Ideally, you put a lot of thought into taking out student loans before you borrowed money for college. Similarly, it's important to put a lot of thought into paying off your loans once you've graduated.
If you recently got your degree and are about to start making loan payments, it's important to know what you're in for. Here are a few things you should know about student loan repayment plans.
1. You're not stuck with the default repayment plan option if you took out federal loans
Generally, the standard repayment plan for federal student loans has you paying your debt over a 10-year period of time. And for many people, 10 years is a good balance. It could have you debt-free by your early 30s without having to bear the cost of exceptionally large loan payments each month.
But just because 10 years is the standard option for federal student loans, it doesn't mean you can't apply for another repayment plan. You may decide you're better off with an income-based repayment plan, where your monthly payments are calculated based on your income so they're more manageable for you.
2. You may have fewer options if you took out private loans
The upside of taking out federal student loans, aside from the more competitive interest rate they tend to come with, is that you may have more choices when it comes to repayment plans. With a private loan, you may largely be stuck with the plan you committed to when you signed your loan in the first place.
But that's also not necessarily the case. The reality is that private lenders want to get repaid and don't want you to default on your debt. If you're on the hook for a repayment plan that simply won't work given your income, reach out to your lender and discuss your situation. Your lender might agree to work with you if you show proof of what you can pay.
3. An extended repayment plan isn't always best
If you took out federal student loans, you may have the option to get on an extended repayment plan that has you paying off your debt over a 25-year period. Doing so could make your monthly loan payments less burdensome individually. But there are drawbacks to going this route.
First of all, the longer you drag out the process of repaying your student loans, the more interest you're apt to end up paying. Second, owing money on student loans can be mentally taxing. You might feel stressed knowing that debt is still hanging over your head. And the longer it lingers, the longer your stress will follow suit.
Also, dragging out your loan repayment window might impede you from meeting other goals, like saving for retirement. While an extended repayment schedule might seem ideal due to the lower monthly payments involved, it's not necessarily your best choice.
Repaying student loans isn't easy, but in many cases, you have different options to look at. Examine your finances and figure out what monthly payment you can actually afford. That could help you decide which repayment plan is the best one to pursue.