It’s graduation season and over the last couple of weeks, thousands of students will be received their degrees and are ready to start their future jobs. Along with those degrees though, many of those students will be taking a hefty sum of student loans.
According to the Federal Reserve, Americans now have more than $1.4 Trillion in unpaid student loans. Just in California, the average amount of student debt will be over $22,000! With over 70 percent of students in California graduating with student loans, what are some ways to lessen the burden and to pay them off as soon as possible?
“A good plan to start with is always start with a budget,” said Jeff Bangerter of Bangerter Financial Services. “In a spread sheet, keep track of income and any money coming in. You should also list expenses like rent or a mortgage, your student loan payments and variable expenses like food, clothing and gas.” From this sheet, you will able to view how much extra you can dedicate to paying off those loans.
Graduates should also attack their debt as early as possible. “It’s tempting to sign up for a conservative payment plan, but paying as much as you can as early as possible is much better,” Bangerter said . “If you are a student with $22,000 in loads with a 6.8 percent interest rate, signing up for 30-year plan instead of a 10-year plan will save you $100 a month, but ultimately will cost you an extra $21,000 in interest.”
Paying loans off as quickly as possible also avoids some serious consequences. If a student loan payment is anywhere from 45-90 days late, if goes directly on your credit report. Lower credit scores make it harder to get a new line of credit and if you miss a payment for 270 days, your loan goes into default and will likely be turned over to a collection agency. This action might affect your chances of getting a loan for a car, a mortgage and possibly even a new cell phone plan.
Also, always be sure to think long term for your future.
“Grads will regret it later if they put off saving for retirement until they pay off student loans,” Bangerter said. “Saving early, even if it’s a small amount, is crucial towards money growth through compounding interest. You should be saving 10-15 percent of your annual salary into a 401 (k), but if you can’t, at least put away enough to get your full 401(k) match from your employer.”
Ultimately, if you are graduating with a student loan debt, it might not hurt to budget and continue the top ramen diet. It will also be worth skipping a trip to Starbucks because with the money you save, it will be surprising how much can be put towards paying your student loans.