Whenever you owe numerous creditors, keeping up with your debts becomes that much more complicated. Suddenly you’re dealing with varying deadlines, interest rates, balances and late fees. Having to keep track of what you owe, to whom and when can start to feel like an impossible task. And that’s when things start to slip through the cracks, worsening your financial standing — and probably causing you a great deal of stress in the meantime.
Many Americans are currently dealing with the reality of this situation; 2017 data from Experian revealed that the average adult had 5.6 credit cards. It’s very common for consumers to have multiple lines of credit open at a time. Once you factor in that 41% of working-age Americans, or 72 million people, are currently paying off medical bill debt, it’s apparent how quickly why so many are struggling to keep all these balances straight, let alone pay them off within a reasonable time frame.
The idea of consolidating what you owe is starting to look mighty tempting right now. You might be wondering: What’s a debt consolidation loan, and should I get one? With that in mind, hare are the primary ins and outs of this debt elimination strategy.
What Debt Consolidation Loans Bring to the Table
The real selling point of debt consolidation loans is that they’re capable of combining multiple debts in one fell swoop. This can mean the difference between attempting to juggle different debts of varying amounts vs. paying just one balance each month at a consistent rate.
Say you’re currently trying to pay off three credit card balances and two different medical bills. The logistical effort this balancing act takes alone can be downright draining. If you were to qualify for a personal loan from a bank or credit union, you could use it to pay all these lines of credit off immediately. No more wading through five different statements each month, trying to figure out how to best allot your income to repay your debts. This is the idea behind debt consolidation.
Of course, you’ll still have to pay off every penny you owe. But you’ll be making fixed payments for a set amount of time on a single loan rather than throwing money at a variety of balances.
Who qualifies for a debt consolidation loan? According to Freedom Debt Relief, borrowers will likely have to meet these requirements:
- Credit history free of foreclosures, bankruptcy, repossessions, tax liens, etc.
- A fair-to-good credit score, likely between 680 and 739.
- A debt-to-income ratio at or lower than 50 percent.
So, while not everyone struggling with debt is a good fit for debt consolidation, people who meet qualifying requirements may benefit from the simplification of their approach to debt repayment.
Debt Consolidation Loans: Potential Consequences
The primary deciding factor on whether a debt consolidation loan is a good idea is the interest rate. The higher a borrower’s credit, the more favorable an interest rate they’ll get on a loan. It’s imperative to compare how much you’ll be paying back over time to fulfill the terms of your loan to the amount you’ll pay in interest on your current lines of credit.
There’s also the risk of defaulting on your loan if you’re unable to keep up consistent payments for three to five years. This will land you right back in financial hot water, so make sure you’re prepared to commit to steady repayment for years to come.
Whether or not you should get a consolidation loan depends on the loan terms you can get based on your financial history, plus the likelihood of being able to fulfill its terms to the very end.
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