VERIFY | Best ways to get out of debt

Verified ' Debit Counseling options

If you're drowning in debt, you're in good company.

In January 2016, the average household carried nearly $16,000 in debt.

But if you're in need of help, you're in luck. We've checked out the different options, and will Verify which one would work best.

"Reduce your debt by up to 40%,” says the spokesperson of one commercial.

"Bankruptcy will not ruin you," explains another.

There's no shortage of companies willing to help you get out of debt.

"Our counselors are experts in managing debt," is something we heard in yet another advertisement.

So we Verified the 3 most popular options for getting people back on track:

  • A Debt Management Program
  • Debt Settlement
  • Bankruptcy.

We first met with Raam Maker of Apprisen, a non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling agency. "Our clients will meet with a certified financial counselor that's going to review their financial information."

These companies don't eliminate your debt, but put you on a program help you pay your bills.

They'll help you:
-Lower your interest rates dramatically, by working with your creditors.
-The debt collection calls will usually stop
-And you'll learn how to manage your finances.

The downside:
-It usually takes about 5 years to pay all your debt.
-There are strict rules....including freezing all your credit cards.
-And the success rate is low. Only about a quarter of people enrolled actually finish the program.

Another option is Debt Settlement.

That’s where companies negotiate with creditors to accept a portion of your debt by offering a lump sum payment.

"I wanted to know why someone would chose to go with a for-profit company to help with their debt,” I said on an answering machine.

We reached out twice to the American Fair Credit Council, which represents that industry.

They never responded.

Maybe that's because companies in that industry are frequently sued for fraud. But with a legitimate company, there are some benefits:

-You usually end up paying only a portion of your debts. 
-And you can pay them off in about 2-4 years…less time than with credit counseling.
-All the while avoiding bankruptcy.

The cons:
-Creditors don't have to settle. In fact 45% percent of them say they won't work with a debt settlement company.
-Because many tell you to stop paying your creditors and put your money into an escrow, creditors will keep calling. Some will even sue.
-The debt that is forgiven, is considered income, which is taxable.

Then there are the fees. While Ohio has laws limiting the costs, companies can still charge an 8.5% percent commission on the money you pay your creditor.

Finally, there's Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, where a court decides on a repayment plan.

The pros:
-You only pay what you can afford.
-You'll get to keep your home and car.
-You'll be debt free in 3-5 years.

"If you are in a smart Chapter 13 plan you might only end up paying a percentage of the debt you owe in addition to having no interest,” says Marc Dann, an attorney who specializes in consumer issues.

The cons of Chapter 13:
-This will dramatically lower credit score for a minimum of two years.
-Depending on the amount of debt you have, it can be pricier than credit counseling or debt settlement.
-The whole world can know you filed because it is public record.

But after looking at costs, the amount of money you'll have to repay, and the time it will take...bankruptcy may be the best option to get you back on track faster.

So we'll say this is Verified.

No matter which option you choose though, always make sure to check out the company or attorney with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General to see what kind of record they have.

Here are some additional links to assist you in your research:

The Federal Trade Commission weighs whether or not to utilize debt relief or bankruptcy

Debt calculator that shows the impact on your retirement money by using a credit counseling service versus filing for bankruptcy

Laws Regulating Debt Settlement companies and Credit Counseling Agencies:
 

© 2017 WKYC-TV


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