Don’t let student loan debt delay your life goals
Typically, education is considered good debt, because investing in your education will, in theory, increase your earning power down the road. However, although student loan debt is considered “good debt”, there is a considerable downside for years to come if too much debt is taken out.
“There is a chain reaction when you take out substantial student debt. You graduate with lots of debt to pay, which means that you begin your working years with the burden of debt. Many adults never reach debt-free status because they started their careers with debt and keep the debt cycle going,” says Jeff Schwartz.
“When you have a lot of student loan debt, you end up delaying other life milestones too, like purchasing a house or a car or even having a family. There are long-term implications for your financial future in financing your education today,” says Schwartz.
Regrets from taking out too much student loan debt
As this study from BDO shows, current students can learn from graduates who indicate that if they had the chance to do it all over, they would make different choices when taking out debt.
According to the survey (which polled respondents with a college degree or university diploma under 40) :
● Two-thirds of the respondents said that they graduated with debt, owing to an average of $22,000
● 62 percent of these people are still paying their debt and feel it will take another 5 years to pay their debt off.
● Almost 20 percent feel that they will carry this debt for 10-20 years
● 75 percent of graduates regret taking out as much debt as they did and wish that they had budgeted better during their student years
● Many indicated that they had to delay life goals due to student debt, including getting married, having children and buying a home.
What does your future look like?
There are real-life implications for taking out student debt that may impact your life for years to come. When you picture your future and your career, what does it look like? Furthering your education is supposed to open doors for you to advance your career, but what many people are finding is that struggling to pay debt is actually dictating their career paths.
When you’ve got substantial debt to pay, you don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing jobs as they may fit into your intended career path. 25 percent of the respondents to the survey have been forced to take jobs outside of their chosen field simply so that they can pay their debts. 19 percent have taken on part-time work in addition to their full-time jobs just so they can pay their student debts.
Be strategic with your debt
Debt can really shape your life for years to come, so consider that before you take out more debt than you really need to fund your education. Also be proactive and committed to finding ways to reduce your overall debt load. As we’ve mentioned, good debt can be helpful when you use it strategically.
It is common for students to be offered more credit or loan funds then they really need. It can seem attractive to take out that debt when you are starting out, “just in case you need it.” Don’t forget that every dollar you take out, you will need to pay back at some point, likely with the accumulation of interest as well.
Set a specific budget for your education-related costs and only take out the bare minimum. In the BDO study, 20 percent of respondents wish that they’d taken out less than they had been offered.
It’s important to minimize accumulating other debt while you are a student as well. For instance, don’t rely on a credit card to cover expenses or take out an auto loan, assuming that you’ll just pay it all off when you graduate. You’ll have enough debt to deal with, just from paying back the cost of your education.
Ways to keep student loan debt down
Do everything that you can when you are in school to keep your debt levels down. Quite simply, the less debt that you have when you graduate, the sooner you can pay it off and move towards achieving your other financial goals.
Consider delaying your education for a year and working full time in order to boost savings; work part time while in school. Investigate all available grants, scholarships and other funding to reduce the cost of your tuition. Look at your school of course, but also look at community associations, professional associations, government and even area businesses.
Thinking of going to school in another city? Why not live at home to save on rent and other living expenses.
One of the most important things that you can do while you are a student is to set a monthly budget that includes all of your expenses and abide by it. This is a good life lesson that you can apply after you graduate to help you achieve your financial goals sooner rather than later.
How to pay student loans off
After you graduate, make a plan to pay your debt down as quickly as possible. Tabulate your debt and determine exactly how much you owe. Recognize that you’ll probably need to cut back on other expenses in the short term in order to pay your student debt as aggressively as you can.
Set up a budget and stick to it. Wherever possible, pay as much extra as you can on all of your debt. Once you clear that debt, you can move forward.