As a financial coach, I always get asked if it’s too late to pay off student loans. The short answer is no! I’m going to break it down in terms of three different sections: pre-college, college, and beyond college.
If you are a pre-collegiate youth: Congratulations!
I’m excited for you because I wish I had the will to pay off my student loans at your age. Had I, I guarantee you I would have graduated debt free (interest wise) as I would have paid them off during my 4-year journey towards my degree and the rest would have been a piece of cake.
Word of advice: Take out ONLY what you need!
This sounds simple, but let me be real with you. You are a kid! You may think you’re an adult and soon to be a college kid, but you’re still that: a kid. Humble yourself and still listen to your parents. You most likely don’t know too much about loans (and maybe your parents don’t either), but I need you to understand that the student loan lenders are basically predators preying on you. They’re not your friend. They know you typically won’t know too much so they’ll offer you money that seems like a lot of great money as a distraction. Often, it may be the first time you’ve seen that much money, so remember that it’s a shiny deceiving idea.
I’m warning you right now, so you won’t say you didn’t know.
You may borrow $50,000 and think you’ll owe that, but if you end up only making the minimum payments, you already lost at this unfair game. They’ve designed their recommended minimum payment to keep you in debt to the point you’ll owe more than the initial $50,000 you borrowed, thanks to the interest that will accrue for years, daily during your collegiate journey.
Only take out what you absolutely NEED. And if you can control it, only take out federal loans. Private loans are DANGEROUS. Understand the stipulations associated with going to private school or out of state. Don’t fall for the stigma of not attending community college out of judgment, when in the grander scheme of things, you’ll save money. The most important thing is learning skills. Your degree is important, but I’ll just leave it at my skills were more important than what college I attended when it came to being hired for my first post-graduate job.
The last thing I’ll say is: Don’t borrow $100,000 in student loans to only make $30,000 a year. This goes back to knowing who you are. Knowing who you are helps you decrease your chances of going to college as an undeclared major or choosing the wrong major, which is not only priceless clarity but a competitive advantage you’ll have over most of your peers. It’s important to note that you may initially work in a different field than what you went to school for. However, it’ll still benefit you to know what job market you intend to work in and understand the range of compensation they earn so you can plan accordingly.
If you are currently enrolled in college (undergraduate), I want to say: Congratulations!
You’re in a perfect position to decrease the amount of student loans you’ll owe when you graduate, should you still owe any by the time you implement the steps I tell you to do. Again, take out only what you NEED.
Because you’re still in college, you’re going to want to be making payments as you go. Interest accrues daily, so for a lot of payments made, the majority of it will go towards the interest, before even touching the principal. Please note that and make your payments accordingly.
My first recommendation is to pay towards your interest only while you’re in school as best as you can since it accrues DAILY. These payments can be as low as under $100/month but pay SOMETHING. This is an important time hack because most people (including myself) wait until after college to START paying back what they’ve borrowed.
Time is an important element with this simple action that goes a long way! Plus, I’m sure you’ve spent more than that on a couple of weekends just through partying, so I don’t want to hear any complaints about $100 in an entire month. If you have a problem acquiring an extra $100 a month, you need to pick up a job.
If paying off the interest is manageable, I would say begin paying what you can to cut down on the principal balance as well. If you can pay enough to have a minimal amount of student loans owed by the time you graduate, when combined with your grace period, you’ll be debt free quickly!
As a college student, I want you to understand the idea of time. You’re blessed to be in a position where you can pay as much as you can as you go, while time operates in your favor. Don’t forget that this is a game of utilizing time. They use time and compound interest to operate in their favor, so why can’t you do the same to work in your favor?
Pick up the controller and take control of your situation!
College Grad and Beyond:
If you are a recent college graduate or have been working for some time now, or even conducting further education: Congratulations!
Despite the fact that you may wish that you learned what you’ll learn in this book back in your early 20s or 30s or even older, you’re still in a great position to execute and live the life you’ve needed to unlock for so long!
What’s even better for those in search of a job is you’ll likely have free time besides applying for jobs, so if you can increase your income while you’re possibly in a grace period, that would be ideal.
If you’re pursuing further education and need to take out more loans, first: don’t panic. Apply the same approach to your undergraduate years as if you’re a pre-collegiate youth and only take out what you absolutely need. Your owed balance in student loans will obviously be higher than an individual that only received an undergraduate education, but it takes money to make money.
You’re investing in yourself for a greater tomorrow and I commend you for that. To sacrifice today for a brighter tomorrow is the most selfless act you can do for your future personally and financially, just to name a couple of things.
My main advice for you is to approach the situation logically rather than emotionally. Paying off student loans is a high stress activity, so if we can limit the amount of stress we place on ourselves, the better our situation will be. Don’t panic or compare yourself to others, especially if they only had undergraduate loans. That’s also not a free ticket to “2300 Excuses St.” though, so keep that in mind.
The main piece of advice I have for you as a whole is that no matter what your post-undergraduate situation happens to be, start implementing the strategies I’ll give you immediately! The best time to have implemented these principles was yesterday, but we’ll settle for today!
Did You Notice Something?
No matter where you are in your own journey towards debt freedom, whether you’re 17 or 65 and beyond, you deserve congratulations because you’re taking action towards ridding yourself of the clutch of debt.