Q: Last year, my wife had some serious medical problems that put her in the hospital. I'm grateful every day that she has recovered, but we now have a lot of unexpected credit card debt. Our mailbox and voicemail are being hounded by debt collectors.
I was really looking forward to retirement in the near future, but now I don't know if it's a possibility. Before making any plans for the future, I need to start settling what I owe.
What's the best way to get started on my debts?
A: Settling credit card debt is attainable but requires discipline and a realistic outlook.
Aim to get a good deal on your debts, and be a consistent communicator.
Contact the debt collectors before they take you to court. Being sued will increase your costs and reduce the likelihood of getting a good deal on your debt.
Consistent, realistic and honest communication with collectors will avoid escalating the problem. Collectors are used to dealing with people who are financially insolvent and want to recover as much money as possible. Reliable communication will assure them that you intend to pay them in the future.
Make a deal on debt settlement at the end of the month to save money. Because many debt collectors are primarily paid on commission, they're eager to make their numbers and earn bonuses.
When a debt has gone to a collection agency, the agency generally doesn't expect to receive the full amount. It'd rather make a deal than receive nothing, and it's likely prepared to sacrifice some of your debt (often 50% or more).
When negotiating, start with your lowest offer, generally in one lump sum, to get the best deal.