Consolidation means that your various debts, whether they are credit card bills or loan payments, are rolled into one monthly payment. If you have multiple credit card accounts or loans, consolidation may be a way to simplify or lower payments. But, a debt consolidation loan does not erase your debt. You might also end up paying more by consolidating debt into another type of loan.
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. You can ask for an investigation —at no charge to you — of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. By law:
A third of your overall credit score is based on the credit utilization ratio across all of your cards. Because of the way credit scoring works, it's better to carry a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit (20% credit utilization) than to carry a $500 balance on a card with a $1,000 limit (50% credit utilization). That's why, in discussing payment pecking order, we recommended paying off the cards closest to being maxed out. That's also why you shouldn't terminate accounts. It'll increase the percentage of total available credit that you’re using – and that will reduce your score.
When weighing whether borrowing from your workplace retirement plan makes sense, keep in mind that if you leave your job—voluntarily or not—you typically must repay a loan within 60 days. If you don't get it paid off in time, the loan morphs into a withdrawal, and that can end up costing you plenty. If you are under 55 you will owe a 10% early withdrawal penalty, and a withdrawal from a traditional 401(k) account will also be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
Focus on paying off your smallest debts first, suggests Kalen Omo, a financial coach in Tucson, Arizona, and owner of Kalen Omo Financial Coaching. This repayment strategy is known as the "debt snowball" method. "You list your debts from smallest to largest, paying minimums on everything except the smallest, and attacking that small debt with a vengeance. The goal is to get small wins along the way to motivate and give you hope to tackle the next one and the next one and so on. Once the smallest one is paid off, you take that payment to the next smallest debt, and the process acts like a snowball on the top of a hill. It picks up more snow as it goes downhill," Omo says.
When your financial health is at stake, you need a lender you can trust. Unfortunately, some financial institutions make it difficult to find all the information you need to make an educated decision. This can cause you to inadvertently sign up for a misleading loan that doesn’t serve your best interests. If you can’t easily find the answers to any questions you may have about a debt consolidation loan, you may want to consider another lender.
You need to review, in detail, your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can use AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain your report for free. As you review the report, keep track of any information that you believe is incorrect. Credit scores are built using data from the credit bureaus, so it is important to ensure the data at Experian, Equifax and TransUnion is accurate.
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.