Paying off student loans without sacrificing your long-term financial health.
Strategies for keeping college affordable.
You don’t need us to tell you how the cost of getting a college education has gone through the roof. According to the College Board's “Trends in Higher Education” report, the average tuition and fees totaled $25,620 and $34,740 at public and private four-year institutions, respectively, for the 2017-2018 academic year.1
For many, that has meant they’ve had to borrow money for the education they want. About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow money to attend college, either from the government or from private lenders.2 And, the debt numbers are staggering. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported student loan debt at $1.34 trillion where the share of loans delinquent 90 days or more rose to 11.2%. Additionally, delinquency rates for mortgage and auto debt increased modestly whereas credit card debt delinquencies up ticked notably.3
Today, 81% of Americans (maybe you’re one of them) are making serious sacrifices to keep up with their loan payments. According to a survey from the American Institute of CPAs, 50% of people said they had delayed saving for retirement, 46% had put off buying or upgrading a car, and 40% had postponed buying a house.4
COLLEGE EDUCATION: A GREAT LONG-TERM INVESTMENT.
Remember, even though costs continue to go up and many incur debt, a college education remains a great long-term investment.
Based on the College Board’s latest “Education Pays”report, individuals who worked full time with just a bachelor’s degree earned $17,700 (61%) more annually after taxes than high school grads. The college educated are more likely to be employed full-time (59%) than high school graduates (42%). Also, individuals ages 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree are less likely to be unemployed full time (2.6%) than high school grads (8.1%).5
STUDENT LOANS: A SERIOUS MEDIUM-TERM FINANCIAL BURDEN.
Whether you’re paying off student loans now or thinking about taking out a loan for college, or a parent getting ready to send your child to college, there are several avenues to explore to help mitigate the impact college debt has on meeting your long-term financial goals.
EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR LOANS.
If your repayment plan is less than 20 years and you are a recent graduate with tight finances, it may make sense to see if your lender(s) will extend repayment to 30 years, thus lowering your current out-of-pocket expenses.
REDUCE YOUR INTEREST RATES.
Almost every student loan lender (including the Department of Education) has some kind of interest rate discount for people who set up direct deposit. Usually it’s around 0.25%. Lenders prefer direct deposit because it increases the likelihood that you’ll make payments on time. While 0.25% may seem insignificant, over your loan’s life a 0.25% discount could knock off a big chunk of the interest you’ll pay. Check with your lender to see if it has any other interest rate deductions. Some lenders may be willing to reduce your interest rate if you have a high credit score or a history of on-time payments.
CONSOLIDATE YOUR LOANS.
The federal government and some private lenders offer consolidation loans. In some cases, you can also reduce your interest rate with one of these consolidation loans.
SEE IF YOU QUALIFY FOR INCOME-BASED REPAYMENT.
If you have a federal loan and you are on a limited income, the government’s income-based repayment plan allows you to pay based on what you earn, not on what your loan payments are supposed to be. Under the program, most borrowers with loans issued since October 2007 are eligible to participate and may have some of their student loan amounts forgiven after making a certain number of qualifying payments. Speak to your student loan service provider for information.6
GET HELP FROM YOUR EMPLOYER.
There are several programs in place that help you pay back student loans. Some are through employers, while others are public-service oriented. People who work full-time in public service can have their eligible remaining federal student loans discharged after 10 years, thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Student Loan Repayment Program allows government employees to receive up to $10,000 a year in assistance paying back federal student loans.7 There are loan repayment support programs available for nurses, teachers, and members of the military as well. And some private employers have programs. Ask your Human Resources representative.
It’s important to remember that should something happen to you, your family may be responsible for paying back your loans. Consider life insurance as a way to protect your family from having to bear that burden.
This article is for informational purposes only. Neither New York Life Insurance Company nor your group provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal, or accounting professional before making any decisions.
1https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2017-18 2https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017436.pdf 3https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/HHDC_2017Q2.pdf 4https://www.aicpa.org/press/pressreleases/2016/-more-than-eighty-percent-of-american.html 5https://trends.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/education-pays-2016-full-report.pdf 6https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-driven#repayment-period, Accessed on January 24, 2018 7https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/student-loan-repayment/, Accessed on January 24, 2018