That old ryhmin’ Paul Simon hit the charts in the 1970’s with a song about getting out of relationships. There may, indeed, be “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” as the song says, but most of those don’t apply to getting out of debt. You may slip out the back, Jack, but it will catch up to you eventually. You can, however, make a new plan, Stan. Perhaps the first step is to realize you’re not alone, as Yahoo! Finance lists:
- Median household debt in the United States is now $70,000
- Average credit card debt is more than $15,000
- Average mortgage debt is nearly $150,000
- Average student loan debt is more than $33,000
Nearly 1.2 million people filed for bankruptcy last year. More would file if they could afford the legal fees. And Yahoo! points out that there are three main culprits: Credit cards, medical expenses and student loans.
But for so many with the debt problem, people seem more confused about the chatter and advice on what to do about it. “While there are many actions that you can take to get out of debt, there is only one overarching secret to it, and that secret is … break the large problem (your debt) down into smaller problems with corresponding actions to fix them,” according to Mint.com.
The four small steps offered by Mint.com are a good beginning, including spending less, tracking where your money goes, staying motivated to pay off your debt and finding which debt to focus on. “In general, you want to pay off the debt that has the highest interest rate first,” according to Mint.
But this blog by Dave Ramsey conflicts with that a little bit. “You should pay off the smallest debt first to create the greatest momentum in your debt snowball,” Ramsey writes. “The math seems to lean more toward paying the highest interest debts first, but what I have learned is that personal finance is 20 percent head knowledge and 80 percent behavior. You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped enough to get out of debt completely.”
So even the experts don’t necessarily totally agree.
This list from About.com offers a wide array of 10 ways to get out from under the rock of your debt:
- Stop creating more debt.
- Increase your monthly payment.
- Build an emergency fund.
- Pick one debt and give it all you’ve got.
- Ask your creditor for a lower interest rate.
- Look for ways to put more money towards your debt.
- Withdraw from your retirement fund.
- Cash out a life insurance policy.
- Settle with your creditors.
- Go through credit counseling.
And finally, because there are never enough ways to get out of debt fast enough, the consumer lending experts at Cumulus Funding offer one more to turn this top 10 list up to ‘11’.
Bonus Tip #11. Negotiate a “buy back” or “repurchase” on any outstanding loans. Remember, every loan carries risk to the lender. When you “buy out” of a loan, your risk to the loan company goes to zero. For this, they may offer a more than fair “buy out” price. In fact, most loan companies will negotiate a good “buy back” price if you can get close to the principal.
Have tips you’d like to share?