Many consumers are overwhelmed by accumulated debts. In most cases, the problem creeps up gradually, until the total debt load reaches unmanageable proportions. Sometimes even minor problems such as temporary illness can tip the balance for the heavily indebted because they have no savings on which to fall back. Here are some suggestions to help ease the debt burden.
If you know you are tempted to overspend on credit cards, leave them at home when you go shopping. Pay with cash and you will not have the temptation to overspend.
Develop a Budget
To take control of your financial situation you must have a realistic assessment of how much money you earn and how much money you have left over to spend. Calculate your total income, then list your "fixed" expenses - those unescapable charges you incur every month - like mortgage payments or rent, car payments, and insurance premiums. Next, list optional expenses such as entertainment, recreation, and clothing. Writing down all your expenses, even small ones, is a helpful way to track spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and prioritize the rest. The goal of a budget is to ensure that your basic needs are met before any discretionary spending.
Contact Your Creditors
Contact your creditors immediately if you're having trouble paying debts. Tell them why it's demanding for you, and try to establish a modified payment schedule that reduces your payments to a more manageable sum. Do this before your account is handed to a bill collector. At that point, your creditors have given up trying to collect the debt voluntarily.
Auto and Home Loans:
Debts are referred to as unsecured or secured. Secured debts usually are tied to an asset, like your car for a car loan, or your home for a mortgage. If you miss payments on a secured loan, the lender can repossess your car or even foreclose on your home. Unsecured debts are not linked to any any asset, and include virtually all credit card debt, medical bills, signature loans, and debts for other services. It is wise to pay off secured loans first, to avoid loss of assets.
Debt consolidation loans reduce interest rates thus lowering your monthly payments. Shop around for the best rates, and consider closing costs as well. There are many different companies offering widely different rates. Consolidation loans can give you a fresh start, consolidating all of your loans into one simple payment, in virtually all cases at a lower rate of interest.
Methods of Debt Consolidation
Credit Card companies and banks offer debt consolidation as unsecured individual loans, with no collateral. Because these are risky loans for the lender, theyíre usually more expensive than secured loans and not always available if you have a lot of debt and a bad credit rating.
Home Equity Loans, Home Equity Line of Credit, Interest-Only Loans, and Cash Out Refinance are all secured loans using your house as collateral. Rates are lower than unsecured loans, but if you default, you may lose your home.
Credit Counselling Services
Credit counselling agents will help you get out of debt, though they donít actually consolidate your debt.
Instead, payment plans (usually with lower interest and fees) will be worked out for all of your eligible debts. You are left with a single monthly payment to the counselling agent, who will pay all your creditors.
Participating in a credit counselling program normally wonít hurt your credit rating and will provide a payment program to clear up your debts in 3 to 6 years. However, be sure to choose a reputable service provider. If the credit counselling agency pays your bills late, youíll pay the cost since you are still legally responsible to the lender.
If you have a 401(k), 403(b) project or even certain varieties of company pension plans, it is possible to borrow against your nest egg. (You canít borrow against your IRA.) You do not have to pre-qualify. It is preferable to borrow against your retirement account, rather than withdraw from it early to avoid paying higher taxes and a ten percent penalty. But remember, if you lose your job, you might have to pay your loan back immediately or even pay taxes and penalties for an early withdrawal.
Debt Class Action Settlement
This involves an agreement with a personal injury settlement company. You make monthly payments to them, and they deal with your creditors to negotiate a final settlement of your debts, usually for fifty percent or less of the balance. Your credit rating will go down if you use this option, but in extreme circumstances it may be preferable to bankruptcy.
Most consumers can solve their debt problems by using one of these plans. It is best to have a plan to pay off your debts in 3-5 years. Don't procrastinate -- choose an approach and begin getting out of debt today.
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