Twelve Benefits of Do-it-yourself Debt Settlement

by : John Janney

Although the tide of bankruptcies receded after the new bankruptcy law went into effect on October 17, 2005, a swelling volume of new personal bankruptcy filings are starting to flow into the court systems. With consumer credit card debt now over $820 billion and 97 percent of consumers seeking pre-bankruptcy credit counseling unable to repay their debts, analysts should not be surprised to see bankruptcy numbers steadily climbing.

In the wake of these developments, debt settlement is becoming a popular bankruptcy alternative for consumers experiencing financial hardships. This trend will likely continue as the economy continues to suffer from sluggish growth, stagnant personal income, a persistent negative personal savings rate and rising gas and energy prices. In tough times, debt settlement often provides the fastest resolution to overwhelming debt outside of bankruptcy.

As debt settlement's popularity grows, so do the number of companies offering professional debt settlement programs. These companies offer a valuable service to consumers, especially those who do not have the patience or emotional strength to negotiate directly with aggressive and sometimes intimidating creditors and debt collectors. However, with the right information, you can negotiate your own debt settlements and be debt-free in about two to three years.

Here are twelve benefits to demonstrate the value of the do-it-yourself debt settlement method.

1. Low investment. Do-it-yourself debt settlement guides are much less expensive than the service fees charged by professional debt settlement companies. For example, the popular "Do-It-Yourself Debt Settlement Kit," published by the National Financial Awareness Network, costs only about $150 and is available for purchase online at

2. High return. If you were able to settle one $6000 account for 50 percent (which is a typical settlement amount), you would save $3000. That is a 200 percent return on your $150.

3. Save money. Hiring a professional debt settlement company will likely cost you thousands of dollars in service fees, compared to about $150 for a do-it-yourself debt settlement kit.

4. Know thyself. Who do you trust more than yourself with your money? Handing your personal, sensitive financial dealings over to a complete stranger can be unnerving, especially if it is unnecessary.

5. You are your best client. Professional debt settlement companies often service thousands of clients. It is nearly impossible for anyone else to provide the level of service and attention that you can provide to yourself.

6. Stay in the know. By managing your own debt settlement program, you will always know what is going on with your accounts. How can you keep yourself in the dark?

7. Record keeping. As a do-it-yourselfer, you only have your records to keep up with. Professional debt settlement companies often have thousands of clients and each client has multiple accounts to keep up with.

8. Privacy. By doing your own debt settlement, you keep your personal business to yourself. You also alleviate the potential for the third-party debt settlement company misplacing your personal, sensitive information or a disgruntled employee stealing your information and committing fraud in your name - making you an identity theft victim.

9. Flexibility. Handling your own settlement savings plan means that you can quickly make adjustments when needed. If you have to go through a third party, they may require several says advanced notice, which can place additional hardships on your in emergency situations.

10. State regulations. Some states have very restrictive regulations for companies that provide debt services. For some consumers, they cannot enroll in many professional debt settlement programs because their state's regulations have taken that option away from them. However, there is no law against negotiating directly with your creditors. In fact, creditors often send automatic settlement offers to customers who fall behind in paying their bills.

11. No debt too small. For business purposes, many professional debt settlement companies will only enroll applicants with $10,000 or more in total unsecured debt (like credit card and medical debt) and each credit account balance must be at least $500 or $1000, depending on the company. Of course, these numbers vary, but the point is that you do not need to have tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt to settle your own debts.

12. A better you. Going through any debt resolution process is a learning experience. If you pay attention and stay on top of your program, you will learn a lot about personal finance, budgeting, prioritizing and how the credit and debt collection systems work. You will also be less likely to fall into the same debt traps as before because of the unpleasant experiences you had while struggling to resolve your debts.

While the benefits of the do-it-yourself approach are plentiful, there are occasions when you may need or want professional help. Thoroughly investigate several debt settlement companies before enrolling in a program. Check with their local Better Business Bureau to see if the company resolves complaints in a timely and appropriate manner. Make sure they belong to an industry association, like the United States Organizations for Bankruptcy Alternatives (USOBA) and The Association of Settlement Companies (TASC). Closely evaluate their fee structure, contacts, disclaimers and service guarantees.

A debt settlement company should also inform you of the negative impact debt settlement has on your credit, the potential for increased collections activity and possible tax consequences of partially canceled debts. If they dodge the questions or make claims that seem too good to be true, then you should consider looking elsewhere or revisiting the do-it-yourself option.