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Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Times Are Tough Restructuring Your Debt May Pay Off

By John Brennan

An economic crisis is gripping the world as of the end of 2008. Families around the world are squeezed and finding it increasingly difficult to meet their obligations. In order to provide a home for their family, transportation to get them around, a means to a better education and nice products for personal enjoyment, many families will extend additional debt beyond their means to pay them back.

When we borrow money it's often just the amount borrowed and the amount of the monthly payments we think about. The interest being charged needs to be considered as well, especially in long term loans or high interest loans. You can end up paying a substantial amount of money just on interest payments if you're not careful. Even the so-called no interest loans can carry significant penalties if not paid off in time. These penalties can come in the form of extremely large interest rates applied to the balance due.

So we continue to use easy credit as our means of getting by as if we could continue doing that forever, eventually getting by more and more by making minimum payments. All of a sudden we have a ton of debt and are trying unsuccessfully to pay for things we purchased long ago. This is where debt consolidation can be the answer to a seemingly unsolvable problem.

There are a few different options for acquiring debt consolidation help, although the most common tends to be debt consolidation loans, whereby the consumer will take out one loan to pay all outstanding credit card/other debts. Doing this combines all the interest into a basis of one loan amount, thereby (in most cases) reducing the overall monthly obligation for the consumer.

The consolidation loan isn't the only option available. You might be able to get the interest rates reduced on existing debts. Reducing credit card interest is one area many people successfully explore. Or, you might consider having the term of a loan extended to reduce monthly payments. This may help in the short term but you have to be careful or you may be paying out even more. Another alternative is to seek help from a qualified third party to get more favorable terms on your outstanding debts.

The structure of the consolidation is key, meaning that whichever consolidation loan or strategy you go with you need to be careful about how it is backed up. For example, third parties might seek to tie the repayment of debt obligations to the deed for your home.

Just be aware that if you're putting your home up for collateral it's imperative that you make your payments or foreclosure may be in your future. Losing your car is one thing, losing your home is something else. As enticing as a home equity loan may seem, and they are actively promoted, make certain you'll be able to handle the payments. Above all, don't start borrowing all over again. It's time to start cutting up the plastic

Finally, it is critical to ensure you are well positioned to pay off any restructuring agreement through a solid monthly budget of your income and expenses. If you do not have sufficient income to meet the repayment terms then you will likely default on the consolidation loan and lose out on opportunities to improve in the future. Use a solid budget, proceed with caution and restructure your debt when appropriate to fix your families finances.

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