When in Debt, Don’t Compound Your Problems

Posted on 15/09/09 8:47 AM by Amelia

Three Classic Mistakes to Avoid

Debt is a major issue for literally millions of Americans. However, when you find yourself overextended, the fact that many others are in the same boat offers little in the way of consolation.

As your debt accumulates, there is a strong tendency to make three very common mistakes. While it is easy to understand why people make them, they must be avoided at all costs.

Mistake 1: Making Only the Minimum Payment

This is easily the most common of mistakes but minimum payments are a trap. Because of how cards work, the goal of the credit card company is to enlarge your debt so that interest rates yield more in the profits.

Power Bill Final NoticeMaking only the minimum payments ensures you will be in debt for the longest possible time. Paying the typical minimum level for a $500 debt at current interest rates of 15-20 percent will keep you in debt for more than a decade, even if you never charge another item.

Of course, by paying the minimum amount your are maintaining your credit score. It’s just that your debt will grow instead of decrease.

The folks at Learn Financial Planning recommend that you set your own personal minimum payment level that is at least triple the minimum payment and stick to it.

Mistake 2- Taking a Payday Loan

There is debt that is worse than credit card debt. It is the debt created by payday loans.

A payday loan is short-term loan, generally offered on a two-week basis (from one pay period to the next) and ranging between $100 and $500. The idea of a payday loan is to provide you the cash needed for immediate expenses and is a loan against your next paycheck.

Payday loans feature administration fees, processing fees, broker’s fees and even early repayment fees. Typically, the finance charge per $100 borrowed is $25.

While it is easy to accumulate credit card debt, payday loan debt is considered as much as eight times more punishing. While it easy to think this is a good way to deal with an immediate issue it is one you should never consider.

Mistake 3 – Falling for a Debt Settlement Scam

When your debt reaches the breaking point, debt consolidation and debt settlement can be the right step. The first step to take in such a situation is to admit you have an issue and then contact your creditors to discuss possible mechanisms to work through your issue.

You may be able to make some simple progress with your company, perhaps even negotiate a lower interest rate. Simply stated, credit card companies do not benefit if you default.

iStock_000009469784XSmallHowever, you have probably heard on television or seen online an ad by some third party company that can help you eliminate your debt. While there are legitimate agencies that do provide such services, many other entities are simply hoping to take advantage of your plight. If you are not careful, you may soon find one of these companies is bleeding you worse than your credit card company.

A legitimate debt settlement company will consolidate your loans and negotiate with your creditors on your behalf. The basic structure involves you making one monthly payment based on the total amount owed. As funds are collected, payments are negotiated with each creditor separately, a step that can reduce your debt total by as much as 50%.

There will be a fee associated with the process but legitimate firms will set up a reasonable plan that will help you make modest progress immediately and significant progress long term.

Avoid Compounding Your Mistakes

It is easy to accrue debt in a multitude of formats. If you do not do due diligence, that debt can double or quadruple in the matter of months.

Avoid borrowing and purchasing with plastic. When you do borrow or purchase, pay the amounts off quickly, do not fall into the trap of making only the minimum required payment.

Doing so puts you on a downward spiral into the world of payday loans and debt settlement scammers.

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