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Debt Management 101: 7 Key Rules every Consumer Should Know

Individuals often feel overwhelmed when they come to a point in life where they must ask for help from a credit counselor or debt management specialist. Without some specific guidelines to assist them along the way, many may make poor decisions and, in the long run, only compound their original financial problems. But what is debt management, and what does it really involve?

Debt Management, defined simply, is a process by which debt is eased and eventually reduced through the managing of consumer assets and direct negotiation with creditors. Debt management is usually offered by qualified debt “counselors” or a certified debt management company. These debt management companies use what are called “debt management plans (DMPs)” by which consumers deposit set funds each month into specific accounts that are then used by the debt management company to pay off consumer credit card bills, student loans, medical bills or any other form of unsecured debt.

Choosing a debt management provider is not something that should be taken lightly. What do you look for when choosing a credit counselor or debt management firm? There are dozens of factors to consider, but these 7 key rules to choosing a credit/debt management firm can make the process less stressful and may get you much closer to financial comfort faster and easier then you ever thought possible.

1. Get a Referral – Ask someone who has been in a similar situation. Take time to ask questions, to determine if they had a good experience with a particular firm or a bad experience. Getting information directly from another consumer who has used credit counseling or debt management in the past is an excellent way to learn before you agree to pay for services. In addition, a reputable company should be willing to provide examples of good results, without revealing another person’s private information.

2. National Accreditation – While no specific national or state accreditation will guarantee success, there are organizations in the U.S. with the soul purpose of promoting high standards and ethical practices in the consumer credit industry. The American Association of Debt Management Organizations are one of the most prominent in this industry. Members of this organization specialize in credit counseling, debt management plans, budget/finance industry education and much more.

3. Better Business Bureau Membership – Contact the Better Business Bureau in your city or region and ask for information about the credit counselor or debt management firm you are considering. You may also want to talk to someone in the State’s Attorney or Attorney General’s office to see if the company has been the subject of any regulatory action. Finally, if the firm in question has a website, check to ensure it[s a member of the www.bbbonline.org online arm of the BBB and has been awarded its coveted “Reliability Program Online Seal.”

4. For Profit vs. Non-Profit Experience – Many consumers have a misunderstanding about Not-For-Profit debt management companies vs. For-Profit companies. They both offer concessions for the consumer whereas some states require non-profit status before the company can do business in the state. Credit card companies fund most Not-For-Profit credit counseling companies with Grants and Fairshare deductions as a way for them to recover money from consumers who are currently not making their payments. The biggest difference is that a Not-For-Profit does not pay taxes whereas a For Profit does. Study the company carefully to see if it uses “non-profit” status simply as a marketing tool.

5. Excessive Costs – In recent years, credit card companies and other lenders have reduced some of the funding for credit counseling. This has led counseling firms to increase their fees. Some of these increases are reasonable, but consumers should be careful not to get involved with a company that charges a large upfront payment just to establish an account. A baseline of $ 50 per month is a good guideline for an initial new debt management plan. In contrast, a credit counselor or debt manager should probably not charge a fee of more than $ 100 to establish your account and negotiate with your creditors. Some companies will waive their initial enrollment fees entirely if you can’t afford them.

6. Real Education – Try to find a credit counselor or debt management professional who is sincere about giving you information that will help you deal with financial problems. You should not have to pay extra for CDs or videos that require you to learn on your own. If the person you are talking with does not or cannot provide satisfactory answers to your questions, find another company.

7. A Written Plan – A reputable credit counseling firm or debt management company will take time to review your situation, help you with budgeting and money management, and put your individual plan in writing. This personalized plan should include details on how creditors will be paid, as well as realistic goals for returning you to full financial health. Some firms even offer a free debt comparison quote which is an excellent way to see how much money you can save, what your new interest rate may be and how long it will take you to get debt free on your debt consolidation program right out of the gate. Unrealistic promises should not be part of the plan. For example, a debt management or credit-counseling firm does not have the authority to change your credit report nor should it ever imply it has done so in the past.

Coming face-to-face with financial trouble may seem to be more than you can handle, at first blush. Fortunately, there are many reputable credit counselors and debt management companies out there who can help get you started again in the right direction. Following these 7 simple guidelines when choosing a firm will go a long way in ensuring your final choice is also the best choice for your current financial circumstances.

Casey Markee is a consultant with nationwide debt management program provider Consumers Alliance Processing Corporation (CAPC). Visit them online and try their free credit card payment calculator and eliminate your credit card debt today.

Five Things Every Woman Should Know Before Signing Any Credit Application

If you are married (or plan to be) I will share with you five vital keys every married person should know before signing any credit application.

VITAL KEY #1: According to the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act (FECOA) creditors cannot deny consumers access to credit because of their sex. However, on average (in surveys) it’s reported that women earn less money than men. Regardless of what the FECOA states, the relationship of credit to income is very strong.

In our society if you make less money you will get less credit, period. The sad fact is that women on there own have less access to credit. It’s for this reason (I believe) it is imperative that women learn and acquire more knowledge about credit than men. Knowledge is power; and in the world of credit that knowledge will often times prove to be priceless, especially for women.

VITAL KEY #2: If you are a married woman with JOINT credit (meaning all your credit accounts are jointly held with your husband) you have NO CREDIT yourself. Many women in America find this out the hard way every year when they get divorced and lose all their credit privileges since all their accounts were jointly held with their spouse. If you are a woman in this position you can greatly benefit by beginning to build your own credit in your own name starting today! The benefits are two fold.

1.) If your spouse has financial difficulties (for any reason) and is forced to file bankruptcy or their credit becomes derogatory, you and your spouse will have your credit in reserve to survive on.

2.) If you ever get divorced down the road (over 50% do and 76% in the state of California) you will NOT end up in financial hardship due to no credit and/or derogatory credit. Instead, you will have your credit to transition to and (believe me) this can be the difference between sailing off in the sunset or drowning in a storm.

VITAL KEY #3: If you are currently married (with some credit or no credit) to a spouse who has excellent credit, you can leverage their credit to build credit in your own name much faster than if you had to build it by yourself. Later, once you have established enough accounts on your own, you may choose to cancel accounts that were held jointly with your spouse.

VITAL KEY #4: If you are a single woman with excellent credit and are getting married you may want to think twice about adding your new lover to all your credit accounts. If he messes up or you end up in divorce down the road your credit will end up taking the beating (regardless of how many years you diligently spent building it up). For this reason, I strongly suggest married couples keep their credit separate. Why?

In most cases spouses have far more to lose than to gain. Naturally, some credit will have to be joint no matter what you do. If you purchase a home (which may require both incomes to qualify) this will appear as a joint account on the credit report. However, the potential abuse with a home mortgage is almost non existent as opposed to Credit Cards.

VITAL KEY #5: Spouses have more to gain by each building strong individual credit reports rather than joining all accounts and building one joint report. For obvious reasons, banks and credit card companies love the “credit ignorance” of spouses who join all their credit accounts upon marriage.

Here’s why: If you take 500,000 couples with credit before they got married, those 500,000 couples actually represent one million credit accounts and liabilities for the banks and lenders. When those couples got married, those one million credit liabilities were instantly were cut in half from one million to only 500,000. For banks this is a very advantageous situation. For the couples getting married (if they have financial trouble) the deal is a little raw. If they have trouble, although they are two people, they are represented by only one credit report. The bank now has the right to go after two different people for one account (regardless of who was financially negligent).

For moment, let’s play out the same scenario with a couple which is financially savvy (note: they’re both on the same “team” but financially savvy). In this scenario, the couple gets married, but instead of joining account each builds their individual credit reports. Now this couple (team) has not one credit report representing them but two. Metaphorically, if the perfect storm (financially) is to rise, this is the difference between the couple being in the ocean with two ships instead of one. If the one ship starts to sink, the couple can always “jump ship” to the second.

While some may criticize this thinking it is no different than buying any kind of insurance. You buy insurance not because you plan on a problem. You buy insurance because you are thinking ahead. This type of thinking is no different. However, if you want to be ahead of the pack that you need to think ahead of the pack.

I cannot tell you how many times I have talked to loving married couples in financial trouble who only WISHED they would have known about these five vital keys before they got into financial trouble. Take them, study them, apply them to your life. As I heard one woman put it “In business and in life I’ve learned to expect the best but plan for the worst”. I thought her words were brilliant. However, I have found that when I expect the best… many times I tend to get it! Take these five vital keys. Study them. Apply them. Then pass them on to someone else who can benefit from them.

Jay Peters is the founder of Consumer Education Group which publishes the Credit Secrets Bible (in print since 1994). To receive Free Credit Tips including “how to get your credit reports for free” visit their website: http://www.TruthAboutCreditRepair.com

For media inquiries or interviews Jay may be contacted at (928) 848-1400 or email: JayPetersOnline@yahoo.com

By Law, Every Individual in America is Entitled to a Free Credit Report

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), every individual in America is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In other words, you can get 3 free credit reports a year; one from Equifax, one from Experian, and one from TransUnion. You may order these reports all at the same time or you can spread it out over a period of time, like getting one every four months. If you have problematic credit and are working to re-establish a good credit rating, you might want to order your credit reports space out over a few months to see how your credit is improving. Any report that you order after the initial free reports within a 12-month period may cost you up to around $ 11.00. Your free credit report gov (freescorereportgov.com) should be free. But your scores are not.

There is only one website that is authorized to fill your order for the free annual credit report you are entitled to- annualcreditreport.com. All other websites that offer “free credit reports,” or “free credit scores” are not part of the free annual credit report program and usually offer these “free” reports in exchange for a service, like credit monitoring, that you have to pay for. Or sometimes they will offer a free service that will convert to one you have to pay for after a trial period, and if you don’t cancel the service within that trial period you may be subject to charges and fees.

Unlike your credit reports, there is no free way to get your credit score. You can order your credit score from any of the three major credit reporting agencies when you order your free credit report, however, they will charge you a fee for it. There is still some confusion on how much these credit scores actually cost to order, but most agree they are in the range of $ 8 – $ 16. You can also get your credit score by purchasing it directly from FICO, the Fair Isaac Corporation- this is the company that basically invented the standard format for determining the credit ratings used today. Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that, in essence, represents your creditworthiness. A credit score is based primarily on information from your credit report and will usually differ between each of the three credit reporting agencies.

It is noteworthy to mention that the FCRA specifies that others can access your credit report. Creditors, insurers, and other businesses that use the information in your report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, or renting a home, all have legal rights to access your credit report. Your employer can get a copy of your credit report as well, but only if you agree. A consumer reporting company may not provide information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your written consent.

If you still have questions about your credit report or credit score, there are countless sites on the internet that you can find using Google, or any other search engine, that can help to answer your questions. One notable site which offers facts to consumers is the Federal Trade Commission website at ftc.gov.

Dee Jurgens is the head copywriter for CyberLead, inc http://cyberleadinc.com specializing in auto sales leads http://www.carcredit.com delivering quality car loans for ten years http://myfreecreditscorenow.net Providing free credit scores for you and yours free credit score

FreeScoreGov is the right place to know your creditworthiness. Your credit score is the most important document that will enable your lenders to agree to give you credit. To know your creditworthiness, we present here 4 great offers for you to select from. This is the place where you can view your credit scores from all the three major credit bureaus, namely, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

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