Understanding Different Types of Debt

What Type of Debt do You Have?

When it comes to the types of debt a debtor can have there’s one very important distinction before you ever talk debt relief. That distinction is whether your loans are secured loans or unsecured loans. Student loans, mortgages and car loans are examples of secured debts. Unsecured debts are things like a merchant cash advance, an unsecured credit card and sometimes family member loans. Secured loans are obtained on items that can face repossession and usually require collateral which can also be lost. On the other hand, unsecured loans do not require collateral and do not face repossession.


In debt related news household debt in America, at the end of 2022, reached a whopping $16.9 trillion. Which is the record for household debt levels in this country at any time. It’s also an increase of $2.75 trillion from 2019, according to the Federal Reserve. And with current economic conditions trending as they appear to be, it won’t be surprising if we see that number continue to rise.

Auto Loans

Auto loan debt is one of the most common forms of debt around these days. In fact, just about everyone in the U.S. will have an automobile loan at some point, if not multiple times. Everyone at some point in their life has more than likely had an auto loan.

Auto loan debt refers to the amount of money borrowed by an individual to purchase a vehicle, which is typically repaid over a specified period of time with interest. Here’s a breakdown of how auto loan debt works:

  1. Loan Application:
    To obtain an auto loan, a borrower applies to a financial institution such as a bank, credit union, or online lender. The application process typically involves providing personal and financial information, including credit history, employment details, income, and the desired loan amount.
  2. Loan Approval:
    The lender reviews the application and assesses the borrower’s creditworthiness. Factors such as credit score, income, employment stability, and existing debts are considered during the approval process. If approved, the lender determines the loan terms, including the loan amount, interest rate, repayment period, and any associated fees.
  3. Loan Terms:
    The loan terms specify the amount borrowed, the interest rate (either fixed or variable), the repayment period (typically expressed in months), and the monthly payment amount. The loan term can vary, but common durations are 36, 48, 60, or 72 months.
  4. Down Payment:
    In many cases, borrowers are required to make a down payment toward the vehicle’s purchase price. The down payment reduces the loan amount, and a larger down payment can result in a lower loan amount, lower monthly payments, and potentially more favorable interest rates.
  5. Interest and Principal Payments:
    Each month, the borrower is required to make a payment to the lender, consisting of both principal and interest. The principal payment goes toward reducing the loan balance, while the interest payment compensates the lender for lending the money. In the early stages of the loan, a larger portion of the monthly payment goes toward interest, while as the loan progresses, a greater portion is applied to the principal.
  6. Repayment Period:
    The repayment period determines the duration over which the loan must be paid back. Longer repayment periods result in lower monthly payments but can accrue more interest over time. Shorter repayment periods lead to higher monthly payments but typically result in lower interest costs.
  7. Late Payments and Penalties:
    Failing to make payments on time can lead to penalties, late fees, and negatively impact the borrower’s credit score. It’s essential to make regular, timely payments to avoid additional costs and potential consequences.
  8. Loan Completion:
    Once the borrower has made all the required payments, including interest and principal, the loan is considered fully repaid. At this point, the borrower owns the vehicle outright, and the lender releases any liens or claims on the vehicle’s title.

It’s important to carefully review and understand the terms of an auto loan before entering into an agreement. Comparing different lenders, interest rates, loan terms, and considering one’s financial situation are crucial steps in making an informed decision about auto loan debt.

Understanding how much car you can afford, predicting monthly car payments based on purchase price, interest rate and repayment term will help empower you to make smart auto purchasing decisions.

Credit Card Debt

Credit Cards are another type of very common debt most of us experience at some point in our lives if not our entire lives. When to use credit vs. debit, how to manage your credit card debt and how to organize your credit card statements.

Credit card debt refers to the amount of money that individuals owe to credit card companies based on their credit card usage. When someone makes a purchase using a credit card, they are essentially borrowing money from the credit card issuer to pay for the transaction. If the balance is paid off in full by the due date indicated on the credit card statement, no interest is charged, and there is no accumulation of debt.

However, if the full balance is not paid by the due date, the credit card company will start charging interest on the remaining amount. The interest rate, also known as the annual percentage rate (APR), varies depending on the credit card and individual’s creditworthiness. It is important to note that the interest is typically charged on a daily basis, and it compounds, meaning it is added to the outstanding balance and can accumulate over time.

When a credit cardholder fails to pay the full amount owed, the outstanding balance carries over to the next billing cycle, and interest continues to accrue on the new total. This cycle repeats until the cardholder pays off the balance in full. The longer it takes to pay off the debt, the more interest accumulates, making it more challenging to eliminate the debt.

Minimum payments are another important aspect of credit card debt. Each month, the credit card statement specifies a minimum payment amount that the cardholder must pay to keep the account in good standing. However, paying only the minimum amount will not eliminate the debt quickly due to the accumulating interest. It is generally advisable to pay more than the minimum to reduce the debt more effectively.

If credit card debt remains unpaid for an extended period, it can have negative consequences. The credit card company may report the delinquency to credit bureaus, which can lower the individual’s credit score. Additionally, late fees and penalty interest rates may be imposed, further increasing the amount owed.

To manage credit card debt, it is essential to create a budget, track expenses, and develop a repayment plan. Making consistent, timely payments above the minimum and reducing unnecessary spending can help individuals regain control of their finances and work towards eliminating credit card debt. Seeking professional financial advice or credit counseling may also be beneficial in managing and reducing credit card debt effectively.

Loans From Family

Loans from family members typically work in a more informal and flexible manner compared to traditional loans from financial institutions. And there’s not honestly much a debt negotiator or debt settlement specialist can help with when it comes to family loans. Generally speaking you have a better chance to negotiate the terms as it is your family member. Here’s a general overview of how loans from family can work:

  1. Informal Agreement:
    When a family member needs financial assistance, they may approach another family member for a loan. The process usually begins with an informal conversation to discuss the borrower’s needs, repayment terms, and any specific conditions.
  2. Loan Terms:
    Both parties should agree on the loan amount, interest rate (if applicable), repayment schedule, and other relevant terms. It’s essential to clarify these details to avoid misunderstandings or conflicts later on.
  3. Documentation:
    While not always necessary, it’s advisable to document the loan terms in writing to ensure clarity and prevent future disputes. This documentation could be a simple promissory note outlining the loan amount, interest (if applicable), repayment schedule, and any other agreed-upon conditions.
  4. Interest Rates:
    Family loans often have more flexible interest rates. Some families choose to charge no interest, while others may opt for a minimal interest rate, typically lower than commercial rates. However, it’s essential to consider any legal or tax implications associated with charging interest on loans.
  5. Repayment Schedule:
    Family loans can have flexible repayment schedules based on the borrower’s financial situation. It’s common for borrowers to make regular monthly payments, but the repayment terms can be adjusted according to the borrower’s income or other specific circumstances.
  6. Trust and Communication:
    Loans within families rely heavily on trust and open communication. Both the lender and borrower should maintain clear and regular communication regarding the loan, discussing any changes in circumstances, difficulties in repayment, or adjustments to the terms if needed.
  7. Potential Risks:
    While loans from family can be beneficial, it’s important to consider potential risks. Financial disagreements may strain relationships, so it’s crucial to approach the loan arrangement with mutual respect, trust, and understanding. Additionally, unexpected circumstances, such as job loss or financial difficulties, can impact the borrower’s ability to repay the loan, potentially causing stress within the family.
  8. Legal and Tax Implications:
    Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be legal and tax considerations for loans within families. It’s advisable to consult a legal or financial professional to understand any applicable regulations, tax implications, and potential consequences.

Remember, the specifics of family loans can vary widely depending on the individuals involved and their unique circumstances. It’s always best to openly discuss and agree upon the terms, maintain clear documentation, and approach the loan arrangement with respect and trust to preserve healthy family relationships.

Mortgage Debt

Mortgage debt isn’t generally a debt that can be renegotiated or restructured via settlement.

A mortgage is a type of loan that is specifically used for purchasing real estate, such as a house or a piece of land. When you take out a mortgage, you borrow money from a lender, typically a bank or a financial institution, to finance the purchase of the property. The property itself serves as collateral for the loan, which means that if you fail to repay the loan according to the agreed-upon terms, the lender has the right to seize the property to recover their funds.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how mortgage debt works:

  1. Loan Application:
    You begin by applying for a mortgage loan with a lender. The application process typically involves providing personal and financial information, including your income, employment history, credit score, and details about the property you intend to purchase.
  2. Loan Approval:
    The lender evaluates your application, considering factors such as your creditworthiness, income stability, and the appraised value of the property. If you meet their criteria, they may approve your loan application and specify the terms and conditions of the mortgage.
  3. Down Payment:
    Before receiving the mortgage funds, you typically need to make a down payment, which is a portion of the property’s purchase price paid upfront. The down payment amount can vary but is often a percentage of the total purchase price, such as 10% or 20%.
  4. Mortgage Terms:
    Once the loan is approved, you and the lender agree on the terms of the mortgage, including the loan amount, interest rate, repayment period, and type of interest (fixed or adjustable). These terms determine your monthly mortgage payment and how long you’ll be repaying the loan.
  5. Closing and Disbursement:
    Before the property’s ownership is transferred to you, a closing meeting takes place. During this meeting, legal documents are signed, and the lender disburses the loan amount to the seller or previous owner. You receive the property’s title or deed, and the mortgage officially begins.
  6. Monthly Mortgage Payments:
    You are required to make regular monthly payments to the lender to repay the mortgage debt. Each payment includes a portion of the principal (the initial loan amount) and the interest (the cost of borrowing the money). The payment amount is calculated based on the loan term and interest rate.
  7. Amortization:
    In most mortgages, the payments are structured in a way that gradually reduces the outstanding balance of the loan over time. This is known as amortization. Initially, a larger portion of your payment goes towards interest, while a smaller portion is applied to the principal. As you make more payments, the interest portion decreases, and the principal portion increases.
  8. Escrow:
    Some mortgages include an escrow account, where a portion of your monthly payment is set aside to cover property taxes and insurance premiums. The lender manages this account and uses the funds to pay these expenses on your behalf.
  9. Refinancing or Selling:
    Over time, you may have the option to refinance your mortgage, which involves replacing your existing loan with a new one, typically to secure a lower interest rate or adjust the loan term. If you decide to sell the property, the proceeds from the sale are used to repay the remaining mortgage balance.

It’s important to note that mortgage debt represents a significant financial commitment, and failing to make payments can lead to foreclosure, where the lender takes possession of the property. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully consider your financial situation and evaluate your ability to meet the mortgage obligations before taking on this debt.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt refers to the financial obligation incurred by students or their parents to fund their higher education expenses. Here’s how student loan debt generally works:

  1. Types of Student Loans:
    There are primarily two types of student loans: federal loans and private loans. Federal loans are issued by the government, while private loans are provided by banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions.
  2. Application Process:
    To apply for federal student loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form determines their eligibility for different types of federal aid, including grants, work-study programs, and loans. Private loans typically require a separate application process and may involve a credit check or a cosigner.
  3. Loan Approval:
    Once the application is submitted, federal student loans are awarded based on financial need, while private loan approval depends on creditworthiness. The loan amount offered can vary based on factors such as the cost of attendance, the student’s dependency status, and the school they’re attending.
  4. Interest Rates:
    Both federal and private student loans accrue interest, which is the cost of borrowing the money. Federal loan interest rates are set by the government and are typically lower than private loan rates. Private loan interest rates vary depending on the borrower’s credit history and market conditions.
  5. Repayment Terms:
    Repayment of student loans usually begins after a six-month grace period, which starts after graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment. The standard repayment term for federal loans is ten years, but extended and income-driven repayment plans are available. Private loans may have different repayment options, including fixed or variable interest rates and various repayment periods.
  6. Loan Servicers:
    Student loans are typically serviced by loan servicers, which are companies responsible for managing the repayment process. They handle billing, provide repayment information, and manage communication with borrowers. Loan servicers may differ for federal and private loans.
  7. Deferment and Forbearance:
    In certain situations, borrowers may be eligible for deferment or forbearance, allowing them to temporarily postpone or reduce their loan payments. Deferment and forbearance options vary depending on the loan type and borrower’s circumstances.
  8. Loan Forgiveness and Discharge:
    Certain federal student loans may qualify for loan forgiveness or discharge programs under specific conditions. Examples include Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for eligible public service employees and Total and Permanent Disability Discharge for borrowers with permanent disabilities.
  9. Consequences of Nonpayment:
    Failing to repay student loans can have severe consequences. It can lead to penalties, collection fees, damage to credit scores, and even wage garnishment or legal action by lenders.

It’s important to note that the specifics of student loan debt can vary based on factors such as the country, state, and the type of loan. Therefore, it’s crucial for borrowers to carefully review and understand the terms and conditions of their specific loans.

Merchant Cash Advances

A merchant cash advance (MCA) is a financial product designed to provide quick access to capital for businesses that accept credit and debit card payments. It is not a traditional loan but rather a purchase of a portion of the future sales of the business.

Here’s how a typical merchant cash advance works:

  1. Application:
    The business owner applies for a merchant cash advance with a funding company. They provide information about their business, financial statements, processing history, and other relevant details.
  2. Evaluation:
    The funding company assesses the business’s creditworthiness, primarily focusing on its processing volume and history. The decision is usually based on the consistency and volume of credit and debit card sales.
  3. Offer:
    If approved, the funding company makes an offer detailing the amount of cash advance, the factor rate (a multiplier applied to the advance amount to determine the total repayment), and any additional fees or charges.
  4. Agreement:
    If the business owner accepts the offer, they sign an agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the merchant cash advance. This agreement typically includes the repayment structure, holdback percentage, and other relevant terms.
  5. Funding:
    Once the agreement is signed, the funding company transfers the cash advance amount to the business’s bank account. This process is usually swift, with funds often being available within a few days.
  6. Repayment:
    Instead of fixed monthly installments, the repayment of a merchant cash advance is tied to the business’s future credit and debit card sales. The funding company and the business agree on a holdback percentage, which is a fixed portion of daily card sales that the business remits to the funder until the advance is repaid.
  7. Collection:
    The funding company collects the agreed-upon holdback percentage directly from the business’s credit card processor. The holdback percentage is deducted from the daily sales until the total amount owed, including the factor rate and fees, is repaid.
  8. Completion:
    Once the full amount, including fees, has been collected by the funding company, the merchant cash advance is considered repaid, and the arrangement concludes.

It’s important to note that merchant cash advances often come with high costs, given the convenience and accessibility they offer. Businesses should carefully evaluate their financial situation and consider alternative funding options before deciding on a merchant cash advance. Consulting with financial professionals or seeking legal advice can be beneficial in understanding the terms and potential implications.

Different Types of Business Debt

Gain Control of your Business Debt

Businesses can have various types of debt depending on their financial needs and circumstances. Here are some common types of debt that businesses may incur:

  1. Bank Loans:
    These are loans provided by banks and financial institutions, usually for a specific purpose such as purchasing assets, financing expansion plans, or covering working capital needs. Bank loans can be secured (backed by collateral) or unsecured (based on the borrower’s creditworthiness).
  2. Lines of Credit:
    A line of credit is a pre-approved borrowing limit extended to a business by a bank or lender. It allows the business to borrow funds as needed up to the approved limit. Interest is charged only on the amount borrowed, and it provides flexibility for short-term financing requirements.
  3. Commercial Paper:
    Commercial paper is a short-term debt instrument issued by large corporations with good credit ratings. It is typically used to fund temporary liquidity needs, such as meeting payroll or purchasing inventory. Commercial paper is usually issued for terms of up to 270 days.
  4. Bonds:
    Businesses can issue bonds to raise capital from investors. Bonds are debt securities with fixed interest payments and a maturity date when the principal must be repaid. They can be publicly traded or privately placed, and their terms and conditions vary based on the issuer’s credit rating and market conditions.
  5. Trade Credit:
    Trade credit refers to credit extended by suppliers or vendors to a business. It allows the business to purchase goods or services on credit, typically with a specified payment term, such as net 30 or net 60 days. Trade credit is a common form of short-term financing used to manage cash flow and inventory needs.
  6. Leases:
    Leasing allows businesses to use assets such as equipment, vehicles, or property without purchasing them outright. The business pays regular lease payments to the lessor for the use of the asset over a specified period. While leases are not traditional debt, they represent ongoing financial obligations.
  7. Debentures:
    Debentures are long-term debt instruments issued by companies to raise capital. They are similar to bonds but are not backed by specific assets. Debenture holders receive fixed interest payments and repayment of principal at maturity.
  8. Vendor Financing:
    In some cases, vendors or suppliers may offer financing options to businesses for purchasing their products or services. This arrangement allows the business to defer payment or pay in installments, effectively creating a form of debt owed to the vendor.
  9. Mezzanine Debt:
    Mezzanine debt combines characteristics of both debt and equity. It is a subordinated loan with a higher interest rate and potential equity participation rights. Mezzanine debt is often used to fund growth initiatives, acquisitions, or management buyouts.
  10. Convertible Debt:
    Convertible debt is a type of debt that can be converted into equity (e.g., common stock) at a later date, usually at the discretion of the debt holder. It provides the potential for debt holders to participate in the company’s future growth.

It’s important for businesses to carefully manage their debt and consider the terms, interest rates, repayment schedules, and potential impact on their cash flow and financial health. Seeking professional advice from financial advisors or experts can help businesses make informed decisions regarding their debt structure.

IRS Tax Debt

IRS tax debt refers to the amount of money owed by an individual or a business to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) due to unpaid taxes. When a taxpayer fails to pay their taxes in full or doesn’t file their tax return, the IRS may assess a tax debt against them. Here’s how IRS tax debt works:

  1. Tax Assessment:
    The IRS assesses the amount of taxes owed by reviewing the taxpayer’s income, deductions, and credits. If the taxpayer doesn’t file a return, the IRS may estimate the tax liability based on available information.
  2. Notice:
    Once the IRS determines the tax debt, they send a Notice of Tax Due and Demand for Payment to the taxpayer. This notice provides information about the amount owed, including penalties and interest.
  3. Penalties and Interest:
    The IRS imposes penalties for late payment, late filing, accuracy-related issues, and other violations. Interest also accrues on the unpaid balance, compounded daily.
  4. Payment Options:
    The taxpayer has several options to address the tax debt. They can pay the amount in full, set up a payment plan with the IRS, or apply for a temporary delay of payment.
  5. Installment Agreement:
    If the taxpayer cannot pay the full amount immediately, they can request an installment agreement. This allows them to make monthly payments over an extended period of time until the debt is paid in full. However, penalties and interest continue to accrue until the debt is resolved.
  6. Offer in Compromise:
    In some cases, taxpayers may qualify for an Offer in Compromise (OIC). This is a settlement option where the IRS agrees to accept a lesser amount to resolve the tax debt. The taxpayer must demonstrate financial hardship and provide supporting documentation to qualify for an OIC.
  7. Tax Liens and Levies:
    If the tax debt remains unpaid, the IRS may file a tax lien against the taxpayer’s property or assets. A tax lien is a legal claim that gives the IRS priority over other creditors in case of asset liquidation. The IRS may also issue levies, which involve seizing assets or garnishing wages to satisfy the debt.
  8. Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED):
    The IRS has a limited time frame to collect tax debts. The CSED is generally ten years from the date of assessment. After the CSED expires, the IRS can no longer pursue collection actions.

It is essential for taxpayers to address their IRS tax debt promptly to avoid accumulating penalties and interest. Seeking professional advice from a tax professional or tax attorney is often recommended to navigate the complex tax debt resolution process.

Most Types of Debt

No matter what type of debt you have the best route is always just find a way to pay it. However, we’re not suggesting taking a loan to make the payment on a different loan. Rather dispensing loan and debt advice about after the fact that doesn’t help anyone already in debt, how about a suggestion for the future to start? And then some advice about whatever your current debt situation is.