There is nothing like a 1,000 pound brick hanging over your head. Imagine that brick following you everywhere you go, no matter what you do. You can go around ignoring the brick, but eventually you know it’s going to fall on you and it’s going to hurt. That’s what it’s like with student loan debt.
As of 2018, Americans collectively have $1.5 trillion of student loan debt according to Forbes. Safe to say that is an enormous brick, weighing above the heads of 44 million borrowers. And debt truly is a crushing burden that can negatively impact your path to financial freedom.
So the next question is this: What do I do? Well it’s simple. Get stubborn. I mean really stubborn! Know that it is going to take pig-headed determination to tackle student loan debt. It means foregoing that new jacket, those new shoes, that shiny new WhateverYaCallit and face your opponent dead in the eyes. Be honest with yourself. Look at the amount, look at the interest, and come up with a plan.
My wife and I were able to pay off more than $70k in student loans by being stubborn. Our plan included paying off the highest interest loan first known as the debt avalanche method, followed by the remaining highest, followed by paying off smallest loan remaining known as the debt snowball, and then lastly paying off the last loan. For a good explanation of both of these methods click here. We got the money together and made some large sacrificial payments all at once, and simply threw additional funds towards them (above the minimum payment) until they were eradicated. I remember one particular payment was enough to pay for a good used car – OUCH!
Advantages and Disadvantages
It should be noted that there are both advantages and disadvantages to paying off your student loan debt early.
- Less paid interest over time which means less money paid for the loan overall.
- Freedom to allocate the money every month needed for payments elsewhere, let’s say towards investments, vacation fund, savings, etc. once student loan debt is paid off.
- No more brick over your head = no more student loan debt worries.
- Student loan interest deduction on your taxes.
- Opportunity cost of paying other higher interest debts off instead. For example, paying off a 15% interest credit card instead of a 5% interest student loan.
- Opportunity cost of making higher returns on investments. For example, making 10% returns on a stock investment instead of paying off a 5% interest student loan. Not to mention compound interest over time!
Come up with a Plan
So you’ve decided to stubbornly attack your student loan and pay it off. How long will it take? How much extra money above the minimum payment can you throw at it? The choice is yours but whatever you do, come up with a plan. Write it down. Write down your goals.
Let’s use an example:
$30,000 student loan with 5% interest rate and 10 year payoff schedule
Estimated monthly payment of $318.
Once you’ve crunched numbers, you realize that you could pay $350 towards it each month without sacrificing too much. The difference of $33 amounts to less that one dinner at a restaurant per month. Using this student loan prepayment calculator you discover that you can trim off 1 year and 1 month and save $1000!
If you need help coming up with a plan, feel free to contact me. I’d be glad to help.