As you approach your last year of high school, you may notice offers for loans arrive in the mail. You may be happy to have all these offers of financial help. But, you need to tread carefully as you explore student loan options.
Make sure you keep track of your loans. You should know who the lender is, what the balance is, and what its repayment options are. If you are missing this information, you can contact your lender or check the NSLDL website. If you have private loans that lack records, contact your school.
Think carefully when choosing your repayment terms. Most public loans might automatically assume a decade of repayments, but you might have an option of going longer. Refinancing over longer periods of time can mean lower monthly payments but a larger total spent over time due to interest. Weigh your monthly cash flow against your long-term financial picture.
You don’t need to worry if you cannot pay for your student loans because you are unemployed. When hardship hits, many lenders will take this into consideration and give you some leeway. You should know that it can boost your interest rates, though.
If you have extra money at the end of the month, don’t automatically pour it into paying down your student loans. Check interest rates first, because sometimes your money can work better for you in an investment than paying down a student loan. For example, if you can invest in a safe CD that returns two percent of your money, that is smarter in the long run than paying down a student loan with only one point of interest. Only do this if you are current on your minimum payments though and have an emergency reserve fund.
Do not panic if an emergency makes paying your loans temporarily difficult. You could lose a job or become ill. There are forbearance and deferments available for such hardships. Just remember that interest is always growing, so making interest-only payments will at least keep your balance from rising higher.
Consider using your field of work as a means of having your loans forgiven. A number of nonprofit professions have the federal benefit of student loan forgiveness after a certain number of years served in the field. Many states also have more local programs. The pay might be less in these fields, but the freedom from student loan payments makes up for that in many cases.
Try getting your student loans paid off in a 10-year period. This is the traditional repayment period that you should be able to achieve after graduation. If you struggle with payments, there are 20 and 30-year repayment periods. The drawback to these is that they will make you pay more in interest.
To use your student loan money wisely, shop at the grocery store instead of eating a lot of your meals out. Every dollar counts when you are taking out loans, and the more you can pay of your own tuition, the less interest you will have to pay back later. Saving money on lifestyle choices means smaller loans each semester.
When calculating how much you can afford to pay on your loans each month, consider your annual income. If your starting salary exceeds your total student loan debt at graduation, aim to repay your loans within 10 years. If your loan debt is greater than your salary, consider an extended repayment option of 10 to 20 years.
There are lots of decisions to make in college, and one of the biggest is about debt load. A substantial loan with a high interest rate can end up being a huge problem. Keep in mind all that you read here as you prepare for both college and the future.