Question: I got my master’s degree in finance and accounting — and a huge student loan debt to go along with it. I am embarrassed to ask for help, since my degree is actually in finance, but dealing with such a huge debt is a little overwhelming.
As of right now, I have over $120,000 in student loan debt. I know some people who consolidate their loans — but I still have mine separated — so I have 19 separate loans in varying amounts. I did get the interest rate lowered for most of them by setting up a certain payment process, from 6.8 percent to 6.55 percent, I believe. I also am paying on an Income Based Repayment plan. It is nice having the piece of paper, but that does not guarantee you a job these days.
I know there has got to be a way to tackle this debt. But I just need help in setting up a plan to do it. Do I consolidate? Is a good approach to pay off one of the loans at a time, but which ones to pay off first? Would you be able to help me?
— Jennifer in Ohio
Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…
The good news is yes, we were able to help you. Here’s what happened, which might benefit others in your same predicament…
First, we put you in touch with a Debt.com partner company that specializes in student loan debt. A counselor named Brian Schwartz spoke with you and reviewed your stressful situation.
“She’s a really nice young lady,” Brian says. “One of the key factors that jumped out me is she had loans with two income-based lenders — she was paying two different lenders. Turns out she had 24 student loans.”
How did you run up so many loans? Simple. You went to college between 2008 and 2012, and you took out a new loan each semester. Brian says that’s common: “You’re 18, 19, and 20, and they tell you to sign here, and you do.” You’re young and unaware of the consequences because no one’s told you differently.
Brian placed you into a program run by the federal government. You had balances on those loans from $327 to $10,175. Now you have one consolidated loan. You could have paid up to $1,400 a month on those many loans. You’ll pay $98 a month once you get approved, which is pending.
There must be a catch, right? Right.
For starters, that $98 monthly payment is based on your current salary. So as you earn more, you’ll pay more. You’ll also be making payments for 20 years.
The good news: Your total payments over the life of this new consolidated loan will be a fraction of what you would have paid otherwise — we’re talking a savings of six figures. It’s impossible to be exact because no one knows how much you’ll earn in the future, but the savings will be huge.
What happens at 20 years? Even if you haven’t paid off the loans, the balance is forgiven.
If that sounds too good to be true, it’s not. The federal government has a greedy reason for helping you out. As Brian explains it, “Because of the ridiculous amount of student loan debt, there are so many people in that situation that it hurts the economy.” So it will cost the government less to help you out than have you live in poverty and not pay income taxes and become a productive member of society.
Even better, your consolidated loan will boost your credit reports. Previously, a lender would pull one of your report from one of the Big Three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) and see 24 open loans. That would give them pause. Now they’ll see one consolidated loan.
I look forward to following up with you, Jennifer, and making sure everything goes smoothly. You’re in good hands with Brian.
If you have a problem like Jennifer’s, Debt.com can help. We can refer you to experts who we’ve vetted for their skills, their reliability, and even their ethics. As you can see, even with a college degree in finance, it can be hard to pay off those student loans. So call us today at 1-800-810-0989.
Have a debt question?
Email your question to email@example.com 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.