A college degree is a significant investment that for many students demands a significant amount of debt. This means that taking out multiple student loans is a reality for many borrowers.
For example, data from the Education Data Initiative indicates that 39% to 50% of indebted student borrowers have loans from both undergraduate and postgraduate education.
As you look at how to pay off multiple student loans, having a good strategy in place can save thousands of dollars in interest. The most successful borrowers know where they stand and understand payoff options that work for their specific financial situation.
With multiple loans, it can be a challenge deciding which to pay off first. Here are tips on how to manage repayment of numerous student loans to help keep your financial health strong.
An important first step as you begin to look at how to pay off multiple student loans is to know exactly where you are today.
Begin by writing down each one of your students loans, organizing information by federal and private loans. Data should include the loan servicer or holder, statement balances, interest rates and monthly payments.
Your financial situation might have changed over the last year or since you began repayment. Get a clear picture of monthly income and expenses, listing other debt you have — including credit cards — to determine a monthly loan payment amount that is realistic for you to manage.
Getting a clear sense of your current situation will help you focus on your long-term repayment goals.
Consider Types of Loans
The approach to paying off multiple student loans can vary by borrower. However, it might be worthwhile to tackle private student loans before federal ones. While federal loans usually have more borrower benefits with options like deferments and repayment plans based on income, private lenders are typically less flexible.
Also, private student loans can have higher interest rates. Such details are critical as you create your repayment plan. Once you understand all of the details of your various loans, you can better manage your path toward repayment.
Know Your Options
Most student loans, including some private ones, have forbearance options. This benefit allows borrowers to suspend their payments due to hardship while interest and penalty fees continue to accumulate.
Experts say that forbearance may be a good route to prevent late payments and conserve cash flow if you’re financially struggling or recovering from a significant economic loss. But since it may increase a loan’s balance over time, carefully consider this temporary fix and its potential impact on your long-term financial situation.
Explore Payment Methods
Both the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods can apply to most consumer debt, including multiple student loans. They can accelerate payoff of your educational debt.
The avalanche method is built on the concept of first paying off your loan with the highest interest rate. At the same time, you are also paying the minimum amount on the other loans.
With the snowball method, you take care of the loan with the smallest balance first and pay the minimum amount on the rest of your loans. By paying off the smallest loan first, going from smallest to largest, you build momentum as you divert the payments you were making on the paid-off loan to the next loan with the lowest balance, and so on until all the loans are paid off.
Make More Than the Minimum Payment
If your budget allows, add extra money to your monthly student loan payments. When you reduce the principal balances of your student loans, you minimize the loan period and the amount of interest accrued over time.
Setting up regular automatic payments is a way to “set it and forget it” and will get you to your goal of paying off your student loan debt faster if you pay more than the minimum. Even a small amount can help. Start where you can and gradually increase your extra payments over time.
Refinance or Consolidate
By refinancing your student loans at a lower interest rate, you can potentially pay them off faster without making extra payments.
Consolidation replaces your multiple student loans with one loan. You may be able to take advantage of a lower interest rate or a shorter repayment term in the process.
Before making any changes to the structure of your loans, make sure you understand all of the details of both your current loans and the ones you are considering to replace them.
While pursuing your education is rewarding, facing multiple student loans may feel overwhelming. Communicate with your loan servicers and always review any information sent to you. If you need help, ask for it from a neutral, reputable organization such as a nonprofit financial counseling organization.
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