Debt Settlement: a simple truth

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.

POST #10
Debt settlement presented many challenges.

  • I had to stay focused on my goal.

  • Trust the process.

  • Stop making payments on my credit cards and lines of credit.

Wait….what did I just say? Stop making payments?!!?

STOP MAKING PAYMENTS???

Yes, this is true. The banks won’t consider negotiation if you are making your monthly payments on your loan. What is their incentive? You haven’t proven any need. It seems weird at first, but it makes sense. This process is predicated on need. The clearest way to show the bank that you are experiencing a financial hardship is to stop paying.
Please let me clarify. I am in no way condoning that you stop making payments just because you don’t feel paying your bill anymore. I am saying that if you are in a financial hardship and have decided debt settlement is your best option, the first step you will take is to stop making your monthly payments.
This was VERY hard for me to do.
You see, I never missed a bill, never was late. I was definitely irresponsible with money, but for some reason I thought being late was a real no no. I had no problem borrowing more than I could afford, but dammit if I was going to be late on a payment.
So….in August 2009, I stopped paying the monthly charges for my 3 lines of credit and 1 credit card.

The Cops are Here
Image by hernan.seoane via Flickr

It was a bit scary at first. Yes, the calls started, yes the questions started and I have to admit it was a weird feeling. And by weird, I mean CRAPPY IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD. I expected the sky to fall. I expected the cops to show up and haul me off in hand cuffs.
Much to my surprise, none of this happened. In fact, when I called the banks to explain my situation, they were quite sympathetic. I didn’t receive any snarky attitude for the first 30 days of delinquency.
In the coming posts, I’ll discuss how things changed (or didn’t!) as I got more delinquent.
BTW: I constantly stayed in touch with the banks. As a result, they knew I wasn’t on the lamb. This continual communication had a positive impact on my process. Yes, it was difficult to repeat my hardship story over and over. Often it made me feel like a loser. BUT….I knew it was part of the process. I kept my eye on the ball, checked my ego at the door and moved forward.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement Lies

Grainy B&W image of supposed UFO, Passoria, Ne...
Image via Wikipedia

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.

POST #9
What the heck has happened to your country that every decision we make is based on FEAR?
I am afraid I will go broke?  I am afraid I will die? I am afraid I will get sued? I am afraid of being abducted by aliens!
Really? Is this what our society has come to? What ever happened to personal power and positive thinking? I am not talking about head in the clouds Voo-Doo thinking. I am just talking about common sense, clear thinking backed by research (!!!) and reasoning. Put it all together and strive for a positive outcome. Okay, I am ranting. Let me get to the point.
Debt settlement doesn’t have to be scary. But the debt settlement companies want you to think otherwise. They use half truths to manipulate you (scare you) into thinking you can’t do this without them.
Here are my top 10 lies I heard from debt settlement companies. My commentary is beneath each statement.
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#10 You can’t do this without us.

There are thousands of people like me who are proof that this is not true.
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#9 We can get you a better deal because we have a relationship with the bank.

Really? Then what will prevent them from cutting a sweetheart deal with the bank?
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#8 We can get the banks to stop calling you.

Sorry folks. The banks will not stop calling. No matter what.
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#7 It is cheaper to do it with us than any other company.

Unless they are doing it for $1200 or less, you can bet there is a cheaper way.
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#6 We charge more because we are the best.

Love this one. I would immediately hang up the phone.
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#5 Debt settlement is always better than bankruptcy.

True for some people but not all. This is a sales tool.
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#4 We use an escrow account because it’s a safer place to keep your money.

Baloney! The best place for your money IS WITH YOU!   Also, I thought hiding money under my mattress was the safest place.
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#3 We guarantee to get you a settlement of 50% or less.

By now, we all know there are no guarantees in life, especially those told to us by salesman.  If the company is so sure they are the best and warrant the high fees, they should take their cut AFTER THEY PERFORM THE PROMISED SETTLEMENT!!!!
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#2 This is your only way to recover.

ABSURD. There is never just one way to do anything.
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#1 Just sign up with us and we will take care of the rest!!

This is by far my favorite. RUN don’t walk from a company that says this. Single biggest lie you will hear. If you sign up with this company, there is good chance they will take your money and not pay your creditors. You will likely get sued and end up declaring bankruptcy. Debt settlement has run amok with fraudulence and the FCC is reworking the federal guidelines.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Settlement DIY or Hire The Guy

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.

POST #8
Should I do it myself or hire a company?
At first I thought, if I can’t manage my finances, how can I handle the debt settlement process?  After more research, (am I getting my point across about research? :-)) I realized there were several good reasons for DIY.
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  1. The banks respond to real people and their authentic story.

  2. ?

  3. Why should I incur MORE debt by hiring someone? Won’t the bank ask why I am paying someone $10k but not paying my $10k credit card bill?

  4. ?

  5. I decided to take control of my life. Why would I HAND OVER CONTROL to a company I hardly knew?

  6. ???

  7. It didn’t seem difficult.

  8. ??

I almost went with Credit Solutions. They tried to hard sell me by saying they had an advantage because they negotiate a huge amount of debt with banks. They also have relationships which makes the process easier.  The bulk debt reason, I understand. Relationships with the bank??  Wait a second?
At Credit Solutions, the client pays a HUGE upfront fee based on total debt. What is their incentive to get a better deal for the client? Since the bank is their primary relationship, won’t they pad the in favor of them?
People! Don’t fall for it!!!
There is so much information out there. Granted, it can be overwhelming. As such, I chose a cross between DIY and hiring a company.
With Consumer Recovery Network, after you purchase the DIY CDs for $495, and pay $100 per account you enroll,

CRN charges only $50 per month for unlimited phone and email support.

I know it sounds crazy, and you’re probably thinking I am just selling you here, but it’s true.

  • $495 for the DIY CDs
  • $400 to register my accounts (4 accounts at $100/each)
  • Total upfront fee: $895.

Each month I paid $50 and if they had to step in to negotiate for me, ALL the fees thus far would be applied to their commission.  Let me tell you, this is a steal. My first call with my CRN counselor was 3 hours long! I spoke to her again probably 4 more times that month and exchanged over 20 emails.
For $50/month I got:

  1. Unlimited phone and email support.

  2. ?

  3. Training on the language to use when speaking to the bank.

  4. ?

  5. Coaching on making my phone calls at specific times during the month – YES THAT MATTERS A LOT!!

  6. ?

  7. Advice on how to structure the negotiations in a way that allowed me to leverage my hardship position.

I am a big fan of this hybrid. You have complete control of the process, but if you get stuck, you have a bailout.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!
Jonathan Grossman

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Debt Settlement Companies, Some Incur More Debt

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of the story.

POST #4
Research! Research! Research!
You will hear me say this dozens of times. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to be educated and informed. The lack of education, laziness, or in my case, DENIAL, gets us in trouble.
I vowed to never again be an uninformed consumer. With that in mind, I put all of my efforts in to finding the best debt settlement options.  I spent 4 weeks and about 40 hours on the phone talking with different companies.
There is a barrage of information out there. Just by typing debt settlement into Google, you will get 8,650,000 results. Click HERE.

Insane. It is daunting to cull through these resources and decipher what the hell they are offering. I took my time to understand my options. My first calls were to the obvious big companies like: Credit Solutions, Ameridebt and CuraDebt.  But I also looked into some of the lesser known companies like Pacific Debt.  Here was the standard offer:

  • I was to deposit $2000/month into an escrow account.
  • The first 6 months of these payments into that escrow account would go towards paying the debt settlement company for their services.
  • I would continue to make $2000 payments for approximately 36 months.
  • As settlement offers came in, they would consult me.
  • The banks would be paid from this settlement account.
  • In 36 months, I would be out of debt.

At first, I was very excited and relieved about a solution to my problem.
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Below are the estimated savings and expenses from 2 of the companies I spoke with. As you can see there is an incredible amount of variance. A lot of that deals with the fees and the length of time you take to settle.

CuraDebt Plan

If they got a 50% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 41 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees:$81,900.
If they got a 60% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 36 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $71,500.
If they a 75% savings on my $130,000 of debt, it would take 28 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $55,900.

PacificDebt

With $130,000 of debt, it would take 46 months of $2000/month payments to get out of debt. Total cost including settlements and fees: $90,995.
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Pretty interesting stuff, right!?!
After a few days, I saw something that didn’t make sense:

  • Before I would decrease any of my debt, the debt settlement company would increase my debt on average of $12,000 because they get paid first!
  • All of the companies say the bank offers their best deals during the first six months – but according to their suggested schedule, I would have no money left in my escrow account at 6 months because all of that $12,000 would go towards paying the debt settlement company their fees. Which by they way, is for a service they haven’t even performed. Let me repeat this because it is critical.

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THE BEST OFFERS COME AT THE 6 MONTH MARK.  EVEN THOUGH I WOULD HAVE ACCUMULATED $12,000 IN MY ESCROW ACCOUNT, I WOULDN”™T HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT IN THERE TO PAY THE SETTLEMENT OFFER BECAUSE THAT MONEY ALREADY WENT TO PAY THE DEBT SETTLEMENT COMPANY!!!!

Talk about the contradictions!? In many cases, clients get discouraged at that point. They drop out of the program and declare bankruptcy. These debt settlement companies thrive on our falling out of the program. They are predatory companies much in the same way the credit cards are predatory lenders. Remember what I said about educating myself?  I would not be a victim a second time around.
So let’s review…. this is why most debt settlement companies are scoundrels:

  • I pay the debt settlement company $12,000.
  • In 6 months, the bank makes an offer.
  • Since I have no money in my escrow account, I ask the bank to spread the payments out over the next 6 months so I can have time to accumulate some funds.
  • The bank declines because most of their settlement offers have a 90 day payment time-frame.
  • Threatened by liens and judgments, I drop out of the program and declare bankruptcy.
  • The bank writes off my debt.
  • The debt settlement makes pure profit.

I proposed this contradiction to the reps, but their response was foggy at best. Since I was using the information they gave me to explain this contradiction, they didn’t have an answer that made sense. Instead, they deflected my question by saying they can get a better deal than I can get myself. WHICH IS TOTALLY UNTRUE BY THE WAY!
It became clear that the rep was just a sales person and had no REAL idea about this process. Once enrolled, I would never talk to him again.
As I said before, lets take ownership and take control. I fell into the debt trap, but I was not going to fall into the debt settlement companies’ trap.
Please don’t be so desperate and incur more debt when you are trying to get out of debt. If you take the time to run the numbers, you will see most programs don’t make sense.  An effective debt settlement company will charge a nominal start up fee, base their commission on performance AND take their commission AFTER you have paid the bank. Sound too good to be true? Stay tuned!
In the next post, I will discuss how some debt settlement companies are true consumer advocates.
Stay tuned, stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!
Jonathan Grossman

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Debt Settlement – The Gory Details

POST # 1
You are about to read a very personal story about me.
I am a happily married, 40 year-old father of two precious little kids. I live in Los Angeles, California and my name is Jonathan Grossman.  This sounds like an introduction to an AA meeting.  In some ways it is!
Back in 2004, I was making a great living as a TV composer and enjoying the high life with my wife. By 2006, we had our first child and I was unemployed, living off savings and hoping things would turn around. By 2009, I had 2 kids, went through all of my savings and managed to accumulate $130,000 in debt. Things were not getting better and I had to make a move.
This story is a lot of things. First off, it’s true. But even more than that, it is a brutal examination of the American economy from the point of view of the consumer. In many ways, I am the typical Hollywood story combined with the typical real estate boom home buyer. I was irresponsible and wreck-less and the financial climate was my gracious enabler.
This story will tell the tale of how I got myself into this financial mess, and I how I chose to get myself out of it.  For the record, I take 100% responsibility for creating all of this debt. I am not for a second blaming anyone but myself!
The story has a horrific beginning, but a great ending. Without further delay, here are some details.
In July 2009 this is where I stood:

→$104,000 in unsecured personal lines of credit

→$26,000 in credit card debt

  • Owned, or rather “owed”, my home which was fully financed at $880,000 and it was underwater.

→If I sold it, I wouldn’t even be able to pay off my mortgage.

  • Monthly bills:                 $18,000
  • Monthly net income:    $12,500

→Monthly deficit:  $6,500

  • I was drawing from my personal lines of credit to help pay the bills each month.
  • I was drawing from those very same lines of credit to make the minimum payments on them each month.
  • I had 2-3 more months before the credit ran out…MAXIMUM DEBT VELOCITY.

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HERE WERE MY FEARS!

  • Foreclose on my house.
  • Feel humiliated with my family and friends.
  • Declare bankruptcy.
  • Look into the sweet little eyes of my 4 year old son and explain why we have to move from our home, leave pre-school, make new friends.
  • Admit to my wife that I had let the family down.
  • Admit to myself that I was a failure.

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HOW DID I LET IT GET THIS BAD?

NYC: National Debt Clock

I’ll tell you.

  • I didn’t save enough for a rainy day.
  • I kept hoping things would turn around.
  • I ignored the obvious downward spiral.
  • Once I started to fall into the pit, I passed the threshold of caring.

I LET MYSELF GO DEEPER BY SAYING “I AM ALREADY $100,000 IN DEBT. WHAT’S ANOTHER $5,000 AT THIS POINT?”
Here’s my story of how I got into $130,000 in debt and how I am getting myself out of it. I am not yet done by the way.

BIG DISCLAIMER!!!!

Let me be clear up front.  I am not a debt settlement counselor. I do not work for any of the debt settlement companies. I do not profess to be an expert or in any way imply that you are guaranteed to have the same results I am having.
Things that can or will happen if you choose Debt Settlement include:

  • A lot of HARD WORK.
  • A lot of time, focus and resilience.
  • Rhino skin and tenacity.
  • You MIGHT be threatened with law suits.
  • You will have creditors calling you all the time.
  • Your credit will suffer.
  • You MIGHT have to pay taxes on the amount of debt that the bank forgives.

It is NOT easy. As I just said, you need rhino skin and tenacity. But, if you are willing to do your homework, you may find that debt settlement is the right road for you.
I did A LOT of research and ended up using a debt settlement company that was extraordinary. I will wholeheartedly recommend them because I believe they are fair, supremely skilled and a true consumer advocate. My intention is to give back to the very company that gave me so much.

Here’s the deal about this blog:

  • Take what is useful.
  • Toss what isn’t.
  • Call my recommended company if you are inclined…..BUT…..do your research. Call a dozen of them.
  • You may discover what I discovered.
  • There are only a few debt settlement companies that are really there to help.

The one I used, Consumer Recovery Network, was incredible for me. I imagine they could help you as well. Throughout this blog you will notice that I keep mentioning Consumer Recovery Network (CRN). They are the only company that I have worked with and therefore the only company with which I have first-hand experience.
As I said, I highly recommend them. Definitely call them to see if they can help you the way they helped me.

But please, please, please. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
So here it goes…..my debt settlement story.
Stay tuned, stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!

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