Will debt management help you?

Author: Stuart Langridge

Debt management is a fast growing sector of the finance industry. With consumer borrowing increasing, an uncertain future for house prices and interest and inflation rates creeping higher, individuals are likely to need debt management services more and more.

Debt management is essentially a process involving professional assistance to fight through the mountains of paperwork and administration involved in having debts. Depending upon an individuals situation, negotiation with lenders may also be involved. If this is the case, then it is highly likely that a payment plan will be used.

It is important to recognise that many debt management services will also offer some educational assistance. For some people, debt problems have been caused by injury, illness or unemployment. However, for others, the debts are the result of overspending and an inability to live within the budgetary discipline imposed by regular wages.

In such circumstances, debt management is probably a waste. Why? If an individual or household is unable to live within their wages on a regular basis, fixing debt problems cannot be a solution. The debts will return. The root cause needs to be addressed and sound financial management skills need to be learned.

The general process will be one of highlighting bills and debts that are more or less important and possibly even abandoning some debts altogether. Professionals will usually know which loans are unlikely to be enforced, which companies will settle for a limited repayment accompanied by a letter from a debt specialist and which are vital to prioritise for repayment.

There will most likely be standard letters available to send to lenders and begin the negotiation process or ask for some delay in repayments. Depending upon where you live, this may be a very real benefit or just a warning to the lender that the borrowers situation is not ideal and that problems may be imminent.

In most western nations, lenders have a duty to treat borrowers in financial difficulty fairly and responsibly. This means that these early letters from a debt management specialist or the borrower are putting the lender on notice that the debt may be a problem and that due care and attention will be required. Of course, this also helps the lender. From this moment onwards, the account will be under closer scrutiny and payments will become relatively more valuable, reflecting the higher risks.

It is vital to choose the company or individual that will provide your debt management help with care. As with any industry, there are rogues in the market. Unfortunately, people who are facing debt problems are often amongst the most vulnerable in society. This desperation can often lead to poor decision making and judgement. Alas, this is exploited by the rogues.

A great way of choosing a debt management professional to help you will be to use the recommendation of a friend who has gone through a similar experience. Alternatively, there are trade associations and professional bodies that will be able to offer selection guidance. Members are usually more professional, comply with a code of ethics, sit professional examinations and face greater compliance scrutiny.

There are also issues relating to fees that need to be investigated. Most western nations have groups that assist with debt management either for free or low cost. For example, in the USA, these are non profit organisations, whilst in the UK the Citizens Advice Bureau fills this role. These groups have people trained in the basics to assist and ensure that the most vulnerable can find the help they need.

Other companies will be charging fees for their services. Everyone has bills to pay and food to buy and workers in the debt industry are no different. This means that their costs will be significantly higher for the individual, but they may well have additional experience. In contrast, the CAB in the UK is staffed by volunteers who receive no pay and assist people for one or two evenings per month. They do a great job and are very caring and skilled but they are ultimately amateurs.

Some firms charge by the hour, whilst others will insist upon receiving a deposit or retainer in advance. This may be a sizeable sum and consumers need to think carefully before paying and check the terms and conditions very closely to understand what may cause them to lose this money in the future.

Consumers need to think carefully about their options through every step of the process and ensure that they learn financial skills along the way.

Source: http://www.articlealley.com