Things To Know About Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is a way to collect all your individual debts and lump them into a single loan. It works well to combine overdraft, credit card, and automobile loans. By consolidating your debt you only make one payment to one creditor. Usually, you can negotiate better terms, a lower interest rate, and quicker payoff times. But is debt consolidation always the best idea for you?

When you consolidate your debt make sure you know if it is an unsecured or a secured loan. An unsecured loan is like a signature loan or a good will loan from a friend. You are not required to put anything on the line to guarantee the loan in the event you don’t pay. Money is loaned to you solely on your ability to repay. A secured loan requires that you offer a piece of collateral as insurance, in order for the bank to lend you money. That collateral could be your house, your boat, or a sum of money in an account. If for any reason you don’t pay the loan back, or default,  the bank has every right to take whatever you may have secured the loan with.

It is also important to know whether the interest rate on your loan is fixed or variable. A fixed interest rate remains the same until the loan is paid off. The interest rate you start out with will be the interest rate you end with. If the lender’s rates go up and down, it doesn’t matter, because you will have a fixed interest rate. The other type of loan is the variable interest rate. These usually have an introductory offer. The offer can last anywhere from three months to five years. After the offer expires your rate will adjust to a new rate. These loans are popular because the introduction rate is so much lower than other rates. It’s tempting to get a variable rate, but it’s a risk because ultimately you can be negatively affected by rate changes. Consider these carefully.

When you consolidate your debt, look at the bottom line. Many people don’t realize that their debt can cost them 200% more after they’ve made payments over time. The car you bought for $15,000 could end up costing you $45,000 in the end. If possible, get an amortization table on your loan. This will tell you how much interest and how much principle you are paying with each payment. If you can make more than the minimum payment on your loan, you will get out of debt quicker and cheaper.

As with many life choices, the more you know about your financial options, the more likely you’ll be to make the right decision.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

Reduce Debt By Taking Charge

Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is not easy. If you’ve already amassed a fair amount of debt and are thinking it will be impossible to ever get out from under it all, don’t despair, you can learn how to stop incurring new debt and take charge of your life.

The first thing you must do is STOP increasing your debt! If you have any credit cards that are maxed out, destroy them. The best way to manage your debt is to get spending under control by eliminating all of your credit cards, except one. Use your one credit card ONLY to buy “must haves” until you can get your finances in check.

Avoiding more debt starts with knowing what you are spending your money on. Record your spending. This is key to getting out of debt. You’re in debt because you spent money you didn’t have. If you’re like most people, your debt didn’t come from a single large purchase; it was trickles of spending amassed over time.  Each day for at least one month, write down every penny you spend, no matter how small.

The next step is to categorize your spending. Put your monthly expenses into groups of “Must have,” “Should have,” and “Like to have.” “Must haves” are things that will cause harm if you don’t buy them, such as food, rent, medicine, pet food, etc. “Should haves” are things that you need, but can do without for a little while, e.g., new clothes for work, gym membership, etc. “Like to haves” are things that you don’t need, but enhance your life, e.g., magazine subscriptions, newspaper, cable tv, coffee with friends, etc. By doing this, you’ll have a good idea of what you spend your money on, and you’ll be able to figure out where you might need to cut back on spending. You don’t want to eliminate all of the “should haves” and the “like to haves,” but take a look at those first.

Now, make a budget based on your spending record. Looking at your new budget, you’re going to be able to see areas where you might be able to cut back. Chances are, your budget has some fat that can be trimmed. Be realistic, but vigilant. Over time you will be able to hold back on purchases and you will be able to come up with a dollar amount that can be put toward paying down your debt.

To begin paying off your debt, first figure out how much you owe, to whom, and on what terms. Debt can often feel overwhelming because you really don’t have a clear idea of how much in debt you really are. Gather your bills, and make a simple list of all the debts you have. Write down all the pertinent facts, including name of the creditor, your total balance, your minimum monthly payment, and your interest rate.

Prioritize your debts. Debts that are past due, ones where the creditors are hounding you, and those with exceedingly high interest rates should be considered top priorities. You should pay the minimum on your low interest rate debts, and apply the bulk of your available funds to the highest interest rate notes. Once you pay off one creditor, each debt gets easier to pay off than the last. Continue to pay off each debt in your priority list. You’ll refine your budget over time, increase the amount of money you can pay yourself, and the amount you can put toward debt.

Once things become more manageable, make sure you always pay more than the minimum required, otherwise it will take an extremely long time to eliminate your debt. For example, a single credit card with just a $1,000 balance and 19% interest will take about FIVE YEARS to pay off by making only the minimum payment of $26. Paying the minimum, you will spend $1556.40, with the Total Interest Paid: $556.40! Paying only the minimum payment will equate to giving them 55% more than you actually borrowed.

Don’t give up. You probably didn’t get into debt in a day, and you won’t get out of debt in a day. There are no quick fixes. Consider contacting a credit counseling agency to consolidate or settle your debts. Learning how to manage your money can bring great peace into your life, and will give you the freedom to spend your energy on other things.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

Goal Setting Your Way Out Of Debt

Everyone talks about the importance of setting goals, but how many people really understand the process of effective goal setting? Goal setting is the foundation for both personal and professional growth and should rank high on your priority list, especially when it comes to the area of finances. If you are in debt, ignoring it is not going to benefit you. You must first asses your situation so you can determine what your options are.

If you are barely getting by financially and have no money in savings, contacting a credit counselor, who can offer advice on how to manage outstanding debts and answer related credit questions, may help you head in the right direction. You may want to consider entering a debt management program to allow credit counselors to negotiate with your creditors for lower balance, no fees and a lower rate of interest. If you have over $10,000 in unsecured debt, you may qualify for debt settlement. Bankruptcy, although a last resort, may ultimately be your best alternative. Whatever your situation is, the first step is to determine the best path for you. Only then can you begin to set realistic goals that will give you your desired results.

Once you’ve achieved this, you are ready to set your goals. Start by prioritizing which goals you’d like to focus on immediately. Goals should be specific, measurable, action-oriented, reasonable, and timely. You should have laser focus on what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it, and when you expect results.

Another important aspect to successful goal planning is positive language. Too often goals sound like painful work! Instead of a “to-do” list, how about an “action list” or “an action plan”. Instead of thinking in terms of what you don’t have, celebrate what you do have. Proper language should inspire, motivate and give you solutions, not cause you stress and be something you dread.

Breaking a goal into manageable steps is another helpful tool. Often we set goals, get overwhelmed, and give up. If a goal seems too big, pump it into steps that are achievable, but still challenge you.

Plan your weekly and daily goals and rank them in order, from most critical, to least. Your goals should consistently be rotated up the priority level and to accomplish them more efficiently.

Finally, visualization is an amazing tool to have in your toolbox when it comes to goal setting. Seeing yourself debt free is a powerful motivator that will keep you energized and on track.

Whatever debt relief solution you decide to embark upon, goal setting is an important component in the success of your venture.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.

Should You Refinance?

Interest rates have fallen so much, it may seem like a no brainer to refinance your home mortgage.

The decision to refinance your mortgage isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Before deciding, you need to understand all that refinancing involves. Your home may be your most valuable financial asset, so you want to be careful when choosing a lender or broker and specific mortgage terms. Remember that, along with the potential benefits to refinancing, the interest rate isn’t the only thing to consider when shopping for a new loan. Refinancing, after all, isn’t free. There are the bank fees, the bills for a new appraisal and inspection, your lawyer’s fee, etc.

When you refinance, you pay off your existing mortgage and create a new one. You may even decide to combine both a primary mortgage and a second mortgage into a new loan. Refinancing may remind you of what you went through in obtaining your original mortgage, since you may encounter many of the same procedures–and the same types of costs–the second time around. It requires an application, credit check, new survey and title search, as well as an appraisal and inspection fees. As you know, this process can be quite lengthy and expensive.

Age is another consideration. Carrying a mortgage into retirement has traditionally been viewed as a bad idea – ideally, you should be as debt-free as possible when your income stops.

As a rule of thumb, it pays to refinance if you can get an interest rate at least two percentage points lower than what you are currently paying. However, every situation is different. Make sure to carefully weigh the benefits against the costs to make the best choice for your situation.

DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt.  Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email contact@dmcconline.org. DMCC is located at 3310 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, FL 33064.