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England This advice applies to England: England home Advice can vary depending on where you live. Collecting information about your debts This advice applies to England Print. If you need help urgently Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice if you have an urgent debt problem. Debt counselling Most people these days have used credit in one form or another and there are a few things to think about before taking out any finance deals.
Options for dealing with your debts
What to do It is important to deal with certain debts first. These include: rent mortgage gas electricity When you contact your priority creditors, give them your budget sheet so they know your financial situation. If you ask them, creditors may agree to freeze interest and charges, although they don't have to.
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If you are not sure how much you owe, write or telephone your creditors to ask for the outstanding balances. Keep copies of your letters and make a note of any telephone conversations you have with your creditors. The amount left once your expenses are deducted from your income is the amount you have left to pay towards your debts. Use a budget sheet.
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These are called pro rata offers. Write to each of your creditors with your offer along with a copy of your budget. Before you do business with any debt relief service, check it out with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if any consumer complaints are on file about the firm you're considering doing business with.
9 Steps to Manage Your Debt No Matter How Much You Owe
Ask your state Attorney General if the company is required to be licensed to work in your state and, if so, whether it is. Find out what services a business provides, how much it costs, and how long it may take to get the results they promised. Get everything in writing, and read your contracts carefully.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Most reputable credit counselors are non-profits and offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U. Cooperative Extension Service operate non-profit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, which they may hide, or urge their clients to make "voluntary" contributions that can cause more debt.
If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan DMP. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
In a DMP, you deposit money each month with the credit counseling organization. It uses your deposits to pay your unsecured debts, like your credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills, according to a payment schedule the counselor develops with you and your creditors. Your creditors may agree to lower your interest rates or waive certain fees. Ask the credit counselor to estimate how long it will take for you to complete the plan.
To make that lump sum payment, the program asks that you set aside a specific amount of money every month in savings. Debt settlement companies usually ask that you transfer this amount every month into an escrow-like account to accumulate enough savings to pay off any settlement that is eventually reached. Further, these programs often encourage or instruct their clients to stop making any monthly payments to their creditors. Although a debt settlement company may be able to settle one or more of your debts, there are risks associated with these programs to consider before enrolling:.
These programs often require that you deposit money in a special savings account for 36 months or more before all your debts will be settled. Many people have trouble making these payments long enough to get all or even some of their debts settled, and end up dropping out the programs as a result. Before you sign up for a debt settlement program, review your budget carefully to make sure you are financially capable of setting aside the required monthly amounts for the full length of the program.
Your creditors have no obligation to agree to negotiate a settlement of the amount you owe. So there is a possibility that your debt settlement company will not be able to settle some of your debts — even if you set aside the monthly amounts required by the program. Also, debt settlement companies often try to negotiate smaller debts first, leaving interest and fees on large debts to continue to mount.
Because debt settlement programs often ask or encourage you to stop sending payments directly to your creditors, they may have a negative impact on your credit report and other serious consequences. For example, your debts may continue to accrue late fees and penalties that can put you further in the hole. You also may get calls from your creditors or debt collectors requesting repayment.
You could even be sued for repayment. In some instances, when creditors win a lawsuit, they have the right to garnish your wages or put a lien on your home.
Other companies may try to collect their fees from you before they settle any of your debts. Before you enroll in a debt settlement program, do your homework. Enter the name of the company name with the word "complaints" into a search engine.
If you do business with a debt settlement company, you may have to put money in a dedicated bank account, which will be administered by an independent third party. The funds are yours and you are entitled to the interest that accrues. The account administrator may charge you a reasonable fee for account maintenance, and is responsible for transferring funds from your account to pay your creditors and the debt settlement company when settlements occur. Before you sign up for the service, the debt relief company must give you information about the program:. Depending on your financial condition, any savings you get from debt relief services can be considered income and taxable.
Credit card companies and others may report settled debt to the IRS, which the IRS considers income, unless you are "insolvent.