Ask Terry Questions Credit card debt

Credit card debt

By Terry Savage on May 29, 2020 | Credit/Debt

Hi Terry, my wife and I are carrying about $80,000 on credit cards and are looking for the best way to pay them off. We also have a $240,000 mortgage on a house worth approximately $340,000. Together we have a little over a million in 401k and Ira. Do we refinance the house, take loans out through our 401k which can be as low as 2%, or just take money out of our 401k and pay off the credit card debt. Our household income last year was approximately $190,000. I listen to you all the time on WGN for many years and have always respected your Insight. Thanks very much.

Terry Says

OK, this is going to require some work. First rule: Do not take the money out of your retirement account. That will ruin the years when you cannot work. Plus you’ll pay taxes and a penalty if you’re under age 59-1/2 — and deprive yourself of future tax-deferreddgrowth.

So what are the alternatives?

There is the “simple way” to pay it all off in 3 years. That involves paying double this month’s minimum — that same amount every month (not double the new minimum) and not charging another penny. If you can stick to that discipline then the cards will be paid off in less than three years. Or start with the highest rate card and the smallest balance card and do those first — just to get rid of those balances.

Then there’s the horrible way: file for bankruptcy. You don’t want to do that.

And my third and more helpful answer is to contact the nearest office of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 800-388-2227. That connects you to the nearest local office. They will (over the phone) review your income/spending and debt. And make helpful recommendations. If you just do this, it will not go on your credit report. OR, they can help you set up a payment plan with your creditors. But that will go on your report.

And that is the point where you would revisit my advice about retirement plan withdrawals!
But do credit counseling first and then come back and let me know what happens.

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