A Debt Settlement Miracle – Part 1

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #30?

Mafia spaghetti with seafood and tomato sauce

How do we create an airtight counter offer?  An offer they can’t refuse….not because of the threat of a bloody horse head or anything “silly” like that. More like an offer where the numbers make so much sense that they are realistically un-movable.
Here’s where we stood:

  • Their offer:            $9808

  • My current offer:  $7500

  • My goal:                $8600

After several conversations with my CRN coach, we came up with the silver bullet.
My current offer was $7500. If I deferred March’s car payment of $514, that would bring us to $8014 – payable today.  Then I make an additional payment 30 days from now by deferring my April car payment of $514. Total offer: $8528. I can’t go beyond that amount because:

  • I have already borrowed from EVERYONE I could.

  • I have deferred as many other bills as possible.

  • I can’t defer my mortgage because that would jeopardize the loan mod process.

  • If it weren’t for the loan mod potential, I would just declare bankruptcy and fore-go all of this effort.

NYC - Queens - LIC: 5 Pointz - Roadrunner and ...

There were so many aspects about this offer that made it genius – in fact it was super genius.
I can say this without bragging because I didn’t come up with it –  my CRN coach did. Obviously not her first rodeo. It was exactly this type of creative bargaining that can make or break a deal.
I called Billy in Recovery and made this counter offer. He was impressed by our creativity and resolve, though not AT ALL confident.
He went to the sup and very quickly came back with the same $9808.00 offer from yesterday.
I thanked him for his time and reiterated my intention for doing all of this was 3 fold:

  • To shield my family from anymore hardships.

  • Hold on to my house.

  • Offer a good faith settlement to the bank.

He was again sympathetic.  I asked him to bypass his sup and PLEASE talk to his manager. He agreed.
Two hours later, he called me back to say the manager had denied my offer.
It seemed like I had played my last card. What was left to do?
Then it hit me:

  • Maybe Billy’s compassion for me was a direct result of how I was telling the story.

  • Maybe if I spoke directly with the manager he would “get it” too?

Lucky for me, Billy agreed to make that happen.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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A VISA Debt Settlement Offer

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #29
This is the day!!!!
Famous last words…..well it wasn’t THE day, but it was a BIG step forward.
I got on the phone with my contact in Recovery, let’s call him Billy. I had done my dance of the purgatory fairies the night before. Apparently they heard me because my account was in his system.
Billy was a down home kinda guy. A slow, calm droll to his voice – focused, smart and confident, but no attitude.  Quite frankly, I felt lucky to have found him. He seemed to understand my plight and was willing to work with me. Usually, I don’t believe in bonding with your “salesman” but with Billy it was different.  He was authentic, so I trusted my gut and trusted him.
He reiterated that $7500 was extremely unlikely. He had seen offers of 40% ($11,200), but only in extreme circumstances.  From his experience, my account was likely to be in his department for about a month and it would take that much time to get the supervisor to consider a deal that even came close to my offer of $7500.  That said, he was a man of his word and agreed to send it up the flag pole.
He put me on hold for less than 2 minutes, came back on and said he couldn”™t reach any sups but would try a manager.
In what seemed like 10 seconds, Billy came back on the phone.  He wasn’t the excitable type, but there was a smile in his voice.
Apparently, he had never seen an offer this low and this quick.
$9809.87 or 35%

We were in business!!!!!!

I calmly thanked him, showed my appreciation, but said this was still $2300 over my offer and I had to consult with my credit counselor (CRN coach).

Giant House of Cards
Image by Tjflex2 via Flickr

At this point, it was critical that my story stay consistent. In reality, I had access to about $8600, but our financial story had been a complicated one of borrowing (true), and deferring payments (true). We had allowed ourselves a little bit of wiggle room without telling the bank.  Now that we were going to counter offer above our most recent offer of $7500, we had to mathematically explain how and why it would happen. If there was a hole in the story, it could all fall apart like a house of cards.  The domino effect of which could make my real house fall like a house of cards. Not good.
Luckily, Billy added a little piece of magic to their offer. Unlike so many scoundrels in the collections and recovery departments, he took the pressure OFF of me.
“No one is putting pressure on you to decide today. The offer is good for 2 weeks.”
This is really unheard of!
So close…..but not quite there.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Trying To Avoid Charge Off

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #28?
I was content to let my account charge off at the end of February and go to the Recovery Department until my CRN coach tried to talk me out of it.
There was a complication that she wanted to avoid. Very soon, I was going to apply for a loan mod on my house (yes my story continues!). She thought it might be risky to play chicken with the bank this one last time. There were for 2 reasons:

thunderbirds
Image by Blondie5000 via Flickr
  • If I got sued by my VISA account, it would destroy my chances at a loan mod.

  • My mortgage bank would be less likely to grant a loan mod if I had outstanding unsecured debt.

With the loan mod on deck, her advice was to not screw around. Let’s land this last deal and move on.
I trusted CRN implicitly so I went along with the advice. I called the VISA department 6 times between 2/25-2/28 in an effort to settle. My CRN rep even decided to step in and make the calls for me. This would end up costing me a bit more money if she landed the deal, but it would be worth it.
We called on Friday, Saturday, Sunday – multiple times each day. We re-told the story over and over. We spoke with call centers in Iowa and Oregon. We weathered threats of judgments and law suits.

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (May 4, 2007) - Chief Min...
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Unfortunately, nothing worked. The VISA collections department was firm. And when I say firm, I mean” firm like the buttocks of a body builder” firm.
THEY DID NOT BUDGE.
After our last ditch effort failed on Sunday 2/28, we resolved ourselves to charge off. But not all was lost.
On Sunday evening 2/28 we called the Recovery Department. Apparently, the account would be there on Monday morning. We wanted to get a head start so we called them. We told the rep that our prior offers were for $5000, but I put my ego aside and asked one more friend to loan me $2500. This would make our total offer $7500. The rep was impressed with my tenacity. He was sympathetic, smart and straight forward. He listened.
From his point of view it was a long shot – a BIG long shot. But he read through my notes and could tell I was sincere and up front. As long as the account hit his system in the morning, he agreed to bring it to his supervisor first thing.
We could only pray that the account would appear in his computer the next day and NOT end up in purgatory.
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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Debt Relief Resources – 10 best sites for information

If you are new to the blog, click HERE to start at the beginning of my story.
POST #22
I have a lot of people ask:

Where can I do my research? What are the best resources?

There are many great resources on the internet. I’d like to think this blog is one of them! 🙂
Out of the hundreds of resources, about 10 of them are really worth your time. Here is my hit list. If you read the info at each of these sites, you will have a great foundation for understanding debt settlement.

Top 10 Debt Settlement Resource Sites

  1. Federal Trade Commission: A wealth of information on what is currently legal, illegal or yet to be determined. If you missed the Senate Committee hearing 2 weeks ago it is worth a viewing.
  2. National Association of Consumer Advocates: Know your rights
  3. Legal Advice Line: Get inexpensive expert legal advice.
  4. National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys: Find an attorney in your area that has expertise in bankruptcy and debt settlement.
  5. About.Com:Credit: A collection of forums and blogs covering everything credit related.
  6. Credit Info Center: Great forums, articles and opinions on debt settlement.
  7. Zip Debt:  Charles Phelan is an extraordinary resource on the topic of debt settlement. His DIY program has gotten incredible reviews and results. His blog is indispensable.
  8. Hoffman Brinker: Contains step by step videos explaining the pros and cons of debt settlement.  Easy to understand and a great starting point for your education.
  9. Get Out Of Debt: Steve Rhode’s blog and resource site. Steve is an expert in the credit/debt field. His site is very well trafficked and he has a major presence there. If you post a question, you will get an answer.
  10. Consumer Recovery Network: Saving the best for last. Michael Bovee is the MAN.  He is the consummate expert in this field. Always on the cutting edge of this industry and very generous with his time. ’nuff said!

Happy researching!
Stay tuned. Stay afloat. Wealth and freedom are in your future.
Jonathan

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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.
———————————————————————————
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.
————————————————————————
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.

T

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 Relief- So Many Options

POST #3
Research. Research. Research.
Once I finally realized that the end was near, I started doing extensive research on my options. Of course the first thing I thought of was bankruptcy. It was all I knew. I thought if you got behind on your bills, your only option was the big B.
With a few clicks on the web, I soon found a zillion companies offering many options. In the next post I’ll share some of my observations on the different companies, but today we’ll focus on the five most likely options you have:

  1. Bankruptcy – Chapter 13 or 7

  2. Debt Consolidation

  3. Consumer Credit Counseling

  4. Debt Settlement

  5. Nothing…which usually gets you back to the top of this list. Not a real option.

For a complete explanation of these options and an analysis of which option is best for you, CLICK HERE.
Here’s what I discovered for my situation:
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Bankruptcy

For me, bankruptcy felt like the death of my soul. A complete failure and announcement to the world that I had screwed up so badly that my only option was to wave the white flag. I had regular conversations with my wife about this option. Was this our destination? How could I face my family and friends? Just 2 years ago I was flying high. Now….death. Thinking back on it, the reason I did so much research was because I was compelled to find another way. I wasn’t going down without a fight. There MUST be another option.

Consumer Credit Counseling

I was familiar with consumer credit counseling. In fact, I had done this about 9 years ago. When my band, Dogwood Moon, got off the road we had accumulated a bit of debt. In order to gain some sense of control and balance in my life, I got a company to manage my debt. I made a lump sum monthly payment to them and they distributed it to my creditors. They tried to get the bank to lower my interest rates, but none of them actually could. Of course they took a fee, and although it was modest, there was really no significant benefit from the company. They just held my hand throughout the whole thing. I could have done it myself, had I been more disciplined. I soon realized this and when I made a bit of money, I paid the whole thing off early. Wasn’t a bad option then, but I wouldn’t do it again. In 2009 consumer credit counseling wasn’t really an option. I couldn’t afford to pay my bills, so it wouldn’t help me if they collected my money and distributed it. The money wasn’t there.

Debt Consolidation

My credit wasn’t good enough to get a decent loan for $130,000. Even if I did, I’d be making payment for the rest of my life. This would take too long and ultimately cost too much. I wanted to take action, rectify my situation and start over. This would be a slow process. I am not a slow kind of guy. I had finally decided to take action and I wanted to get it done….NOW!

Debt Settlement

When I came across the idea of Debt Settlement for the first time, it was a real eye opener for me. I hadn’t even considered the prospect of negotiating with the banks in this way. I never thought of the bank as a collection of real people. It just seemed like a monster I had made a bad deal with and was now sucking up all my money. With Debt Settlement, you call your bank and negotiate a lump sum payoff of the account that is less than full balance. This negotiation can be done in 3 different ways:

  1. You do it on your own

  2. You do it while being coached by a debt settlement specialist.

  3. You hire a company to negotiate on your behalf and pay them a fee. BEWARE: THESE FEES CAN VARY DRASTICALLY! I will discuss this in the next post.

After careful thought, I chose Debt Settlement, option 2. At the heart of Debt Settlement is the ability to negotiate. This was very appealing to me because I love negotiating. My father is a retired lawyer. Growing up was like a series of scenes from that Albert Brooks movie, Defending Your Life. At an early age, I was trained to ask for things in a diplomatic way, stick to my guns and be prepared for the inevitable interrogation. Maybe I should have been a lawyer! You will think I am crazy when I say this, but I have actually enjoyed the Debt Settlement process. I chose a company that was a true consumer advocate. They didn’t charge exorbitant fees and the debt settlement specialist assigned to my case was nothing short of awesome. In my humble opinion, critical to your success with Debt Settlement is the company that assists you. Some of them actually will save you money. Others will take advantage of you and PUT YOU FURTHER IN DEBT.
In the next post, I’ll discuss the companies I chose to avoid and the company I ended up using, Consumer Recovery Network.
Stay tuned, stay afloat. WEALTH AND FREEDOM ARE IN YOUR FUTURE!

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