4 Top Strategies for Paying Off $100k+ in Student Loan Debt

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If you have over $100,000 in student loan debt, there are several strategies you can implement to pay it off quickly and without giving up decades of your life to debt.

I know the feeling of this level of debt all too well. Together, my husband and I have nearly $400,000 in student loan debt from graduate school and medical school. And my husband’s not even done with medical school yet (or adding student loans to that total)!

Because he’ll be a physician in a few months, he will be well on his way to earning a high income. However, that doesn’t diminish the student loan burden we both feel. So we’ll be trying a combination of things to eliminate this debt entirely.

If you also have $100k+ of student loan debt, here are some of the best strategies to pay it off as quickly as possible:

1. Minimize Lifestyle Inflation

If you have $100k or more in student loan debt because you attended professional school, chances are you now also have a high income because of your education. Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, or went to business school, you likely had to put in a lot of time over several years to learn your craft.

Because you’ve spent so long at school, it’s easy to inflate your lifestyle once you get that first paycheck. However, I want to encourage you to keep living like a student for as long as possible.

For example, if you lived off of $30,000 per year while you were in graduate school, try to live off of the same amount during your first few years in the professional world. Hold off on making a new car purchase or buying a new home.

If your take-home pay is $150,000 per year and you live on only $30,000, you now have $120,000 to put towards your debt and the interest your debt has accrued. Do this for 1–3 years in a row, and you could easily pay off your debt and have the rest of your career to enjoy the high income you worked so hard to achieve.

It’s important to note that avoiding lifestyle inflation can help anyone pay off their debt regardless of their income level. It just comes down to spending much less than you earn so that you can aggressively pay off debt quickly and enjoy a life without it.

2. Research Loan Forgiveness

Six figures of debt can be daunting for anyone, regardless of how high your income is. However, there are many different type of loan forgiveness that can help you pay off large portions of your debt.

The best-known loan forgiveness program is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. With this program, you have to work in a public service organization like emergency management, the military, or another approved entity.

After making 120 on-time payments while working at an approved organization, your loans are forgiven. And it doesn’t matter whether you have $2,000 or $200,000 left on your balance.

There are also loan forgiveness programs, such as like student loan forgiveness for teachers and Income-Driven Repayment options that offer loan forgiveness after a certain number of years.

3. Look into Refinancing

Although federal loans have the most flexible repayment plans, sometimes refinancing is the best option if you’re looking to save money.

For example, if your student loan interest rate is 6.8%, you can refinance to a private lender like SoFi. As of this writing, SoFi offers fixed rates for student loan refinancing that currently start at 3.99%. You might have shorter repayment terms and larger monthly payments, but you will also save thousands of dollars in interest in the process.

If you started out with private student loans, you likely have interest rates that are even higher, which can bring greater savings if you refinance.Want to get a sense of whether you might qualify to refinance? Take our refinancing eligibility quiz!

4. Focus on Increasing Your Income

If you’re serious about paying off your six figures worth of debt quickly, finding ways to increase your income is likely the most effective strategy.

When it comes to making extra income, you can do a number of different side hustle jobs that can bring in significant cash.

Some side hustle jobs include things like:

  • teaching yoga
  • pet sitting
  • freelance writing and editing
  • having a newspaper route
  • tutoring high school students
  • being a coach
  • working as a part-time consultant

If you have an MBA, you can work on the side and help businesses learn how to budget and turn a profit.

If you have a knack for marketing, you can help local businesses improve their social media presence, and if you love working outside, you can cut the grass for family and friends or help people with their gardening.

If you’re a nutritionist by trade, you can work with companies during your off hours to help create company wellness programs.

Essentially, you can do these kinds of work outside of your regular office hours and apply any extra money you make from this type of job towards your student loans. This will help you to pay them down much faster.

Ultimately, having over $100k of student loan debt is overwhelming. I know because my family lives with it every day. However, the good news is that in acquiring that amount of debt, you’ve likely also increased your earning potential.

By working hard, increasing your income, and utilizing refinancing and other repayment options in addition to keeping your living expenses low, you can be well on your way to paying off your debt quickly and enjoying your income going forward without the burden of debt.