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Debt Consolidation - Is it a Good Idea?

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Why is debt consolidation necessary? Maybe it isn't. It seems like the easy way out of the problem of too many payments every month. When your credit card and loan payments add up to $900 every month, why not just get a loan that will pay all of these debts off and have a nice easy payment of say, $300? There are two reasons why this may be a bad idea.

Don't Ignore the Cause

Too much debt? Why? Rarely is the cause due entirely unforeseeable circumstances. Most often, if you have debt problems, it is because you buy too many things on credit. In other words, it is due to bad financial habits.

Now what happens when you combine all that debt? Do you have less debt? Maybe you get a lower interest rate on average, but you still owe all the money, right? Your consolidated debt is just easier to pay, because it is in one lower payment stretched out over a longer period. What else becomes easier now? Adding more debt.

This is exactly what many people do. They get their $900 of various payments rolled into a loan with a $300 payment, and now they have all that excess income. Time to go buy some things on credit. Obviously, debt consolidation can be a way to postpone reckoning with the real problem - bad financial habits. Postponing dealing with debt makes it much worse, of course.

Debt Consolidation Costs More

It may seem like you are saving money on interest with some consolidation loans, but this isn't always true. The problem is that you are converting short-term debt into long term debt. The longer you take to pay off the money owed, the more you pay in interest.

Let's look at an example. If you owed $6,000 on a credit card, with 18% annual interest, it would take a payment of $176.26 per month to pay it off in four years. You would pay a total of $2460 in interest. Suppose, in order to get the best interest rate and easiest terms, you rolled the debt into your 30-year mortgage on your home (many people do this). If it was a 7% loan, it would add only $39.92 to the payment. That's easier than $176, and a much lower interest rate, but how much total interest will you pay over the years? $8371 - more than the original debt.

Of course there are debt consolidation loans that are not for 30 years, but you get the point. Even with a 15-year, 7% loan, which would costs $53.93 per month, you would pay at least 50% more in interest than with the 18% 4-year payoff. Converting short-term debt into long term debt can cost you a lot more in interest.

Try hard to make those payments and get rid of that debt sooner. You'll be glad you did. Of course, it may be impossible to make those payments. That happens, but for a reason. At least work as hard on changing your habits as you do on getting that consolidation loan.



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