These are literally the 5 worst ways to pay off student loans. Here’s what you need to know – and what to do about it.
1. Pay only the minimum payment
What’s wrong with only paying the minimum payment? After all, that’s your obligation, right? Remember: interest is always accruing on your principal balance. So paying any amount more than the monthly minimum can lower the cost of your student loans. For example, let’s assume you have $70,000 of student loan debt at a 8% interest rate with a standard 10-year repayment term. By paying only $100 extra per month, you can save $5,271 in interest costs and pay off your student loans 1.51 years earlier.
Do This Instead: You can always pay more than the minimum amount. Student loans have no prepayment penalties.
2. You don’t apply for student loan forgiveness
It would be nice if one company can forgive all your student loans. However, to receive student loan forgiveness, you either need to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan or participate in student loan forgiveness program such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness or Teacher Loan Forgiveness.
Do This Instead: If you decide to apply for a federal student loan forgiveness program, make sure you understand the requirements for student loan forgiveness so you don’t get stuck. The requirements can be tricky.
3. Never make an extra student loan payment
Why would you pay more than you have to? Well, making an extra student loan payment can be one of the best ways to pay off student loans faster. Here’s how it works: in addition to making 12 monthly payments per year, consider an extra payment once every three months for a total of 16 payments per year.
Do This Instead: Be sure to inform your student loan servicer in writing to apply any extra payment to your principal balance only (not to next month’s monthly payment) to limit the amount of interest that accrues.
4. Never make a lump-sum student loan payment
Should you use your bonus to pay off student loans? What about the trip to Jamaica? A lump-sum payment can be any amount. For example, let’s assume that you have $75,000 in student loans at an 8% interest rate and a 10-year repayment term. If you make a one-time, lump sum payment of $5,000, you would save $4,850 on your student loans and pay off your student loans 10 months early.
Do This Instead: Whenever you get a pay raise, bonus, tax refund or gift from grandma, make a lump-sum to pay off student loans. Every dollar counts.
5. Don’t refinance student loans
Student loan refinancing is often the single best strategy to lower your student loan rate. When you refinance student loans, you can lower your interest rate on your federal student loans, private student loans or both. Student loan refinancing rates are absurdly cheap now and start at 1.99%, which is substantially lower than federal student loans and in-school private loan interest rates. Each lender has its own eligibility requirements and underwriting criteria, which may include your credit profile, minimum income, debt-to-income ratio and monthly free cash flow. To maximize your chances of being approved to refinance student loans, you should apply to multiple lenders and consider a co-signer.
This student loan refinancing calculator shows you how much you can save when you refinance student loans.
Do This Instead: Apply to refinance student loans. You can check your new interest rate for free in about two minutes and then apply online in about 10-15 minutes.
Zack Friedman is the bestselling author of the blockbuster book, The Lemonade Life: How To Fuel Success, Create Happiness, and Conquer Anything. Apple named The Lemonade Life one of “Fall’s Biggest Audiobooks” and a “Must-Listen.” Zack is the founder and chief executive officer of Make Lemonade, a leading personal finance company that empowers you to live a better financial life. He is an in-demand speaker and has inspired millions through his powerful insights. Previously, he was chief financial officer of an international energy company, a hedge fund investor, and worked at Blackstone, Morgan Stanley, and the White House. Zack holds degrees from Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins.
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