Credit Factors to Consider before Using a Debt Negotiation Company?

A relatively new approach to debt resolution, debt settlement or debt negotiation is the process of negotiating with creditors to lower the amount that you owe, typically by as much as 50 to 60 percent. A settlement offer is only attractive to a creditor when a consumer is behind on their payments. The reason why this is the case is that statistically a past due debtor is far more likely to either 1) file bankruptcy; 2) never pay the creditor at all; or 3) cost so much money in any collection efforts that a settlement offer is more profitable for the creditor. The financial incentive of debt settlement is clear for the consumer: you are able to cut your balance in half and presumably eliminate interest altogether. The main downside is that since you have to be past due in order for a settlement to be reached your credit will most likely suffer.

• Debt Settlement and Consumers with Good Credit: The impact should be pretty significant, particularly in the short-term. If you have high balances, however, then even your positive credit history is being weighed down by the negative effect that the amount you owe is having on your credit. This being the case other factors that you should consider are 1) when you anticipate using your credit again and 2) what other options are available to you. If you’re retired and not planning on getting another mortgage, then debt settlement is still probably your best option. If you’re 30 years old and planning on buying a home in the next year or two, I’d probably reconsider. And by reconsider, I mean I’d reconsider debt settlement and getting a house. If you’re buried in minimum payments, then the last thing that you should be thinking about is adding on more debt. If you have no real assets (equity in your home, for example), then debt settlement may be a suitable solution because you don’t have any options at your disposal that don’t affect your credit negatively. On the other hand, if you have a lot of equity in your home, then it may be your best option to tap into it because the credit impact of debt settlement may cost you more in the long run if you try to refinance or buy another home.

• Debt Settlement and Consumers with Average Credit: As a result of debt settlement you will still take a sizable hit in the short-term, but it will be far easier for consumers with average credit to restore their score to where it was when they entered the program versus consumers with good credit. Keep in mind, if you’re the sort of consumer that has always made payments on time, but you’re still stuck with a mediocre credit score, then it’s probable that in the long-run debt settlement will help you by eliminating the debt that dragging down the amount owed component of your credit score. With some proactive rebuilding after completing your debt settlement program, you should be in a better position to obtain a loan than when you contacted your debt negotiation company.

• Debt Settlement and Consumers with Bad Credit: For those of us with bad credit (600 FICO score and below), the impact of debt settlement may still be negative in the short-term, but the credit impact will be so negligible that the savings from enrolling high interest credit cards will most likely overcome it. Moreover, if your accounts are already in collections and charged-off, then debt settlement will likely improve your credit score since you’d be paying off seriously past due accounts. If you fit in this boat, then debt settlement is an ideal fit because you save a lot of money while sacrificing much less from a credit standpoint.

Curing Yourself from Leaky Wallet Syndrome

Financial stewardship of a business empire or $100 bill require a particular psychology if they are going to survive over time in the same hands. The lack of this same psychology is why most lottery winners cannot hold onto the giant sums of money they receive; and I call this psychological mind-set the “Leaky Wallet Syndrome”.

The difficulty with holding onto money is that it only takes a single weakness to lose it entirely. By weakness I mean that something has caught your eye that is so desirable that you will buy it spite of the fact that you cannot afford it. Whatever this purchase or payment may be, it psychologically reaches your personal threshold where having something right now is more important than having something tomorrow. There is a trigger that sets aside your normal, balanced decision-making with instant gratification. In my opinion, it is similar to dieting in that you have to eat food, but there are consequences if you continually eat even a little too much. Likewise you need to spend money, but there is a predictable consequence if you continually spend even just a little too much.

Let me list some of the common categories where people could have financial weakness: vacations, clothing, cars, shoes, personal electronics, charities, collections of any kind, books, Christmas gifts, watches, pets, jewelry, relatives, dining out, boats, hobbies and sports activities. And these are only single leaks in your wallet, if you have many of them your wallet could be in more serious trouble.

If you’ve never felt like you’ve had much “extra” money, you may not be aware of what your financial weaknesses may be. They may not show up until you receive a sudden windfall (annual bonus, tax refund, pay raise, inheritance, lottery winners), and you are not familiar with or prepared for your psychological pressure to spend money. If you want to know a few of your weaknesses, think about some of the items at the top of your list that you would buy if you had the money. How many of these items would seem like reasonable purchases to friends and family vs. how many would seem like ridiculous extravagances?

If you are still not sure if you suffer from Leaky Wallet Syndrome, your checking account may tell you: Do you have money leftover at the end of every month? Are you unable to payoff your entire credit card balance each month? Do you have any past due bills? Do you hide your checking account or avoid balancing it?

Let me give you a couple examples. An acquaintance of mine has three children, and in my view, is financially prudent in all matters except for one. And this single weakness has caused her to continually have trouble with high levels of credit card debt. She’s had this debt problem as long as I’ve known him and his only weakness is a particular self-help seminar. At least once a year, if there is room on her credit card, she attends one of these seminars and charges it all to a credit card. I don’t see her do anything with the information that she learns, and she feels it is so important, but I fear that she is sacrificing her family’s financial future.

I’d rather not see any more exposés about non-profit organizations spending their donations on supercomputers to analyze direct-mail campaigns instead of their stated cause. In another example, an acquaintance’s grandmother has a weakness for requests that she receives from left-wing political organizations. If a direct-mail piece lands in her mailbox, then they are guaranteed to receive some donation from her – no matter that she can’t afford it. And like a good poker player sensing weakness, the fund raisers now flood her mailbox with donation requests.

Leaky Wallet Syndrome doesn’t only afflict individuals. A family-friend is a business turnaround consultant for private companies. He says that the majority of the time his services are called during the third-generation from the business founder. The founder builds a successful business and the second-generation coasts on this success, and is mentored by the founder. But by the third generation, the business is supporting so many family members on the payroll that don’t contribute value and family infighting prevents any efficiency or reform, that only Herculean effort from an outsider can save the business from so many forms of overspending.

You don’t have to look far from home to find Leaky Wallet Syndrome (has anyone seen my Ferrari? I mean my Ferrari keychain with a used Honda key?), but all the leaks in your psychology need to be plugged before you can successfully move toward your financial goals. And this effort also helps prepare you for any windfalls that would quickly leak from your wallet.