Reader question: I am ready to take back control of my life and get my debt paid off. My problem is I’ve lost track of all my debts. How do I find my debts? – Jim P.
Congratulations on deciding to take control of your debt and start getting it paid off. That step alone is a great move towards getting your life back under your control. Now comes the hard part, cleaning up the debt. This is an even harder task to do when you don’t know what debts you actually have! So where do you even begin to find your debt? It is time to become your own private investigator and start creating a list.
Pull Credit Reports
Step one in finding your debt is to pull your credit report. Your credit report will have not only what you owe but also some contact information for the companies that hold your debt. While this information is not always accurate it at least gives you a place to start. Also note that not all your debts will be listed here. Credit providers are not required to report, it is a voluntary system.
Look for Old Paperwork
Next sort through any old paperwork that you might have stored away. Look for companies, account number, really anything that will allow you to begin communicating with the lender. This might be off of old credit statements or even old checking accounts where you may have made payments from.
Finally, sit down with a pen and paper and start brainstorming anything you might not have found. Starting with high school take a trip down memory lane, but instead of thinking about your prom date think about how you paid for that prom dress, flowers or dinner! Keep going through your life till present day. Did you break a leg and not fully pay the bill? Did you have a car reposed and not pay the difference? Did you take out a loan from the local bank for a jet ski? Dig deep and try and remember everything.
Worst case scenario you can start paying on the ones you do have the information on and the others will eventually find you!
Create a Plan
Once you have a list of possible old debts it is time to start creating a plan to pay them off. You can use web based programs, excel or good old pen and paper to track your progress as you go. The important part is that you have a list of the debts, who you owe and how much you owe.
Assuming you are behind on all of them since you don’t know what they are, you may be able to get a reduced payoff if you pay it all at once. Save up some money, give them a call and start negotiating. Don’t give electronic access to your accounts and require it to be in writing as paid in full before you pay them. Then hit the next debt on your list.
Eventually you will have your debts paid off and can start saving and investing. Good Luck!
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