I refuse to pay off my student loans early.
Plenty of people judge me for this decision. The standard financial advice regarding all debt is to pay it off, and pay it off as quickly as possible.
Rapid student debt reduction isn’t the only path to financial freedom, though. The reality is that paying off student loans early isn’t always the best bet — at least when it comes to the numbers.
Here’s why I won’t pay off my student loans early.
1. My low, low interest rate
Years ago, when I was tackling credit card debt on top of my student loans, it made sense to ignore my student loans. After consolidating my student loans in 2005, I had a 1.9% interest rate. Rather than focusing on such low-rate loans, I turned my attention to the higher-rate credit card debt I’d amassed.
When deciding which debt to demolish first, it’s tempting to pay off student loans early because they are so big. Starting with higher-rate debt, though, often makes more sense mathematically.
The more you pay in interest, the less you have for yourself. Get rid of the high-rate debt first and tackle the student loans once that’s out of the way.
2. Milk that tax deduction
The interest you pay on student loans is tax deductible. Between my low interest rate and the tax deduction, my student loans don’t cost very much at all.
If you’re looking for a little extra tax efficiency in your life, turn to your student loan interest. Paying off student loans early means you won’t receive that tax deduction down the road.
You shouldn’t keep your loans around just for the tax deduction, but if you have other things to do with your money it’s nice to know that your student loans aren’t such a huge resource drain.
Student loan interest is deducted above the line, so you don’t have to itemize in order to take advantage. You can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500 when you meet the eligibility requirements for a student loan tax deduction.
That’s a pretty decent sum, and that reduction is enough to save you some money come tax time.
3. Invest instead
Because my 1.9% rate is so low, I prefer to invest the money I would have used to pay off student loans early. We talk about debt repayment as a guaranteed return, but is the 1.9% really worth it? With a long-term approach to investing, you could see annualized returns of more than 7%.
Putting any extra money toward my retirement has helped me build my portfolio and prepare for my future. It’s been much more profitable than putting that money toward paying down low-rate student loan debt.
Even with hiccups in the stock market, the overall gains have been worth it. My returns so far (and my potential returns for the future) are much better than I would see if I spent five years diverting that money to student loan payoff.
Putting the money to work with the help of compound interest over time has been a much better investment than paying off low-rate student loans early. Combine that with the tax efficiency boost from my loan interest tax deductions each year, and my student loans aren’t worth paying off early.
4. I like my cash flow where it is
One of the most important aspects of your finances is your cash flow. Paying off student loans early means devoting more of your financial resources that way each month, which restricts your cash flow.
If you are willing to sacrifice to make it happen, that’s no problem. I’m not willing to sacrifice, especially since my low rate and tax deduction mean I’m not paying very much for my student loans.
I like having the freedom to use my monthly disposable income how I want, without it going toward paying down loans with low real returns.
While you might want to pay off student loans early, you don’t want to put other areas of your finances at risk. Before you stretch your budget for rapid student loan reduction, it might make more sense to shore up your finances with an emergency fund.
Think about other ways to use that cash flow. What could you do with that money if you weren’t putting so much toward student loan debt early repayment?
Avoid the pitfalls
Just because paying off student loans early isn’t my thing, it doesn’t mean you have to stop aggressively tackling your own debt. You need to be comfortable with the idea of carrying this debt for 20 or 25 years if you don’t want to pay off your student loans early.
Not everyone likes the idea of having these types of long-term obligations. It doesn’t matter what the math says if you can’t sleep at night because of the student loan debt hanging over your head. Don’t force it if that’s the case for you.
Another consideration is the fact that you might not have the same interest rate I do. If your rate is higher, you can look into student loan refinancing to see if it’s possible for you to find a low rate that reduces the cost of your student loans.
If you are paying 8% on your student loans and are worried that you will only see 7% annualized returns on your investments, paying down your student loans as fast as possible makes sense. But if you can refinance, maintain your cash flow, and invest in assets that provide a better return, you might not need to pay off your student loans early.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 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.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.57% – 6.98%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.80% – 6.22%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.57% – 8.17%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|