Debt of any kind can easily become a slippery slope, and for most Americans, it’s a necessary evil in order to obtain the kind of the education they need in order to succeed in the professional world. But the good news is it doesn’t have to rule your life.
Manage Student Loan Debt
Here’s a few ways you can better manage your student loan debt.
Understand the different types of loans
Know the details of your loan type before you apply. Generally, private loans are riskier and more expensive than federal loans. If you need federal aid, use the free FAFSA application to participate in federal, government backed student aid. Once you receive your federal loan, you can make up for the rest of your tuition with a private loan. Always read the terms of your loan to get a better understanding of what you can expect to pay, any penalties you can accrue, and how you can ask for help should the need arise.
Take Advantage of your Grace Period
Depending on your loan type and the length of your grace period, the amount of time you have before you need to begin paying back your loan can differ. Most federal Stafford loans offer six months while Perkins loans allow for nine. Private loans are a different story, so you’ll want to get in touch with your lender if you’re unsure. Take this time to fully understand how much you’ll need to begin paying per month, and if you’re able, start paying early. You don’t want to start off on a bad foot and miss your first payment.
Deciding to consolidate your loans is typically a move that borrowers with older loans decide to make. Consolidation usually works by combining multiple loans and arriving at a interest rate based on the average rate of the loans considered. This can be helpful for those struggling to pay back multiple, high-interest loans at once and those who also have credit card debt. However, keep in mind, consolidating federal and private loans forfeits any federal repayment benefits, such as loan forgiveness and deferments, so make sure you do your research and don’t make any hasty decisions.
Communicate with your Lender
Communication is key when it comes to managing debt. Whether you’ve moved, have a new phone number, mailing or email address, or you’ve lost your job and are struggling financially, get in touch with your lender. Keeping the communication lines open is the best way to stay out trouble, like missing payments which lead to account delinquency. Additionally, if you’re struggling to pay your loan amount, lenders can help provide options to make it more manageable.
Look into Loan Forgiveness
Depending on your job type, some companies and industries offer loan forgiveness. So when it’s time to begin your job search, keep an eye out for this type of perk. Some public service careers, such as those in non-profit or community-based positions, offer loan forgiveness after 10 years of consistent payment.
Loan forgiveness is especially important for those struggling with tax debt on top of their student loans. If you’re unsure how to juggle the two, reach out to a professional. The right financial advisor or tax accountant can help you plan out IRS payment plans and loan payment schedules to provide peace of mind and an actionable goal to work towards.
Be Money Savvy
Budgeting is an important step to take towards paying off your loans. Make sure to keep all other debt, such as credit card usage and car payments to a minimum. Share living expenses, shop sensibly, and most importantly, stay under budget. Tax preparation services can help ensure that you accurately report the amount of money you’ve paid towards your loan during the year, which is then factored into the amount of money you should receive back after tax season. Additionally, enrolling in automatic payments can help lower your interest rate. Lastly, as you move into higher paying positions, make sure to put a bit more towards your monthly loan amount instead of just paying the minimum.
Millions of students accrue student loan debt, but it’s possible to manage it. Follow these tips and you’re well on your way to becoming debt-free.