Debt Consolidation for the Unemployed
Wondering how debt consolidation works for unemployed people and whether it can be a good option for you? Read on to find out.
May 31, 2022
If you’re struggling to pay off multiple debts each month, debt consolidation could provide a much-needed lifeline. Debt consolidation for the unemployed can simplify payments, help pay off your debt faster and even save you money. But if you’re unemployed, getting approved for debt consolidation can be difficult.
Most debt consolidation companies require applicants to have a consistent source of income to qualify. That's not to say you’ll never be eligible for debt consolidation if you don’t have a job.
Here’s what you need to know about debt consolidation for the unemployed.
What is debt consolidation and how does it work?
Debt consolidation combines some or all of your debts or loans into a single loan, possibly one with a lower interest rate. This leaves you with just one monthly payment to make, which can be more manageable than multiple payments.
There are a few different ways to consolidate debt.
Here are the two alternatives:
Balance transfer credit card
In this method, you transfer outstanding credit card debt to abalance transfer credit card that offers an introductory 0% interest rate for a specified promotional period. This gives you more time to pay off your debt without incurring additional interest.
However, if you don’t pay off the debt within the 0% interest rate period, the card’s interest rate will likely jump up, leading to additional debt.
Debt consolidation loan
Here, you take out a fixed-rate loan, for example, with a bank, credit union or debt consolidation company, which is used to settle your current outstanding debts. You then start paying back the loan over a specified amount of time. The interest rate for this loan will depend on your credit score and financial history.
Can you qualify for debt consolidation if you are unemployed?
In a word, yes. But it can be challenging.
Debt consolidation entails taking out a new loan to pay off existing debts. Naturally, lenders will want to see that you have the ability to make timely monthly payments on the new loan. If you don't have a steady source of income, the implication is that you might struggle with your payments.
Fortunately, firms that offer debt consolidation services understand everyone's unique situation. They recognize, for example, that income doesn’t have to come solely from a traditional paycheck.
Some firms may be willing to consider you for a personal loan to consolidate your debts if you have any of the following alternative sources of income or benefits:
Social Security benefits
Pension funds or other retirement benefits
Regular payments from a settlement
You may also be able to increase your chances of qualifying for a debt consolidation loan by putting up collateral. Collateral can include personal assets such as a car, house, or even funds in a savings account. A loan that puts up collateral is known as a "secured loan."
What are the risks of debt consolidation when unemployed?
One of the risks of getting a debt consolidation loan while unemployed is that you may end up with a loan with a higher interest rate. This could make it more challenging to keep up with payments and eventually get out of debt.
If you can’t get a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, consolidating debt may not be worth it.
You could also get hit with high fees when consolidating debt. For example, with credit card balance transfers, you may have to cough up fees ofbetween 3% to 4%, with some cards charging as much as 5%. These fees could offset any potential interest savings you could achieve by consolidating your debts.
Furthermore, if you choose secured debt consolidation, you risk losing your assets, such as your home or car, if you fail to keep up with your payments.
When does debt consolidation make sense when employed?
If you’re unemployed, debt consolidation can make sense and save you money in the long term if you can qualify for a low interest rate and you’re:
Confident that you’ll be able to find employment within a reasonable timeframe, or;
Able to make payments using alternative sources of income for the foreseeable future
Regardless, consider speaking with a financial advisor to get expert advice before deciding about consolidating your debt.
What are alternatives to debt consolidation for unemployed people?
If you’re unemployed and debt consolidation isn’t a good fit for your finances, you have other options.
Here are a few worth considering.
Working with a credit counseling service
Credit counseling services can advise on money management, help you create a budget and figure out how to deal with your debts. They can also negotiate a lower interest rate with your creditors and enroll you in a debt management plan.
With debt settlement, the basic idea is to stop paying bills and save up the cash to negotiate a settlement on your debts with the debt settlement firm. The creditors or debt collectors are willing to negotiate because they’d prefer to get some of what you owe them instead of nothing.
You may be able to settle the debt for 40% to 50% of the amount owed, though it can go higher depending on whether you’re dealing with a debt collector or the original creditor.
While this option can save you money on your debts, failing to pay your debts will negatively impact your credit score, perhaps for years to come. You may also be required topay a significant fee (15 to 25%) to a debt settlement company for the service.
You can also declare bankruptcy to get out of debt as a last resort.
Check whether you can qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which wipes out most of your unsecured debt. For some, Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be a preferable option to debt settlement because you avoid the debt settlement firm's fees.
However, if you can’t file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and face a 3 to 5-year Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, consider debt settlement as it may get you out of debt sooner.
The downside of a bankruptcy filing is that it’ll stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years. A bankruptcy mark on your credit report can significantly negatively impact your credit score and limit your future borrowing options.
You can qualify for debt consolidation even if you are unemployed. Alternatives to debt consolidation include balance transfer promotions, debt settlement, and bankruptcy. There’s no one right choice, and the decision will vary depending on a person's financial history, income streams, and credit score.