You thought you were going to be an engineer, but fell in love with teaching after college. Or maybe you found law school wasn’t for you and decided to pursue your passion for writing instead. In other words, you decided to not put your expensive degree to use after all and took on a low paying job that you love.
There’s nothing wrong with changing careers to something completely unrelated to your college major. I did it — changing from having two degrees in history to working exclusively in personal finance.
It’s important to follow your dreams, but doing so can be problematic if you took out significant student loan debt under the assumption you’d have a high paying job. If you have high student loan debt but not the best salary to pay it off quickly, here are a few things you can do to accelerate the process and become debt-free.
1. Investigate Income-Based Repayment Plans
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plans are an excellent option for those who have high student loan balances but low paying jobs. If you are struggling to pay your student loan bills, you can call your student loan servicer and ask about your options.
Typically, to qualify for income-based repayment, you have to prove you face financial hardship. There are a few different types of income-based repayment programs, but if you qualify, your student loan payments will likely be reduced to 10-20 percent of your discretionary income. It’s even possible to qualify for monthly payments of $0.
Even better, making consistent payments over the course of 20-25 years (depending on the program and if you borrowed as a graduate or undergraduate student) qualifies you to have the remaining balance forgiven.
This means that you can stay with the job you love, afford student loan payments, and have your student loans forgiven after a set period of time. Getting out of debt as quickly as possible should be your top priority, but if you do feel restricted in terms of your payments, this is one way to alleviate that stress.
2. Share Your House
You’ve graduated from college and are eager to get a job, have your own apartment, and see the world. As it turns out, that’s all really expensive.
If you really want to pursue a career field that typically offers low wage jobs, you will have to make sacrifices.
It can make a lot of financial sense to get roommates who can help cut down on the cost of rent and utilities. If you want to take it a step further, you can put two beds to a room, just like you had in your college dorm — tiny desks and all.
Sure, it might feel like a step back on the ladder to adulthood, but in reality, this can help you pay off that high student loan debt and finally afford your own place. Of course, always use caution when finding a roommate, as they could end up being a detriment to your finances if you don’t have a good one.
3. Consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you are working for the government, military, or select non-profits, you might be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Under this program, assuming you work for a qualifying organization, your direct loan debt is forgiven after making 120 on-time payments. The best part is that there is no limit to the amount of student loan debt that’s forgiven and the forgiven amount is not considered taxable income.
4. Start a Side Business
Sure you love your job, but you have to pay the bills, right? Start a side business to make extra money.
For example, you could dress up as a Disney Princess (or Prince) and entertain kids at the occasional birthday party or sell your own handmade creations. There are so many ways to make money without having to take a part-time job at the mall.
It’s amazing how much faster you can pay back your high student loan debt with this extra income, especially if you have the right mindset. Plus, remember it’s just temporary. You won’t have to work so hard forever — only until you can get your student loans down to a manageable size.
It’s OK to change careers or you pick a job that’s very different from what you went to school for. Just know that if you have high student loan debt because you thought you were going into a high paying job field, you have to take action to figure out a way to make your new situation work.
By researching your options, investigating different loan repayment plans, making some lifestyle changes, and working hard on the side, you should be able to pursue your passion and pay off your loans.
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