College can be the best years of your life. Should be that way, since it can seem like the most expensive years of your life! Congratulations on your graduation, now let’s figure out how to get you out of debt:
- Make a list of all your loans. 90% of student loans are federal loans that can be tracked through the US Department of education website at studentaid.gov. Private loans would appear on your credit report. You can get a copy of your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com .
- Make sure you stay in contact. Chances are, you’ve moved. Even your email may have changed. You don’t want to lose track of your loans, fail to make payments and have it ruin your credit. Go back to studentaid.gov and make sure your contact details are up to date.
- Develop a payment strategy. Federal loans at studentaid.gov have myriad payment options. Right now, federal loans have to interest being assessed. That might make it a great time to concentrate on paying back any private loans. If you refinance federal loans to a private loan, you may lose benefits. Federal loans include the opportunity to qualify for partial loan forgiveness and temporary payment suspension during layoff. Private loans will probably not include such benefits. Keep in mind that the faster you pay any loan back, the less interest you will incur.
- Consider an income driven plan. Again, this usually applies to just federal loans. There is the opportunity to qualify for loan forgiveness, but only after at least 10 years of payments or even 25 years of payments. There are also graduated payment plans that automatically increase your payments over time in anticipation of higher earnings over time.
- Check other forgiveness options. With federal loans, teachers, doctors, nurses and others working for certain nonprofits are eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years of service in some instances.
- Apply traditional debt retirement strategies. Entire books have been written on this topic. Consider applying any wage increases, inheritances or other windfalls to your student debt. But the key thing is to have a plan and stick to it. A large student debt can seem intimidating. Big problems can be solved by small actions made consistently. You may surprise yourself.