10 Steps to Success on a Debt Management PlanCongratulations on taking the first step towards debt freedom. By enrolling in a debt management plan you have made the decision to pay down your debt with the help of those that have been in your shoes

Now that you have a plan of action for getting out of debt, it is important to know the steps you should take to be successful. The first few months on a debt management plan can be tricky to navigate so we want to provide you with a roadmap for success!

By following these 10 steps you will be informed, in the loop, and ready to attack your debt, with a plan in place.

1. Review your agreement and keep a copy in a safe place. This is a step many of us forget "in the heat of the moment". It is essential that you carefully review your agreement so that you understand the details of your plan including the fees and requirements. Once you have reviewed your agreement, make sure to keep a copy of it so you can refer to it later for program details.  

2. Let your creditors know what you have done. Everyone needs to be in the loop; by informing your creditors you have enrolled in a debt management plan with a CareOneSM provider you can get everyone involved on board with your plan.  Make sure you tell them your CareOne payment date.  

3. Asses your budget with honesty.  We recommend a relief plan based partly on your budget, and if you provide us with an inaccurate assessment of your budget, you may end up enrolled in the wrong plan for you.

 4. Be sure to include ALL of your unsecured creditors. While most creditors require that all of your credit card accounts be placed on your DMP, not all do. We strongly advise you to place all of your unsecured debts on the plan from the get go, so that there isn't a temptation to use an account that has been left off your plan.  

5. Review your monthly statements.  Remember staying in the loop is important for everyone; you, your creditors and CareOne. Because we are a third party we do not receive statements from your creditors, so we rely on you to make sure the balances and benefits that are to be applied are accurate. Set aside time each month to review your statements. If you see a discrepancy between a creditor statement and your CareOne statement, it is most likely because your creditor responded to our proposal with an updated balance. Just contact our Customer Care department at 1-800-CARE123 or email us through the Help Center gadget in your My CareOne portal, and we can assist you in updating your balance.  

6. Your CareOne payment date is a BIG piece of the puzzle.  By selecting a payment date that works with your budget you are better able to make your payments on time each month. While you have the ability to change your payment due date on your plan, it can affect your creditor payments, which can impact your success. Before making any date changes, keep in mind that your creditors expect to receive a payment every 30 days. If you change your debit date, and select a date that falls outside of this range, a creditor may consider it a missed payment, which can jeopardize your success. This is why it is so critical that you select the right payment due date from the start, and consistently make your payments according to this date. While missing a payment or making a late payment can obviously impact your success on the plan, making a payment too early can also do more harm than good. Creditors like consistency, and expect to receive a payment every 30 days, so if you make your monthly payment early, and it falls within the previous month's 30-day cycle, it may be treated as a missed payment for the month you are actually trying to make a payment on. We prefer that you make your payments on the same day each month, and, if you find that you have additional money each month, increase your monthly payment amount.  

7. We understand things happen; just keep us in the loop.  If you need to interrupt your payments at any time while on the plan, please call us so that we can assist you.  

8. You paid off an account through your plan; congratulations.  This is a huge accomplishment and we want to celebrate with you and ensure the final payment to your creditor is correct. While we try to estimate when your account will be fully paid off as accurately as possible, we need you to help us by monitoring your statements closely. 

9. Be prepared for the unexpected.  While your main priority right now is to pay off all of your debt, you never know when an unexpected and unplanned expense might come up. It is important to be prepared by setting aside a small amount of money each month, so that you can cover your expenses without missing your DMP payment.

10. We are here for YOU!  We have been there and know the journey to debt freedom is not always an easy one. That's why we offer a variety of free resources and educational materials to help you learn to manage your money both while you are on the plan and after. We also have an online community of people at different stages in their journey ready to provide tips, advice, and most importantly moral support.

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Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @ADivorcedMom  and @AskCareOne where she shares her insights on divorce and managing your finances.