Don't Pay Off Your Credit Cards! – Not This Foolish Way

It should be clear by now, that here at Money, Debt and Taxes we are big fans of paying off your credit cards.  But when it comes to paying off your debt, it is amazing how much bad advice is out there, even from trusted sources.

Recently I came across an article on The Motley Fool website titled “9 Ways to Pay Off Debt”.  As I read through the article I was screaming at my computer NO, NO DON’T DO THAT!   So here is an abbreviated version of the Motley Fools’ suggestions, and my not so humble comments.

#1. Pay More Than The Minimum Payment on your Credit Cards
So far, so good. I have no problem with this suggestion.   Unless you pay more than the minimum payment it could take you 10 years to pay off your credit card debt.

#2. Snowball Your Debt Payments
Still OK, in fact I am a big fan of debt SnowBalling.  You can read more about debt snowballing at Wipe Out Credit Card Debt.

#3. Cash Out Your Savings Account
WHAT! Excuse Me? Is this the Motley Fool, or some hack. Why would you do that?  The argument the Motley Fool gives is that savings accounts pay a very low interest rate.  You “earn” a better rate of return by paying off a higher interest rate credit card, than you do by leaving that money in a savings account paying a lower interest rate. From a strictly numbers point of view that might be correct, but from a “learning how to manage your money” point of view that is a terrible suggestion.  What do you do if your car breaks down and you don’t have an emergency account?   An emergency account is an essential if you want to get out of debt forever.

#4. Borrow Against Your Life Insurance
I can’t tell you how many ways this is wrong.  First, this is not a way to pay off debt. This is a way to transfer debt.  Second, you can’t borrow against a term life insurance policy, so the Fool is assuming that you have a whole life policy. So you are going to borrow against your life insurance, you may not ever pay it back, so your beneficiaries will get less than you paid for.  I am not fond of whole life insurance, but this just seems like one way to make a bad investment even worse.

#5. Finagle Family and Friends
The idea is you borrow money from family and friends to pay off your other debt.  Once again, you are not paying off your debt, you are changing your creditor.  This has to be one of the worst suggestions of the bunch.  Money issues can be deadly for friendships and devastating for families.  Don’t ever borrow money from friends or family.  Not if you want to keep your friends and stay on good terms with your family.

#6. Get A Home Equity Loan
Sigh, once again we are trying to solve our debt problem by getting more debt.  Plus, we are changing unsecured debt for secured debt.  If you don’t pay off your credit cards you can ruin your credit rating. If you don’t pay off your home equity loan, not only do you ruin your credit rating, you can lose your house.

#7. Borrow From Your 401(k) Plan
Do I sense a theme here?  Are we paying off debt, or are we just moving it?  I know, if it is good enough for the US government it is good enough for you. So if you borrow from your 401(k) plan, what is to stop you from just running up your credit cards again?   Now, if you have been following all this foolish advice, you have tripled your debt, alienated all your friends and family, lost your home, and now you have no money for retirement. (Plus you’ve lost many of the tax benefits a 401(k) plan provides.)  But that is OK, the fools have a plan for you…

#8. Renegotiate With Your Creditors
Yes, your creditors will love you when you call them up and say you can’t pay.  They will be so excited to lower your interest rate and maybe even forgive some of the principal.   You could even call one of those “Secrets The Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know” companies and totally destroy your credit rating.  But that won’t matter, you have to fools to advise you.  Next step please…

#9. File For Bankruptcy
News Flash, this is not paying off your debt!   This is forcing your creditors to accept little or nothing for the debt you have incurred.  In very rare circumstances, bankruptcy is the only option, but for most people, learning how to manage their money will enable them to pay off their debt, save their credit rating, and avoid bankruptcy.

I am afraid I have lost a whole lot of respect for those Motley Fools.   Of their 9 Ways to Pay Off Debt, only 3 are actually ways to pay off debt,  4 just transfer the debt to a different creditor, and 2 involve forcing your creditors to accept less than you owe.

As one commenter mentioned, paying off your debt is really simple.  There is no magic formula.  You just need to do two things.  Make your debt payments, and pay for everything with cash.  Whatever you do, don’t be a fool and follow the advice of the Motley Fool.

If you are serious about getting out of debt I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Book The Total Money Makeover. It helped me to become debt free and has changed the financial future of thousands of people.

How To Get Out of Debt – Debt Free Forever

This is the fourth post in a series that will explore how you can become debt free, and stay debt free forever. Future posts will talk about when you should and should not use credit cards for purchases. Why you should care about your credit score, how to save money on every day expenses, will credit repair companies help you or hurt you and much more. Make sure to subscribe to our feed so you don’t miss a single installment of this series.

So it has been awhile since my last post on how to get out of debt and stay debt free forever. How have you been doing? Have you paid off a credit card yet? Have you managed to go a month, a week, or even just a day without using your credit card? If not, don’t worry. It takes time to change your spending habits. Just keep trying, eventually it will all come together for you.

In my last post, The Credit Card Payoff Plan, I gave you a plan for paying off debt when you have a little extra cash each month. But what do you do if you don’t make enough money to meet all of your expenses? What do you do if you need to use your credit cards just to pay your bills? How do you manage to pay off your credit cards if you don’t have enough to make the minimum payments each month?

First you have to realize that you are in serious financial trouble. And it is going to take some major changes in how you deal with money to get yourself out of it. You must really commit yourself to getting out of debt. It is not going to be easy. However, you can’t just keep ignoring the problem. The longer you let it go on, the worse the problem will get.

Do not be tempted by payday loans and other such offers of easy credit. These types of loans have high fees and interest rates and are set up so that you will just get yourself deeper in debt, and pay more fees to the payday loan company. The more money you have going to fees and interest, the less money you have to pay off your debt!

Sometimes the only answer will be bankruptcy. And when you are deep in debt, bankruptcy can seem like the easy way out. After all, to be able to walk away from all your debt, and all your money problems can be very appealing. But understand, that unless you change how you manage your money, you will soon find yourself deep in debt again. Also, bankruptcy will damage your credit score. This affects you not just when you are trying to get a mortgage or a car loan. Auto insurance companies will charge you more for your car insurance if you have a bad credit score. You may find it difficult to rent a house or an apartment, and with many employers looking at credit scores, you may even find it hard to find a job. If at all possible you should avoid bankruptcy and work to pay off your bills.

You will also hear many companies advertise that they can negotiate with your creditors and settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. Don’t believe it! Often these companies are scams. They will ruin your credit and run away with your money. For more information on these companies read my post on Secrets the Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know.

There are legitimate credit counseling companies that can help you work out a budget, and a payment plan that you can afford. They will talk to your credit card companies and get you a little breathing room. But you are still going to need to pay off the debt. You can find legitimate credit counseling companies and more information on debt at The National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

So, if you don’t want to declare bankruptcy, and there are no secrets that will make the credit card companies happily settle for less than you owe them, what are you to do? There are only two ways you are going to get out of your financial mess. You need to spend less money and/or make more money.

I can hear you already. I know you think there is no way you can cut back anymore, there is no way you can make more money. And I am going to tell you, that you are probably wrong. Almost everyone I helped get out of debt thought there was no way they could spend less or earn more. And with only one exception, they were all wrong! Sometimes they had to make some dramatic changes. One person sold their large home and moved into an apartment. Others have realized they didn’t really need that second car, they could live without a cell phone, and that cable television is a luxury! You need to look at every place you spend money and find a way to spend less. The more money you can put to paying off your debt, the sooner you will be able to add back those extras in life that most people consider necessities. In my next How To Get Out of Debt post I’ll go into more detail on how to make dramatic cuts in your spending.

Along with cutting back your expenses, you are going to need to make more money. In some ways this can be easier than cutting back on expenses. By taking a second job, or starting a part time home business, you may be able to keep some of your comfort items and still pay off your credit card debt. But please don’t be taken in by any of the get rich quick scams. You don’t need to spend money to find out how these make money schemes work. Use free sources like the internet and your local library to learn about legitimate ways to earn extra money. You can also take a look at my Work From Home Blog to learn about legitimate work from home opportunities. Don’t overlook the little ways to make some money. A weekend spend picking up aluminum cans from the side of the road might net you enough to make a minimum payment on one card. And don’t think of it as just earning enough to make the payment. You are also saving late payment fees and interest. In a later post I’ll talk more about ways to bring in a little extra money.

So to sum it all up, if you are in the position where you don’t have enough money to make even the minimum payments on your credit cards, you are in serious financial trouble and you will need to make dramatic changes to get yourself back on the right track. Finding ways to drastically cut expenses, and ways to make more money will enable you to pay off your debt, and get to the point where you can live Debt Free Forever!

The Sky is Falling

Well, maybe not the sky. But with the Dow Jones Industrial down 23% in just a week and a half it sure seems like it.  World financial markets are reeling, banks are failing, and the US government must think that money grows on trees, because the government’s response to the problem is to throw money at it. One question I have for all the Senators and Congressmen, “Where do you think all this money is coming from?” Either the printing presses are rolling and you are printing more money, or you expect to take it out of my pocket.  I don’t like either option.

The news media is busy feeding the flames of panic. I quit watching. I just couldn’t stand another breathless, busty  blond, eyes wide with excitement, telling me about the future horrors if the current crisis is allowed to continue without someone doing something.  Oh yes honey, the horrors. You probably won’t be able to get a new Lexus this year!  You might even have to go to only once a week manicures! Whatever will we do! And what really gets my goat is the amnesia the media seems to have.  It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the crisis was rapidly rising oil prices. Yesterday it was reported that adding to the crisis, is the rapidly falling price of crude oil. Hmmm?  Seems to me that should be a good thing.  I certainly don’t mind that it is costing me $5 less to fill up my tank than it did just a few months ago.

I’d like to inject just a little bit of sanity into the mix.

Continue reading “The Sky is Falling”

Debt Free Forever – Adding Up The Debt

This is the second post in a series that will explore how you can become debt free, and stay debt free forever. Future posts will talk about when you should and should not use credit cards for purchases. Why you should care about your credit score, how to save money on every day expenses, will credit repair companies help you or hurt you and much more. Make sure to subscribe to our feed so you don’t miss a single installment of this series.

I hope you have read the first post and have made your commitment to become debt free forever. Last time we talked about the problem of debt, and of the fact that most people do not get an adequate financial education. With this post we are going to start into the real work of becoming debt free forever. And the best place to start is with credit card debt.

Credit cards are easy to obtain and easy to use. In fact, most stores will give you a discount on your purchase if you will sign up and/or use the store credit card. Why is that? Because they know that you will probably not pay off your purchases every month, and that they will earn more from you in interest charges and fees than the discount that you get.

It is interesting to see just how much a purchase made on a credit card can end up costing you. Let’s look at an extreme example.

Continue reading “Debt Free Forever – Adding Up The Debt”