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September 15, 2020

Tips on How to Manage Student Loan Debt

If you’re one of the 66% of students who graduated with an average of $35,000 dollars in student debt, it’s probably no consolation to you that millions of other students are in the same boat as you. Total student debt in the US stood at $1.64 trillion, as of December 31, 2019, nearly 8% of total GDP.

Source

You might have heard of the lucky few who managed to pay off thousands of dollars in debt in a matter of months, but for the vast majority of borrowers, student loans are a pervasive and constant worry. If you’re sure you can’t spare a few extra thousand dollars to pay down your debt but not quite sure how to take on the task of managing your student loan debt, keep reading below:

Envision what a life without student loans will look like for you, but get the facts right

According to a survey, nearly 1 out of 10 borrowers are under the false impression that you don’t need to repay your loans if you can’t find a job after college. While that would be a welcome respite for many, it’s unfortunately not how student loans work.

Envisioning what your life might look like with the extra disposable income you’ll have after paying off student loans may motivate you to quickly pay off your loans. At the same time, ignoring the problem at hand will not make it go away. Let this article be a reminder to schedule some time in your calendar to go over your student loan balance(s), write down your login information in a secure spot, and schedule recurring check ins with yourself.

Live like a student, for just a while longer

We know, asking you to hold back on your wants for longer is just cruel at this point. However, this is one of the most effective ways to cut down your student debt in the early months after graduation.  If you pay off a large chunk of your student loans earlier on in the loan term, you will benefit from lower interest charges on your overall loan. 

In order to do so, you may find yourself considering keeping on roommates for a few more months or cooking at home instead of going out a few times a month (or week). Keep in mind that you don’t have to cut down everything, but picking a major expense (food, transportation, or housing for example) to reconsider can really help you pay off your student loans faster.

If you can, always pay more than the minimum

If you make the minimum payment of your student loan, expect to keep paying until the very end of your loan term (10 years is the most common). You’ll also end up paying a lot more in interest. For example, say you borrowed $20,000 at a 5% interest rate for a 10-year term. Once you account for compounding interest in that time period, you might end up paying close to $33,000!

In order of priority, your financial goals can look something like this every month or pay period:

  1. Pay minimums on credit cards and other loans
  2. Add to a 3-6-month emergency fund
  3. Pay an extra $100 (or more) on student loans
  4. Invest the rest

It may seem like a lot of things to do with what is, in all likelihood, a fairly small portion of your remaining income after bills and fixed costs. You don’t have to go full steam ahead with all your goals at the same time, as long as you’re prioritizing them over weekend trips and weekly happy hours.

Be aware of the impacts of student loans on your overall finances

Late payments or failure to make a payment will do more than increase the total loan amount you eventually have to pay. Your credit score may suffer as a result since student loans and lines of credit form part of your credit history. There are tax implications of carrying a student loan balance: according to studentaid.gov,

“You can take a tax deduction for the interest paid on student loans that you took out for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent. This benefit applies to all loans (not just federal student loans) used to pay for higher education expenses. The maximum deduction is $2,500 a year.”

Additionally, it can also be important to know that student loans can’t be claimed in a bankruptcy except in certain circumstances. If you feel like you’re out of options, it can be very helpful to involve a financial professional who can help you consolidate your loans or find solutions specific to your situation. There are also online services like SoFi and Earnest that can help.

Don’t forget about your mental health

Sometimes, making the hard choices is a form of self-care. But this does not mean that you live in a state of anxiety until your student loans are paid off, especially if that payoff date is years away. Unfortunately, due to many factors outside an individual’s control, student loans may just be a fact of life for many people. Going for drastic cost-cutting measures or risking burnout trying to make more money may feel good in the short term but may end up doing more harm than good overall. Your focus should be on building sustainable, strategic financial habits over many years, and student loan worries will soon be a thing of the past.

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