Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
It sounds like you are in a Catch-22 – you can’t pay down your debt without consolidating, and you can’t consolidate until you pay down your debt. That makes me think that you could be a good candidate for credit counseling. A credit counseling agency does not care about your credit scores. Your interest rates and payments will likely be reduced, and you will have a plan for paying back your debt in a reasonable period of time. We talked about that more in this article: Does Credit Counseling Work?
A key indicator of your financial fitness, your debt-to-income ratio allows financial institutions to weigh your current debt against your income. This helps lenders determine your ability to keep up with new loan payments. Your debt-to-income ratio is calculated by dividing the total sum of all your monthly obligations by your gross monthly income. According to guidelines set by Wells Fargo, a good debt-to-income ratio is 35% or less, a decent one falls into the 36% to 49% range and one that needs improvement is 50% or higher.
A debt consolidation loan streamlines existing debts into one new loan. Most unsecured consumer debt can be consolidated, including credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, payday loans, student loans, taxes and bills sent to a collection agency. Having one monthly payment instead of several can make it easier to get your finances in order and could allow you to save money on interest fees. When shopping around, it’s essential to find a loan with a lower interest rate and better terms than the original debts.
How to use it effectively: The money you withdraw from your 401(k) loan should go directly to paying off your credit card debt. After your debts are paid off, payments most likely will be taken from your paychecks until your loan is repaid. If not, continue to make regular, on-time payments. While you’re repaying your loan remember to keep your job — don’t quit and avoid any actions that may lead to your dismissal so you aren’t subject to penalties.
Check over your credit report with a fine-toothed comb: Verify that the amount you owe on each account is accurate. And look for any accounts you paid off that still show as outstanding. If something seems incorrect or you are not sure of any items, then it is your right to contact the credit agency in writing and ask them to investigate the issue and make an amendment. The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending your letter via certified mail and requesting a return receipt so you know the bureau received it. According to the FTC, companies typically must investigate disputes within 30 days of receiving a correction request.
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.