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by M. Janet Williams
What is debt settlement?Debt Settlement is a process to settle your debts with the creditors. With debt settlement, a third party or you yourself negotiate with your creditors to come up with a reduced debt that you agree to pay. The re

What is debt settlement?

Debt Settlement is a process to settle your debts with the creditors. With debt settlement, a third party or you yourself negotiate with your creditors to come up with a reduced debt that you agree to pay. The reduction is usually between 30-60% of the total original debt amount.

Attributes of Debt Settlement:

Debt Settlement programs gives you a lot of options to clean your debts. It reduces your principal debt amount, eliminates your late fees, lowers your APR, and provides you the flexibility to repay your debts within your chosen time span.

Principal debt amount: Most debt settlement firms negotiate with your creditors and reduce the principal debt amount you owe. For example, in maximum cases 40-60% of the original debt amount is reduced.

Late fee charges: Some debt settlement firms waive off your entire late fee charges. It is sometimes seen that late fee charges club to form a major portion of your debt amount. Thus elimination of late fees can save hundred of dollars.

APR: Some debt settlement programs are done to reduce the high APR's for a particular account. For example, some debt settlement company may notify that APR has been reduced to 8% for the proposals accepted after 10th September 2004 and reduced to 0% for all proposals accepted before 10th September 2004.

Monthly installments: Debt settlement programs are also determined on the amount you pay on monthly installments. In this process you have to pay a single monthly amount to a debt settlement firm in order to settle your debts. The more you can pay the lesser period of time you take to settle your debt. The amount of your monthly installment is fixed by the debt settlement company based on your present financial status.

Annual time frame: Debt settlement is also chalked out on the basis of extended time periods. In such cases you have the provision to extend your time period from 2 years to 4 years or sometimes even longer. This is helpful for people who cannot afford to pay at one go.

How long does a debt settlement process take?

A normal credit card debt settlement case might take 3-9 months. If someone wanted to speed up the progress it could be shortened to 1-3 months. Someone wishing to stretch things out could find the time extended to 12-18 months. Some special debt management and debt reduction firms can even lengthen the process to 4 years or more.

How much do these firms usually charge?

Most debt settlement companies are transparent about their fee structure but you are advised to check out if there are any hidden fees involved in the settlement process. On an average the charge of debt reduction firms range from 8%-15% of the total outstanding debt.

The advantages of debt settlement:

Debt Settlement is one of the quickest and best ways to improve your Credit Report.

Avoid being harassed by the abusive creditors.

Many collection agencies will settle a debt between 40%-60% of the original debt amount. In this process you can save thousands of dollars. You will only have to make a single payment every month.

With debt settlement your time will be saved and your debts will be eliminated within 2 to 4 years. It is also less likely that you will have to fight the creditor later to actually delete the negative listing.

The disadvantages of debt settlement:

Your credit will be affected in a negative manner. This will be reflected on your credit report for the next 7-10 years. However, despite this fact consumers still opt for debt settlement and avoid bankruptcy.

There is a probability that creditors will continue to harass you throughout the process of negotiations and may even sue you or garnish your wage. However, only one creditor may garnish you at a time, and in some states, you may not be garnished at all. Ę Some debt settlement companies will only accept you, if you have $10,000 or more in credit.

7 attorney tips for debt settlement:

Be honest but represent your financial position to be unfavorable. If considering bankruptcy, say so. But do not incur any other debt after saying so. Never disclose where you work or bank. Don't hire a lawyer if you are not sure that you are in good standing when compared to your creditor. If you are contacted more than one creditor for the same debt, be sure that your account is sold off to a second creditor. This indicates that you have avoided the first creditor really well. If the creditor agrees to settle for full then make sure that your account status also shows "satisfied in full". There are high chances that you may have income tax on the debt owed after settlement. The creditor might send you a 1099-C at the end of the financial year. You are then required to report the amount listed in the 1099-C as income.

Janet Williams is a contributing writer to and is currently working on a special section in the site called do it yourself where you can eliminate your debts and become debt free.

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The site is not responsible for any content in it. E-mail: alldir[at]gmx[dot]com
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