Curious about student loans? Well, the good news is that making decisions about them doesn’t have to be hard post-college.
In fact, some say the biggest challenge is realizing students loans aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Why? Experts suggest the first 10 years after college graduation is typically the most financially volatile period in your life. Also, the type of student loan — federal vs. private, its interest rate, features, etc. — will influence your decision moving forward.
That said, any advice you take on about said loans should recognize these points and act as the starting point for moving forward to pay them off.
Should you rush to pay off loans?
According to the website Wisebread.com in an interview with an expert from Schwab: “Not necessarily. If you can easily afford to accelerate your payments, that’s great. But you have to compare the interest rate you are paying on your loan to the amount of money you could make in a savings account or investment.”
Also, keep in mind any student loan debt shouldn’t mar your credit rating the same way as credit card debt, provided you never go into default.
So, if you want to make prepayments to push ahead with the payoff, make sure that extra amounts included with your monthly payment are applied to the principal.
Wisebread.com adds that according to credit-rating agency Experian, student loans are included on credit reports but do not have a “negative effect on your ability to get new credit.”
Can student loans be forgiven?
Experts suggest in some cases federal loans may be either partially or completely forgiven. To be sure check Loan Forgiveness for Public Service Employees (PDF), loan cancellation for public-school teachers, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program on the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website.
What about consolidating student loans?
The same website suggests that consolidating loans may make sense if:
- You’re finding it hard to make the minimum payment. If you consolidate into a new loan, you may be able to lower your interest rate and/or extend the term of your loan — both of which will lower your monthly minimum.
- You want to streamline your payments.
- You can lower your overall interest rate.
Keep in mind though, you will likely not be able to combine federal and private loans. If you have a federal loan, check out information on Loan Consolidation, including the pros and cons of the Income-Based Repayment Plans, Wisebread.com adds.
How about marrying someone who still has student loans?
Sure, financial responsibility is important in any relationship, but carrying student loan debt is common and often necessary — and by itself not a sign of irresponsibility, Wisebread.com adds.
Before you get married, however, discuss how you plan to pay off the debt — either individually or as a couple.
What about paying off student loans versus saving for retirement?
It all depends on the situation. Experts suggest never allowing your student loans to go into default, so if you must choose between paying the minimum on your student loan and adding to your retirement account, make your loan payment first.
After that, it depends on the interest rate you’re being charged on your student loans. Most student loan rates are reasonable (if not, you may be able to consolidate into a new loan with a lower rate, the website adds). If you can afford to put aside some money for retirement while you’re paying off your student loans, that’s ideal.
Ultimately, it’s best not to rush decisions concerning student loans. Consider your situation, tally the numbers, and decide what’s best for you.