10 strategies to get rid of renewed student loan payments
Student loan debt can feel like a permanent fixture in your life. But this burdensome storm cloud doesn’t have to hang over your head forever.
Read on to arm yourself with some of the best tactics to help free yourself from the shackles of student loans once and for all.
First of all, take stock
To tackle your student loan debt, first know what you’re up against. Determine your loan balances, terms, and interest rates.
Understanding what you owe will ensure you don’t receive any unwelcome surprises. It also allows you to plan and manage your debt effectively.
More than that, being in the know will show what your options are. For example, some loans offer different repayment options, like income-driven repayment plans.
Create a budget
Tracking your expenses and income (which is what having a budget does) allows you to attack your student loan debt effectively. Without a budget, you’re just taking shots in the dark.
A budget provides several benefits:
- Financial visibility: A budget gives you a clear snapshot of your financial situation, allowing you to effectively allocate funds toward debt repayment
- Prioritization: Budgets allow you to prioritize expenses and help prevent you from inadvertently spending on non-essential items
- Faster debt repayment: Tracking expenses means you can optimize debt repayment by giving you the necessary details to allocate the most money possible to your loans, ensuring they are paid off as quickly as possible
- Habit formation: Budgets can instill financial discipline and cultivate beneficial habits
- Informed decision-making: A budget can provide insight and clarity when making financial decisions. It helps you assess how a particular action affects your financial situation
- Peace of mind: Maintaining a budget helps ensure you’re on track to your financial goals
Pay more (and pay more often)
If you have the means, there are two undeniably effective ways to take larger bites out of your student loan debt.
- Pay more: By consistently paying more than the minimum required, you will save substantial interest over the life of the loan
- Pay more… often: Similarly, increasing the frequency of payments can clear your loan faster. For example, consider making bi-weekly payments instead of monthly. Or, when the opportunity arises, allocate windfalls (like an employment bonus) toward repaying your student loan
Refinance or consolidate
While the federal government can’t do it, check to see if you can refinance your federal student loan to a more favorable rate with a private lender. But proceed cautiously because refinancing with a private lender will eliminate federal benefits.
Another option is to consolidate your student loans. This entails combining multiple student loans into a single new balance.
Although the federal government offers loan consolidation, it won’t result in a lower interest rate. Even so, reducing your debts into one payment can significantly simplify your debt management and reduce the likelihood of missing payments.
Seek loan forgiveness
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program offers student debt forgiveness on Direct Loans after 120 eligible monthly payments. Those accepted must be working full-time for the duration of the program. Employment must be under a designated employer, typically in public service.
Consider income-driven repayment plans
Holders of federal student loans can access income-driven repayment plans like PAYE, REPAYE, IBR, and ICR. These programs set your repayment amount based on your income.
After 20 or 25 years, any remaining balance is cleared. However, you might still owe taxes on the forgiven portion.
Leverage tax deductions
Interest paid on student loans—up to a certain amount—can be used to reduce your taxable income. Any money saved via this action can then be reallocated towards paying down your debt even further.
Check for employer assistance
Some employers offer student loan repayment help as a benefit. If you’re uncertain, check if your workplace has a program in place.
Employer assistance can come in many different forms. Some common examples include:
- Direct student loan repayment assistance: Some employers offer recurring contributions towards an employee's student loan balance (i.e., $150 per month)
- Matching student loan repayment assistance: In some cases, employers will match student loan payments up to a certain amount, similar to a 401(k)
- Bonuses: Employers will sometimes offer student loan repayment incentives or sign-on bonuses
- Refinancing: Some employers partner with lending institutions to offer employees favorable interest rates on their student loan debt
Lenders may incentivize borrowers who set up recurring payment plans. It’s not uncommon to receive a 0.25% interest rate discount if you set up auto-pay. Over time, this can lead to significant savings.
Consult a professional
Student loans typically represent a significant debt in many American’s lives. While it can be tempting to manage the debt on your own, it’s often wise to consult the expertise of a professional, like a financial advisor.
An advisor can help guide your repayment strategy from a holistic perspective. In other words, an advisor can look at your financial situation comprehensively and determine your optimal actions.
Eliminating student debt once and for all
Even the dizzying maze of student loan debt can be conquered with a clear strategy. By actively following the steps above, you’re deciding to claim control of your financial destiny.
First, you need to take stock of your current situation. This includes understanding precisely what you owe and the unique terms associated with the loan.
Next, you must produce an honest budget before considering additional payments, consolidation, forgiveness, or income-driven repayment plans.
As part of your strategy, leverage tax deductions and employer assistance programs where possible. And if benefits exist, automate payments.
Last, and perhaps most important, consider speaking to a financial specialist to truly optimize your student loan elimination game plan.