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Navigate Student Loan Repayment with Confidence | Tips to Control Student Loan Debt

Transitioning from school into the work-world comes with many new areas of life to traverse, and one of them is paying off student loan debt. For some, this can seem overwhelming, but the tips below will help you formulate a strategy to navigate student loan repayment with confidence. 

How long does it take Americans to pay off student loans?

This is a rather complex question to answer because it depends on the amount of debt a student accumulates; the payment amount each person makes per month; and when they start their student loan repayment. 

Statistics show that $28,950 is the average amount owed, which could be paid off in five years or less, but someone attaining a master’s degree or doctorate would accumulate more debt, which could take more time to pay off. This is why the question, “How long does it take Americans to pay off student loan debt?” does not have a simple answer. 

The better question to ask is, “What can I do to pay off my student loan faster?”

Should I pay off my student loans while there is no interest?

The short answer to this question is YES! 

While many can’t pay off the entire amount, anything you can afford to pay toward your student loan before interest starts accruing will be applied directly to the principal. That will decrease the amount of the loan, as well as the interest you will pay over time, which is one way you can pay off your student loan faster.

What’s the best way to pay off student loans?

The best way to pay off your student loans in an efficient manner is to make a plan and stick to it. Unfortunately, subjects like managing debt, paying back student loans, or building credit and credit scores are not things we are taught in school, but they are vital topics to understand when improving our financial health. This is why it’s so important to learn how to focus on your finances and make a plan that works for you. Then, you can have your repayment strategy in place from the beginning, or you can adapt your current strategy to be more effective. 

To get you started, here are three tips that can help you pay back your student loans faster, with less stress and more confidence:

  1. Use auto payments. This helps to take any worry out of the equation because the payments come out each month without having to do anything. You can be confident you will not miss a payment with this method.
  2. Make bi-weekly payments. This is a good tactic because you will make two extra payments each year. That money will go directly toward your principal, decreasing the interest you will pay over the full term of the loan, as well as the time it will take to pay it back.
  3. Make extra payments. Any extra amount you can put toward your student loan will decrease the amount of time it will take to pay back the loan, and of course, the interest you will pay on it because that money will go directly toward the principal amount on your loan. 

Should I prioritize paying my student loans off over paying down other debt?

The answer to this question is… it depends! You need to evaluate your overall financial situation.  What other debts do you have?  What investments do you own?

When you have several types of debt, you need to write down all the individual debts, the amount owed, the interest rate being charged on the debt and the due dates for each debt.  Then write down all your investments and what interest you are earning on those investments.

Then consider the following:

  1. Pay at least the minimum amount each month to prevent late payment penalties.
  2. Rank the debts from lowest to highest interest rates.
  3. If your investments are earning more than you are paying on your debts, you may not want to pay down more on the principal of the debt since you are earning a net positive income.  This is called arbitrage.
  4. Prioritize paying down the debts that have the highest interest rate first so that it will more quickly bring down your costs of borrowing. (You may have heard me advise people to pay the lowest balance off first…because this little win helps build your self-confidence and helps motivate you to keep going.  Then move on to the highest interest rate debt!)

There are many things to know about student loans, repayment plans, refinancing and so much more. This is why I encourage everyone to do their research. You must learn how to navigate your student loan in a way that works for you, based on your current financial situation, which will increase your confidence as you work your repayment plan. 

If you want more tips for navigating debt, please access these zero-cost resources on my website:

Each one will help you improve your financial literacy, give you a better understanding of debt and what you can do to make quicker progress toward repaying your student loan, as you start building the wealthy life you so richly deserve! 

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