Everyone’s financial situation is unique. That can make settling on a debt relief option feel stressful at times.
Here are five useful debt solutions to explore, and the risks and benefits of each, so you can make an informed decision.
Debt consolidation is an option for anyone who has several types of consumer debt that they want to manage more effectively. Having multiple consumer debts often means you have multiple payment dates, lenders, and varying interest rates (credit cards generally have interest rates as high as 20 per cent).
The benefit of a debt consolidation loan is that you roll all your consumer debts into one loan, with an interest rate that is often lower than your originals. It’s easier to keep track of your overall debt level and your payment date, and the lower interest rate means you’ll pay more of your principal and potentially pay your debt down more quickly.
Debt consolidation doesn’t eliminate your debts for you—it rolls all your debts into one, making it easier to meet your payment obligations. If your overall debt outweighs your income, you’ll want to consider a consumer proposal or bankruptcy.
A debt management plan allows you to come to an agreement with your creditors that reduces your payments. A credit counsellor is able to assist you with the negotiation with your creditors. If the negotiation goes well, you will end up with a lower interest rate on your debt. A debt management plan can make it easier for you to pay off your debts, since your interest rates are lower. You make your payment to the credit counselling agency. However, the plan doesn’t give you the protection of other solutions, like a consumer proposal, and you will have to pay back the entirety of your debt.
Debt settlement agreements result in you repaying a portion of your debt. In this case, you need to involve a debt settlement company. Over a number of months, you make payments to the debt settlement company—not your creditors. When your debt settlement company feels there is enough money built up, they then begin the negotiation with your creditors. They’ll try to settle your debts for less than what you owe, offering a lump sum from the holding account to which you’ve been contributing.
The benefit of this option is that if the offer is accepted by your creditors, you’ll be paying back less than you owe. However, debt settlement companies charge you a fee, and there’s no guarantee that your creditors will accept the offer. In the end, they may charge you fees and refer you on to a professional, like a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT), who will work with you on a consumer proposal.
A consumer proposal is one of two options for legal debt forgiveness. An LIT will negotiate an agreement between you and your creditors that will allow you to repay a portion of the total debt you owe, over a maximum of five years. That makes it easier for you to get out of debt entirely, over time, and your monthly payments will be lower than before. The additional legal protections of a consumer proposal are also beneficial. You won’t receive harassing phone calls or threats from creditors, and creditors can’t take legal action against you, like requesting wage garnishments or putting a lien on your home.
Filing a consumer proposal results in an R7 credit rating on your credit report. After you have completed your proposal, you can begin working on rebuilding your credit which means using credit carefully and repaying it in full, without missing payments. You can learn more about the consumer proposal process here.
Personal bankruptcy can alleviate debt problems almost immediately, but it should be your last resort. Declaring bankruptcy will eliminate most, if not all, of your unsecured debt. Like a consumer proposal, the bankruptcy process is regulated by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. All parties involved, including you and your creditors, must be treated fairly and honestly. The same protections are in place for bankruptcy as for a consumer proposal. Once you file for bankruptcy, you won’t receive creditor calls, your interest is frozen and wage garnishments end. Bankruptcy will result in an R9 rating, which will stay on your credit report for six years after you have been discharged from your bankruptcy. During that time, you can work on rebuilding your credit.
Having debt that feels unmanageable can be overwhelming. If you feel like you’re having a difficult time making your debt payments each month, or if you feel that your debt is taking too long to pay off entirely, it’s important to understand your debt relief options. Reach out to an LIT to discuss your debt situation. You might learn that budgeting and debt repayment strategies and tools can help you make a dent in your debt. If your debt still feels overwhelming even after applying do-it-yourself solutions, your LIT will help you determine which formal solution might work best for you. Debt can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be forever.
Are you trying to find the right debt solution for you? It helps to talk about it with a professional. Schedule a free consultation with a BDO Licensed Insolvency Trustee to explore debt relief options.
Call 1-855-BDO-Debt or fill out the form below. We’ll assess your finances and explore all debt-relief options available to you.
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