How good of a driver are you? If you had to rate yourself below average, average, or above average on your people skills, what rating would you give? How honest would you say you are compared to most people?
These are questions that Tali Sharot, associate professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, posed to her audience in a TED talk about a phenomenon called “optimism bias.” In Sharot’s words, optimism bias is, “our tendency to overestimate our likelihood of experiencing good events in our lives and underestimate our likelihood of experiencing bad events.”
She says a firefighter in California once told her that fatality investigations done by the fire department “often include ‘We didn’t think the fire was going to do that,’ even when all of the available information was there to make safe decisions.”
In other words, “we’re more optimistic than realistic, but we are oblivious to the fact,” Sharot says.
So what does this have to do with student loan payoff? A lot, it turns out. Read on to learn more about optimism bias and what you need to do to prevent it from derailing your strategic financial plans.
How optimism bias affects your finances
First of all, it’s important to note that you can have an optimism bias even if you don’t feel like you’re a particularly optimistic person. You might simply have this bias if you tend to view the future as something that will have a better outcome than your past or present.
As a whole, there’s nothing inherently wrong with optimism or optimism bias. Without this bias, Sharot, who also wrote a book on this topic, says “we would all be slightly depressed.” But feeling as though we can always beat the average, or even that we’re invincible, can have serious consequences.
When I asked Sharot what she thought the most dangerous thing about this bias might be in relation to finances, she mentioned retirement savings, or the lack thereof. If we feel confident that we’ll be able to save more later, it might be easier to put it off today.
Sharot says this bias can lead us to think that projects will cost less and take less time — something that can blow the budget of wedding planners and house renovators. And, in general, we might spend more than we can afford because we imagine a big bonus or promotion that will help us pay it down later.
All in all, Sharot cautions, this bias can lead to poor planning. And in the case of student loan debt, it could lead to borrowing more than we should, due to the belief that we’ll easily earn enough later to pay it all back.
As for people already in student loan repayment, it’s possible that this bias can prevent them from strategically approaching their payoff. For example, they might stick to payment plans that barely keep their loans above water — the idea being that even if they can afford to pay more now, there’s no need because they can always pay more later.
But even borrowers who don’t feel optimistic about their debt might exhibit similar procrastination. Author and psychotherapist Will Meyerhofer has many clients facing large amounts of student loan debt. And he noticed that they sometimes feel it’s “pointless to try to pay them down” and “better to live for today.”
In other words, some might be YOLO-ing their student loan debt payoff, which can have dangerous effects on their finances. Here’s what can be done about it, whether it’s born of optimism or pessimism.
How to prevent bias from derailing your student loan payoff
So what’s the secret to preventing optimism bias (or any bias) from getting in the way of our goals? According to Sharot, it all comes down to awareness.
“Being aware of it means we can change our decisions. It doesn’t mean we have to change our bias.”
In fact, she says, it might be impossible to change our bias. So rather than worrying about transforming a core aspect of who we are, we can simply understand it and then use it to our advantage when we can, and work around it when we need to.
And for those in student loan debt who have optimism bias, Sharot says “it’s best to take a safer route,” even if your bias leads you to believe you don’t need to.
That might mean paying extra on your student loans when you can. Or it might simply mean staying on top of your payments even if it doesn’t seem important or seems like something you can handle later.
For his part, Meyerhofer takes a pretty extreme view: He thinks of student loans as cancer. “If I ever stopped the ‘treatment’ (paying off as much money as I possibly could), the tumor would start to grow again,” Meyerhofer says.
He calls this approach dramatic, but one that helps his clients see the danger of ignoring student loan debt.
Whichever way you look at it, viewing the future as the best time to handle something as important as student loan debt can be dangerous. Defaulting on your student loans — if it comes to that — can damage your credit for up to seven years. Plus, the fees and interest that add up while in default can drastically increase the cost of your debt.
And if you’re coasting on payments but could do more, you may end up paying more than you have to over the long run. On the other hand, making lump sum extra payments on your student loans once a year with your tax refund or holiday bonus can make a huge difference.
Awareness and planning for the win
As unchangeable as things like our biases can sometimes seem, the fact that awareness can make such a big difference is great news for those who have an optimism bias. And those of us might be a lot — Sharot says in her TED Talk that 80 percent of people have this bias.
Tie your awareness into planning for a future that might look like today — even if you’re hopeful that it will be much better — so you can create a strong financial plan. If you do hit a financial bump in the road, this planning could help you be better prepared (such as by having an emergency fund on hand).
And if things only get better, then you’ve lost nothing from the careful planning — only gained habits that will help you for a lifetime.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 5 lenders of 2020!
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1 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.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
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.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE 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.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
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.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of March 4, 2020 and is subject to change.
2 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
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 3.21% APR (with Auto Pay) to 8.77% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 3.21% APR (with Auto Pay) to 8.72% 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 May 8, 2020, 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 5/08/2020. 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 [email protected], 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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 0.8100000000000002% effective April 10, 2020.
|1.99% – 6.65%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.10%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.21% – 6.67%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.21% – 8.72%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.22% – 6.05%5||Undergrad & Graduate|