Debt settlement is a unique approach to debt consolidation. Debt settlement companies will work with you to plan a monthly payment schedule that will fit within your budget, and will develop a timeline of when they expect to eliminate your debt. Since the programs vary based on individual situations, the final outcome differs from person to person. Your 'hardship', or the reason you need to consolidate, will determine your settlement.
Most reputable settlement companies will base your payment on a 50% settlement plus any fees they may charge. If you make your payments consistently, it is reasonable to assume you will be debt free at the end of your individual program. Most debt settlement programs are 24 to 36 months in length, dependent upon the budget you and your advisor have decided upon.
If you choose debt settlement, all of your accounts will fall behind and eventually may charge off. Once your accounts are settled, creditors will report the debt as settled with a $0 balance, and you are no longer liable for any forgiven amounts. The agency you work with does not manage your money for you, so they do not have to report to the credit bureaus. No one will know that you are using debt settlement services except for the agency and the creditors it handles.
While debt settlement initially will have a negative impact on your credit, it also will save you the most money over time compared to other methods of consolidation. It is the quickest route to becoming debt free.