Paying off Student Loans
Presented by Kristen Smigelski, CFP®, RICP®
In 2018, student loan debt in the U.S. reached $1.5 trillion. With a continued increase in college tuition, it's likely that even more young adults will be turning to loans in order to finance their education.
With the average student loan debt coming in at around $38,000, it's important to have a plan in place to pay off those loans once you enter the workforce. If you've left school with student loan debt, here are some of the things you can do to help pay off those loans easier and faster:
- Pay more than the minimum. Like any debt, paying more than the minimum payment will save you interest and help you pay off the loan faster. If you're in a position to pay at least 20% to 25% more than your minimum payment, you can end up saving thousands in interest, depending on how much you currently owe. But even if you can only swing 10%, it's worth it.
- Refinance your loans. If your current student loans carry a high interest rate, you may want to look into refinancing them. If you're looking to make payments more affordable, you can likely change the repayment time as well in order to have a more affordable monthly payment. While this can cost you interest in the long term, it's much better to have a payment amount you can actually afford than to miss payments. If you find yourself in a better position financially in a few years, you can increase your payments or even refinance again.
- Consolidate all of your student loans so you can make one monthly payment. While this will not change your interest rate, it will make it easier to manage your loans when you only have to make a single payment monthly.
- If you have federal loans, look into the federal government's income driven repayment plans, which will lower your monthly payment based on your current income. Again, this can be particularly useful if you’re just starting out and not earning a lot of money.
- Remember that certain fields offer federal loan forgiveness. If you work in public service or become a teacher, you can have your federal loans forgiven, though you will have to apply for forgiveness and complete an Employment Certification Form.
- Extra cash? Start making extra payments. If you're expecting a tax refund, or receive a bonus or other financial windfall, seriously consider using some if not all of that money towards your student loan debt. It may not be a lot of fun, but it will certainly help pay down that balance a lot faster, and that will be fun.
- Create a budget and stick to it. Trying to juggle rent or a mortgage, a car payment, and student loan payments can try the patience of anyone, so make your financial decisions accordingly. If you can't afford your rent, look for a roommate. Instead of a brand-new car, look for a reliable used car. Consider taking a part time job or look for other creative (and legal) ways to earn additional money.
The best thing you can do if you have student loans is to continue to pay them. Defaulting on your loans can cause all sorts of issues and cost you more in the long run.
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