Approximately 8 in every 10 Americans are in debt.[1]  Debt may include mortgages, automobile loans, credit cards and student loans. This debt amounts to $13.86 trillion.[2]

Debt is crippling many households, causing many to make career, family planning, and retirement decisions based on their debt.  Families are having to choose between enjoying a life well lived and paying off debts.

Further, debt has become a norm in the United States. Many students can’t even imagine going to school without taking out some type of student loan.  Being in debt for 10, 20 or 30 years has been normalized, to the point that adults don’t find anything wrong with the fact that they have been paying on debt incurred decades ago to this day.

The debt coupled with earning potential and savings accumulated has become dangerous. According to CNBC, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck making most Americans one payment away from not being able to maintain the necessities of life. This looming financial crisis is not something that can just be ignored. Something has to be done about it, because with interest racking up, the problem gets worse everyday.

At Gilchrist & Fields Law, we understand that debt can be paralyzing. Sometimes just determining how much debt you are in can be a challenge, as it is not uncommon for old debts to be sold to collections agencies. Unfortunately, sometimes debts are sold to a string of collections agencies and multiple agencies will attempt to collect on the same debt.

Despite the difficulty, it is imperative that do not avoid your financial situation. One of the first steps you can take to figure out what you are dealing with is to pull your credit report. There are three credit bureaus in the United States that companies rely on to determine your trustworthiness and each bureau will give you one free credit report annually.  These three reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Once you have your credit report, here are some things that you should consider doing with each debtor listed:

Verify the debt

If the debt has been sold to a third party, verifying the debt is in your best interest to ensure that this is a valid debt against you. You will know that the debt has been sold to a third party, because you will likely not recognize the name of the company attempting to collect. When you verify the debt, there are certain pieces of information that the collector will be required to tell you about the source of the debt.

Dispute the Debt

Any debt that is not yours or is being pursued improperly should be disputed. A dispute can usually be done on the credit bureaus website. At that point, the collector will have to prove to the credit bureau that the debt is valid. Please keep in mind that many times collectors and creditors will report your debt to multiple credit bureaus. If that is the case, you must submit your dispute to each of the credit bureau that the debt is reported.

Negotiate with Creditors

Just because you may not have a lump sum payment that you can make on your debt does not mean that some type of agreement can’t be reached to make it easier on you to repay the debt. Here are four areas that you may be able to negotiate with a creditor.

Interest

Interest is the amount of extra money being tacked on to the principal, or the amount actually borrowed, as payment for loaning you the money.

Total Amount Due

Sometimes a creditor will reduce the amount that must be repaid in exchange for a new payment plan agreement. For example, one may owe $5,000.00 on a credit card, but the creditor may be willing to accept $4,000.00 if the debtor pays $100.00 a month for the next 40 months.

Reduced Monthly Payment

If you have not been paying anything on a bill, occasionally a creditor will allow you to pay a reduced monthly payment amount, just so that they are receiving some type of payment.  It is critical that you do actually follow through with this new agreement. As a result, this step may require you creating a spending plan to determine exactly how much you can afford to spread across your debt each month.

Change the Due Date

As mentioned earlier, most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Accordingly, many times it is necessary for debt payments to be split between two or more paychecks.  Calling creditors to change the date that the bills are due may make it possible to pay the bills on time, which will help improve your credit score.

To overcome your financial situation, you must stay committed and consistent with payments.  Please understand that creditors are owed something. Many times creditors will remind you that they do not owe you anything and do not have to work with you.  However, there are rules and tactics to reduce the harassing behaviors of some collectors.

Getting your debt in order can be a long and confusing process, but imagine your life with no payments.  What would you do with the extra $50.00…$400.00… or $1,000.00 per month you could easily gain when your debt is paid off? Gilchrist & Fields Law can help you get a fresh start in the new year by helping you understand your debt and make a plan so you can head toward financial freedom.

The information throughout this webpage is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Legal advice must always be customized to the individual case. Further, the information on this webpage does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Gilchrist & Fields Law Firm.


[1] https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/americans-have-debt

[2] https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/