Even in the most ideal conditions, keeping your student loans under control can be a hassle.
If you work outside of the United States, be it through military service, work with the peace corps, or any other job, keeping your lenders at bay gets tricky.
However, if you plan ahead, you can put yourself in a great position to avoid disaster.
Tip #1: Have someone you trust read your mail
You can sign up for e-bills, check your email, and check your voice-mails… but the student loan business is still conducted largely through the mail. Lenders change names, loans get sold from one company to another, and payments change.
As a result, it is critical that you keep your address up to date and keep an eye on the mail. If you are away and unable to check your mail, you really need someone to do it for you.
Getting a friend or relative to read your mail can be awkward, but there isn’t a reasonable alternative. Your best bet is to have someone who can tell the difference between a loan advertisement and a student loan bill. If they are able to scan and email you billing statements, you can avoid miscommunications.
Tip #2: E-everything you can
E-bills may not be a perfect system, but they can make things much easier.
You can get email alerts when a new bill is due, and ideally, electronic mail can replace snail mail entirely.
Tip #3: Auto-Payments
Normally, auto-payments are a mixed bag. Putting your student loans on cruise control can leave you vulnerable to surprise increases in payments.
When you are out of the country, auto-payments are a necessary evil. Internet connections can be spotty, schedules change, and mistakes can be made.
Even if you do sign up for the auto-payments, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on your monthly bills and payments. If your lender takes out more or less than expected, you have a problem. You will also want to keep an eye on your account to make sure that you always have sufficient funds for all of your payments.
Tip #4: Have internet access to all of your accounts
Sending checks internationally introduces a number of variables into your payment process. It is hard to know how long it will take your payment to travel and when your account will get credited.
Electronic payments between your US bank and your US lender avoid the perils of international mail.
Tip #5: Avoid a forbearance or deferment
If you can afford to pay your loans while you are gone, do it.
Taking a forbearance or deferment may eliminate your need to make payments, but your balance will continue to grow while you are gone. Any avoidable forbearance or deferment is a mistake, even if you are out of town.
If you are leaving the country, plan ahead.
There are no secrets here, just good old-fashioned looking ahead, crossing t’s and dotting i’s will keep your student loan situation under control.