Americans Are Stressed About Their Debt
Americans are stressed about theirdebt. According to recent Associated Press Poll, about 46 percent of those surveyed say they're suffering from debt-related stress. And half of that group described their stress as “great deal” or “quite a bit”. The economy trudge ahead yet debt continues to dog many Americans – it just doesn't feel like a recovery is underway when unemployment is stubbornly high and the jobless face fierce competition for work.
I received a call the other day from a client asking about the Credit Card Debt Relief Act wanting details about how it works and what he and his family could do to take advantage of it. He told me that they had a rather large credit card debt load and struggled to pay even minimum payments. He also asked about the many websites and commercials that claim recent federal legislation tied to the bailout of banks and investment companies is also available to individuals. “Are they real or fake?” heasked.
It was fortunate that he asked first, but unfortunately my answer was “If you come across a company touting a new federal law that makes it easier to settle debt, rest assured: It's a scam.” There is no such law, and these outfits are capitalizing on people's confusion about changes in credit markets.
If you're struggling with debt (credit card or otherwise) and believe you can work your way out, first consider making an appointment with a legitimate credit counselor, preferably one affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. These counselors can review your situation and evaluate whether or not they think you would be successful with a debt management plan, which might allow you to pay off your debt over five years or so, typically at a reduced interest rate.
Also, make an appointment with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options. Credit counseling is designed to steer you away from bankruptcy, but you may be better off in the long run by filing. Meeting with both a credit counselor and a bankruptcy attorney will give you a better idea of your alternatives.
Some people are able to settle their debts for less than they owe, but frequently those who try wind up getting sued by some of their creditors making settlement with less than all major creditors a waste of money. The debt settlement field is filled with scam artists who charge huge upfront fees and then fail to settle most or any of your debts. If debt settlement is really your best option (to prevent foreclosure or repossessions or to keep no exempt property you would forfeit in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy) a Chapter 13 will likely allow you to force a settlement with all creditors that will be much more to your benefit than any individual settlements you could negotiate.
Check out your options before youcommit to a plan!