Can Private Student Loan Debt Be Settled And If So, How Do You Negotiate A Successful Settlement?
As a NACCC Certified Student Loan Counselor, NACCC Certified Credit Counselor, and a professional debt negotiator with over a decade of experience; I am well equipped to negotiate your student loan debt settlement – and to make sure that the negotiated agreement is executed correctly.
I specialize in settling six figure balances, which require a more nuanced approach and strategy compared to normal balances; but I also help borrowers with private loans as low as $10,000. My average client has a balance between $30,000 – $50,000.
I have been able to negotiate private student loans with the largest private lenders such as Navient, NCT, Wells Fargo, Keybank, and Sallie Mae; as well as with a variety of smaller or more obscure lenders. I will make sure that your settlement is executed correctly, with proper credit reporting from the lender. The execution and follow-up of the negotiated agreement is where people can get into real trouble when trying to settle on their own, or by hiring settlement companies that don’t specialize in private student loan settlement negotiations.
I never charge upfront fees – my charge is due at the time the negotiated agreement is executed. My performance-based method gives me the incentive to save every last possible dollar for my clients. Beware of debt negotiation companies that charge you a percentage of the total debt amount – not only does this mathematically come out to a much larger fee than mine as far as the dollar amount; it also means that they do not have an incentive to save you as much as possible and to go that extra mile to maximize the amount you can save. Under the “percentage of the balance” model, the fee is the same whether the reduced sum payoff is 40%, 50%, or 60% – they are still getting paid the same amount regardless of how low your negotiated agreement is.
For this reason, I view the “percentage of the total balance” fee model as inferior to my performance based “percentage of the savings” model.
How Do I Get Results?
Strategy and Tactics
My strategies and tactics have been honed over time – specific to certain lenders, as well as various situations at different points in the collection cycle. For example, the approach to settle with a collection law firm is different than the approach with an internal collection department, even if the lender is the same.
Experience and Industry Knowledge
Spending over a decade of my career negotiating with all different types of debt collectors, collection attorneys, collection supervisors, managers, directors, banking executives, and many others in hundreds of difficult situations has given me an extensive negotiating “toolbox”, and a deep well of knowledge to rely on as far as lender behavior and reading between the lines during a negotiation. Private student lenders can have drastically different collection cycles, levels of (legal) aggression, and reduced sum payoff ranges.
The student loan industry is not quite as vast as the credit card industry in terms of the agencies and lenders involved, so over time, I end up negotiating with many of the same companies repeatedly. I’ve known some of the managers, directors, and supervisors at various lenders and collection agencies for years. I never forget that I work for only my clients and they work only for the lender, but there is mutual overlapping interest when it comes to negotiating an agreement. These negotiating relationships play a big role in the results that I’m able to achieve. fee
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Do I Need an Attorney To Settle My Private Loans? Will I Get Sued?
When loan holders contact me with active lawsuits or a recent summons, I refer them to some of the top student loan attorneys in the country, many of whom I’m on a first name basis with. However – you do not need to hire an attorney (and pay their upfront retainer fee) to settle your private loan unless you are faced with a legal situation such as being served with a summons, or a wage garnishment.
Negotiate Student Loan Payoff: How Do I Get Results?
I have never had a client get sued, and that is not by accident – my unique method minimizes risk while maximizing savings. It’s easy to see a lawsuit coming from a mile away if you know what to look for, and in situations where it looks possible, we simply play defense (often in the form of a temporary repayment plan) to prevent legal action while continuing forward with student loan negotiation, aiming for a reduced sum payoff.
In some cases, I’ve even been able to leverage my negotiating relationships with lenders to have them pull an account from a collection law firm, and place it back with a non-legal collection department for the lender.
Keep in mind that student loan defense attorneys who help with debt settlements would be limiting themselves to a very small portion of the market if they only accepted potential clients who have active lawsuits, so they will make up reasons or sometimes use scare tactics about why you need legal representation for a settlement negotiation that takes place outside of litigation.
It’s a business decision for them – one that results in signing on more clients than if they only signed on people who are facing active litigation – but is not based on any actual legal need for you to hire them for representation.
A student loan lawyer is not doing anything different than a non-attorney negotiator during the negotiating process unless you have an actual legal situation. But, they are probably going to take full advantage of their exemption to the “no-upfront fee rule” by charging you an upfront retainer fee. Don’t get me wrong – I love the student loan defense attorneys that I know and refer legal situations to them often. You just don’t need to hire one unless you’ve been sued.
If you actually do have a summons to court or other issue that requires an attorney, I’ll help you find one, or refer you to one of the many accomplished student loan attorneys I’ve met in the industry. I don’t take on legal situations or provide legal advice. If you’ve been served a summons, I can’t help you – there is a separate legal process that has to take place at that point along with any negotiation, and you need a skilled student loan attorney for that. At any point prior to actually being summoned to court, I can usually negotiate an agreement.
Fortunately, legal action is usually a last resort for a lender and there are often many opportunities to settle prior to that happening. Assignment to a collection law firm or collection agency is somewhat common, and by itself the assignment does not mean you have a legal situation. I settle with these firms regularly. The assignment to a collection law firm does usually mean that a lawsuit is imminent within several months or less if no agreement or repayment plan is worked out, so it’s important to take immediate action if you get a letter or phone call from a collection law firm regarding a defaulted loan.
My Method vs. the Ineffective “Old School” Debt Relief Model
I make sure that you, as the loan holder or cosigner, are fully informed before signing on with me. If pursuing loan settlement offers isn’t in your best interest, I won’t sign you up, and will instead recommend an alternative strategy. The same applies if you’re not in a position to afford a lump sum payment.
The main problem with the “old school”, sales-focused debt relief model that many companies use (and have used for decades) is that it results in signing on people who are NOT a good fit for student debt settlement.
The “old school” debt relief model involves saving up over years via monthly deposits with the hopes of eventually settling (usually sent directly to the debt settlement company, who takes part of each student loan payment for their fee) – and it does not work on large accounts, where the student loan lender can be legally aggressive within 6-12 months after default or less.
Larger private loan balances are impossible to settle with ongoing saving deposits from income and usually require some type of access to funds, assets, or any other money in the bank that has already been built up by the time of default. You can use ongoing/future income to help fund a reduced sum payoff over time, but you’ll still need some funds on hand for the down payment at the time the agreement is executed.
I screen carefully and only accept those who are truly a good fit for my process. Being a good candidate requires, among other things, having the funding to lock in a lump sum or structured settlement shortly after default – minimizing the risk of legal action, while maximizing what you’re able to save.
Settling shortly after default, preferably with a lump sum, also results in credit scores going back up much faster than the inefficient, “old school” debt relief model. This model, that drags on for years with accounts remaining in default and at risk of litigation, is also why debt settlement is associated with credit being permanently ruined. However, this is not the case when a negotiated agreement is done correctly.
What About My Credit?
- Most of my clients and their cosigners are back into a good numeric credit score range within 6-12 months after they’ve settled (if they have no other unresolved defaults)
- Student loan borrowers and cosigners will have greatly improved Debt to Income and Debt to Credit ratios after they’ve settled – the account is reported as a $0 balance to the credit bureaus. This can make a huge difference in DTI, especially for those with six figure balances. DTI is a common reason for being declined for a mortgage, refinance, and other lending products – even when the applicant has a great FICO score.
- Credit often increases significantly once the settlement notation is updated with the credit bureaus, and continues to improve over time post-settlement with a proper credit building plan.
- As a Certified Credit Counselor since 2011, I’ve reviewed hundreds of credit reports and helped many clients improve their credit record. I include a copy of my comprehensive Credit Building Guide for each client post-settlement. Building new positive payment history after you’ve settled is crucial, and my Guide shows some innovative ways to do this.
There are so many misconceptions about debt settlement, but none more pervasive than the idea that it permanently destroys your credit. The “old school” debt relief companies I mentioned earlier are largely the reason for this idea.
Instead of an actual negotiator or a certified financial counselor, those who call these generic debt relief companies end up talking with a salesperson, and that salesperson has every incentive to sign them on as fast as possible. Unfortunately, this has historically led to deceptive sales pitches that omit the very important fact that accounts MUST be in default before any lender has the incentive to enter negotiations for any significant reduction.
It’s not the negotiated agreement that hurts your credit – by the time it’s in default, the damage is already done, and the act of settling itself is actually the first step to rebuilding your credit.
The above screenshot is from an actual client – this is the post-default increase from the settlement notation and $0 balance being reported to their credit. No other credit building steps had been taken yet; this is only from the settlement itself being updated. Results may vary and depend on each person’s credit profile. For example, if someone has multiple accounts in default, settling just one of them will not result in this kind of jump. This account was the only defaulted account that my client had.
The process of going into default, and missing monthly payments, along with the default notation itself; is what causes the credit damage. Scores for both borrowers and cosigners can drop by 100-150 points or more from a current status, as they go late and build up months of missed payments. The default notation is the last credit hit – this is the point where the damage plateaus.
The good news is that this credit pain is only temporary, but it is unfortunately the “cost of admission” for the settlement ride. No lender will settle when accounts are current and they are getting full payments plus interest, as that’s exactly what their business model is based on: you paying the original amount you borrowed several times over. For the time to be ripe to negotiate a student loan payoff, The account has to become a defaulted “non-performing asset” for private lenders to gain the incentive to accept a reduced amount for a payoff.
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Can You Strategically Default On Your Student Loan?
Of course, the credit drop I refer to above only applies to those who are current on their loans and are looking to strategically default. For those who are already in default by the time they contact me, negotiating a reduced sum payoff will only increase their score after the account has defaulted – the credit damage has already been done at that point.
For those who are current, they must weigh whether the temporary (but significant) damage to their credit history is worth the monetary savings obtained via settlement. If there’s a cosigner involved (which is the case for the majority of student loans that are private) they need to be on board with this strategy as well, and understand how their credit will be affected, and when it will recover.
No counselor, debt relief company, or negotiator should ever instruct you to stop paying on your loans in order to settle. It’s a serious decision that only you should make, after being fully informed of the pros and cons and determining whether it is worth it for your financial situation and future goals. People often ask me what I would do in their shoes, but I won’t answer that question – it’s just not my decision to make. My role is to provide you the objective information that you need to make a fully informed decision on whether to strategically default and settle.
If you decide to, I can walk you through every step of the way and ensure that there’s a successful settlement at the end. Many of my clients have chosen to pursue this route.
Get started by clicking the button below and request your online evaluation today!
Is Refinancing Your Student Loan Debt An Option?
Since most lenders will only begin to negotiate when the accounts are defaulted, those who have current private loan debt with a good credit profile may benefit from looking into refinance. Be aware that a high Debt to Income ratio can prevent you from being approved for a refinance even if you have a good credit score – it’s actually the number one reason for declined applicants.
Refinance is the other main relief option for private loans besides settlement. You will still pay much more over time with a refinance than a settlement, but you won’t experience the temporary credit drop from a strategic default in order to settle.
If you are interested in refinancing your federal loans, please visit my federal student loan page for more information.
Refinance can be difficult to get approved for. That industry has come a long way since it was known as an option just for “doctors and lawyers”, but you’ll still need to have good income, a good Debt to Income ratio, no accounts in default or delinquent, and possibly a cosigner.
For those who don’t qualify, or those that want to slash their balance by 50% or more instead of just lowering their interest rate, settlement is an option.
33% of amount saved
20% of amount saved
15% of amount saved
12.5% of amount saved
10% of amount saved
When It Comes To The Debt Industry: Caveat Emptor
The debt settlement industry has a bad reputation for a reason. We’re prohibited from charging upfront fees, or any type of initial retainer (unlike almost all other service-based industries) for a reason. The bad actors tend to make things harder for the good guys, although the tides seem to be shifting in that regard.
Companies that try to take out fees prior to settling your accounts are hedging their bets – they think they may not be good enough to negotiate a settlement for you, so they try to take out fees before any agreement has been reached.
There is a loophole in the no-upfront fee laws that allows companies to charge you upfront if there is an “in person sales presentation”, so beware of companies who want to send a notary or sales agent to meet you in person.
Despite the fact that upfront fees were outlawed in the TSR Amendments of 2010, many companies still try to collect fees before settlement in some way. Read the fine print of debt settlement company contracts carefully. Law firms in a state outside of yours that contact you via inter-state telemarketing (inbound or outbound) are also subject to the “no upfront fee rule”.
“Debt Validation” companies have started popping up that claim that they, without actually representing you legally, can get your loans dismissed, canceled, forgiven, removed, etc. via different disputes under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and others.
They actually can’t. I’ve written extensively on this topic here about why these are false claims (although their salespeople sure make it sound good to folks who don’t know any better). Unfortunately, by the time people realize that all the fancy and legalistic sounding disputes haven’t actually gotten their lenders to cancel their loans, they are years into default and have paid the company thousands in upfront and monthly fees. These kinds of firms basically just try to wait out statutes of limitation while filing a bunch of frivolous complaints and disputes, and often try to use settlement as a backup (but they’ll never tell you that).
One client of mine who had hired one of these companies before finding me, had sent me a lot of the actual disputes and paperwork that the company had filed for them. This “debt validation” company had sent a lot of FDCPA Validation requests to Navient. The problem? Navient is an original lender, and in the vast majority of states, they are not required to comply with FDCPA requests which are mainly applicable to just third party debt collectors. The letters looked and sounded great to someone unfamiliar with the FDCPA – it’s just that they did not have to comply with them.
I have successfully gotten over $15,000 in fees returned to those who paid these kinds of above-mentioned firms upfront. If a company feels spammy, too sales focused, makes unrealistic promises, or is trying to rush you into signing a contract; pay attention to those warning signs.
Loan settlement is a serious decision, and you should take your time in deciding if it is the right path for you. And no one can file a couple of disputes and get your private loan cancelled… if that was possible, trust me, I’d be doing that instead of taking all this time and effort to negotiate settlements!
Performance Based Settlement:
I operate as a no-upfront fee, Performance Based negotiator. If there is no agreeable settlement, you don’t pay. That’s the way it should be; and is required to be by law.
Prior to negotiations starting, clients deposit an estimated negotiation charge into a third party Escrow.com account which they retain full control over. When the settlement is reached and executed, the charge is released from the clients’ Escrow.com account. Escrow.com is a licensed and bonded escrow company based in California, and one of the largest escrow companies in the US.
All charges are calculated based on the balance of your accounts at the time you become a client. These charges are adjusted at the time of settlement to reflect the exact amount saved based on this starting balance, and although my estimates are conservative and realistic, I always try to beat them.
If there is no agreeable settlement, then the full balance of the Escrow.com account is refunded to the client. I also pay all fees associated with Escrow.com except for the fees from your bank to transfer the funds into your Escrow.com account.
Why Work With Me? My History and Methods:
I began developing my debt negotiating skills in 2009, as I was trained to be a negotiator at a small company after first being hired as a customer service agent; and then moved on to a larger company as their head negotiator; settling over half a million dollars in credit card debt during the height of the Great Recession.
Fed up with the inefficient business model that nearly everyone in the debt settlement industry seemed to be using, I set out to establish my own practice with what I consider to be an evolutionary debt settlement process that I created.
In 2011, I also became a Certified Credit Counselor through the NACCC, adding a holistic financial counseling approach to my practice that is sorely lacking in the debt settlement industry. Not long after that, I helped contribute to the NACCC Student Loan Counselor Certification, and became formally certified as a student loan counselor. As someone who has federal student loans and has had private student loans in the past; I know from personal experience what it is like to deal with the burden they cause.
In 2013, I settled my first loan; using the tactics and knowledge I had gained settling almost $1 million in credit card debt up to that point (along with some helpful advice from an attorney who is now one of the top student loan attorneys in the country – thanks Simon). Since then, I have settled over 250 private student loans in a variety of circumstances, for clients from all walks of life.
Negotiating your loans with a seasoned debt collector can be very difficult if you don’t have previous experience. For a detailed look at why it makes sense to hire a professional to negotiate your settlements for you, check out my blog article on that subject here.
I only charge my student clients a small percentage of the amount that I am able to save, and since I’m usually able to obtain a lower settlement than those who try to negotiate for themselves, it’s worth it – not to mention the stress, effort, and time that’s involved when they try to negotiate settlements on their own – and the consequences when a settlement is not executed and/or reported properly.
There are a lot of horror stories on the internet from people who thought they settled; only to find out that a requirement hadn’t been met, their private lender/collection agent deceived them, the credit history was not updated correctly, or they didn’t obtain the settlement letter in writing and made sure it contained the key statements that make a settlement valid.
Have you decided that you’d like to become one of my settlement success stories, and zero your private student loans out for good? No matter what obstacles you think stand in the way of settling your loans, there are often solutions that you may not be aware of. I’m very creative when it comes to strategizing a path to victory for my clients.
To get started, click here to fill out my evaluation form so that I can take a closer look at your situation, or call me directly at 937-503-4680.