Lorraine Thomas was already treading water. She had made several unnecessary purchases, signed onto a bunch of new credit cards, and bought a house all at the same time. Her husband tried to help, but he also brought along his own debt when they got married.

As interest rates climbed, so did her debt. And in the middle of it all, Lorraine suffered a heart attack.

After that, she found herself needing to care for her aging mother.

“I can honestly see how people who take their own lives feel,” Lorraine says. “It was a definite feeling of, ‘How low could I go?’”

All Hope Was Lost… Or So She Thought

Lorraine was understandably very emotional during the whole ordeal. They didn’t make much money. The responsibility began to take over their lives. When it got unbearable, they sought the help of a professional.

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The first debt consolidation company Lorraine went with wasn’t much help at all.

She completely trusted the company, but that trust backfired. Lorraine didn’t quite understand the process, and the company? Well…

“They failed to communicate clearly with me,” she says. “I thought I was chipping away at the debt, but it just grew and grew.”

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Lorraine and her husband decided to turn to another debt consolidation company for help. She chose them because they came recommended by colleagues at her nursing union.

“[The company] was so compassionate. I would break down on the phone and my advisor would help me feel that everything would be ok,” she says. “They went above and beyond. It was a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

What Should You Do?

Some debt consolidation stories like Lorraine's may have happy endings, but the practice isn't good for everybody. Do your own research before signing up with debt consolidation services.

Some debt consolidation companies charge hefty fees for services that you can technically do yourself.

Whichever company you work with, make sure they clearly explain in writing what you need to do to pay down the loan and how much consolidating your debt will save you.

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Yes, you may be lowering your monthly payments, but that doesn’t mean that you’re paying less interest overall. Why? Because making lower payments (even with a lower interest rate) may mean the term of your loan has been extended – so the amount of debt you have hasn't lowered, and you’re taking longer to pay it off. Not only will you be in debt for longer, but you may end up paying more in interest because of the longer loan term. If you don’t want to pay more, then it’s time to consider other options. This could include changing your spending habits or seeking help from a financial planner to see what your options are.

If you do end up choosing to consolidate your loans, make sure that the company you work with is reputable and will walk you through every step of the process. Lorraine was able to find a trustworthy company through recommendations from her friends. If you can’t find recommendations, try to do a search for companies online and look for ones with a good Better Business Bureau rating.

Thanks to good advice, Lorraine is now debt-free, and she and her husband are planning their first trip to England. She never thought she would be where she is, but there you have it – another happy ending!