According to Forbes, there is currently $1.31 trillion outstanding student loan debt, which is owed by 44.2 million U.S. borrowers. Given the title of this piece, there's presumably a good chance you, too, owe student loans if you are reading this. I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship to college, but my law school loans have more than made up for my lack of undergraduate loans.
When I first graduated law school, the amount I owed would keep me awake at night sometimes. I wondered how I would ever repay the government back on my modest public service salary. I eventually developed a plan and a routine of sorts to deal with my student loan debt. Here are some things I've done that I think could benefit others:
1. Borrow only federal student loans, if you can.
I recommend this for several reasons:
- Certain federal student loans have forgiveness option benefits. Read more about that here.
- The federal student loan interest rates are fixed and generally lower (ranging from 4.45-7 percent, depending on loan) than private lenders.
If that's not an option, borrow from a private lender that benefits you and will work with you the most.
2. Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan if you have federal student loans, or refinance your private student loans.
If you borrowed student loans from the U.S. government, there are several income-driven repayment plans that can help alleviate financial stress while still allowing you to pay your loan bill. If you borrowed from a private lender and have good credit, among other criteria, you might be able to refinance your loans to lower your monthly payments.
3. Pay your student loan bills on time.
If you are financially able, enroll in automatic payments so you never forget about and miss a payment.
- Some loan holders will require your entire balance to be paid in full. This includes the principal and the interest.
- You become ineligible for deferment, forbearance, or any repayment programs.
- You become ineligible for further federal student aid.
- Your wages can be garnished, plus your tax return can be held to repay your loans
- Your loan total could be greater, due to potential late fees, collection fees and court fees.
To avoid all of those consequences, pay your bill on time. If you are enrolled in school, out of work for other reasons, deployed, or struggling to pay for any other reason, contact your loan provider and speak to someone about deferment or forbearance.
4. Try not to stress.
This is quite possibly the thing I have struggled with most. Keeping calm when looking at my student loan debt did not come easily. Thankfully, I am also not reminded of the total every month because I am enrolled in auto payments and simply see the bill amount that is paid. I have also continuously reminded myself and recognize that a great education is invaluable. I am proud of the education I have received and I feel fortunate that I was able to receive it. I hope you feel the same way!