Question: I just turned 30 and I still have around $27,000 in student loan debt. I was prepared to be depressed about that, but when I lamented this fact on Facebook, friends I hadn’t talked to in years said I was LUCKY. So am I? And is there anything I can do to get this $27,000 monkey off my back any faster? At this rate, I’ll be 50 before I pay off these loans. THAT thought depresses me.
–Patrick in Seattle
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
When it comes to carrying student loan debt, this is one of the few times in life when you want to be below average. Sorry, Patrick: You are almost exactly average.
A new study came out just this month that calculates Americans aged 18 to 34 have an average of $27,305 in student loans. Experian, best known as one of the Big Three credit bureaus, also reported, “there are 13 million consumers ages 18–34 that have at least one open student loan.” So not only are you average, Patrick, you’re also not alone.
Experian confirmed what many of us in the personal finance industry already knew: “The total amount of student-loan debt has reached an all-time high of $1.2 trillion.” That’s more than the $854 billion in credit card debt for everyone in the country.
What you can do about it
The good news, Patrick, is that student loans have such a problem, the federal government has created five distinct programs for easing America’s student loan burden.
Of course, you need to have federal student loans for these programs to work – not private ones. (Here’s the difference.) You can take advantage of these government programs for free by handling the paperwork yourself, or you can have someone do it for you. It’s similar to doing your own taxes or having an accountant do it for you. However, unlike your income taxes, there’s no “EZ form.”
If you have the time and ability to wade through the paperwork, I urge you to do so. If you don’t, I urge you to consult an expert. Debt.com offers a free consultation service so you can figure out what works best for you.
Hopefully, Patrick, you can go from average student loan debt to below average in just a few weeks!
Have a debt question?
Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.