If you have unpaid debt, your first concern should be paying it down, not the impact it will have on your score. So when it comes to choosing whether to work out a payment plan with the creditors or work out a settlement, which would forgive some of the owed cash in favor of a lump sum payment, you have to figure out which one is the better one for your finances, not for the credit score.
By the time you’ve reached this point the damage is already done. The best thing to do is right your financial ship and begin moving in the right direction. Eventually, the credit score will improve if you continue on that path.
BankRate’s Debt Adviser column uses a pretty good ecological analogy to explain the mess you’re in when you’ve ended up in debt. “Fixing bad credit is like cleaning a toxic-waste spill,” he writes. “In both cases, you would have been better off if you avoided the mess in the first place.”
So rather than worry about dings and dents to your FICO number, you should be thinking about what you can do to change the behavior that has led to those dings and dents.