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Debt Settlement

Missourians are no strangers to debt. Home foreclosures and unemployment rates still hover around the national average, forcing many to reach for the credit cards just to makes end meet

Debt settlement programs lower the amount of money owed to creditors. When you hire a debt manager, he or she works with your creditors to reduce your balances and possibly eliminate late fees and high interest rates. Once the new figures are agreed upon, you then make a monthly payment to the debt settlement organization and the money is allocated to each of your creditors until all the debts are paid off.

The trick is to find an approved credit counseling agency you can trust. Federal rules exist to protect consumers from fraudulent or unethical debt management companies, but some states, including Missouri, also have debt management laws to further regulate how debt managers do business. 

Missouri Debt Management Rules

Here are some key points to keep in mind while looking for debt settlement manager: 

Licensure & Bonding

Debt managers must be licensed by the state of Missouri. They must also hold a $50,000 surety bond if the operation isn’t handling your money directly and $100,000 if they are. This safeguards your payments in the event the company goes under or improperly distributes your funds.

Fees

Never pay upfront for anything. In fact, a debt manager should perform a complete debt analysis for you – free of charge – before they even suggest a debt settlement plan. Then they must secure at least one settlement offer on your account and you must have made at least one payment before they can charge you for any services. Never pay more than $50 to set up your account and/or the greater of $35 a month or 8 percent of the sum paid to your creditors each month.

The Contract

Before you sign any agreement, Missouri requires that the document states “truthfully, in a clear and conspicuous manner” the exact details of your plan.

How Long Will It Take To Pay Off Your Debt?

The exact figure or percentage of each outstanding balance that will accumulate in your account before settlement offers are negotiated

Disclosing that if your money is kept in an insured financial institution, you still own it and can request to withdraw the money, including any accrued interest, at any time without penalty, minus any fees you agreed to pay your debt manager. Your request should be granted within seven business days.

Credit Counseling

Credit counseling is an important tool that can help you build a solid foundation that will help you to rebuild your finances. Understanding is vital when making decisions so you need to understand what credit counseling is, what it is not and what you need to know specifically about credit counseling in Missouri.

What Is Credit Counseling?

First and foremost credit counseling is education. If you are struggling with debt you may be able to benefit from an organization with experience helping people to better understand finances and managing debt. The services a credit counseling agency will provide can vary greatly depending on your need. A credit counselor well help you to develop a plan that will usually include ways to budget and better manage debt but may extend to negotiating with debtors on your behalf. Working with a credit counselor is required before a person can file for bankruptcy. 

What It Is Not

A credit counselor can help you develop a plan and give you tools to manage your debt. Credit counseling is not a quick fix or a tool to magically eliminate debt. The plan you develop may be very difficult to stick with but if you persevere you can make your way back to financial well-being. You are likely not going to like all the counseling agency has to say and cutting back on expenses is never fun, but it is the bitter medicine that can help you heal your life of the debt problems that bring you stress.

Know The Rules

General information regarding credit counseling should be offered for free from the agency. For more in-depth assistance they may charge a fee. It is important you know your rights before agreeing to anything. Before executing a contract or agreement the agency must provide you with a written statement that contains a full description of the services that will be performed by the credit counseling agency including all costs and including complete details regarding the buyers rights, including the right to cancel and under what conditions.

The state of Missouri does not have any defined limits on fees, so be cautious when selecting an agency.

Get Educated

Credit counseling can be a great way to create a plan that will help you manage your debt. It is important to first educate yourself on what credit counseling is and what to look for before deciding on an organization. Be sure to understand the rules and regulations for credit counseling in Missouri before you proceed.