If you’re a recent college grad, student loan debt is likely a significant piece of your overall financial picture. The average student loan debt for 2017 graduates is $39,400 -- a serious chunk of change for anyone with an entry level job.
If you’re struggling to make your minimum monthly loan payments, contact your loan servicer right away. As with many other aspects of adulting, student loan payments don’t just go away when you ignore them. Ask the servicer about changing your repayment plan to lower your monthly payments, or changing the payment due date, if you get paid each month after it’s due. You may also be able to postpone payments on the loan, but that likely will mean you’ll pay more interest in the long run.
When you’re financially able, make a plan to pay off your loans as quickly as you can. Some options to consider:
- Pay a little more than the minimum. An extra $100 per month will pay off the loan earlier and could save you thousands over the life of the loan. Be sure to direct any extra payment toward the principal of the loan; contact your loan servicer if you’re not clear on how to do that. (If you just pay extra without specifying, the bank may automatically apply the extra toward future monthly payments, which won’t help you as much in the long run.)
- Use windfalls wisely. Say you’ve just received an unexpected sum of cash: a bonus, a tax refund, a gift or inherited money from a relative. Resist the urge to splurge and put it toward your student loan. You’ll pay off the loan sooner and save on interest. Again, be sure that you direct that extra payment toward the principal.
- Refinance. Look into refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate, or, if you have multiple loans, consider consolidating them into a single, lower-interest loan. Remember, though, this option may lower your monthly payment but also extend the term of your loan.
- Investigate forgiveness. If you work as a teacher, nurse, doctor, or in a job in public service or in the non-profit sector, you may be eligible for a student loan forgiveness program. These programs are offered by federal and state governments as well as some organizations. Typically, you’ll need to have paid the minimum payments in full and on time over a period of years, and to establish yourself as a solid employee.