You put in the work, earned the degree, and maybe even landed your dream job. However, there’s still one thing holding you back from financial freedom – student loans. Figuring out how to pay off student loans requires some financial education.
Let’s head back to school (briefly!) and break down your options to pay off student loans. Learn how to streamline the process as well as tips to reach your final payment as fast as possible.
Here are three steps to start paying off student loans, including how to make the loan payment process easier.
1. Know what you owe
Before you can create a financial plan to pay off student loans, you need to know exactly what’s owed and to whom. There are three main types of student loans:
Federal loans are subsidized loans from the government through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. While several types of aid available through FAFSA don’t require repayment, the following loans need to be paid back to the government:
Private loans come from lenders, like credit unions, or sometimes from the school itself.
Refinanced loans involve a lender paying off original debt and consolidating what’s owed with a lower interest rate. These loans are paid back to the lending institution.
You may have different loans with different entities at different times with different rates. That can get confusing! Create a spreadsheet that includes each lender, the amount financed, the interest rate, and the minimum payments so you know exactly what’s owed and can plan accordingly.
2. Evaluate your options to pay off student loans
Once you know what’s owed on the loans, it’s time to evaluate repayment options. Federal student loans come with many different payment plans. The standard option divides the debt over a 10-year schedule. However, you could opt for extended or income-based payment plans. If you work in a service-oriented career, you could also be eligible for loan forbearance or loan forgiveness.
While government loans have a standard process, all private loans work differently. For example, you may be required to make loan payments while still in school, or you could have a grace period. If there’s a grace period on repayment of private student loans, use it! The extra time provides more room to plan and save. One exception to this would be if the loan accumulates interest during the grace period. If that’s the case, the longer you hold the debt, the more it’ll cost you in the long run.
If you’re overwhelmed with repayment options, don’t hesitate to ask for financial advice. Credit unions and financial education go hand in hand. Your local credit union likely has an experienced representative who can work with you one-on-one to devise a plan to pay off your student loans quickly and efficiently.
3. Streamline the loan payment process
Paying off multiple loans can be a headache. None of us like extra paperwork, and more loans can equal higher costs. Make student loan payments easier by streamlining the process.
One of the best ways to do this is to consolidate and refinance multiple loans into one easy (and often less expensive) payment. Many credit unions offer refinancing options for student loans at competitive interest rates. Additionally, automatic payment options provide added convenience.
Helpful tips to pay student loans faster
Now that you have the general plan, here are some additional tips to pay student loans faster:
Prioritize by expense
Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first
Start paying off student loans as early as possible, even before graduation.
Pay as much as possible
Pay more than the minimum payment to save on interest and pay on time to avoid late fees and damage to your credit.
Use available resources
Ask your employer if they have student loan assistance programs.
Work a part-time job or establish a side hustle and dedicate the extra income to loan payments.
Go on auto-pilot
Set up automatic payments so you don’t miss a payment or come up with an excuse to spend the money elsewhere. Your lender may even offer rate deductions for autopayments.
Ask for financial help
Credit unions are well known for delivering high-quality financial education to members, including one-on-one meetings and group classes.
Other resources on how to pay off student loans
Check out these websites for more tips and tricks to pay off student loans:
- org: Provides a nice breakdown of available grants to help pay off student loans
- gov: Shares a list of avenues toward student loan forgiveness and other ways the government can help
- com: Follows the stories of a group of bloggers who are striving for a debt-free life
Ace financial education and graduate from student loans
Tackling any project without a plan is intimidating, and student loans are no exception. Remember, the best way to pay off student loans is to know what’s owed, evaluate the options and create a streamlined repayment plan.
Student loans can be a lot to manage, but you don’t have to do it alone. Credit unions and student loans go together like pizza and late-night study sessions.