Millions of people are finding that their debts are becoming a serious problem, as the effects of years of easily available credit start to bite. There are also many companies who promise to solve all your debt worries, slashing your repayments and clearing your debt completely within a few years. Is this too good to be true? First, we need to find out exactly what debt management is. When you sign up with a debt management company, they will take over the servicing of your debts in return for a fee. Instead of having to keep up with all your repayments to many creditors, you can now make a single payment to the management company who will divide it between the companies you owe money to. This in itself can be a great weight off your mind, as the stress of keeping track of your repayments is removed, but a debt management program can offer more than this.
Your manager will contact your creditors and explain that your debts are unsupportable, and try to agree a new repayment schedule that you can better afford. They will also attempt to get the interest payments on your debt frozen, so that more of your money goes towards clearing your debt rather than just keeping on top of it. In some cases, they may also be able to get previous interest charges cancelled, reducing the total amount you owe, but this will depend on how flexible your creditor is prepared to be. If the alternative to agreeing a more affordable repayment is bankruptcy, when the creditor will get no repayments at all, then most will be happy to negotiate. So far, so good. Your debts will be reduced, your worries will be eased, and you can look forward to a debt free future.
Of course, it isn't that simple, and you need to bear in mind the drawbacks of debt management before embarking on it. Firstly, entering a program will effectively involve tearing up the credit agreements you've signed with your creditors. Even though you'll be agreeing new terms and sticking to them, this will leave a serious black mark on your credt rating. However, this might not greatly concern you - people with serious debt problems tend to have impaired credit scores already, as payments have usually been missed or debts defaulted on. More seriously, although some charities will offer debt management at no cost, private companies will charge a fee which can in some cases be a considerable one.
Beware of companies promising to solve your problems instantly - they may be trying to take advantage of people when they're vulnerable. Shop around to see what fees you'll be charged before signing up. To sum up, debt management can offer a solution to heavy debt problems, cutting your repayments and relieving stress, but it has implications for your future credit worthiness, and care needs to be taken in choosing a company or organisation to sign up with.
Nicholas Hunt is a contributing writer for 1Stop Finance, where you can read more about debt management and other ways of coping with debt.