Making the decision to dump your debt is a noble one. If you are carrying too much debt, you know the helpless feeling of throwing money away. Despite putting a large chunk of your income toward the debt, the numbers never get much smaller. Other financial goals, like increasing retirement contributions or saving for a home, seem impossible when you are drowning in debt. Here are some ways to help you pick a strategy for dumping your debt.
Certain life insurance policies have a cash value component. Permanent life insurance is usually much more costly than term life insurance, but it does give you the option of borrowing money. However, if you die before you pay it back, your death benefits will be reduced. Make sure you calculate if that will leave enough money behind to fulfill the reason you bought the life insurance in the first place (covering final expenses, replacing your income, etc.).
Using a credit card to pay off other debts can be a slippery slope. Even if a credit card is offering a no- or low-interest offer for a set time period, it’s important to look at what the interest rate will be after that period. Even if you plan to pay it back during the initial period, it’s important to decide if this is a realistic goal and what would happen if something unexpected occurred.
Another way to dump your debt is to revisit your budget. By tracking what is coming in and what you are spending, you may find places to cut back. Even if you have done this previously, it may be worth another look. Even if you have to make a short-term sacrifice to get rid of debt, in the long run you will increase your wealth.
Whether it’s starting a part-time job, selling some items you no longer use or taking on a freelancing gig, increasing your income can help you dump debt. It’s a good idea to earmark that money specifically for the purpose of paying off debt so it doesn’t get absorbed into everyday spending.
Home equity loans and lines of credit can offer much lower interest rates than other types of personal loans or credit cards. But using this method, you are not truly getting rid of debt, just shifting it. You are meeting immediate goals by creating longer-term debts. Before you tap into your home equity, consider if you would be able to continue paying it back if you were to become ill or lose your job. Your home secures this loan, so if you cannot pay it back, you could lose your home. You may choose not to swap unsecured debt (like credit card debt) for a loan against your home, even if you will save on interest.
When you are having a hard time paying off debts and you have money sitting in a retirement account, it can be tempting to tap into that. But sacrificing one goal for another may not be the best option. While retirement may seem a long way away, stashing money now away now (and leaving it in your retirement account) gives it the most time to grow. Plus, many accounts will require you pay fees and penalties if you access the money early. This can mean you get less money than you thought and you’ve created a gap in your retirement savings. This should probably be a last resort.