If you have too much debt and stress, now is the time to stop this destructive cycle and get the help you need from a debt reduction program. This article teaches you the principles of debt settlement, one of the most popular forms of debt relief.
What is a debt settlement?
Debt settlement is also known as debt arbitration, debt negotiation or credit settlement-is a debt relief approach where negotiators communicate with creditors on your behalf to settle your debts to reduced and agreed to amounts. Only unsecured debt such as credit cards, medical bills and personal loans can be negotiated. You can’t settle mortgages, rent, utility bills, cell phone and cable charges, insurance premiums, car loans, student loans, alimony, child support, taxes or criminal fines.
Once you enrol in a debt settlement program, your negotiation team opens a trust account for you. You must deposit up to 50% of your unsecured debt into the account over a period of 24-60 months. This money is used to settle your debts with creditors. Because the average debt settlement firm is for-profit, you must also pay the company a 15-25% service charge. This fee is based on the original amount of your unsecured debt or the amount negotiated, depending on the debt settlement company.
Most debt arbitration companies use a third-party escrow service to “warehouse” the money that they will later use to fund the settlements they negotiate for you. Sending money to your trust account is generally done through ACH on the same day each month. If your checking account is with a bank where you also have a past due loan or credit card balance, it is suggested that you use a different bank for your debt settlement program.
Here are three things that a debt arbitration company must tell you before you enrol in their program:
1. You must be given an “upfront estimate” in writing of all costs associated with settling your debts to reduced and agreed-to amounts.
2. You must be given an “estimated timeframe” to reduce your debt.
3. You must be told that debt settlement can adversely affect your credit score.
Here are some examples of what a debt settlement company cannot tell you:
“We can eliminate 50-70% of your debt.”
“We can cut your debt in half.”
“Debt settlement will not affect your credit score.”
“Calls and letters from creditors will stop once you enrol in a debt settlement program.”
“Debt settlement does not affect your taxable income.”
“Once you join a debt settlement program, you will no longer have to communicate with your creditors.”
If you are considering debt settlement, here is what you need to know first:
1. Debt settlement will not solve your careless spending and savings habits. The only way that you will ever achieve lasting financial freedom is to apply the dynamic laws of financial recovery to your everyday life. These smart-money principles will help you to establish spending and savings habits that are built on solid bedrock. They are discussed in a separate article entitled “The Dynamic Laws of a Successful Financial Makeover.”
2. Debt settlement should not be confused with bill consolidation, another form of debt reduction. Bill consolidation-also known as interest-rate arbitration-takes your high-interest credit cards and loans and consolidates them into one, low-interest loan that you can afford. In other words, you’re taking out one loan to pay off many others. Bill consolidation does not reduce the outstanding balances that you owe to creditors. It only lowers your interest rates.
3. One of the primary reasons that people choose debt arbitration is to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection.
Here are five reasons why the consequences of bankruptcy can be overwhelming:
- Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years and adversely affects your credit score.
- Bankruptcy will follow you for the rest of your life. For example, many loan, credit card, and job applications ask if you have ever filed for bankruptcy protection.
- Bankruptcy cannot eliminate alimony and child support obligations as well as criminal fines.
- Except in very limited circumstances, bankruptcy cannot wipe out student loans.
- Bankruptcy cannot prevent a “secured creditor” from repossessing property. “A bankruptcy discharge eliminates debts, but it does not eliminate liens. So, if you have a secured debt (a debt where the creditor has a lien on your property and can repossess it if you don’t pay the debt), bankruptcy can eliminate the debt but it does not prevent the creditor from repossessing the property.”