If you find that you are not able to pay your creditors the first thing you need to do
is to talk to them. Never avoid them, thinking if they cannot reach you then it does
not matter. This will lead them to think that you are avoiding them, and they will
take further action to collect the debt. The best route to take is to call the creditor
ahead of time and explain your current financial situation if you are having
problems making payments. Creditors are usually very helpful, and they will set up
an alternative plan so you can make the payment without them reporting a default
on your behalf to credit bureaus. On top of talking to them, send a letter to them
summarizing your situation. Send it return-receipt so you know they accepted your
copy for your further reference. It is also important to pay the debts, such as rent,
utilities etc. first. These debts are more important and can affect you immediately.
By following the outlined guidelines listed below, you will set up a process to help
you overcome your short-term debt.
Important Guidelines to Remember
1. Pay the most important bills first. These include rent, utilities, car loans, and
other loans. Other debts can wait for a while.
2. Compare interest rates on the credit cards you own, and pay off the higher ones
first. Also look to see which ones will significantly increase if you miss a payment.
By paying the cards off with higher interest rates, you will save money in the long
3. Talk to your creditors to set up a new plan for paying off your debt. Most
creditors will work with you, lowering your monthly payment until you can catch up.
4. Get counseling help if you are having repeated problems. A professional who
works with cases similar to yours will always give you new ideas on how to reduce
your debt expenses.
5. Debt consolidation. You also have the option of obtaining a loan to consolidate
your debt. This is a great help because it will more than likely lower your interest
rate, and you will only have one payment to make per month. Be careful though
when using a debt consolidation company because you may end up paying a higher
interest rate. If you miss even one payment, your interest rate will go through the
roof. You will have to put up collateral such as a car or house when you use this
6. Try to make as large of a payment as you can to lower your debt. You are going
to have to pay high interest for a period of time, but the faster you can get rid of
debt, the more money you will save in the future.
7. Contact and join a support group such as Debtors Anonymous to help you cope
with debt, and you will also be able to discuss and relate to people with similar
problems as yours.
It can seem like a never ending and confusing situation to not be able to pay your
bills. Remember not to panic, and seek help. Avoidance is not the key, and you will
find trouble by ignoring your creditors.
What Happens if You Can’t Pay
If you miss a payment, you will experience increasing pressure from your creditor to
pay. The sequence usually starts off with a courtesy letter reminding you to pay,
followed by phone calls until you pay. As time passes, and you still can’t make the
payment, the creditor will turn your account over to a collection agency. The agency
is just a third party who purchases your account from the creditor for a certain
amount. Collection agencies are usually very demanding, and can be quite rude
sometimes. They have been known to make threats and relay false information
about what can or will happen if you do not pay them. It is very important that you
know your rights and what can and will actually happen if you don’t pay the
Know Your Rights
While a collection agency will try to get you to pay your debt, you have certain rights
that they have to respect or they are liable for legal action against them.
1. Always identify the caller. Write down his or her name, the collection agency they
are with, the agency’s address, and the exact amount due. Record the date and
time of each call too.
2. Always remain calm no matter how the agency’s debt collector speaks to you. If
they use abusive language against you, record what is said each time. Do not speak
the same way to them. If they report that you used abusive language, you do not a
have a chance to stand up against them in court.
3. Always dispute your debt in writing well before the 60-day time period they give
you is up. If you believe that you do not owe the amount that is being collected
against you, write a letter to the agency stating exactly what the problem is and why
you think the debt information is false. They will then have to investigate your letter
before any measures can be taken against you.
4. If a creditor is harassing you, you have the right to write a letter to them
requesting them to stop calling you. Under law, they must stop immediately or they
can be sued for harassment. If calls continue, record the date, time, and who you
are speaking to for your records. If you choose to take action against the creditor,
you can sue for damages and lawyer fees.
The sales contract you signed for your credit agreement has the specific information
about what the creditor can and will do if you do not pay your bills. If you do not
pay your bills your creditor has the option of acceleration. This will make your
whole bill due immediately with no payment options. Courts may be able to force
you to pay by filing a Writ of Execution against you, which will allow the creditor to
take some of your personal property and sell it. The property available to the
creditor differs from state to state. A creditor can also repossess the items you
bought or the property you put up for collateral.
If you dispute your debt and the creditor still believes its' claim is valid, the creditor
will more than likely have a lawyer contact you. You must answer the plaintiff’s
complaint letter within 20 days stating what you agree or disagree on. If you do
not, when the case goes to court, you will automatically have a judgment against
you, which may allow the creditor to garnish your wages and take some of your
personal property. The creditor has ten years to collect the debt from you, with one
more renewable ten-year period.
Other information can be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission:
Federal Trade Commission
Division of Credit Practices
Pennsylvania Ave. at Sixth St. NW Room 4037
Washington, DC 20580
They will help you by further explaining your rights as a consumer, and by referring
you to different counseling agencies located in your state and area, and dedicated to
helping you overcome debt.
To avoid the huge mess of going into debt, simply communicate with your creditors,
letting them know way ahead of time about financial problems you are or will be
having. This will save the huge headache of having to go to court to settle a debt
claim, and some embarrassment. It will also help to protect your credit score. A
credit report that has default judgments on it will not likely be a report that a lender
will be willing to work with. They do not typically stick out their neck for liabilities.
Aaron Ralston is the owner of The Financial Guru at
http://www.thefinancialguru.com. His website is dedicated to helping you solve
your financial problems by providing you with the free information you need to
get your credit straight, make investment decisions, and create your own