It isn’t a website, nor a consulting firm.
It isn’t even a calculator.
The most powerful debt management tool is a letter opener.
If you don’t open the mail, you don’t know that your lender has instituted foreclosure proceedings.
If you don’t open the mail, you don’t know that you’re overdrawn at the bank or over limit on your credit card.
Or, less threateningly, the lender has transferred the servicing of your loan.
You don’t know anything about your situation except that you are in trouble if you don’t open the mail.
Now, there is another step: you need to read what’s in the envelope.
I know confronting what you owe and your sense that there’s little you can do about it increases your stress.
The dunning letter or the lawsuit isn’t itself dangerous.
Creditors don’t lace their missives with ricin or anthrax. They need you alive to pay them! They hope, anyway.
What you’re trying to avoid by not opening the mail, or worse, tossing it out, is confronting your situation.
What you don’t know can hurt
Ignoring what’s in the mail can make the situation worse.
The only situation in which we throw people in jail for not paying their ordinary bills is when they’ve gotten a court order requiring their appearance and they ignore it.
My friend Jay Fleischaman tells a marvelous story of a doctor and the doctor’s lawyers who didn’t open the mail nor read what was inside. Instead of collection money from Jay’s client, they paid Jay’s client $20,000 for ignoring the bankruptcy stay.
Fight or flee
Whether the solution to your debt problems is a payment plan or a bankruptcy filing, you need to know who you owe money to and where they get their mail.
All that’s contained in your mail.
So, open the mail, know whether there’s a situation that requires your attention. Then if you want to put the opened mail in a shopping bag to bring to your bankruptcy attorney, that works.
Just don’t show up in my office, deep in debt, and not be able to tell me who to notify about your bankruptcy case.
Image of black box courtesy of Thierry Ehrmann and Flickr.
Image of letter opener courtesy of tobyotter and Flickr.