20 Keys for Successfully Negotiating Your Way Out of Debt

This afternoon I received a very interesting and timely book, The Road Out of Debt: Bankruptcy and Other Solutions to Your Financial Problems*, by Joan Feeney and Theodore Connolly. This book is a great resource for anyone dealing with debt. Chapter 2 offers up 20 Keys to Successful Negotiating with Creditors along with a few thoughts:

1. Get Prepared: The More You Know, the Better – Develop a budget so that you know what you can afford to pay back. Familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (PDF). Understand your loan terms. Get all your bills organized and take good notes.

2. Be on Guard When Dealing with Creditors – Credit companies have one goal: to get your money.

3. Remember That No Two Creditors Are the Same – What works for one creditor won’t work for another.

4. Communicate – This is no time to stick your head in the sand. Don’t avoid the calls.

5. Make Collectors Stop Calling and Writing – The book has sample letters that can be used to get creditors to stop calling. If they don’t, you can contact your state’s attorney general and report them.

6. Make Offers to Your Creditors – Make a reasonable offer to your creditors and see if they accept. If they think you are serious, they will be more willing to work with you.

7. Remain in Control – Remember that you have something that your creditors want: your money. This puts you in control.

8. Be Patient and Persistent – Be patient. If you get nowhere, call back and speak to someone else. If that doesn’t work, talk to a supervisor. Be patient.

9. Have No Fear – Don’t let creditors scare you. I’m sure that some of them will say some pretty scary things. Remember you’re in charge.

10. Threaten to File for Bankruptcy – Creditors hate the idea of you filing for bankruptcy. The authors recommend saying the following to a supervisor: “Without a sharp reduction in my rate so I can afford to pay, I will have to consider bankruptcy.”

11. Call Once, Then Use Certified Mail – After an initial call, it’s best to use certified mail. Certified mail gives you signatures and receipts for your records.

12. Get It in Writing – If a creditor offers you something, get it in writing before you pay anything. Without it being in writing, creditors may “forget.”

13. Only Agree to Terms You Can Afford – Why would you do anything else?

14. Never Agree to Pay a Debt You Don’t Owe – Makes sense to me.

15. Use Time to Your Advantage – The longer you stretch out negotiation, the better it is for you. Debts expire after the they reach the statute of limitations. Creditors are aware of this and are more willing to negotiate the closer you get to the statute of limitations.

16. Uncover your Creditor’s Bottom Line – Chances are good that your debt was sold to a debt collection company. The authors say that debt collectors pay $.02 to $.08 for each dollar of debt. That means if you had a $1,000 debt, the debt collector paid $20 to $80. Understanding this gives you power to negotiate. The authors say that debt collectors might be willing to settle for 50% to 70% of the original debt.

17. Don’t Let Legal Jargon Trip You Up – If the creditors use terms you don’t understand, ask them to explain. Do not let the jargon scare you. Remember, take notes. Use Google and research what you don’t understand.

18. Be Honest in Your Dealings – Don’t lie. You lose credibility if you lie.

19. Never Assume Another Person’s Debt – Make sense to me.

20. Use Honey, Not Vinegar – Be nice.

Most of the twenty keys are addressed in depth in the book, which is around 350 pages. This book (from what I can tell as I have not yet had time to read it in its entirety) treats the subject of getting out of debt in great detail.

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3 thoughts on “20 Keys for Successfully Negotiating Your Way Out of Debt”

  1. I had a creditor call us not too long ago. Supposedly for an unpaid utility bill from 13 years ago! I informed them to only send us stuff by mail, that I wanted written proof of the debt owed, and also told them they were years past the statute of limitations.

    After the phone call, I set up a call-block on their number, which is a free service through the phone company. I have yet to hear anything back from them.

  2. But if you owe the money, you owe the money.
    There is no excuse for the tactics used by some
    debt collection ‘businesses’, but people who
    think they shouldn’t have to pay money they owe
    are just as bad, and can be just as sneaky and

  3. #2 Harm said: “But if you owe the money, you owe the money.”

    No you don’t, not after the statute-of-limitations has past (state-dependent). In my example, I supposedly owed for an unpaid phone bill — the phone company has never called/written me, my credit report has never reflected this unpaid debt, etc: yet some sleaze-ball debt collector started calling my phone daily, 13-years after the supposed bill was due.

    Without the ‘satute-of-limitations’ there would be no way I can defend myself from a debt claim from 13-years ago. In this case, the debt-collector is about 9 years too late (statute of limitations in Texas is 4 years).

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