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  • Writer's pictureJames Heinz

Debt Consolidation Plan: How It Works

Dealing with multiple debts can be stressful and overwhelming. That's where a debt consolidation plan comes in. Debt consolidation combines multiple debts into a single payment. It sounds simple, but there's more to it. Let's break it down.


What Is Debt Consolidation?


debt consolidation plan
debt consolidation plan

Debt consolidation takes your existing debts and rolls them into one new loan or payment plan. Instead of juggling several bills, you make one convenient payment each month.



Benefits of Consolidating Your Debt

  • Lower interest rates can save you money over time

  • Simplifies your finances with just one payment

  • Helps you get out of debt faster


Considerations Before Consolidating Debt


Before pursuing debt consolidation, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. You need to have a solid debt consolidation plan in place to avoid taking on new debt once your existing debts are consolidated. Simply combining debts without a strategy to change spending habits can lead you right back into trouble. 


Some debt consolidation options may have upfront fees that need to be factored into the overall costs and potential savings. In addition, certain types of debt consolidation can negatively impact your credit score, at least in the short term. Your score may drop initially from taking out a new loan or opening a new credit card. However, making on-time payments on the consolidated debt going forward can help improve your credit over time.


Navigating these considerations can be challenging, but with Shepherd Outsourcing's personalized approach, finding the right strategy becomes much easier!


Debt Consolidation Options




Balance transfer credit cards allow you to consolidate credit card debt onto a new card with an introductory 0% APR period. This can provide significant savings on interest if you can pay off the entire balance before the promotional period ends, typically 12-18 months. However, there are a few key points to note:


  • You'll likely need good credit to qualify for the best balance transfer offers

  • There is usually a balance transfer fee of 3-5% of the total amount transferred

  • It's crucial to pay off the balance before the intro APR expires and interest kicks in


2. Debt Consolidation Loans


With a debt consolidation loan, you take out a new loan and use the funds to pay off your existing debts like credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc. The benefits include:


  • Potentially much lower interest rates than credit cards

  • Fixed monthly payment and repayment period (typically 3-5 years)

  • Simplifies multiple debt payments into just one


3. Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit


If your home has equity built up, you can borrow against it with a home equity loan or HELOC. The pros are:


  • Home equity debt typically has the lowest interest rates

  • Interest may be tax deductible (consult a tax professional)

  • Repayment periods can extend to 30 years


However, these loans put your home at risk if you fail to repay.




With a debt management plan from a credit counseling agency, they negotiate lower interest rates and fees with your creditors. You then make a single monthly payment to the agency, which distributes funds to your creditors. Key points:


  • Requires closing credit card accounts, so you can't use them

  • Late fees are typically waived

  • Your credit scores may be negatively impacted


It should be noted that while closing accounts can negatively impact your credit score in the short term primarily due to changes in credit utilization and the age of credit accounts, the impact of making consistent, on-time payments often outweighs this initial drop. Thus, participation in a debt management plan could ultimately lead to an improved credit profile over the long term as debts are paid down.




Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending allows you to receive a loan funded by individual investors rather than a bank. This can make it easier to get approved even with poor credit since underwriting considers other data beyond your credit report. Potential downsides:


  • Interest rates may be quite high for lower credit scores

  • Fewer debt protections than conventional loans

  • Repayment periods are generally shorter (3-5 years)


Each debt consolidation method has its advantages and drawbacks. Evaluating your full financial picture can help identify the best fit.



Qualifying for a Debt Consolidation Loan


Qualifying for a Debt Consolidation Loan
Qualifying for a Debt Consolidation Loan


Lenders look at several critical criteria when evaluating applicants for debt consolidation loans:


  • Credit score: This is a major factor, with scores of 670+ generally qualifying for the best rates. Lower scores may get approved, but with higher interest rates

  • Debt-to-income ratio: Lenders want to see that your total monthly debt payments (including the new loan) make up no more than 35-40% of your gross monthly income

  • Sufficient income to cover loan payments: You'll need to show enough stable, recurring monthly income to cover the new loan payment along with existing obligations



Your credit score factors heavily into debt consolidation loan decisions, but there are also credit implications from getting a new loan:


  • Applying for the loan leads to a hard credit inquiry, which can cause a small, temporary drop in your score initially

  • The new loan itself will then get reported to the credit bureaus. Making on-time payments will help build your score over time

  • As old accounts get paid off through consolidation, that should also boost your score by lowering credit utilization ratios


While your score may decrease slightly at first, successful debt consolidation done right can ultimately raise your credit score in the long run by reducing overall debt levels and payment obligations.


Achieving the best terms for a debt consolidation loan often requires expert advice. Shepherd Outsourcing's advisors can help evaluate your financial position to ensure you qualify for the best rates possible!


Strategies for Successful Debt Consolidation




Consolidating your debts is just the first step - it doesn't make the debt disappear. You need to combine it with an overall strategy to pay off the consolidated debt and avoid recurring debt cycles. This broader debt consolidation plan should include:


  • Creating a realistic budget that allows for debt payments

  • Cutting unnecessary expenses to free up funds

  • Looking for ways to increase income through a side job, etc.

  • Putting any windfalls like tax refunds toward the debt

  • Having an emergency fund to avoid new debt for unexpected costs


2. Criteria for Success: Debt Payments Not Exceeding Income, Good Credit, Consistent Cash Flow

For debt consolidation to work successfully long-term, a few key criteria should be met:


  • The new consolidated payment fits comfortably within your monthly income

  • You have a good credit score to qualify for low interest rates

  • You have a steady job or income source providing reliable cash flow

  • You remain disciplined about not taking on any new debt


3. Managing New Balances on Consolidated Cards

If you did a balance transfer to consolidate debt onto new credit cards, it's crucial not to use those cards for new purchases and run up additional balances. Ways to avoid this include:


  • Remove the new cards from your wallet - store them somewhere secure

  • Setup payment reminders so you don't miss due dates

  • Check statements regularly to monitor any new activity

  • Consider closing unused credit card accounts eventually


4. When Not to Consolidate

While consolidation can provide savings, it's not always the best choice. You may want to reconsider consolidating if:


  • You don't qualify for low interest rates due to poor credit

  • The total fees and interest would exceed your current debt costs

  • You lack a steady income source or financial discipline


Before consolidating, it is crucial to thoroughly evaluate the fees, interest rates, your finances, and ability to repay is crucial before consolidating to ensure it will provide a net benefit.



Assessing Your Financial Situation


Before choosing a debt consolidation plan, taking a hard look at your finances is important. 




Before pursuing debt consolidation, take a detailed inventory of all your debts - how much you owe, the interest rates, minimum payments, and types of debt (credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, etc). This will help determine which consolidation options are feasible.


It's also important to reflect on what led to this debt load being accumulated. Was it overspending, illness/medical costs, job loss, or other circumstances? Understanding the root cause can prevent repeating the same cycle after consolidation.




Create a realistic monthly budget for your income, expenses, and minimum debt payments. This can shed light on where you can cut costs or boost income to put more money toward debts.


Don't wait until you've missed payments to contact creditors. As soon as you foresee trouble making upcoming payments, discuss your situation and see if they can provide any short-term relief or hardship plans.




Look at the whole financial picture, including:


  • Total outstanding debt load across all sources

  • Mix of secured debts (e.g. mortgage, auto loans) vs. unsecured (credit cards, personal loans)

  • Reliable monthly income amount

  • Any non-cash assets you could potentially borrow against or sell

  • Your current credit score range


Clarifying these details will guide you toward the best debt consolidation plan for your circumstances.


For those finding it overwhelming to take a comprehensive look at their financial situation, Shepherd Outsourcing provides personalized guidance to help you make informed decisions!


Choosing the Right Debt Consolidation Option


After reviewing your finances, match your situation to the best debt consolidation.


  • Good credit? Balance transfers or debt consolidation loans tend to offer low rates

  • Fair or poor credit? Peer-to-peer lending is an option, but rates may be high

  • High debts? Debt management or settlement programs provide relief, but with downsides


Be extremely wary of companies promising a "quick credit fix" or eliminating debts for an upfront fee. These are typically scams that can leave you in even worse financial shape.

For personalized help, consider nonprofit credit counseling services. Their advisors can objectively review your debts and income to suggest a customized plan.



Conclusion


At the end of the day, debt consolidation can be a powerful tool to regain control of your finances and start digging out debt - but only if implemented with a solid repayment strategy and discipline. It's important to carefully evaluate your financial situation, understand the pros and cons of each option, and choose the best debt consolidation plan that sets you up for long-term success without recurring debt cycles. 


Shepherd Outsourcing assists you in this journey by providing personalized, humane debt management solutions tailored to each individual's circumstances. Its advisors can guide you through all the consolidation options, propose a customized plan, and support you until you achieve permanent freedom from debt! Book your personal consultation today!

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