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The Dos and Donts of Credit Counseling and Debt Negotiations

I've been in the credit counseling industry for many years and have come across some useful advice by some of my previous clients.

1. Know yourself. Know your limitations and boundaries. Never enter a credit counseling program that is too expensive or outside of your financial limits. Likewise, do not cheat yourself by not devoting as much as you should.

2. Know the options. Do not enter a credit counseling or debt settlement program without being presented all the options. You would never buy a computer at Best Buy without checking out the prices at Circuit City. Similarly, take note of the debt management programs available before committing yourself to anything.

3. Know the implications. Before entering a credit counseling or debt settlement program, know all the associated effects. For example, even though credit counseling does not affect your FICO score, it may affect your ability to get a home. Figure out if the debt management firm offers Lender Letters or something similar to help you during the home-buying process.

4. Know the benefits. Credit counseling can help you reduce your payment, reduce your interest rate, and roll you back to current status. On the same note, debt settlement can reduce your debt's principal, dramatically reduce your payments, and cut your debt pay-off time in half. Learn all the advantages and disadvantages of each program before making your decision.

5. Stay committed. Pick the program and stick by it. If it's credit counseling, make sure you make your payments every month and on time. If it's debt settlement, don't drop out of the program because the long-term benefits will be significant. Stick with the program and you'll be successful and debt free.

Mark B. is the Senior Financial Supervisor at Forget-A-Debt, Inc. To get information about debt consolidation or debt settlement services, please visit their website.