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How to Become Debt Free With a Debt Management Plan in North Dakota

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In a Nutshell

Despite the risks discussed above it is possible to become debt-free using a North Dakota DMP. Below we will discuss how to find the right credit counseling organization, what to expect from your counseling session, and how to set up, maintain and succeed in your plan.

Written by Attorney Eva Bacevice.  
Updated January 3, 2020


When you’re struggling to keep up with your credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills it can be hard to find debt solutions that work for you. Chances are, you’re working all the time and focusing on taking care of your family, which makes the collection calls even more stressful. Even if you’re managing to stay afloat financially, it can still feel like a constant battle. This is where taking a pause and learning about the various kinds of debt management programs can help you find debt relief options that you didn’t know about that might be right for you. One of these debt management programs is a debt management plan. A North Dakota debt management plan (“DMP”) is a form of debt consolidation that is not dependent on what your credit report shows or how bad your credit score is. A North Dakota DMP is done through a credit counseling organization where you make one monthly payment and the administrator of your plan uses those funds to pay off your creditors. A North Dakota debt management plan has several benefits that can help you save money on your total debt while helping you gain control over your personal finances. The credit counseling agency can negotiate on your behalf to lower interest rates with credit card companies and relax late fees. A North Dakota debt management plan will likely run for two to five years and will pay off your total debt while streamlining your credit card payments (and possibly some medical bills) into a single monthly payment. While there might be an initial negative impact on your credit score when your credit card companies close your accounts, as you continue to pay and your total debt balance goes down, your credit score will increase accordingly. A North Dakota DMP can be a great debt relief plan when you are dealing mainly with credit card debt, but it will not address other debts such as payday loans and secured loans such as a car loan. 

Is a DMP the Same as a Debt Consolidation?

While a North Dakota debt management plan is a form of debt consolidation it is not the traditional format. Usually, debt consolidation involves taking on new debt to pay off existing debts. The goal with a debt consolidation loan is that the new credit will have a lower interest rate so that you are saving on the high-interest costs from credit card accounts that you are paying off with the new loan. Additionally, like a DMP, this can streamline your credit card debts down to a single monthly payment. To qualify for a debt consolidation that offers these savings you typically need to have a good or excellent credit score. If you do not have a high enough credit score and do not qualify for that lower interest rate, a debt consolidation loan will not be cost-saving. Unlike a DMP you can typically keep your credit card accounts open, however, this can be a double-edged sword because there is nothing to prevent you from taking on additional debt. A debt consolidation can be in the form of a personal loan, credit card balance transfer, mortgage finance, or home equity line of credit. A balance transfer can be effective; however, you need to be careful that you are paying off the debt within the promotional period, otherwise, the annual percentage rate (“APR”) will increase can negate any cost savings. There is an even higher risk associated with the latter two options. If you do a mortgage refinance or take out a line of credit against your house you are essentially converting credit card debt (which is unsecured) into secured debt, with your house as the security. This puts your home in jeopardy because if you default on the payment you are risking your house, which in a worst-case scenario could go into foreclosure for previously unsecured debts. 

How to Become Debt Free with a DMP in North Dakota

Despite the risks discussed above it is possible to become debt-free using a North Dakota DMP. Below we will discuss how to find the right credit counseling organization, what to expect from your counseling session, and how to set up, maintain and succeed in your plan.


Find a Credit Counseling Agency

There are many fine credit counseling organizations to help people out of a bad financial situation. Unfortunately, there are also too many companies out there focused instead on their bottom line, that promise quick solutions that rarely work and can leave you in an even worse financial scenario. To find a reputable credit counseling organization you should first limit your search to only nonprofits. Nonprofit credit counseling agencies that are accredited have to abide by rigorous quality standards set by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (“NFCC.”) While being designated as a nonprofit organization is not alone sufficient to set your mind at ease that you are with a reputable organization, finding that NFCC certification is a very important first step. Next, you can check with the North Dakota Attorney General’s office in their consumer resources division to see if the companies you are considering have any complaints filed against them or scam alerts. You can also check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau, and check ratings. As you are narrowing your options to find a credit counselor, you can browse the website to confirm that you will meet with a certified credit counselor, who is trained in consumer credit, debt and money management, and budgeting. There are red flags to avoid, like if there is any fee for the initial counseling session, which should be free. It is also important to look for a credit counseling agency that offers a wide range of services, like financial counseling and educational materials in addition to debt solutions. It is a red flag if the company pushes debt settlement as their only debt management program. Also, if you are asked to pay for informational or educational materials or asked to disclose personal information in exchange that is another red flag to avoid.

What to Expect at Credit Counseling

At credit counseling, you can expect to meet one-on-one (typically over the phone) with a certified credit counselor for an in-depth review of your finances. The credit counseling session will last between 45 minutes and an hour and will conclude with a personalized action plan outlining your next steps for reaching your financial goals. You should bring along recent paycheck stubs and all of your creditor bills with detailed information including the total amount owed, the minimum monthly payment and the interest rate. During the session, with your permission, the credit counselor may show you how to access your free credit report. The session is confidential, and no creditors will be informed or involved at this stage. After reviewing your overall financial situation your credit counselor may conclude that you are a good candidate for a North Dakota debt management plan and suggest that as the best method for you to become debt-free. They may also recommend other courses of action for you to become debt free.

Making the Decision & Getting Started

You always have the right to take as much time as you need to decide to move forward with a North Dakota debt management plan. Regardless of how well this repayment plan works in your financial circumstances, you should not be pressured by the credit counseling agency to make your decision too quickly. If you are getting that pressure, treat it as a red flag and look elsewhere for assistance. You also can ask any additional questions while considering this option. You may want to ask about the set-up fees and monthly fees associated with the credit counseling organization administering your North Dakota DMP. You can also ask about how the counselor is paid. If they receive incentives or bonuses for signing people up that is also a red flag. The biggest thing to consider is the proposed monthly payment amount and the budget. Before you commit to a DMP you want to feel confident that you and your family can comfortably maintain both the budget and payment. Keep in mind that if the DMP fails than you are facing the return of higher interest rates, penalties and, late fees kicking back in. You may want to explore other options, such as bankruptcy before making your decision. Most bankruptcy attorneys will offer a free consultation so that you can see if that fits your family better. 

Put Together Your North Dakota Debt Management Plan

Once you decide to move forward with a North Dakota debt management plan you will need to work with your credit counselor to create the plan itself. You will need to provide additional documentation including your bank account(s) information and detailed credit card information. Specifically, you should bring in the cardholder agreement that you received in the mail on every credit card account. If you did not save this information or can’t find your copy you can probably find the cardholder information online. It is important to keep in mind that this is one of the most important parts of the process. This gives you a chance to fine-tune the details and add in any items you may have forgotten into the budget. You can weigh in on the monthly payment due date and confirm that it works with your pay frequency. You can also speak with your credit counselor about the timing for when the first payment will be due and what you should do about any bills that will come due in the meantime. When you and your credit counselor have agreed on the details, they will then reach out to your creditors to negotiate and get them on board. 

Begin Payments

Hopefully, your payment amount and first due date will be clear, but if you have any questions or concerns be sure to reach out to your credit counselor right away. You want to start your North Dakota debt management plan with good habits, such as making your payments on time or even early. It will take some time to adjust to making the single large payment for creditors while also covering your other regular living expenses. You can speak with your credit counselor about the timing for your creditors to sign on, usually since the credit counseling organization has established relationships with them, they can predict it fairly accurately. Remember that as part of your North Dakota DMP your creditors will close your accounts, which will result in an initial negative hit to your credit score. Remember also, however, that once you start paying down your total debt balances that credit score will start coming back up.

How to Stay Current With Your North Dakota Debt Management Plan

There are some strategies you can implement to give your North Dakota debt management plan the best chance of success. You can start by making sure that your payment date is not the same as the due date(s) for any other large expenses. Usually, it is best to avoid the first of the month for this reason. You should also make it your general practice to reach out to your credit counselor whenever anything changes with your monthly income or expenses. You may find it helpful to track your spending, especially as you are getting used to living within your new budget. It’s also a good idea to set up a system for putting aside money for one time or irregular expenses so that you can comfortably afford it when the time comes. If you have an emergency come up, again, you should reach out to your credit counselor to see if they have any specific recommendations. Additionally, your budget should have an emergency fund built into it already which hopefully will have enough to cover the unexpected expense. It is always a good idea to make extra payments if you find yourself with extra income like a tax refund or a year-end bonus, but don’t forget to replenish your emergency account as well in case something else comes up. 

North Dakota Debt Consolidation

As we mentioned previously even though a North Dakota DMP is a form of debt consolidation, it is not traditional debt consolidation. The usual way that a North Dakota debt consolidation works is that you take on new credit to pay off your existing debt. Presuming you have good or excellent credit and can qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate you will save money and streamline your debts into one monthly payment. A debt consolidation loan does not, however, address any other issues like overspending habits. 

North Dakota Debt Settlement

Debt settlement is another debt relief option. In a North Dakota debt settlement, you can negotiate with your creditors to accept less than the total debt you owe to settle the debt. A DMP, however, will pay off the total debt that you owe. Usually, the only incentive for creditors to agree to this proposal is to pay off the agreed percentage upfront in a lump sum, so this option is limited to people with access to funds. Additionally, since your creditors do not have to participate in debt settlements you might end up with some but not all of your debts resolved. 

North Dakota Bankruptcy

You may also want to consider bankruptcy as a solution to your financial troubles. In a North Dakota bankruptcy, you can walk away from your unsecured debts to start over with your personal finances. Most bankruptcy attorneys will offer a free consultation so you can explore whether it may work for you before committing to a plan with your credit counseling organization. If you do decide to pursue bankruptcy, you can try Upsolve’s screening tool to see if you qualify for free assistance throughout your case. 



Written By:

Attorney Eva Bacevice

LinkedIn

Eva G. Bacevice graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2001. She practiced law for close to a decade in the area of consumer bankruptcy. She now works in higher education as an Academic Advisor for undergraduate students at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business,... read more about Attorney Eva Bacevice

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