4 Tips for Managing Student Loan DebtBy Ernest Hamilton, UniversityHerald Reporter
Americans now owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. That's more than auto loans and credit cards combined. While education is essential, it can be difficult to manage the mountain of debt you amass after you graduate.
Here are four tips to help you better manage your student loan debt.
1. Determine How Much Debt You Have
It's important to have a clear picture of your student loan situation, and this means understanding how much debt you have to refinance student loans.
Start by creating a list or spreadsheet of all of your loan balances, monthly payments, interest rates, term, and due dates. You may even want to create a column that lists how much you've repaid to help ease some of your anxiety and worries about your debt.
Knowing how much debt you have will help you create a plan to get out of debt.
2. Making Your Loans More Manageable
It can be a challenge to make your loan payments manageable. In an ideal world, your housing and total debt would account for no more than 40% of your pre-tax monthly income.
It can be difficult to manage this simply because entry-level wages and big student loan debts often drive housing costs to 50%-52%.
If you can manage it, find a way to get your housing to 40% or less of your income.
You can also make your loans more manageable by:
Finding ways to cut back on expenses
Finding ways to earn more money
Lowering your payments through refinancing or federal loan assistance
If you're having difficulty making your student loan payments, there is help out there. Just make sure that you don't stop making your loan payments.
3. Schedule Payments Ahead of Time
To avoid late fees and default, try scheduling your payments ahead of time. You can opt in to automatic payments, or you can schedule your payments at the start of each month.
If you have private student loans, your lender may have an app or some other platform that helps you manage your loans. Great Lakes, for example, has an app that makes it easy to manage all of your loans, make payments and view your debt (click here to learn more about Great Lakes loans and their loan management app).
4. Reducing Student Loan Payments
If you're having trouble paying your student loans, there are ways to reduce your monthly payments.
Federal loan assistance programs exist which offer a number of benefits and can make your payments more affordable, such as:
Deferment or forbearance: If your financial hardship is temporary, forbearance or deferment are two options that will stop your payments temporarily without hurting your credit. You will need to apply for this program with your lender. Keep in mind that interest will accrue while you're in deferment.
Income-based repayment: If you're employed and your loan payments are eating into too much of your income, you can apply for an income-based repayment plan. These plans can reduce your monthly payments to as low as 10% of your monthly income. Just keep in mind that this payment plan will significantly increase the amount of interest you pay and may not reduce your balance at all because your payments are only covering the interest.