The Differences Between Debt Management Companies and Debt Settlement Firms

With the average U.S. household owing more than $10,000 in credit card debt, it’s no surprise that millions of consumers are turning to debt management companies or debt settlement firms to become debt free. However, there are enormous differences between these two types of organizations. A good debt management company offers free or low cost services, can help you preserve your credit rating, and will teach you to organize your finances and budget properly. It will also successfully negotiate with your creditors to give you financial relief.

By contrast, even with the “best” debt management companies, consumers pay high fees, wind up with serious blemishes on their credit files, and receive little to no financial education. Additionally, while many debt management firms “guarantee” their work, in reality they have no way to ensure that their questionable techniques and unorthodox negotiating methods will be effective. Read on to discover the downside to using the services of debt settlement companies – and why using a debt management company is far more advantageous.

The Hit to Your Credit Scores

The primary problem with debt settlement companies is that they typically advise you to stop paying your bills for a few months – sometimes for six months or more. At the end of that period, the debt settlement company goes to your creditors and tries to negotiate settlements on your behalf. The logic used by debt settlement firms is simple: They figure that after a few months of not getting paid, your creditors will be so eager to receive some money (instead of no money) that these creditors will gladly settle your debts for pennies on the dollar.

If only it were that easy.

The problem with this is strategy is two-fold. First, you wind up with serious black marks on your credit reports and you decimate your FICO credit scores. After all, just one late payment can drop your FICO credit score by 50 points or more. Imagine the damage done by being three to six months late on multiple accounts.

Plus, when debt settlement is “successful,” your creditors agree to accept less than the full amounts owed (even though they will consider the balance as paid). The creditors often then report to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion that your account was “Settled” or “Paid by Settlement” – which also tarnishes your credit records.

Does Debt Settlement Work – Or Backfire?

Additionally, there is no assurance that the methods used by debt settlement firms will work. Instead of caving in to a debt settlement company’s demands to let you pay, say, $30 for every $100 you actually owed, creditors may just decide to sue you, get a judgment against you, or garnish your wages.

The Better Method – Education and Reasonable Negotiations

Rather than use a debt settlement company, a better strategy is to first try to negotiate directly with your creditors. If your efforts fail, and you can’t keep up with your bills, then it’s time to enlist the help of a credit counseling agency/debt management firm. A good non-profit, HUD-certified credit counseling agency is the National Foundation for Debt Management (www.NFDM.org).

Debt management programs typically take three to five years to complete; most debt settlement programs usually take two to four years. Fortunately, enrolling in a debt management program, also known as a DMP, shouldn’t backfire on you – as long as you continue to pay your bills on time. When you enroll in a debt management program, your credit files do include a notation that you are participating in a DMP. However, taking part in a debt management program does not adversely impact your credit rating, nor is it a factor in how your FICO score is calculated, according to executives from Fair Isaac Corp., the creator of the FICO score. Your credit rating also doesn’t suffer because you are paying back everything you owed in a typical debt management program. The cost savings come primarily from having late fees eliminated, and interest rates lowered – two key factors in helping you become debt free fast.

Don’t Forget About Debt Settlement Fees…. And That Big Tax Bill

Obviously, costs vary for debt elimination programs. But $25 a month is a common monthly fee for many debt management programs. Most debt settlement companies charge you in one of two ways:

a flat fee, which often runs $1,000 or more, and is based on how much money the debt settlement “saves” you by negotiating with your creditors
a percentage fee, with fees of 15 to 20% of your total debt being typical
So for those with $10,000 in debt, fees would run about $1,500 to $2000 for a 3-year debt settlement program, compared with about $900 in fees for a typical 3-year debt management plan

Why Pay Thousands When You Are Already Thousands of Dollars in Debt?

Besides the fees cited above, it’s not uncommon for debt settlement firms to impose added monthly charges on their clients. These fees can be as low as $20 a month or as high $90 or $100 a month, depending on the company in question. Over time, therefore, consumers shell out several thousand dollars – on top of the initial fees charged – when they opt to go with a debt settlement firm.

The IRS’s Viewpoint on Debt Settlement

If you enter into a debt settlement plan, one final hazard to be aware of is that you will have to pay taxes on the amount of money you saved. For instance, if your debt was $10,000 and the settlement plan says you only have to pay $3,000, you will be required to pay taxes on the $7,000 you saved. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, you’ll have to fork over $1,750 to the IRS, because the government deems your $7,000 in savings as income.

Debt Management Companies = Debt Free Customers

Your Debt Problems

Have you found yourself in debt recently? Are your credit card payments spiralling out of control? Is keeping up with your mortgage demands making it difficult to pay other debts? If so, then there is a good chance that your life, when not at work, is spent dealing with phone calls from your creditors that leave you down, depressed, and hopeless.

You are not alone.

Debt has been a crippling influence in modern times. An age of unrestricted spending, has led to an age of unrivalled recession. In recent weeks, the problems that many believed had passed have returned with a vengeance. People with debt problems need to know that they are not alone. So many people are dealing with debt today, that those who are not are the minority. You should not be ashamed of your debt. Silence leads to greater problems, and increased debt. Speak to someone about your debt today and start your climb to a debt free life.

Debt Solutions

The main advice that anyone suffering from debt problems should be given is – get help. With the rise in debt problems in recent years, there has been an accompanying rise in debt solution companies wanting to lend a hand. Many offer free advice with no obligation. Do not sit back and let the total of your debt grow to levels above your means. There are now so many options out there to help you, that the first step to being debt free could be just a phone call away. Debt Management Companies offer various solutions, some of which are outlined below:

Debt Management Plans

A Debt Management Plan – also known as a DMP – is an effective and flexible way of managing your debt. If you are in debt to more than one creditor, many debt management companies will help you consolidate your debts into one affordable monthly payment appropriate to your means.

Debt Management Plans can be the perfect solution. DMP companies can make it so that you no longer have to deal with calls from your creditors. Your interest charges can be reduced or even frozen. And you can do all this without having to take out further loans or put your home at risk.

As with all debt solutions, however, there are pitfalls to a Debt Management Plan. The payments can be extended over a longer time than expected if you cannot meet your payments, and you will have to continue to pay your mortgage and bills. But, to expect a successful debt solution without negative elements is, unfortunately, unrealistic. Unfortunately, to expect a debt solution with no repercussions is unrealistic A debt management plan may be the best option fro despite the negatives that attend it.

Individual Voluntary Agreement

An Individual Voluntary Agreement, also known as an IVA, can free you from debt in as little as five years. The simple way of describing an IVA is as a formal agreement between you and your creditors in which you mutually agree a series of reduced payments towards your total debt.

IVAs are an alternative to bankruptcy, and come with much less damaging consequences. As long as you have a regular income and can agree to meet set payment terms over a fixed period, you may be suitable for an IVA. However, IVAs are a more drastic measure than Debt Management Plans and the two should not be confused. A Debt Management Plan may be more suitable to your situation. You should seek advice from a reputable source before committing to anything.

An IVA offers some of the same benefits as a Debt Management Plan. Your debts will be consolidated into affordable monthly payments, calls from creditors will cease, and once debts are written off – you can start afresh. Some of the disadvantages are more severe though. You will have to declare all assets and liabilities, and any excessive assets may be ceased as payment towards your debts. You may also lose any windfalls, inheritance, or bonuses that come you way. And, of course, the results of missing payments can be harsh. A failure to comply with the IVA can lead to forced bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy

And now, we come to one of the most frightening words in the English language today: bankruptcy. A very serious concern, bankruptcy has wide-reaching consequences that can be deeply damaging for a long time. If you can avoid it, do. Sadly, many people can avoid it no longer. If you are unable to repay the debt in an amount of time deemed reasonable by your creditors, you may be left with very little choice.

Bankruptcy is a final option. All other options should be considered first. With bankruptcy you will find that all your assets are under threat, you may lose your house, your car, your business. But, after a year, any debts that remain will be paid off for you. You will be debt free.

Bankruptcy is a horrible word, but is also a necessary one. After bankruptcy many things will be different, many things will be worse, but many will also be better.

Debt Advice

Without a doubt, debt advice is your first step on that long and treacherous road to financial freedom. This article has tried to clear up the differences between certain debt solutions, and give advice on the main ways of becoming debt free. But this article does not claim to be enough. There is more to all of these solutions than can be covered here, and the best debt advice is simply to talk to someone; to talk to someone and to remember not to feel ashamed.

Debt is easy to get into, hard to get out of. Debt is a crippler, it is a fearsome enemy, and it is a growing epidemic. But there is a way out of debt. Debt management is a growing industry, and although it could not exist without debt, the industry is full of people who want to help end debt for you. Do not suffer in silence. Do not let debt build around you. Get help today.

Debtlands are a debt management company offering free advice with no obligation. They offer a variety of options and can repackage your debts within 24 hours. Their team has helped thousands of people over the years and have dealt with all kinds of debt. They understand that debt can happen to anyone at anytime, and are here to help. They want you to be the next to join their long list of satisfied customers.