Consolidating your bills

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Avoid companies that charge large fees, don’t provide a fee schedule, resist getting everything in writing, or promote too-good-to-be-true offers.

To find a reputable credit counseling agency, start by visiting the Justice Department website.

Maybe you can’t afford to do more than the minimum payment, so you’re likely not getting anywhere with your debt.

The good news is that there are some things you can do to get closer to your financial goals.

Before signing any agreement, research the debt consolidation company, including checking for complaints with the Better Business Bureau, and avoid companies with a high interest rate or large fees. If you are unable to manage your debt, you also might consider debt settlement, a debt management plan, or filing bankruptcy.

Carrie Pierson, human resources manager for the Wyoming-based nonprofit Family Financial Education Foundation (FFEF), says facilitated debt management is a good option for some people because a financial counselor is able to negotiate a lower payoff amount with the lender (although, as stated, you also can do this for yourself by calling your creditors directly).

Less than one third of those seeking credit counseling will enter into a DMP.

Pierson cautions against taking out another loan to pay off debt.

In addition, organizations such as FFEF provide a budget review and financial analysis as well as payment distribution from a FFEF account so you are sure to make your payments on time.

Pierson says most of FFEF’s clients come to them when they are behind on their bills or close to becoming delinquent.

Suddenly a manageable monthly payment turned into an unmanageable debt. Debt consolidation loans combine all unsecured debt into one loan and one monthly payment.

Positive outcomes can include lowering your interest rate, protecting your credit, lowering monthly payments and getting out of debt faster. There are two types of debt consolidation loans: secured and unsecured.

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