First and foremost, congratulations to the class of 2018! You have now entered an exciting period of your life where you can follow your passion out in the “real” world. Now is also the time, however, where you have to start thinking about your career, a place to live permanently, and paying off your student loans. When it comes to your student loans you typically have a grace period of 6 months after graduation until you have to start repaying. You should, however, start making a game plan. Here are some tips to help you get started:
As a recent grad with student loans, you probably already know your repayment is just around the corner. I encourage you to take advantage of your grace period and not wait to get your first bill before making plans for repayment. Here are a few tips I thought I’d share to help you tackle your student loan debt head on.
If you're a recent college graduate who took out student loans, you likely owe about $35,000. As eye-popping as that average debt figure is, you're certainly not the only one wondering how you'll possibly get out from under your loans. As with any difficult assignment, though, research and a well-thought-out plan will help you tackle even the most challenging of debt situations.
Making use of the following strategies will help you get out of student loan debt. Here's a look at where to get started.
Debt can often have a negative connotation, but there are plenty of good reasons to have it – for example, using student loans to increase your earning potential, funding an entrepreneurial venture with a small business loan or going to the “Bank of Mom & Dad” to pay for a move across the country for a great job.
More good news on the financial education front! The Council of Graduate Schools is pushing for universities nationwide to step up when it comes to financial education for students. Fifteen institutions are taking part in a 3-year project to “enhance the financial literacy of graduate and undergraduate students.”
This project is coming just in time. Student loan debt is surpassing $1 trillion, and many students have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.
Sonya Britt, an associate professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State College of Human Ecology, says,
“Most of the students who enter college don’t get financial literacy courses when they’re in high school, so many students aren’t familiar with basic money management skills such as making payments and the awareness of how fast credit card debt accumulates. There’s a lot of need but not a lot of resources for college students.”
Getting debt-free in your 20s can be more than just a dream. It can become your reality if you are willing to work hard, pay your debt obligations as agreed and spend less than you make.
With planning and willpower, following these guidelines can help see you through to your goal.
1. Know Your Budget
Before you can make a plan for paying down debt, get a handle on your monthly budget. How much are you making each month? What are your current monthly expenses? How much are you paying toward your debt obligations each month?
Are there quick ways you can slash your spending? Visit the public library for free Internet access and free books and movies. Stay in and cook more and eat out less. Make your coffee at home.
Apply the money you save to paying down debt.
Remembering back to when I graduated college, there are many things I wish I could go back and tell my younger self. Some are truisms that you can carry through life –- like avoiding debt -- and others are more palpable at the moment –- like hard work trumping your piece of paper.
I knew nothing about managing money when I graduated college and, sadly, I believe I was not alone in that experience. Most graduates -- and there were 2.85 million in 2013 -- are focused on getting a job, moving to wherever that job is and living in the real world -- not financial literacy.
With that in mind, here are four basic financial steps you should take as a newly minted college graduate. If you're still looking for a job, these steps can still be implemented on a smaller scale.
1. Establish a Spending Plan
As a new college graduate you're going to experience a lot of things you've never dealt with before, especially if you're moving to a new location. They include paying rent, dealing with variable expenses, buying groceries and so forth. To best set yourself up for success, you want to plan out this spending. Call it a budget, call it a personal spending plan or something else -- you want to have something to hang your financial hat on.
The first big reason for a personal spending plan is to avoid lifestyle inflation. You will no longer be a poor college student and thus will be tempted to spend more. Avoid overspending as much as possible. The second reason is a plan will help you establish long-term habits that will help as you begin to earn more income. The key to whatever you develop is to be flexible and find something that works for your situation.
If I could go back in time, I would do certain things differently. I'm not saying I have a lot of regrets. But when I was younger, I tended to have myopic vision. For instance, it was hard to imagine that one day I would be older. Even today, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, who the hell is that?
I wish that, when I was younger, someone had sat me down and told me a few things. Or else I wish that I'd listened when someone attempted to do this.
If you're young, take a seat and listen up. These gems will help you on your quest for financial success.
1. Go to college. You may want to do something that doesn't require a college degree. For instance, you may dream of playing professional golf or running a barn and training horses. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it's a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, make it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a four-year university after two years.
It's easier to get a degree when you're young than when you have a home, family and all the adult responsibilities that go with these things. Your earnings potential increases significantly with a college degree -- which will come in handy if your other dreams don't materialize. Plus, you will likely experience a love of learning that you will never outgrow.
Should I save for a house?
With my income at the time, repaying the minimum on the loans each month wasn't a problem. Interest on three types of loans ranged from 4.5% to 6.8%, which, considering inflation and comparing it to credit card interest rates, wasn't all that bad. Even if I only made minimum payments throughout the course of the repayment period, I would lose just over $5,000 to interest. Although I wanted the loans out of my life, I could live with paying that over time if it meant saving tens of thousands of dollars on a home and mortgage while the market was down.
Drawing a plan
Student loan payments accounted for roughly 20% of my income at the time, while rent and utilities accounted for about 40%. After other expenses, I had around 10% leftover – not enough savings to purchase a house by 2015 like I planned. I needed to save nearly five times more! After all, I wanted to make a 20% down payment.