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How I Ditched Debt: My Shiny Nickels

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How I Ditched Debt My shiny nickels
By Anna Helhoski Senior Writer | Financial news, consumer finance trends as well as student loan and debt Anna Helhoski is a senior journalist who covers economic news and developments in the field of consumer finance at NerdWallet. Also, she’s an authority on student loans. The company was founded by NerdWallet as of the year 2014. Her work was featured on The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. She was previously a reporter for local news in New York for the Daily Voice, as well as local news in New York metro area for the Daily Voice and New York state politics for The Legislative Gazette. She holds a bachelor’s diploma in journalism from Purchase College, State University of New York.

April 4 April 4, 2017

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This series by NerdWallet speaks to individuals who have overcome debt using a combination of dedication, budgeting and smart financial decisions. These stories might encourage you to .
My Shiny Nickels blogger Laura Dobbins and her husband, Randy, on a trip to Paris, a vacation they could afford after they got out of debt.

In 2011, Sacramento, California-based IT manager Laura Dobbins, her husband and kids lived in an upscale home with all the luxuries of wealth- but their finances were a different story. They were almost $40,000 in debt and had charged an excessive amount on their credit card accounts that Dobbins was unable to pay for a plane ticket for an upcoming business trip.
She realized that they need to make some lifestyle changes. Dobbins and her husband, Randy began to save instead of spending and taking care of their balances. They also remodeled their home and, in just 2 years were debt-free. She has since shared money-saving advice and outlines her debt repayment strategies on her blog . Here’s their story.
How much was the total amount of debt you owed at the time you started your repayment journey?
Laura Dobbins 2011: $39,685 overall, including $17,000 in debit card balances, $15,000. in auto loan debt and $8,000 in personal loan debt.
What is your current total debt?
In 2013, became debt-free. Today, still zero.
How did you end up in the position of being in
It was ironic that it began when I was offered my first major promotion and salary increase. It’s not logical from afar; do you get more money, but you’re then in debt? While it might sound odd and it is, the answer is “yes.” Then we were able to accumulate all this extra money, even though we lived living in a decent home in a gorgeous middle-class area, we decided to invest the extra cash towards a bigger and better home in an upscale neighborhood. With that came the “need” for more furniture and a professionally-designed new backyard and an SUV just like the neighbors had, a gardener, and … well, you get the idea. Instead of being rich, we were financing the appearance of it. Each month. The spiral downwards of debt started.
What was the trigger that led you to begin a process to pay off your debt?
It was a realization to realize that we could not take the $400 flight ticket to a business trip I was planning. We have paid down the credit card just enough to have some available credit for things that came up. That pattern finally came to a halt the day my boss advised me to fly into St Louis for work. I went to our credit card account and found that we had $90 in available credit (and an additional $52 in the checking account). We’d managed to hide our financial status from the world for a really long time, but now it was finally bubbling to the surface. And it was terrifying.
What steps you took to lower your debt? What tools or resources did you use?
The first thing we needed to do was break the cycle of having debt “rescue” our. Therefore, before we settled any debt, we saved the equivalent of a $1000 emergency fund.
We were aware that to pay down the debt we accumulated in the shortest amount of time, we needed to free up more money. It was not the time to sit back and throw a measly $50 at our monthly debt. This was a “hair’s-on-fire, call-the-firemen” situation, which is why we had to make a major move. Literally. We gave up the massive house in the suburbs and relocated to a small 1,000 square feet home in a working-class neighborhood. The move alone has saved us more than $2,500 per month. (I’ll run the numbers for you: That’s a saving of nearly $30,000 annually.)
We also ate out less and found cheaper ways to spend time together as an entire family. With the extra money we earned each monthly, we took care to pay off the debt by using what’s known as the “snowball technique.” We began with our smallest debt on our credit cards of $1500 to gain a quick mental victory immediately and followed by paying the rest of our balances, starting with the smallest and ending with the most expensive. As we paid each debt off, the amount which was originally used for paying those monthly debts was redirected to the next one on the list. It was like the “snowball” of money which was going to debt each month grew in a flurry.
How has your life changed to the better since you got rid of debt?
We’re happy. Truly, wonderfully, down-in-your-soul happy. Once the debt was paid off and our home costs were so low that we had enough money to invest in things that really mattered. It turns out that the massive home in the suburbs did not provide us with joy, but traveling all over the world does. We can save a good portion of our money and have enough to splurge when it’s needed.
A couple of decades ago, our husband hated his toxic management job. With some of the cash we’d saved and a few savings, we started our first business — an important part of our husband’s long-term desires. He quit his job and is now the sole boss, and he loves it.
Being debt-free gives more than just a feeling of freedom It opens doors you never thought possible.
How do you tackle your own debt and begin the process of paying off your debt
The method Dobbins describes is best for people who require small victories to pay off larger debts. However, the method, in which you prioritize paying off high-interest debts like credit cards or payday loans before lower-interest ones such as mortgage, student and auto loans can assist you in paying off your debt more quickly and lower the cost of interest. This will show you how long it will take you to wipe out one debt at a time.
For a better way to manage your debt payments Consider debt consolidation, that combines several debts into a single one with a lower interest rate. Two options for consolidating debt include a . Use a to estimate your interest rate.
Anna Helhoski is a staff writer for NerdWallet the personal finance website. Email: . Twitter: .

About the author: Anna Helhoski is a writer, and NerdWallet’s expert on student loans. Her writing has been featured in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.

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The Debt Settlement Process: What is it works and the risks you face

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Credit Settlement: How It works and the risks you face
By Bev O’Shea personal finance writer | MSN Money,, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Orlando Sentinel Bev O’Shea is a former NerdWallet authority on consumer credit, scams and identity theft. She holds a bachelor’s level degree of journalism at Auburn University and a master’s in education from Georgia State University. Prior to joining NerdWallet she worked for the daily papers, MSN Money and Her work was featured throughout the world in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, MarketWatch, USA Today, MSN Money and elsewhere. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

Jun 24, 2022

Editor: Kathy Hinson Lead Assigning Editor Personal finance, credit scoring, managing money and debt Kathy Hinson leads the core personal finance team at NerdWallet. In the past, she worked for 18 years with The Oregonian in Portland in positions such as copy desk chief and team editor and designer. Her previous experience includes copy editing and news for several Southern California newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism at the University of Iowa.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

The term “debt settlement” means that a creditor has accepted less than the amount that you owe as full payment. When it has accepted that offer, the creditor can’t continue to pursue you to collect the money and you don’t have to be concerned about whether you’ll be sued for the specific amount of debt.
It may sound like a great deal However, it can be risky.
Debt settlement can destroy your credit.
Reaching a settlement can take a long time accomplish — often between two and four years.
It can be costly.

If you’re successful at debt settlement it could take years before you realize that you owe tax upon any unpaid debt. If you decide to work with a debt settlement company, you’ll pay fees. It’s a last resort.
Make sure you track your debt the simple way
Join NerdWallet to see your financial breakdown and future payments all in one place.

How does debt settlement work

The process of debt settlement is only when you have many late or skipped payments and perhaps collections accounts. The collector or creditor will not accept less than you owe if there’s evidence to suggest that you may have owed more than you initially agreed to.
Your will have been shredded, you will feel hopelessly behind and your income will not be enough to pay all your obligations to creditors.
Companies that negotiate with creditors to reduce the amount you owe on debts that aren’t secured like credit cards. It’s not an option for certain types of debt, like a home which can be foreclosed or a car that may be taken back. Most companies don’t settle federal student loans, but you might be eligible to . If you’re struggling with your student loans and need help, this may be a good option for you.
Settlement options are only useful if it seems you won’t make any payments, and you stop making payments on your debts. Instead, you create an account for savings and make an amount per month into it. If the settlement company is convinced that the savings account is sufficient to warrant a lump-sum payment the company will negotiate on your behalf with the creditor to agree to an amount that is less.
Readers may also have questions.
Do debt consolidation loans hurt your credit?

Debt consolidation may help your credit if it helps you make on-time payments or decreases the balances of revolving accounts, especially if your credit card balances were close to their limits. Your credit score will be affected if you rack over your credit card balances, close most or all of your other cards or miss a payment on you loan for debt consolidation. loan.

How can I cut down my credit card debt?

The bankruptcy process and debt settlement may help to reduce or completely eliminate debt from credit cards, but they severely impact your credit. Debt management reduces the rate of interest, and its effect on your credit is less significant. It can also reduce interest rates too.

How do I reduce my debt?

Reduce your debt in three steps: 1. Get a handle on what you owe. 2. Find out which payoff strategy will be most effective for your situation. 3. Make a plan and monitor your performance.

The risk of debt settlement

Some debt settlement companies say they can reduce credit by up to 50% and make debt-free in just 36 months.
However, the process isn’t as easy as it sounds. We believe that debt settlement should be a only option in the end.
Here are the risks that come with the settlement of debt:
Your credit rating will be affected: If you’re not already in debt on your accounts and you’re not, you’ll be after you transfer debt payments to your settlement accounts. Delinquent accounts and debt charged off by lenders stay on your for seven years.
Interest and penalties continue to accrue: You’ll likely be hit with late charges and penalty charges as well. The interest will continue to accumulate on your balance.
There’s no assurance of success The two largest debt settlement firms are . Freedom Debt, for instance claims to have settled more than $10 billion of debts for more than 650,000 clients since 2002. There’s no assurance that the debt settlement firm can settle your debt much less, given that some creditors do not negotiate with them.
According to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending, an independent research and policy organization the majority of consumers will need to settle at least four accounts to receive an overall gain. In addition, debt totals could increase as fees are accrued and aggressive attempts to collect may continue during negotiations.
You have to pay an amount when a debt settles according to law. companies can’t charge you charges upfront. Most of them charge a percentage of every debt they settle, based upon the debt’s balance when you enrolled into the program. Some charge a portion of the debt eliminated by the settlement.
For example, say you owe $10,000, and the agency negotiates a settlement for $6,000. The agency will charge 25 percent.
If the agency has a fee based on the amount of settled debt, you’ll pay the creditor its $6,000 and pay to the agent $2,500 for charges (25 percent of the total amount enrolled). Total: $8,500.
If the agency charges a percentage of eliminated debt, you’d have to pay the creditor $6,000 and the agency would charge you $1,000 for charges (25% of the $4,000 in eliminated debt). Total: $7,000.

Additional fees will be charged: Besides the fees that are paid when a debt settles, customers can face other costs, including the setup fee and the monthly cost to keep the account set up under the program.
The debt that you forgive could be tax-deductible: You should also know that Internal Revenue Service generally regards forgiven debt as income. You might want to talk to tax professionals about any additional tax obligations you’ll have to take upon settling your debt.
If you choose to enlist the services of the debt settlement expert, be careful. It’s easy to lose your guard when you’re desperate and you see promises made by . A study by the National Consumer Law Center has stated that debt settlement firms are “almost never worthwhile and can cause consumers to be in more financial difficulties.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes a somewhat softer view, but still cautions consumers strongly, saying that dealing with these companies can be risky and that alternative options should be explored first. There have been over 300 complaints about debt settlement firms to the CFPB from 2014. Most of the complaints included excessive fees and fraud.
Other options to settle debt

Michael Bovee, a debt settlement coach and frequently criticizes his business (he has testified before the Federal Trade Commission in favor more regulation) recommends eliminating your debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy and starting over, if you’re given the option.
For borrowers who are overwhelmed by unsecured debt such as credit cards think about how your options compare, like . A bankruptcy is generally the better choice. A bankruptcy can sully your credit history for years however, the process of rebuilding can begin as soon as. Consultations with a bankruptcy attorney are usually free, but you’ll have to pay filing and legal costs if you opt for this option.
“If you can erase your debts in the form of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that’s an excellent alternative to trying to negotiate settlements,” says NerdWallet columnist Liz Weston, author of “Your Credit Score” and “Deal With the debt.” “Only when Chapter 7 isn’t an option — you refuse to file for bankruptcy or you are unable to qualify for an Chapter 13 repayment plan -or if you are considering the possibility of settling your debt.”
If you’re not eligible to file a bankruptcy or intend to make one happen, you might consider the possibility of a donation through a nonprofit . The option you choose to take won’t typically reduce the amount you have to pay but it can decrease your monthly payment by spreading them out or through lowering your interest rate. It’s less likely to have an impact on your credit score than bankruptcy or a debt settlement.
If you decide to pursue settlement, you can do so.

If you think it is the best option for you, and you’d like some help in the process of pursuing your debt, Bovee has tips for picking a good company:
Contact the company to determine if there’s a record of complaints.
Beware of any company which offers cash in advance or guarantees that your debt will be paid.
Be sure that fees are arranged in a proportion of debt reduced instead of the debt balance at enrollment which gives the business the incentive to cut down on your debt.
Avoid companies that promise that they will help you contest debts in order to declare them “invalid” (a method that can backfire and result in more aggressive actions against you).

If you don’t want to engage a debt-settlement firm you might want to consult a lawyer or doing it yourself.
A lawyer may bill by the hour, have a flat fee per creditor or be charged a percentage of debt or debts that are eliminated.
If you’re seriously behind, it usually doesn’t hurt to reach out to your creditors. Certain banks offer hardship programs that may be able to assist. Be sure to pay for any payment plans that your bank may provide.
If you want to try , educate yourself on what’s likely to happen.
It is possible to collect as much cash as you can to make a lump-sum offer, whether that’s doing a part-time job or selling equipment for sale which has been sat in the basement, or taking money out of your friend. (Creditors might be more likely to take a lump-sum offer that allows them to receive money immediate, rather than taking a chance on the possibility of not receiving payments.) Be aware that certain creditors may have a policy against settling the debt.

Author bio Bev O’Shea worked as a writer for credit at NerdWallet. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, MarketWatch and elsewhere.

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