We often receive messages on the best way to get rid of student debt; a great example is the email we most recently received:
I have been out of college and have been paying my student loans for 5 years now. I have multiple loans from multiple lenders, both private and federal, and all with varying amounts to be paid off. I am almost $100,000 in debt from my student loans and i feel i will never be able to pay them off. I was hoping you may be able to offer some advise on the best way to lower my monthly payments and interest. Is consolidation / refinancing the best option? If so, what banks / companies are the best for this? My ideal would be to have a lower monthly payment now so I can live on my own and have money for just life in general, and eventually make higher payment later in life when I can afford to. Any help you may be able to offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
So what is the secret to paying off $100,000 in student loans? There really isn’t one. Instead, there are a number of approaches that can be used to eliminate your debt. What works best in any given situation will depend upon the types of loans you have, your income, credit score, and a number of other factors.
Consolidation / Refinancing
Our reader is definitely on the right track asking about consolidation and refinancing. Going this route can lower your interest rate and save thousands over the life of the loan. It can also be used to extend the amount of time you have to pay off your loan, which means your monthly payments can drop even further.
If you have a great credit score and a high income, your best bet for consolidation may be SoFi. They seem to focus on high income/credit score people by offering rock bottom interest rates and perks like job placement services if you lose your job.
For those who don’t have a huge income or perfect credit score, working with a company like cuStudent loans may be the best bet. The neat part about this company is that they work with non-profit credit unions across the country to match individuals with a credit union that will consolidate the loans.
Ultimately though, consolidation isn’t an option if you have bad credit or a tiny income compared to your debt. It may also not be a good idea for people with federal loans who are willing to live with higher interest rates in order to keep the federal government loan perks.
Change Repayment Plans
Swapping out repayment plans normally doesn’t save you any money in the long run, but as our reader noted, paying more in the future might be a little easier. If that is the case, getting on an alternative repayment plan can help your situation.
The federal government has a wide selection of repayment plans. For many the payment plan that results in the lowest payment is an Income Based Repayment plan. Under these plans, borrowers are expected to pay a certain portion of their disposable income towards their student loans. If they have a very low paying job or no job at all, the required payment could be $0 per month.
Based on our readers desire to pay a little less now and more in the future, one plan worth investigating would be the graduated repayment plan. However, it should be noted that with any repayment plan change, paying less now means more interest and more paid in the long run.
Private lenders typically have less repayment plan options, some may offer an extended repayment plan or a graduated repayment plan similar to the government, but these vary from lender to lender.
Private Loan Rate Reduction
One big exception to the private loan limitations is the Rate Reduction plan offered by Navient/Sallie Mae. Under this plan, borrowers can get their interest rate reduced to below 3% if they can show a financial hardship to paying their loan at its current interest rate. The reduction only lasts for a year, but can be renewed. If you are struggling to keep up, this is a great option to look into.
Federal government forgiveness programs
The holy grail of repayment plans is the federal government student loan forgiveness programs. Borrowers who make a specified number of payments, if they are on the right repayment plan, can have their loans forgiven. The earliest forgiveness for any borrower would be for those who are in public service, and that wait is at least 10 years. Getting student loans forgiven is a huge perk, and it is definitely worth investigating, but it is neither easy nor a quick fix.
Pay off your debt efficiently
One thing that all borrowers can do is to pay off their loans efficiently. Typically, the best way to accomplish this is to pay the minimum on all of your loans except one. By attacking the one loan and paying everything possible towards that one loan, it can be quickly eliminated. At that point the borrower shifts to the next loan for attack.
The Best Plan
No matter how you decide to attack your debt, there are factors common to every good plan. Smart borrowers research ever option and understand the pros and the cons of each. Investigating student loan information can be tedious and boring, but it can save thousands. It is time well spent.
Borrowers should also routinely revisit their student loan plan. Repayment plan options change. Your income may change. Life circumstances may change. The only thing certain is that things will change during the course of your student debt repayment. What works best right now may not be the best option in two years. If you keep an eye on your options and stay informed, you can make sure that you don’t spend a penny extra on your student loans.