Debt consolidation plans look good, but the question is whether they really work.
You've seen the ads on television or on the Internet promising to help you get out from under the mounds of credit-card debt you've accrued over the years. While their flashy images and promises to get rid of your debt are hypnotic, credit-strapped consumers need to look beyond the hard sell before signing up.
Credit-card debt is at a record high because "wages haven't kept up with inflation and the cost of living," says Gerri Detweiler, consumer educator and credit advisor. "Younger Americans are the fastest rising group with credit-card debt because they're trying to live the life their parents have."
Also, there's the pressure to spend.
"We live in a very commercial culture," says Detweiler. "It's hard to buck that trend. We've raised Generation Debt."
Until recently, it was easy to get a credit card. It was not uncommon to have multiple credit card companies on college campuses all over the country signing up college students on a daily basis."It was like handing sugar to a kid," says Detweiler. "Now, lenders have reduced their risks and it's not as simple as before."
What is a debt consolidation plan?
A typical plan usually includes working with a credit counselor at an agency approved by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The two main goals of any debt management plan are to help repay your debt and help your creditors receive the money owed to them.
A good candidate has three things going for them, according to Detweiler.
- You're in credit-card debt only. You don't have any car loans or even a mortgage to worry about, just the unsecured debt.
- Your budget has some wiggle room, so you're able to pay living expenses and your debt. A credit counselor will show you how to work with what you have, pay off your debt and still be able to handle the things that invariably come up in life.