Modern professionals, especially in the millennial generation, are plagued with student loans. It is not unusual to meet a young professional who earns only a quarter of their total student loan debt. This debt can affect a person’s ability to purchase homes and vehicles while lowering their standard of living in a variety of ways. Luckily, there are several effective ways to get out from under student loans.
1. Apply for Income Based Repayment.
There are several income based repayment programs that can help struggling professionals by lowering their monthly student loan payment to a percentage of their income, usually between 10 and 20%. Many people do not apply for these programs, assuming that they earn too much. However, the vast majority of working people qualify.
If you have a high-earning spouse, there are still ways to qualify for income based repayment. In most cases, you can qualify based on your income alone if you file taxes separately. This will change your tax rates, however, so talk to an accountant to be sure that you will come out ahead financially.
2. Consolidate Your Loans.
The Direct Loan Consolidation program can help people struggling with student loan debt to combine their various debts into a single affordable payment. Be sure to select Income Based Repayment as your option if you qualify! There is a considerable amount of paperwork to apply to this program, but it is a one-time application process that will likely leave you with a more manageable payment plan.
Applying and getting approved can take a month or more. Many people assume that they do not have to make their student loan payments at this time, which is not true. Continue making your payments as usual until you have been approved and given a Loan Summary Sheet with your new payment procedure and amount.
3. Set Up Automatic Payments.
Some lenders will give you a lower interest rate if you do this, which will cut back on the amount of debt you pay in the long run. In addition, automatic payments ensure that you never miss a payment. It is way too easy to forget a single payment and eliminate your chances of getting onto new repayment programs as they arise. For example, you only qualify for loan forgiveness after 120 consecutive on-time payments, so making your payments on time can save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
4. Consider Graduated Payments.
If you are in a field where you will begin with a low income and eventually make a great deal more, you can ask for a graduated payment plan. This is helpful for professionals such as physicians, who begin work as lowly paid residents and then must build a practice before reaching their full income potential. With graduated payment plans, your loan payments will start very low and then gradually increase every year. Only go this route if you are convinced that your income will be increasing every year as well, because it is more difficult to modify these types of loan repayment plans.
5. Have Your Loans Forgiven as Soon as Possible.
Loan forgiveness is available after you have made 120 consecutive loan payments according to your agreement. Every time you do not make a payment, the clock must restart. The more payments you miss or defer, the longer this will take and the more you will have paid by the time your loans have been forgiven.
There are several different loan forgiveness programs, each with different requirements. New programs are added regularly, so make your payments on time and keep up on the latest developments. Even if you do not qualify for any programs now, make your payments on time and hope that a program for you is added in the future.
Student loans can be an immense burden. However, there is no need to feel trapped. Thanks to several repayment options and programs, many people will only need to make a small monthly payment for a decade. While this is a long commitment, it is nothing when compared to the value of an education. Soon, you too will be out from under your student loans and ready to move on with your life.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. She currently writes for Checkworks.com, a leading supplier of personal and business checks.