How to Pay Off $50,000 in Student Loans
Paying back a large amount of student debt can be intimidating. This article breaks down the steps you can take to achieve this.
It's not uncommon for student loan borrowers to get sticker shock when the time comes to start the repayment process. Taking out a few grand here and there to fund your tuition is one thing, but seeing the total balance after you graduate can cause some borrowers to panic.
$50,000 might sound like insurmountable debt, but no one is expecting you to tackle it all at once. With the right repayment strategy and a consistent approach, you can pay off $50,000 - or even $100,000 - without sacrificing your other goals and priorities. Here's how to do it.
Refinance Your Student Loans
If you have high-interest rates on your student loans, above 6% or more, you can often refinance for a lower interest rate. Refinancing with Juno could save you hundreds or even thousands in total interest - and help you pay off that $50,000 faster.
Here's how it works. Let's say you currently owe $50,000 with an 8% interest rate and a 10-year loan. If you refinance with a Juno partner at a 3% interest rate on a 10-year loan, your new payment will be $124 lower. You'll also pay $14,861 less in interest over the life of the loan.
Borrowers can refinance their loans as often as they like, and many choose to refinance when interest rates dip. You can refinance both private and federal loans, but be aware that refinancing federal loans will remove all federal loan benefits, like income-driven repayment, loan forgiveness, and longer deferment and forbearance periods.
Research Loan Forgiveness Programs
Borrowers with federal student loans should research possible loan forgiveness options before refinancing. If you work for a non-profit or government department, you may be eligible for federal or state-based loan forgiveness programs. Utilizing these programs can help you pay less every month and potentially have some of your debt forgiven.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is the most common loan forgiveness program. Borrowers must work full-time for a non-profit or local, federal, or state government to be eligible. After making 120 payments, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven.
When working toward PSLF, borrowers have to choose from one of five income-driven repayment plans. These payment plans often result in a lower monthly payment than the standard 10-year plan, so borrowers will pay less each month.
For example, let's say you owe $50,000 in federal student loans and earn $65,000 a year. Under one of these payment plans, your monthly payment would range from $381 to $448 instead of the $507 under the standard plan.
There are also special forgiveness programs for certain professions. Teacher Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives either $5,000 or $17,500 in loans after five years of service in a low-income school. Medical professionals may be eligible for loan forgiveness through state-based programs.
Find a Job with Student Loan Reimbursement
More and more employers are offering student loan reimbursement as an employee benefit. If you're job hunting, ask potential companies if they provide student loan reimbursement. The reimbursement is usually limited to a few thousand dollars, but it's still a free way to get some of your loans paid.
Track Your Expenses
The key to paying off $50,000 in student loans on an average salary is to be mindful of your expenses. If you don't track your spending, you may be surprised to learn where your money ends up going. Consider setting up a budgeting system to monitor and categorize your expenses. Budgeting regularly will illuminate your spending habits, allowing you to more easily reach your goals - like paying off $50,000 of loans.
To start a budget, you can download a fintech app like Mint or Qube, use a paper notebook or open a basic Excel spreadsheet. Find a system that you enjoy using and that keeps you accountable.
When one of your expenses decreases, like if you move to a cheaper apartment or pay off an auto loan, add that amount to your student loans.
Add Windfalls to Loans
When you get extra money, like a holiday bonus at work or a tax refund, it's tempting to splurge on a bigger TV, a fancy dinner, or a whole closet of new clothes. But if you apply the windfall to your loans, you'll pay off that $50,000 balance much faster.
When you make an extra payment, tell the lender that the amount is to be applied to the principal and should not be treated as a prepayment.
Increase Your Income
When you're sick of cutting expenses to pay off your loans, the next best strategy is to increase your income. If you haven't gotten a raise in a few years and you've increased your responsibilities at work, try negotiating a higher salary. Show your supervisor that your metrics have increased and that you deserve more compensation. If you're successful, apply the difference toward your loans.
If your negotiation request is denied or you've already gotten a raise recently, consider starting a side hustle to earn more money. While most people think a side hustle means working for a rideshare company or delivering groceries, you can also start a freelance business utilizing your existing skills. For example, if you're a graphic designer, work on projects in your free time.
Promote the side hustle on your personal social media accounts and talk about it with people you know. You may get more work by word-of-mouth. If you're having trouble finding clients, start an account on Fiverr or Upwork and increase your rates as you complete more projects.
Juno can help you find the most affordable possible rates on refinancing student loans. Juno negotiates on behalf of borrowers with partner lenders to help each student qualify for the best refinance rates they can given their financial situation.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.
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