By Lesley Ridge, Campus Branch Manager at UCU
When I survey students on campus and ask what financial topic they want to hear about, time after time, the answer is budgeting, establishing credit, and paying back student loans. These three topics pretty much go hand in hand, but let’s take a look at tips on preparing to pay back student loans. These quick tips will help students, parents of students, and even graduates who are already working on paying these loans back. As we know, most student loans are due for payment six months after graduation unless there are special circumstances. Where should you start? Let’s take a look at a few things to get you on your way.
If you are on a budget and managing your money Great! If not, lay out your income and expenses and see where you are at!
Know your student loan
Check with your servicer if you do not know repayment terms, rates, etc. Educate yourself to know what to expect and repayment options available. Private or alternative loans do not have the same repayment options that a federal student loan does, so it is important to know what type of loan you have. I mention this because this can be different based on lender, loan type, etc. Federal loans also have conditions such as a deferment time used during school, it may already show that you have used part of the allotted deferment time. The best advice here is know your student loans and educate yourself!
Pay at least the minimum due each month
Pay at least the minimum due, and if you can afford it pay more within your budget. This will be reported to the credit bureaus and is important. If you are having financial difficulties, always contact your servicer/lender for options.
Save and pay down
Stick to your chosen repayment plan and pay the amount due on time. Enroll in auto pay if offered, this might save you a percentage each month, which will save money over time. Pay off the capitalized interest that has accrued, any amount will help! Use future pay raises, extra income and tax refunds to make a dent in the balance as well.
Refinance and/or consolidate
Explore if refinancing your student loans, or consolidating them is worthwhile. Depending on the rates offered when you got approved for your student loans, it may make sense to refinance or consolidate some of them for a more favorable rate. Doing so could lower your monthly payment, and shorten the term in some cases.
Understanding your student loans, and all the options that you have, is key to making it work for your individual financial situation. Remember to contact your financial institution or the loan servicer with any questions you may have. The best advice is to seek out help when you are unsure about student loans in general. If you do, you will find that the more you understand your loans and how they work, the more manageable they will be when you go to pay them back.
Lesley Ridge, CCUFC
(Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor)
Campus Branch Manager