Although most Americans today have some form of debt these days, it can feel very isolating to owe money. Many consumers feel it’s a burden they must bear alone — sometimes even hiding it from their closest friends and family members. Can you relate? It’s hard to acknowledge your debt even to yourself sometimes, let alone tell someone else.
But there are resources available to Americans struggling with debt. Sometimes working with financial professionals can be the jolt you need to come up with a plan and stick to it. Here are four resources to explore so you don’t have the shoulder the stress of debt without assistance.
Work with a Credit Counselor
Ever find yourself wishing there was someone in your life you could ask questions about money management, credit and debt management? Well, credit counselors are trained in all these areas. Just make sure you choose a trained and certified counselor from a reputable agency, preferably a legitimate not-for-profit.
Credit counselors offer all kinds of helpful services, some of which may even be free. In addition to budgeting advice, they can help you take a look at your credit score and offer tips for improving it. They may even be able to help you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). DMPs can bundle all your various debt payments into one simplified monthly payment and earn you lower interest, provided you can commit to years of faithful repayment.
Enroll in a Debt Settlement Program
The more debt you have, the more discouraged you may feel about trying to escape it. If you’re staring down bankruptcy but want to do everything you can to avoid that route — and that damage to your credit rating — then debt settlement is an option on the table.
It’s true you’ll still be responsible for making consistent monthly payments into an account, saving up for the point at which it’s realistic to start negotiating with creditors. And there are no guarantees that creditors will accept. But you won’t be alone throughout the process. Programs like the one offered through Freedom Financial Network give enrollees access to a team of customer service representatives — and the assistance of a team of professional negotiators.
Enrollees will, of course, pay a fee for any successful settlements reached, but many deem this price worth it for access to the team of representatives, the ability to outsource negotiation to experts and the possibility of settling thousands in debt for less than the original balance.
Track Spending with a Budgeting App
If you’re not yet ready to reach out to a credit counselor or debt settlement team, at least consider reaping the benefits of a personalized budgeting app. You already have your mobile phone with you pretty much everywhere you go, right? Might as well make it a touchpoint for tracking spending, setting savings goals and keeping track of your credit score, then.
Many budgeting apps have a free version available, which allows you to test out the features before you decide which one clicks best for you.
Last Resort: File for Bankruptcy with an Attorney
Nobody wants to file for bankruptcy. But at a certain point it can provide relief from debt that’s downright unpayable in this lifetime. Working with an attorney to file will help you understand all the consequences — like the fact you may have to forfeit some of your assets, and that your credit score will bear a mark for the next decade to come.
Bankruptcy lawyers can help you choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, keep on top of court deadlines and represent you at hearings.
If you’re one of many Americans struggling with debt, remember that there are resources available. You don’t have to deal with debt completely on your own.