What is debt consolidation and how does it work?
If debt is troubling you, consolidating it can help. Debt consolidation is the process of combining debts into one monthly payment through a loan or negotiation process. Debt consolidation works by consolidating all your debts into one lump sum, often saving you money on interest charges, lowering your monthly payment and getting you out of debt faster.
Does debt consolidation affect your credit score?
While legislated debt management programs limit access to credit for several years, they do not permanently ruin someone’s credit score. It is always possible to rebuild your credit score! We have lots of free resources and information to help you do this―including our online course, Credit Cross-Training, our Credit Comeback PDF handbook, and our Credit Ratings & Credit Scores blog post.
In Alberta, there are five main debt solutions to help you get out of debt. Not all options involve the consolidation of your debts.
- A consolidation loan is a common way to consolidate debt
- This option is through your financial institution and should be ruled out before you consider some of the more formal options listed below
- Financial institution will assess your situation based on your credit rating/score amongst other factors
- All your debts are “paid off” and you then repay the consolidated amount directly to your bank
- Monthly payment for set term (could be over 5 years)
- Lower interest rate
- You may still have access to the credit that was paid off by your consolidation loan
Debt Management Plan (DMP):
- A credit counselling agency asks your creditors to voluntarily agree to consolidate your debts into one more affordable payment
- Pay back debts 100%
- Often includes interest relief
- Combines unsecured debts into one monthly payment and the credit counselling agency distributes the money to the creditors
- Monthly administrative fee
- Maximum 5-year program
- Assets may or may not be protected depending on the plan you choose
Orderly Payment of Debts program (consolidation order):
- A debt consolidation program legislated by the government referred to as a consolidation order
- Is an excellent way to consolidate and repay your debts in full
- Money Mentors is the only provider in Alberta of the federally legislated Orderly Payment of Debts (OPD) program
- Through the provincial court, the OPD program combines your unsecured debts into one monthly payment
- We determine what the payments are, based on what you can afford, and the creditors approve it. The program is registered with the court so you’re legally protected while you repay your debts.
- It’s the stress-free way to consolidate all of your debts into one easy payment plan
- Fixed interest rate
- You keep your assets
- It’s designed to be flexible and can be tailored to any Albertan’s life circumstances
- A consumer proposal is a settlement with your creditors and is based upon what you can afford to pay
- Pays back debts 10-90%
- Debt cannot exceed $250,000 (excluding mortgage)
- Can be spread out over 5 years
- Cost of a consumer proposal is based on a negotiated settlement between the debtor and the creditors. Once a price is settled, it cannot be changed (even if you end up making more over the time period).
- No monthly reporting requirements
- Required to attend two credit counselling sessions
- Keep all tax refund(s) or credits
- A consumer proposal can only be administered by a Licenced Insolvency Trustee (LIT), who will put together the proposal taking into consideration your income, assets and some of your expenses
- Fixed cost of about $1,800 that mostly goes to the LIT
- LITs receive 20% of the funds available for distribution
- Bankruptcy is not a debt consolidation program; rather it involves discharging or restructuring all your debts
- Short- and long-term programs are available, depending on your surplus income
- Average monthly fee
- Must have at least $1,000 debt
- Bankruptcy payments vary as they are based on your income and can increase or decrease over the term based on your earnings (if your income increases later on, your monthly payments increase)
- Required to complete a monthly budget for all income and expenses, as well as supply copies of your pay stubs to your trustee
- Required to attend two credit counselling sessions
- Lose all tax refund(s) and/or tax credits which you are owed
What should you consider?
- Not all debts are covered in debt consolidation options. It’s important to understand what debts you have so you can find a solution that works best for you.
- Whether you choose debt consolidation, consumer proposal or bankruptcy, you will not have access to credit during that time. It’s important to know this up front so you can find alternatives beforehand (like prepaid credit cards, gift cards, etc.).
- There’s no real difference between the three as far as the Credit Bureau is concerned. But sometimes future creditors look further into your affected credit rating. If they see you did a Debt Management Plan, like the Orderly Payment of Debts (OPD) program, versus the other two, it can sometimes be a good thing because it means that you took the time to fully pay back your debts versus just walking away from them.
- If you can afford to pay off your debts, the Orderly Payment of Debts (OPD) program is a good choice. However, if you cannot afford to pay it all back, consumer proposal or bankruptcy might be better alternatives.
- Debt consolidation is the right path for you if:
– You have two or more creditors
– You are overwhelmed with all your monthly payments
– Your interest rate on at least one of your debts is high
What should your next step be?
Everyone’s debt situation is different, which means every client needs a unique and customized approach. Our counsellors will explore debt relief options with you and provide information so you can confidently tackle your debts in the best possible way. Book your FREE Financial Needs Assessment today!