You Graduated! Now for Paying Off Those Student Loans
Congratulations graduates – you did it! You now have a college degree and are ready to move into the real world and start using your smarts. You also likely have a mountain of student debt that seems insurmountable right now. There was no college course for paying back student loans, but don’t panic – we’ve got ideas to help make paying those student loans as stress-free as possible.
Federal Student Loan Repayment Plans
The government offers five different Federal student loan repayment plans. This is the easiest and most direct way of re-paying your loans if they are eligible. To get started, research the five different plans and speak with your loan servicer about which option will work best for you right now. Don’t worry, you can change your plan later on as your situation evolves.
Federal student loan repayment plans range from the standard plan, which requires monthly payments of at least $50 for up to ten years, to income-driven plans, which require monthly payments determined on the basis on personal income with all debt remaining after 25 years forgiven. Though the standard plan may seem more affordable because you’re paying less every month, the income-driven plan will save you more money in the long run. Again, it’s advisable to consult your loan servicer because every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Leverage Your Employer
If you have or are looking for a job with a small or midsize company in a specialized field (think tech or finance), you may be able to convince your employer to help pay back your student loan debt. Many smaller companies can’t afford salaries as high as their corporate counter parts, and some make up for it by offering a large payment toward an employee’s student loan debt. There’s no harm in exploring this option with your employer, and you never know unless you ask. Some major corporations, like Starbucks and Coca Cola, also offer tuition assistance or reimbursement.
Consult a Financial Advisor
Knowledge is power. The more you know about your student loan debt and your options to repay it, the better off you are. When you speak with a financial advisor, they can help you choose which plan is right for you and advise you on your overall financial state, helping you start out in the real world on the correct financial footing. If you’re interested in continuing your education in graduate school or going on to receive advanced schooling of any kind, a financial advisor can help you plan and save so you won’t add to your student debt.
Start Paying on Your Student Loans in College
If you maintained a part time job or participated in an approved work study program while you were still in school, you’ve got a leg up on paying your student debt already. If it’s still early in your college career, it’s not too late to pick up a part time gig to begin to pay your student loans back. Even if you’re only contributing a small amount ($100-$200/month), every little bit counts and can really add up ($1,200 - $2,400/year). Over 4 years, that’s $4,800 - $9,600 that you won’t have to worry about paying after you graduate.
Change Your Money Mindset
Successfully paying back your student loans will depend on your money mindset. It’s easy to get caught up in instant gratification once you start earning a substantial paycheck. You’ll have the money to buy the things you never would have in college. Remembering that paying back your student loans is more important than eating out or shopping will be hard to get used to at first, but will pay off tenfold in the long run. When you bring your own lunch, make your own coffee, and spend responsibly on clothes and travel, you’re investing in a future without the burden of student loan debt.
Make Larger Payments
Paying only the minimum amount required on your student loan debt works, but it takes a long time. When you can, make larger payments and watch your balance decrease faster. Use your bonus check, birthday money, or your tax refund to get ahead on your student loan payments.
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