7 Money Questions You Should Know the Answer to Before You’re 30

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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the financial institution.

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If you’re a young college grad, chances are good you have a lot of student loan debt. There are 44.2 million Americans who currently have outstanding student loan debt, and the average monthly payments for borrowers between the ages of 20 and 30 is $351, according to Student Loan Hero’s summary of 2017 Student Loan Debt Statistics.

Coping with a big monthly student loan bill — on top of other financial obligations — is bound to leave you feeling stressed about money. This is especially true if your student loans are causing you to delay milestones you’d like to achieve, such as getting married or buying a house.

If you find yourself feeling stressed about money and concerned your debt will interfere with your life goals, you may benefit from taking stock of your financial situation and creating a plan.

“Have an open conversation with yourself and others around you,” Marty Kurtz, founder of The Planning Center, told The Street. “Learn to control what you can control: your behavior and your decisions.”

Ideally, you can take proactive steps to feel like your financial life is under control ASAP so your financial worries won’t keep causing you to put life on hold. These tips can help you to take stock of your situation and get some plans in place to fix some of your financial worries before your 30th birthday arrives.

1. What is the total amount of debt you owe?

Many college grads have no idea how to find out how much student loan debt they owe. In fact, a 2015 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that families underestimate student loan debt balances by around 25 percent.

Many people also don’t know what they owe on other types of debt. The same Federal Reserve survey showed households estimated their collective credit card debt at around $440 billion, which was 40 percent less than the $731 billion their lenders said they owed on credit cards.

If you don’t know what you owe, you can’t make a responsible plan to pay off your debt. You’re more likely to spend a fortune in interest and remain in debt for even longer. To find out how much you owe:

  • Visit the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), which will provide you with information on all of your federal student loans.
  • Visit annualcreditreport.com and get a copy of your credit report. This should list all open accounts so you can find out about private loans, personal loans, car loans, and credit card debt.

You can use your credit report to make a list of all of your open accounts you have a balance on. If you’re not sure how much you owe on each, contact your creditors to find out.

2. How much are you paying in interest?

Once you know exactly what you owe, you want to find out how much you are paying in interest per month. You may be surprised to find just how much your debt is costing you.

The Simple Dollar recently determined how much the average American pays in interest each year, based on median home prices, average new car loans, average credit card balances, and average student loan payments. Based on its analysis, a homeowner with a used car would pay an average of $8,037 in interest over the course of the year.

You can find out the total amount of interest you’re paying by using your list of all open accounts and checking your online or paper statements for each account. If you’re paying a fortune in interest, this could be strong motivation to take steps like refinancing your debt to a lower interest rate loan or making a plan to pay off debt early.

3. What date will you become debt free?

In the past decade, the number of seniors with student loan debt has quadrupled, according to a 2016 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The report revealed older Americans owed $66.7 billion in student loans in 2015. Seniors are also carrying mortgages into their retirement years, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 17.5 percent of seniors over 75 still had mortgage debt.

If you don’t want to struggle with your student loans and other debts during your retirement years, find out now when you’re actually on track to become debt free. If your debt repayment schedule shows you’re still going to be paying your debt decades from now, this can be a strong motivating factor to make a debt repayment plan. And if you make a debt repayment plan before you turn 30, you should have plenty of time to prioritize debt repayment so you won’t have to carry debt into retirement.

“As a young MBA student, I was consumed by financial anxiety when I took out my first student loan at the age of 22,” Katy Roby, a marketing associate at Arcusys, said. “Owing someone more money than I have ever saved led me to start thinking about my financial goals, one of which is a debt repayment plan.” She used Mint to help her manage all of her bills and student loan debt, and she describes organizing her financial life as the “first step in taking control of my financial goals.”

You can create your debt repayment plan by looking at statements for the different accounts you have open. Even credit card statements will show you how long it will take to repay debt and what you’ll pay in interest if you make only the minimum payment.

If your payoff date is very far in the future for all of your debts, use online calculators to calculate how extra payments affect your loan payoff timeline. Consider setting an earlier goal to have your debts paid in full and making a plan to pay extra to make that happen.

4. What is your current net worth?

Kevin Langman, co-founder of Finovo, calculates his net worth every three months. “This has been great to use as a measure of my progress and overall financial health,” Langman said.

Your net worth is the amount by which your assets exceed your debts. To calculate your net worth, add up the value of everything you own, including your home, your car, money in investment accounts, your 401(k) balance, any jewelry or collectibles, and any other items that belong to you. Then, add up the total amount of money you owe on all of your different loans. Subtract the amount you owe from the amount you own to get your net worth.

For example:

  • If you own only a $100,000 house, a $20,000 car and $10,000 worth of furniture, you own assets worth $130,000.
  • If you owe $80,000 on your house, $10,000 on your car, and nothing on your furniture, your liabilities (the amount you owe) total $90,000
  • Subtract your liabilities ($90,000) from your assets ($130,000) to get a net worth of $40,000.

Tracking your net worth gives you a broad overview of how you’re doing financially. As you pay down debt and your assets go up in value, your net worth will grow. However, if you took on more debt, then it would shrink. Your net worth should be moving up over time and, ideally, by the time you reach retirement age, you will own so much more than you owe that your nest egg will be able to support you once you cannot work anymore.

5. How much do you need to save for retirement?

Retirement may not be on the top of your mind when you’re young, but it should be. The median account balance in 401(k) accounts was $24,713, according to the Vanguard How America Saves 2017 report. The average contributions made to 401(k) accounts was just 6.2 percent of an employee’s total salary in 2016. If you’re contributing the average of 6.2 percent or less, this probably won’t give you enough to live on as a retiree.

It can be challenging to find ways to save when you’re struggling to pay student loan debt and to cover basic living expenses. Unfortunately, the longer you wait to start saving, the less compound interest will help your nest egg grow and the more you’ll have to invest each month to have enough to retire.

While investing around $300 monthly throughout your career would allow you to save around $1 million by age 63 if you started investing at age 20, you’d need to invest more than $2,300 every month to end up with a million-dollar nest egg if you waited until age 45 to start investing.

By calculating your retirement number now and starting to invest, you can set yourself up for the future. This guide will help you determine exactly how much you need to save for your retirement so you can decide how much to save each month to hit your retirement goal.

You can put your retirement savings into a 401(k) if you have access to one at work to take advantage of the ability to save with pre-tax dollars. If you don’t have a 401(k) at work, a traditional IRA account would allow you to invest pre-tax money up to $5,500 annually, or more if you are self-employed.

6. How much money do you spend each month?

If you want to have enough money to do things like saving for retirement or paying off debt early, you need to know where your money is going. Tracking your spending can be the best way to do that.

“For my first year of working, I spent every dollar I made, and realized that continuing on like that was not sustainable,” Langman said. “When I was 23 I started tracking all of my spending using a spreadsheet tool that I built myself.” Langman used this data to adjust spending habits, cutting out wasteful spending on eating out and drinking to prioritize spending on travel instead.

Langman credits his expense-tracking as a “foundational” tool in helping him to quit his corporate job after eight years with a six-figure net worth to start his own business. Tracking his spending also allowed him to take an international trip every year, visiting 32 countries.

To track your spending, you can use an app like Mint or can simply enter your purchases into a spreadsheet as you shop. At the end of the month, tally up what you’re spending on different categories like eating out, clothing, entertainment, and transportation. You can use this information to set a realistic budget, see where you are overspending, and find ways to cut costs.

7. What is your top financial goal?

Finally, you should take the time to decide what you want your financial life to become. To set your goals:

  • Think about your short-term and long-term plans. Where do you want to be next year? In five years? In 10 years? What do you need to do, financially, to get there?
  • Consider what your spending and saving priorities are. Focus on how you can put your money to the best use.
  • Consider your stressors. Is there something frustrating about your current financial life? What can you do to do remove this source of stress?

By asking yourself key money questions like what your top financial goal is, you can prioritize your spending and make sure your money is working for you to help you achieve that goal.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.

6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.06% – 6.81%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.62% – 6.12%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

2.29% – 6.65%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Published in Big Money Decisions, Credit & Debt, Investments & Savings, Student Loans