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How to Become Debt Free with A Debt Management Plan in Florida

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In a Nutshell

You do not have to wait until you are behind on your bills or being sued to pursue a Florida debt management plan. You can start putting your own Florida DMP together today using the easy-to-follow steps noted below.

Written by Upsolve Team
Updated September 30, 2020

If you live in Florida and you are tired of seeing your credit card balance rise every month despite making your minimum monthly payment over and over again, a Florida debt management plan may be able to help you pay off all of those credit cards (and your other unsecured debts) once and for all. This process allows you to make one convenient, low monthly payment that is distributed to the creditors of all the debt you’ve chosen to combine.  

A Florida debt management plan is a financial strategy put into place with the help of accredited, non-profit credit counseling agencies. If your credit card debt is starting to reach levels that overwhelm you, then a Florida debt management plan can bring your scattered monthly payments together into one single, lower monthly payment that you pay to one source. A Florida debt management plan is intended to help you fully repay your unsecured debt by making the repayment more affordable. You can consolidate multiple monthly debt payments into one, often significantly lowering the interest rates, eliminating over-the-limit and late fees and stabilizing monthly payment amounts in the process.

A debt management plan is especially helpful if you are struggling to balance paying your regular monthly expenses with payments on high-interest debt such as credit cards. Even if you are not yet behind in your payments, and you’re just worried that you may soon fall behind, a Florida debt management plan can help you breathe again financially. Because there are no credit score requirements, a Florida DMP is a great alternative for if you have been denied a credit card debt consolidation loan or credit card balance transfer.

Is a Florida Debt Management Plan the Same as Debt Consolidation?

A Florida debt management plan is a form of debt consolidation. Debt consolidation works by combining your unsecured debts into a single monthly payment. Debt consolidation can involve taking out one new large unsecured loan to pay off all your debts or you can enter into a debt management plan to consolidate your debt. 

The risks and benefits of debt consolidation vary depending on whether you pursue debt consolidation through a debt management plan or private loan. A non-DMP debt consolidation loan is an attractive option for individuals with high credit scores because they will be able to keep some or all of their accounts open after paying them off with the consolidation loan. On the other hand, many non-DMP consolidation loans are simply that – a consolidation. Other than the convenience of having to make only one single payment they do not necessarily come with a lower interest rate and lower monthly payment, like practically all debt management plans do. However, with a debt management plan, in exchange for a lower interest rate, lower monthly payment, waived over-the-limit and late payment fees you will usually be required to close all your consolidated accounts and agree not to open any new credit while you are on the plan. It is therefore important to think carefully before committing to one approach or the other. 

How to Become Debt Free with A Debt Management Plan in Florida

You do not have to wait until you are behind on your bills or being sued to pursue a Florida debt management plan. You can start putting your own Florida DMP together today using the easy-to-follow steps noted below.

Find a Credit Counseling Agency

Florida law governs the maximum fees and costs that may be charged for debt management services. If you feel you the credit counseling agency you are dealing with is engaging in fraudulent or deceptive practices, you can file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General.

Florida law allows for-profit credit counseling agencies to charge up to $50 for their initial consultation. However, you should never pay this fee. Accredited, non-profit credit counseling agencies do not charge anything for an initial credit counseling session. In addition, non-profit credit counseling agencies focus on your financial education and not just your business. They discuss all forms of debt consolidation or debt relief and not just debt management plans. Finally, most reputable non-profit credit counseling agencies are accredited by the Council On Accreditation (COA). This accreditation ensures that their credit counseling practice conforms to industry standards of transparency, full disclosure, and consumer education 

There are several national, accredited non-profit credit counseling agencies that provide non-profit credit counseling free of charge in Florida such as Money Management International, CESI or GreenPath. To speak with a credit counselor at a non-profit we trust, contact Upsolve.

What to Expect at Credit Counseling

Your initial credit counseling session should serve as an opportunity for you to discuss your current financial situation with a trained, certified credit counselor. At the session, the credit counselor will work with you to assess your personal finances, including your income, expenses, and debts. Establish financial goals for both the short-term and the long-term. Develop an action plan to achieve those goals. Create a realistic and affordable budget and end each session with a debt relief recommendation and action plan. They may also offer to review your credit report and credit score with you, if you wish.

When applicable, your counselor will also provide educational materials and referrals to additional resources and services. Each person’s financial situation is unique and so each counseling session is tailored to meet your specific needs. Typically, a full counseling session lasts between 30 minutes to an hour.

Making the Decision & Getting Started

If you are still deciding whether or not a Florida debt management plan is right for you, that is ok. However, there is a difference between taking time to make up your mind and simply procrastinating. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Making the decision to get started begins with ruling out any good reasons you still have for not moving forward. Once you have done that, then you are simply procrastinating. However, some genuine questions you may still need to answer prior to making up your mind are as follows:

  • Is your budget realistic? Your budget is an important factor in the success of your Florida DMP. If you feel it is not realistic, talk to your credit counselor.

  • Is bankruptcy a better option for you? If you have a lot of debts that cannot be included in your Florida DMP ask your credit counselor if a Florida bankruptcy is a better option. Alternatively, you can talk to a competent bankruptcy attorney before starting your DMP.

  • Are you comfortable with all the fees and costs associated with your Florida DMP? Before starting your DMP, you should be aware of the set-up fee and monthly maintenance fees you will be charged. If you feel they are excessive or you simply cannot afford them, ask your credit counselor if they can be waived.

  • Do you have questions you haven’t asked? If you have questions you were reluctant to ask at credit counseling, ask them now. Your credit counselor should welcome your questions and be able to answer them honestly even if you may not like their answers.

Put Together Your Florida Debt Management Plan

To put together your Florida debt management plan, you will need to provide your credit counselor with information about your accounts and make personalized selections related to your plan, including your payment amount and due date. Once your plan is created, your credit counseling agency will contact each of your creditors to establish plan benefits and obtain each creditor’s acceptance. Some of the more common things your credit counselor will require to get started are:

  • Your pay statements showing your monthly income;

  • Your bank statements;

  • Your credit cardholder agreements detailing the terms and conditions on your credit cards;

  • Your credit card bills showing your current balances, minimum monthly payments, due date, late fees and penalties;

  • Your most recent credit report;

  • Details related to other debts you pay every month such as student loans, payday loans, auto loans, medical bills or personal loans.

After you have submitted our documents to your credit counselor, you will be provided with updates during the set-up process and you can refer any creditor inquiries to your credit counselor. Most credit counseling agencies also offer online access that allows you to monitor the progress of your Florida DMP, and if necessary, to make account changes.

Begin Payments

Your credit counseling agency and everyone else who has worked with you on your Florida DMP has one single purpose, to see you succeed at becoming debt-free. Your first step to accomplishing that goal will happen when you begin making payments on your Florida DMP. Missing or failing to make a payment once you begin your Florida DMP can make things worse for you. Even missing one payment, or not making the full payment, can cause you to fall behind with your Florida DMP and make it difficult to get back on track. To prevent this, try to make your payment early. And make sure you know when your payment is due, how much the payment should be, what forms of payment are acceptable, and who the payment should be made out to.

One final note: All of your creditors may not have agreed to your Florida DMP when you begin making payments. That is normal and you should not skip or hold your payment until they all do. Your credit counseling agency will contact the creditors to establish the plan with them and get an agreement in place. Non-profit credit counseling agencies have established relationships with a lot of banks/lenders, so they should have an idea of approximately how long this process will take. Stay in communication with your credit counselor. If you want to get per-creditor updates, talk to them about this, so everyone is on the same page as you make your payments.

How to Stay Current with Your Florida Debt Management Plan

Staying current with your Florida debt management plan is crucial to the success of the plan itself, so it is never too early to start thinking about how to stay current with your Florida DMP payments. Obviously, the most important element of your Florida DMP designed to help you stay current is the payment itself. You and your credit counselor should have designed your debt management program plan with a payment amount that is well within your monthly budget. If you realize that your budget is not realistic or your payment is too aggressive, talk to your credit counselor. In addition, make sure the due date for your payment makes sense. Having your Florida DMP payment due on the same day of the month as your rent, mortgage, car loan or other large expense is generally not a good idea. Finally, plan now for unexpected expenses or emergencies. Many debt management plans now allow you to designate a portion of your payment for savings. Ask your credit counselor about this as well.

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Florida Debt Consolidation

A Florida debt consolidation comes in a few forms, one of which is a Florida debt management plan. Both securing a debt consolidation loan and using a Florida debt management plan to repay your creditors are debt relief approaches that consolidate your monthly debts into one single payment. Non-DMP debt consolidation, however, differs from a Florida debt management plan because you must have good or excellent credit to consolidate your debts with a new loan. And even if you get approved for the new loan, it may not come with favorable terms for debt consolidation like a low-interest rate and low monthly payment. Therefore, it’s important to do your research before committing to one approach or the other. 

Florida Debt Settlement

Another well known, but often less successful, form of debt relief is Florida debt settlement. Debt settlement is not a form of debt consolidation and your creditors are not repaid in full through this process. Instead, either you or a third-party debt settlement company negotiates with your creditors on your behalf to settle your past due accounts for less than they are owed. Debt settlement may be worth pursuing if many or all of the following are true for your situation:

  • You have assets available to make lump-sum payments to creditors who settle;

  • You have a manageable number of creditors so that you can settle with them all and resolve all your outstanding debt;

  • You know or can find a trustworthy company to assist with the debt settlement;

  • Your credit is already damaged/low 

Florida Bankruptcy

You should only enter into a Florida DMP if you are confident you have the ability to complete it successfully. This means being able to make your monthly Florida DMP payment every month and on time. If this arrangement won’t work for you, or you simply have no income to make a Florida DMP payment, then a Florida bankruptcy may be a better alternative. Hopefully, you have shared your situation with your credit counselor and they have told you that consulting with a competent bankruptcy attorney is ok. If they did not tell you, or you simply cannot afford an attorney, know that you may qualify to get help filing your bankruptcy for free from Upsolve.

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