Demand for debt counseling is at a record high; 17 straight quarterly fed rate hikes, slowing home values (harder to get a debt consolidation loan), rising tuition costs, rising gas prices, bankruptcy reform… the list of consumer catalysts into debt counseling programs just seems to keep growing. But what are your options and which program is right for you? Read on.
First, some startling statistics: there is over $13 trillion in consumer debt out there, and over $2 trillion of it is revolving. When interest rates rise, that revolving debt hits the consumer’s pocket book. For example, it has been estimated that over $2 trillion of mortgage debt that is based on adjustable rates (“ARMs” or Adjustable Rate Mortgages) is going to re-adjust over the next 2 years… increasing American consumer interest fees by over $50 billion! What does it mean, it may mean that you cannot afford to pay your bills, and for many people, that means credit card debt payments are too high to afford which leads to Debt Counseling.
Debt counseling could mean a variety of things, from a traditional debt management plan that cuts interest rates and lowers monthly payments to a more aggressive negotiated debt settlement program that attacks principal as well as interest. Make sure that you sit down and do the budget analysis (http://www.bills.com/guide) and assess your monthly budget. The amount that you can contribute to paying down your debts should be the first step in evaluating your debt counseling options. If you can afford more than 2.5% of your total debt amount in a monthly payment, then credit counseling may be the best debt counseling option. If you can only afford 1.5% of your total debt monthly, then seek help from debt settlement or debt negotiation firms. If you cannot afford to make any payments, then you may want to evaluate bankruptcy in addition to your debt counseling options.
The next step in choosing a debt counseling program is to prioritize what is more important to you: your savings or your credit rating. If you just want to save the most amount of money while getting debt free as fast as possible, then debt settlement may be best. If you are looking to buy a home in the next year or two, and your credit rating is your number one concern, then you will not want to go delinquent on your bills and may want to explore a debt consolidation loan or credit counseling.
With any debt counseling program, it is important to remember that no one size fits all; make sure to shop around and find the best program and an honest and ethical company that has a solid Better Business Bureau rating before jumping in.