Student loan debt can be overwhelming and many people end up paying it off well into their 40-s and 50-s. We have a few strategies to help you manage your loans better.
Understand Your Loans
Many students don’t really understand the terms of their loans and end up overpaying down the road. Know the type of loans you have, the interest rates, balances, and grace periods. You may have Perkins loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans or private loans. If you visit your loan servicer’s website, you will be able to see each loan account, balances, interest rates and current repayment plan. Be aware that frequently students have loans managed by 2 or 3 different servicers. Two common servicers are Navient and Great Lakes. If you go to the Department of Education website, you will find help creating a smart repayment plan.
Know the Numbers
It is crucial for you to know the precise amount of money you owe if you want to have control over your student loans. Most students end up with multiple loans and sometimes lose track of them before and during repayment. Know how many loans you have, how much you have to pay each month, the interest rates of each loan and the grace periods.
If you are a current student or a recent graduate, ask your financial administrator at School for assistance or visit the National Student Loan Data System website or Clearinghouse Meteor Network website to find out how much you owe. You can also see all of your loans and debt by checking online your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Accelerate Your Loan Repayment
You can either pay less money for longer time at a high interest rate, or you can pay more money than the minimum for a shorter time with a lower interest rate. Basically, the faster you pay back your loan and the more money you pay each month, the less interest you will have to pay, thus paying less overall and getting out of debt sooner.
A lot of students end up refinancing their federal student loans; however, this means that you will lose your right of using benefits, such as loan forgiveness and income-based repayment plans. If you are interested in refinancing your student loans consider contacting different lenders to compare total repayment amounts and get a complete picture of your options.
SoFi, CommonBond, Citizens Bank and LendKey are decent lenders who offer good interest rates. LaurelRoad has interest rates starting from 2.99% to 6.99%; Earnest has very decent interest rates, too, between 2.57% and 6.39%; CommonBond offers interest rates starting from as little as 2.57% to 7.12%. SoFi and Earnest might even help you get employed if you struggle with finding a job.
Depending on what school you are attending, your loans may have a grace period of 3 months, 6 months, or more and the same goes for the total repayment period. Despite most students starting a job right after graduation, often times they are stuck under the burden of repaying these student loans.
If you are more than 270 days late with your payments, your loans will go into default, which is going to lead to taking away your social security benefits. Remember that no matter how difficult your financial situation is, you ought to make at least the minimum payments.
Federal Student Loan Consolidation
This gives you the option to merge all of your student loans into one, thus get rid of all the different interest rates, however, bear in mind that you will, indeed, pay one interest rate but it is going to be quite high.
Firstly, focus on the loans with the highest interest rate because they will add up the most to your overall debt. Afterwards, shift your focus on the second to last debt with the highest interest rate. This may be challenging, but you will save a significant amount of money if you pay off the costlier debts first. Since your interest rate is based on your principal, another smart move would be to pay extra principal because this will lower your interest payment.
Once you have started a job and have consistent, reliable income, you can set up your payments to be automatically withdrawn on a monthly basis. This is just a precaution in case your life gets too hectic and busy and you forget to make your payments on time. Another bonus is that you will get a small reduction on your interest rate.
Programs And Forgiveness
Income-based repayment programs allow you to be forgiven from your outstanding loan money after 25 years of regular payment. However, there are certain criteria to be met if you want to use the benefits of IBRP, like the payments you have to make on your federal student loans must exceed 15% of your total earnings above 150% of the poverty level.
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
This is a good program which will forgive outstanding money on your federal student loan after 20 years of regular payment. To be eligible to use PAYE your payments must exceed 10% of your total income above 150% of the poverty level. There are other criteria which must be met in order to qualify for the program.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Certain people can be eligible for PSLF after 10 years of qualifying payments. One of the stipulations is that you must be hired by a non-profit organization, volunteer organization or other public service organization. It is worth doing your own research to see what your chances of benefiting from this program are.
The approximate number of people with student loans in the USA is 40 million with around $1.3 trillion total debt. In 2014 the federal government seized portions from the social security checks of about 135,000 people because their loans went into default. Get educated about your student loan repayment options, pay more than the minimum whenever you can and do whatever is necessary to avoid defaulting on your loans. Don’t worry, you are not alone. There is free student loan counseling available from the Federal Government, from your loan servicer and from most reputable banks. If you feel overwhelmed or fell behind on your payments, contact your servicer as soon as possible. Do not wait. You can get back on track with some timely action.