transfer debt from one place to another and is invariably a short term fix with long term pain. A debt consolidation loan will not reduce the amount you owe. You will still pay back 100% of the loan plus interest. This is not going to get you out of trouble and most of the time will only make things worse. Again, consolidation is not a plan to get out of debt but is instead just getting new debt to pay off old debt.
If you were to decide to consolidate, you would need to qualify first. Qualifications include equity in a home you own or other valuable, good credit and debt to income ratio. Most people burdened by debt find that even if they wanted to consolidate their debt they couldn’t qualify for the loan anyway. Once you have taken out this loan, you have just gone from an unsecured debt to a secured debt – and gambling with all your assets. Consolidation loans are spread out over a 15 – 30 year period, leaving you exposed to losing your assets over the life of the loan. If you run into further difficulty in the future you stand to lose your home, car, and valuables.
The fundamental problem that people run into is that once the debts are paid off by the loan, they discover they have a new line of spending potential: empty credit cards. It’s not long after these accounts are cleared that they are run up to the limit once again. This will leave you with both the consolidation loan and maxed out credit cards to repay. How are you going to repay the loan and the credit cards when you were unable to pay the previous debt in the first place? You will find yourself back in the bank for a second consolidation loan, extending your debt and making your debt problem even worse.
Bear in mind that being in debt leaves you with less cash you need to buy and plan for life’s necessities. Although a consolidation loan may give you a lower payment and a little more breathing room, consolidation is not going to leave you with the cash to get you and your family through the next 10 to 30 years.
Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCC) – Feeling of False Security
Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCC) programs have a failure rate of 85%. They simply aren’t effective. Here’s why; you meet with a counselor who analyzes your monthly budget. The counselor will submit a proposal to your creditors for a reduction in the interest rates. You would then pay a monthly payment to them and they would then distribute that monthly payment to your creditors. These programs generally take 5-7 years to complete. The theory here is that your overall payment per month is lower due to the counselor’s success at obtaining lower interest rates and more favorable terms with the credit card companies and banks. This approach is most often recommended by the banks themselves.
Here are the facts: CCC Services were created in the late 1970’s when credit card and loan companies began to notice that many people were having problems making their minimum payments and defaulting on their debt. In short, the so-called “non-profit” companies are owned by the credit card companies and banks! CCC agencies are funded by commission by the credit card companies based on the debt recovered from you, normally around 12 – 15%. This means that for every $1,000 you give them, they can take as much as $150. If you’re paying them a service fee of $20 per month, and the creditors are paying them $75, you can quickly see that CCC agencies are not working for you but for the creditors.
In addition, you have no insight into what the CCC agency is doing on your behalf and no control over the repayment process. They send in their single monthly payment, with no idea of how much is going to which creditor. Since most counselors are busy people who work based on high volume, getting a return phone call can be difficult.
It’s key to know that with CCC programs, you still pay 100% of the debt plus a lower interest rate. The debt you walk in the CCC is what you walk out with. With all things considered, it works out to be about the same as your current minimum payments.
Bankruptcy – The Last Straw
Today more people than ever are turning to personal bankruptcy as a way of solving their financial problems. Estimates indicate that 2003 will see nearly 1 in 70 Americans filing for bankruptcy. People owing as little as $5,000 are unknowingly filing, not knowing of alternative methods of eliminating their debt. The reason people take this hasty action with such a low debt amount is the harassment and overwhelming pressure from impatient collectors trying to recover their money. In the case of Consumer Credit Counseling agencies, once they find that they are unable or unwilling to help, they will suggest bankruptcy as the answer – unconcerned of the effect it will have on your future.
In bankruptcy, a court order forces all commercial creditors to cease and desist from attempting to collect the debts you owe them. Depending on the bankruptcy declared (Chapter 7 or 13), it stops wage garnishment, reverses judgments, and generally wipes out debt.
For some people, bankruptcy is the only sensible option. If you have $60,000 in debts, and you’ll never earn more than $1,200 per month, then you’re broke! The sooner you eliminate the debt, the sooner you’ll have a fresh start. With more than 1.4 million bankruptcy filings in 2000, Congress is passing legislation that will make it tougher to declare bankruptcy.
In bankruptcy, certain personal property is treated as exempt. The banks and creditors cannot touch that property in attempting to recover the money owed to them. Your home, car and other personal effects like clothing, and other assets are considered exempt, but this varies from state to state. Any property that is not exempt is liquidated and distributed to the creditors under the supervision of the court. Since most people entering bankruptcy have only exempt property anyway, there’s usually nothing left to distribute, so the creditors typically get nothing.
Seems like a good deal? Many people mistakenly see bankruptcy as a good, low cost way to rid themselves of debt. There are other costs associated with bankruptcy that make it a very bad solution for most people. The cost of filing bankruptcy itself is minimal. Depending on what state you live in, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 on up to $1,600 for the whole process. That’s just the beginning. The bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years – and on your court records for 20 years. The seemingly “low cost” method will cost you dearly as it will follow you for the rest of your life. If you ever apply for a loan, job, apartment or insurance, one of the first questions normally asked is “Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?” And, for the rest of your life, you’ll have to answer “Yes.”
You might be able to eliminate your debt, but the effects emotionally and the effect on your personal life will last for many years to come. Consider applying for a terrific job after you have filed bankruptcy. These days, employers will run a credit report to determine how you faired financially. This will effect whether the employer will give you that dream job or not. Even if you do get the job and your employer later runs a credit report on you, you will still have to explain the bankruptcy. While employers can’t fire you because of a bad credit report, they can certainly limit your future promotions.
Future purchases are affected as well; after several years, you may opt to purchase a home. If you’re in sufficient shape at that point to qualify for a mortgage, you’ll pay a higher interest rate than the average consumer who has never filed for bankruptcy. Assume you want to purchase a $100,000 house a few years after filing bankruptcy. You make a $10,000 down payment. This will result in applying for an $80,000 mortgage. While your “good credit” neighbor would obtain an interest rate of 4.5%, you would get a rate of 7%. While it seems that the extra 2.5% difference is not bad for having filed bankruptcy in the past, it’s what you will pay monthly where you will feel the pinch. That extra 2.5% on a mortgage will increase your monthly payment by $200 per month with the total of your payments reaching more than $70,000 over the 30-year life of the mortgage.
Besides being a devastating blow to your credit, a bankruptcy can also be a very stressful and embarrassing decision to continually have to explain to every potential lender. If you have no choice, then you should proceed, understanding the consequences. However, the majority of people who take this method of debt elimination don’t know what they’re getting themselves into or the consequences thereafter. They are desperate, and they get talked into filing bankruptcy by the collectors or attorney without understanding the impact on their financial future.
Keep in mind that personal bankruptcies are usually unnecessary as there are better options available. Many people are forced, against their wishes, to file bankruptcy to protect themselves from aggressive creditor tactics or attorney. Ultimately, bankruptcy still means failure to employers and creditors.
Debt Negotiation – Light at the End of the Tunnel
Few people realize that there is another solution to burdensome debt, an approach that levels the playing field between you and your creditors, without having to go to court. The debt negotiation strategy will put you back on the road to financial freedom and in control of your life again.
The Negotiation Strategy allows you to turn that $25,000 of credit card debt into $12,500 or even as little as $9,000. In most cases, our clients have debts totaling $8,000 and have successfully saved them thousands while maintaining a reasonable credit rating. With a professional debt negotiator working for you, your debt can be cut in half or less.
How it works: Put yourself in the shoes of a manager of a collection department for a major credit card company. You know that bankruptcies are at an all-time high and that the chances of collecting on the outstanding debt worsen as the debt ages. You have the opportunity to close your books on a delinquent account by collecting 50 pennies for every dollar owed by the debtor, or take a chance on never collecting a single penny by trying to hold out for the full value. You also realize that once the debt leaves your bank (usually after six months or so), it will go to a third-party collection agency. The agency will take at least 15%-20% commission right off the top of whatever they collect, and they are unlikely to collect more than 70% of the debt even with the most aggressive tactics. So you’ll probably never retrieve much more than half the money anyway. When you look at it this way, collecting 50% now doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.
The way it’s described, it sounds easy. You might be thinking, “I’ll the collectors and do this myself.” You’ll reach the “customer service team” and the representative will inform you that other banks may settle for 50%, but their bank never settles under any circumstances. Of course, they do have that “great” hardship program for you. After you’ve called a few times and received the same treatment, you’ll probably end up with the idea that debt negotiation doesn’t work. The banks will rarely take a debtor seriously. They simply don’t believe you and they think your hardship story is phony. The banks are quite prepared for the amateur do-it-yourself negotiator. They have the telephone scripts set up so that by the time the conversation is over, you will feel guilty about the money owed, and their lame hardship plan sounds like a great deal after all.
Having a third-party professional on your side makes all the difference in the world. Once your creditors realize that they are talking to a professional, someone who knows the laws and regulations, they quickly change their tune. A negotiator will obtain better results than you could ever obtain on your own, simply because all of the bank’s tactics are stymied by the fact that they can’t talk directly to you. They can’t apply psychological pressure to you since this is filtered out by your Professional Debt Negotiator.
Consider this: Creditors pull out all the stops when you fall behind. They have gangs of collectors ready to pressure you with carefully scripted techniques and mind games. They have attorneys and collection agencies ready to step in and go after you full throttle. You need to level the playing field. The best and only way you can concentrate on improving your financial future is to let a professional deal with the aggravation of the nonstop phone calls. Bottom line – If you’re looking for the most effective, low-cost, and fastest way to terminate your debt problem once and for all – Negotiation is the answer.