This is one of the first steps a family needs to do in order to get out of debt. Here are the details that need to be included and some strategies for putting the plan together…
GAINING DEBT CLARITY
To get out of debt, a family needs to itemize all of their debts. They must face their financial demons. I call this debt clarity. A family must become clear on how much money they owe and just how bad off their situation is. They need to understand exactly how much money each month is tied up in debt payments.
This is because they can see how much money they will gain once they have paid off their debts. This money can then go into savings, inheritance, investments, their calling, charity, or any number of positive things. This can become a powerful motivator.
An indebted family or individual first needs to know how much debt they have and where their money is going. Here’s the information that should be listed for each debt:
- Debt Description (e.g., credit card name, car loan, etc.)
- Lender Name – This is the company, bank, credit card company, or individual to whom a family owes the debt.
- Interest Rate – This is the rate of interest being paid on the debt.
- Remaining Balance or Payoff Amount – This is how much debt is remaining, how much the family owes.
- Monthly Payment – This is the minimum monthly payment required by the creditor.
- Due Date – This is the date every month in which the minimum payment must be made.
SOURCES OF DEBT
The most common sources of personal debt are:
- Credit cards
- Student loans
- Car loans
- Personal loans
- Medical bills
A family should be able to locate most of its debt easily. The head of the household can create user accounts and log in to identify the information described above.
If there is some uncertainty about how much debt a family has, they can pull a credit report. The credit report should list a person’s debts and many of the details of each debt. Experian explains:
If you’ve faced credit difficulties in the past and are unsure which of your accounts are currently outstanding, ordering a copy of your Experian credit report will be very helpful. Checking your credit report won’t provide an exhaustive list, but can be place to start. The report lists all of your debts, the amount outstanding and provides contact information for your lenders.
There are three credit report agencies, so the members of a family should request a copy of each of them. The deacons can offer to pay any fees associated with these requests, which will be minimal. The key is to get the reports and make sure you account for every debt listed there. It is also possible that a debt simply won’t appear on any credit report. The individual or family will need to go through past records and do more work to collect the information they need:
Most major lenders report to Experian, but they are not required by law to do so. In some cases, a creditor may choose not to report an account to Experian directly, but they may later choose to sell the account to a collection agency that does. In that case, the collection account may appear on your credit report even though the original account does not. In most cases, the collection agency will list the original creditor as part of the account information…
…If you do have a creditor that does not report to any of the credit reporting agencies, you will need to go over past bills and account statements or contact the company directly to determine what you owe.
Individuals are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit agencies per year. Consumers can request them at AnnualCreditReport.com.
To develop a successful debt reduction plan, families or individuals must have total debt clarity. They must know exactly how much money they owe, and to whom. We have a moral obligation to pay off our debts:
“The wicked person borrows but does not repay, but the righteous person is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21).
Itemizing all debts is a crucial input to any plan to pay down debt. Facing our debt can be scary, but it is mandatory. Facing our fear and shame is possibly the hardest part, but no healing can begin until that is done. As soon as this step is taken, the family has taken a major leap towards getting their financial house in order.