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Debt consolidation is a helpful practice that involves combining multiple forms of debt, especially those with high-interest rates, into a single monthly payment. It offers two main advantages:
- By consolidating your debt, you can potentially secure a lower monthly interest rate compared to the cumulative interest rate of your individual debts.
- It allows you to organize all your debts in one place instead of having them spread across multiple products.
If you find personal financial management challenging and need more clarity or simply want to streamline your bills into one payment with the same due date and interest rate, debt consolidation can be an excellent option for you.
How Can I Begin with Debt Consolidation?
If you’re considering debt consolidation, there are two primary methods that can help you bring all your debts together in one place. Let’s explore these options:
- Obtain a 0% interest balance credit card: This involves applying for a credit card with a 0% interest rate and transferring your existing debts onto it. During the promotional period, it’s important to pay off the entire balance. To be eligible for such credit cards, a credit score of 690 or above (considered excellent or good) is usually required.
- Secure a fixed-rate debt consolidation loan: By opting for this type of loan, you will receive a lump sum to pay off all your debts in full. Consequently, you’ll have only one remaining loan to manage. Even if you have a credit score of 689 or lower (considered bad or very bad), you can still qualify for this loan. However, individuals with good credit typically receive the best interest rates.
It’s worth noting that there are two additional ways to consolidate your debt: a Home Equity Loan or a 401(k) loan. However, keep in mind that these options come with risks as they may impact your home or retirement savings.
When Can Debt Consolidation Help You?
If you are considering debt consolidation, there are a few important criteria to keep in mind:
- Your total monthly debt payments, including rent or mortgage, should exceed 50% of your gross income.
- You should have a credit score high enough to qualify for a debt consolidation loan or balance transfer credit card.
- Your monthly income should be sufficient to consistently cover your debt payments.
- You need to ensure that you can pay off the loan within 5 years.
Here’s a practical example demonstrating when debt consolidation can be advantageous:
Suppose you have five credit cards with interest rates ranging from 17.5% to 26.99%. Your credit score is decent because you always pay your bills on time. Consequently, you qualify for an unsecured debt consolidation loan at around 7.5%, significantly lower than the interest rates on your credit cards.
Choosing a debt consolidation loan can lead to lightening your load for individuals overwhelmed by multiple debt payments. Opting for a four-year debt consolidation plan means you can eliminate your debt by the end of the term, provided you make timely monthly payments and avoid accumulating additional debt.
When may debt consolidation not be the best choice?
Consolidating debt may not be the ideal option for everyone, as it solely tackles existing debts without addressing the underlying spending habits that led to the need for debt consolidation. It could be more beneficial to focus on changing these habits instead of opting for debt consolidation.
Moreover, if your current debt load is small and manageable, it may not be necessary to consolidate it. If you can comfortably repay your debts within six months to a year based on your current repayment schedule, the potential savings from debt consolidation might not be significant.
Furthermore, if your total debt amounts to more than 50% of your income, even after debt consolidation, it would be advisable to seek debt relief options instead.