Repaying your child’s student loans while managing your own finances can be a tough balancing act.
If you’ve taken out a parent PLUS loan, it’s important to have a strategy in place for parent PLUS loan repayment. Or perhaps you want to help your child without cosigning a loan so that you have the flexibility to give when you can.
In this complete repayment guide, we’ll help you come up with a plan of action.
Set your parent PLUS loan repayment game plan
If you’re repaying parent PLUS loans, it’s important to brush up on the terms of the payment: You are responsible for 100% of the loan repayment — not your child. Should your child help out with the payments? Perhaps, but it’s not a requirement.
Unfortunately, parent PLUS loans can be tough to manage with their high interest rates and potentially high balances. PLUS loan borrowers are allowed to take out loan amounts equal to the cost of attendance, minus financial aid, which could mean a hefty balance. The interest rate for parent PLUS loan repayment is 7.6% for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2018. Plus, there’s a loan fee of 4.248%.
If you have parent PLUS loans, list them out and compare them with your income and expenses. How much can you afford to put toward debt each month? You’ll want to pay off the student loans while saving for retirement. If the 10-year standard repayment plan isn’t feasible, consider your alternatives.
See if you’re eligible for flexible repayment or forgiveness
If you are having trouble paying back your parent PLUS loans, look into a different repayment plan. Unfortunately, parent PLUS loans aren’t eligible for income-based repayment or pay-as-you earn programs. There are, however, various parent PLUS loan forgiveness programs and repayment options.
For some of these options, you first need to apply for a direct consolidation loan. This lets you combine multiple loans into one with a single monthly payment and a weighted interest rate. More importantly, it allows you to be eligible for income-contingent repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Apply for income-contingent repayment
This is the only income-driven repayment plan available for parent PLUS loan borrowers if they now have a direct consolidation loan. The plan:
- Offers a repayment period of 25 years
- Caps your monthly payments at the lesser of either 20% of your discretionary income, or what the payment would be on a fixed, 12-year plan, adjusted according to income
- Forgives loans after 25 years of repayment
It’s important to know that you may owe income tax on student loans that are forgiven.
The income-contingent repayment plan can be helpful if you were having trouble paying back parent PLUS loans. But you’ll pay more in interest and you could face a hefty tax bill.
Consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness
If you are now on an income-contingent repayment plan, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. To be eligible, you must:
- Work full time for an eligible government agency or nonprofit organization
- Make 120 qualifying payments
Through this program, your loans will be forgiven after 10 years of repayment. Submit any required paperwork yearly and stay in touch with your loan servicer about your repayment options.
Refinance parent PLUS loans
Student loan refinancing can be a good option if you have parent PLUS loans. Through refinancing your student loans with a private lender, you merge all your loans into one and — ideally — receive a better interest rate.
Considering the high rates for PLUS loans, refinancing could save money and help pay off your loans much faster. Parent PLUS borrowers are often especially attractive candidates for refinancing as they might have a stronger credit profile and more income than new graduates.
Typically, refinancing companies want you to have a good credit score, stable employment and enough income to pay back your loans. However, when refinancing, you give up federal loan protections, such as payment plan flexibility and the option to pursue an income-driven plan. Depending on your situation, the benefits of refinancing may outweigh the costs.
Ask yourself how you want to help your child with loan repayment
Parent PLUS borrowers face the unique situation of paying for their child’s education while trying to manage their own retirement savings. Unfortunately, doing both can spread some borrowers thin.
Whether you have parent PLUS loans or you want to help your children pay back their loans, there are a variety of ways to help without compromising your retirement plans.
Understanding your options, having a plan in place and thinking of you and your child as partners in paying back the loan are ways to ensure that both of your financial futures are protected.
If you’re assisting your child with loan repayment, seek the best repayment option.
Become a cosigner
If your child has limited credit history, you could consider becoming a cosigner if they apply for student loan refinancing. Refinancing could save them money on interest. But if they don’t have a strong credit profile and have limited income, they may be rejected for refinancing.
Remember, though, that in this case you are legally responsible for your child’s debt if they can’t pay it back.
In some instances, cosigner release may be an option down the road. For example, Citizens Bank allows for cosigner release after 36 consecutive, on-time payments. The terms of cosigner release depend on the lender, but, typically, the borrower needs to prove they have made on-time payments and have sufficient income to pay back the loans on their own.
It may take some time to be eligible for cosigner release, so think carefully about taking on this responsibility. It’s also a good idea to have a discussion with your child about expectations. What happens if they miss a payment? If they can no longer afford payments due to job loss or another circumstance, are you willing — and able — to step up and make payments? Going through what ifs can help ensure there are no misunderstandings on either side.
Help without cosigning or getting a loan
If you want to help pay back your child’s student loans but don’t want to take out parent PLUS loans or be a cosigner, talk to them about it.
If you decide you want to help in this form, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How much can you afford to put toward debt each month?
- Will this set you back from your own financial goals?
- Will you give money to your child or will you repay the loan servicer directly? You may be able to become an authorized payer on your child’s loan servicer account.
- How much are you willing to help out? For example, do you want to help out with half or cover all of it? Or help out just a little bit? It’s up to you.
- If you’re assisting as an authorized payer, what happens if your child gets a higher-paying job or you need more money than expected? Setting up informal monthly check-ins to see how your repayment process is going can keep both of you on the same page.
Once you’ve figured out how much you can afford to pay and how much you are willing to pay, talk to your child. It’s important to set expectations and have an understanding of each of your roles in the debt repayment process.
Important questions for parent PLUS borrowers to consider
Should you tap your retirement funds to pay off your child’s loan debt?
If you want to help your child pay off their student loans, you may have considered tapping your retirement funds. But is this a good idea? Not really.
If you have the money, using retirement funds to help your child become debt-free might feel like the right thing to do. But it would be at the cost of your own financial future.
First, your child hopefully has many working, productive years ahead. They have a chance of turning their financial life around and could have the luxury of decades to pay off their loans. On the other hand, you can’t borrow money for retirement.
You will also be hit with penalties if you withdraw your retirement money early. For example, if you withdraw from your 401(k) before you’re 59 1/2, you’ll pay a 10% withdrawal penalty, in addition to federal and state income taxes.
The same goes for withdrawing funds from a traditional individual retirement account (IRA). Going this route could take a huge chunk out of our nest egg that could cost more than years of interest on your child’s loan.
A Roth IRA is a bit more flexible than other retirement vehicles. If you withdraw funds from a Roth IRA, you can do so without any penalties, but you may pay a tax depending on the purpose of the withdrawal.
Regardless, it’s not a good idea to withdraw your own retirement funds to pay off your children’s debt. If you think you have the funds to pay off your child’s debt and comfortably afford retirement, you could consider speaking with your financial advisor about that goal.
Can you gift money to help pay off your child’s student loans?
One way you can help your children pay off their student loans is by gifting them money to make payments. You’ll want to be clear that the money is used for student loan repayment and nothing else.
You can gift small amounts for birthdays and holidays, as well as if you get a tax refund. If you’re looking at gifting a sizable amount, though, be aware of the gift tax. You can gift up to $15,000 without any issues, but if you go over that amount, your gift will count as part of your annual exclusion. You’ll have to file a return and fill out Form 709 with the IRS. The good news? You’ll only be hit with a gift tax after you reach your lifetime limit of $11.4 million.
There’s some confusion as parents can avoid the gift tax by making applicable payments for higher education, such as tuition, directly to the university. However, current tax code doesn’t consider student loan payments as part of those qualified expenses.
Can you pay off a parent PLUS loan early?
Perhaps you came into a financial windfall from an inheritance or sold your family home, and are wondering: Can you pay off a parent PLUS loan early?
All federal student loans allow for penalty-free prepayment. But Is this a good idea? That depends.
Remember: There is no borrowing for retirement. It may make sense to use those extra funds to pad your nest egg and continue making scheduled payments, rather than wipe out the balance. A financial advisor can be helpful in discussing the pros and cons of your options.
Don’t lose sight of your financial goals to help your child
You want the world for your child. But in many cases, the best thing you can do is ensure that your own financial future is as healthy as possible. You don’t want your child to have to worry about your finances if you run out of retirement funds.
Taking care of your own funds isn’t being selfish. It’s being smart, and it’s also teaching your adult child self-reliance. Helping your child by taking out parent PLUS loans can be a huge gift to your children, but make sure you are realistic about your own financial needs.
Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.
Interested in refinancing your Parent PLUS loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
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1 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 2.94% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.98% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.98% 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 February 4, 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 2/24/2020. 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@example.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.
3 Important Disclosures for Figure.
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 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 February 25, 2020 and is subject to change.
5 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.
6 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.
7 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 1.68% effective January 10, 2020.
8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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.
|1.89% – 5.98%1|
|2.31% – 6.48%2|
|1.93% – 6.68%3|
|2.29% – 6.65%4|
|1.99% – 7.06%5|
|2.62% – 6.12%6|
|1.77% – 6.25%7|
|1.90% – 8.59%8|