6 Big Moves to Pay Off Student Loan Debt

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Kate Dore

By Kate Dore

January 27, 2020

Let’s face it—there’s nothing easy about student loans. The average balance for a new graduate is $29,000. With five-figure balances like these, it’s easy to see how student loans delay other financial goals. Some folks are even putting off major life events like buying a home, marriage or having children. 

Whether you’re dealing with a large or small amount of student loan debt, it’s likely you’re eager to make the final payment. While student loans can feel never-ending, you have more options than you think. If you’re itching to shorten the payoff timeline—and become debt-free faster—try one of these big moves. 

1. Sign-up for automatic payments

Interest is one of the most challenging things about student loans. Because it’s always growing, it can be tough to make progress on your original balance. One easy way to cut your interest rate is by signing up for automatic payments. Federal student loan servicers and some private lenders offer a 0.25% interest rate reduction when you sign-up for autopay. It may not seem like a large amount, but the discount will save you one full student loan payment over ten years. The savings may be equal to several payments for a 25-year loan. 

2. Refinance to a lower interest rate

For a bigger interest rate reduction, you may consider refinancing your student loans. The benefits of this decision may be two-fold: lower monthly payments and spending less money over the life of the loan. Refinancing student loans can also make repaying easier by streamlining multiple loans into one payment. 

Before you apply for refinancing, though, it’s critical to weigh the risks. By refinancing from federal to private student loans, you may lose some valuable protections. These protections may include flexible repayment plans, fixed interest rates, any federal forgiveness programs, and deferments. But if you’re willing to waive these benefits, refinancing could speed up the payoff process. 

3. Find a job with student loans assistance

It can be difficult to tackle student loans on your own, especially at an entry-level salary. Luckily, a growing number of companies are offering student loan repayment assistance. Approximately 8% of employers offer student loan assistance, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual report. Over the past year, the number of companies offering the benefit increased by 4%.

While student loan assistance may be an exciting perk, it shouldn’t be the only thing to look for. If another company offers a higher salary or more robust benefits, you may still wind up with more money to tackle your student loan payoff goals. Always consider the full compensation—and how it may impact your family’s bottom line—before accepting a new job opportunity.

4. Consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you have federal loans, and the desire to work full-time in the public or non-profit sectors, student loan forgiveness may be worth exploring. After ten years of on-time payments, the government may forgive your balance. But you must have Direct loans, which are a specific type of federal student loan. You also must be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. Otherwise, you won’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

5. Change jobs

Like it or not, some jobs make it more difficult to meet your financial goals. If your dream job doesn’t align with your goal of being student loan debt-free, you may consider a change. You can look for another job with a higher salary, better benefits or student loan assistance. Even if you don’t stay at the company long-term, the extra compensation may be enough to make significant progress on your payoff goals.  

6. Downsize your home  

Another way to pay off student loans faster is by making big changes to your budget. Housing is the largest expense for most Americans, according to the Department of Labor. While it may not be your top choice, downsizing your home may have a major impact on your cash flow. You can start by getting a roommate or renting a room on Airbnb. If you’re looking to make a bigger improvement, try moving into a cheaper home. You may even consider a temporary move to a less expensive city.  

Stay focused on the big picture

It’s easy to get discouraged by student loans. But there are plenty of opportunities to speed the payoff process along. You may reduce your interest rates through autopay or refinancing. And it’s possible to shift your career decisions. Look for companies offering a higher salary or benefits like student loan assistance. You may also consider a change to the public or non-profit sectors. While these jobs may offer lower pay, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after ten years. The best way to pay off your student loans faster is by crafting a plan and sticking to it. All the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it when your account balance finally reaches zero.

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