When you took out student loans to attend college, you may not have realized just how expensive your monthly payments would wind up being. But if you're now grappling with costly debt that's wreaking havoc on your budget, you may be desperate for relief.
The good news? A few strategic moves on your part could help make that debt more affordable. Here are some options to explore.
1. Refinance your debt
Refinancing is the process of swapping one loan for another, and if your student debt has a high interest rate attached to it, it's a smart thing to consider. Refinancing typically comes into play with private student loans whose interest rates are generally higher than those of federal loans. But you can refinance federal loans, too. And if your credit score is great, you may qualify for a more competitive rate than what you're currently on the hook for, thereby lowering your monthly payments.
That said, there's a danger in refinancing federal student loans, as you'll be giving up the protections borrowers are entitled to, like forbearance, deferment, and income-driven repayment plans. These options don't exist with private loans, (at least not officially). So if you borrowed privately and have a chance to refinance your student loan and lower your interest rate, you might as well go for it.
2. Negotiate with your lender
If you took out private loans for college, you may be able to lower your interest rate and payments without having to go through the process of refinancing. Rather, you can contact your lender and try negotiating your loan's terms.
Why might your lender agree to this? It's simple -- if you refinance, and another lender takes over your loan, your original lender won't get to keep collecting interest, which is how lenders make money. As such, it never hurts to pick up the phone and see how much your lender is willing to bend.
3. Take out a home equity loan to pay off your debt
If you own a home that you have equity in (meaning, you own at least 20% of that property), then swapping your student loans for a home equity loan could end up being a money-saver. Home equity loans are fairly easy to qualify for since your home itself is used as collateral to protect your lender. And the interest rate attached to your home equity loan could wind up being much lower than the rate associated with your student debt, particularly if you borrowed privately.
Here's how the process would work: Similar to refinancing, you'd get your home equity loan and use that money to pay down your student debt. Then, you'd repay that home equity loan, only at a lower interest rate. Once again, you're swapping one loan for another, but saving money at the same time.
The only danger of going this route is that if you don't keep up with your home equity loan payments, you could risk losing your home. Then again, falling behind on your student loan payments could have dire financial consequences as well, like wage garnishment, which can also indirectly put you at risk of losing your home. As such, using a home equity loan to pay off that debt is a viable solution despite the risks.
Don't struggle with those monthly payments
If your student loan payments are causing you a world of stress, don't resign yourself to them. Rather, explore your options for lowering them to give yourself the financial breathing room you deserve.