October 13th, 2010

The Road to Financial Freedom

As a recent college graduate, I feel like my student loans will follow me down to my grave and hunt my future children throughout their lives. However, I gain a little hope when I read about people who find ways to lower and/or completely diminish their debt. How do they do it? The stories sound grand, but seriously, how do they do it?

Well, some enroll in credit counseling such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. These companies are known for awarding their clients who demonstrate exemplary success towards debt-free living. However, debt settlement companies are also known to engage in fraudulent, deceptive, and abusive practices that pose a risk to consumers, according to a federal investigation of the industry. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that some of these companies provide deceptive information in order to persuade consumers, such as claiming high success rates or money-back guarantees. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission has found that less than 10 percent have successfully benefited from these programs.

This is not to say that one should not partner with a credit counseling company, just remember, that it is a partnership. A partner is always prepared to carry his or her own weight and in this case, it could be you doing your own research on the debt or various types of debt that you currently have. In today’s society, however, we are fortunate to have the power of the Internet which holds an overwhelming amount of information on various topics. So if you decide to conquer this debt battle on your own, be sure to do your research. Also, be sure to check out debt settlement/credit counseling companies, as a backup plan, just in case you decide to partner up in the near future.

With determination, debt-free resources and the grace of generous relatives, one can pay off their debt. Below are a few known ways to accomplish this:

Stop using your cards unless it is for an emergency. This seems pretty obvious, but the more you opt to use credit cards, the more debt you will obtain. Be strategic with this by leaving credit cards at home if going to the mall or someplace that does not require its immediate attention. Also, eliminate some of those cards that are only used for leisure purposes such as MACYS, Victoria’s Secret and other store branded credit cards. These cards are known to have low interest rates but will still contribute to an increase in debt if they are not managed properly.

Pay more than the minimum. This only prolongs the process of paying them off completely. Also, this waiting period is still racking up on interest, which is what the banks expect and want from its borrowers.

Know your debt. If you know the concrete details of each type of debt you have, it will be easier to conquer the battle of getting it all cleared. How many cards do you have? What are the interest rates? Which of them has the highest balance? Is the debt “secured” or “unsecured”? For help organizing this information, download the “Get to Know Your Debt” worksheet.

Use funds from your savings account to pay off some of those loans with high interest rates and/or balances. Even when debt interest is at 12%, your investments would have to pay more than 18% before federal and state taxes to equal that outflow of dollars. The dollars in your savings account are not earning anywhere near that rate of interest. In which case, repayment versus investing may set you up for a better future in the long run.

Borrow from a relative instead of the bank. If the loan amount is pretty low, there is a high chance that the repayment and interest from a relative will be lower than the banks request. However, be sure to maintain records and send those repayments on time; even if it is just to your grandmother.

Borrow against your life insurance. If you have a life insurance with a cash value, this may be very beneficial. It is basically like borrowing your own money. However, it is pertinent that you pay yourself back. If you do not repay it off before death, the outstanding balance plus interest will be deducted from the face value of the policy payable to the beneficiary. Which means this could be a huge burden to your loved ones.

Borrow from your 401(k). Most 401(k) plans have a feature that lets you borrow up to 50% of the account’s value, or $50,000, whichever is smaller. Interest rates are usually a point or two above prime, which makes them cheaper than that found on credit cards. However, this looks different with each employer, so check with your human resources department before making a decision.

Renegotiate terms with your lenders. This is worth a shot, depending on the level or fluctuation of your income. For example, if you have other obligations, such as medical bills, they may be willing to work with you. However, make sure that you are effectively prepared to present your argument.

About the Author

Joshlyn Ross
A native of Oakland, California, Joshlyn Ross works diligently to share variations of industry news. She also shares words of wisdom and tips for other young professionals looking to capitalize in their respective fields.



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