With student loan debt at a higher level than ever, it’s unfortunate, though not surprising, that many Americans are suffering from financial anxiety.
According to a 2017 study by Northwestern Mutual, nearly one-quarter of millennials say financial anxiety has made them feel physically ill on a weekly or monthly basis — and 18% say it’s made them feel depressed.
It probably doesn’t help matters that money remains a taboo subject, one we all deal with but rarely talk about. To break down the taboo — and show that you’re not alone in worrying about finances — we spoke with student loan borrowers about their money fears.
Here’s what’s causing them the most stress, along with the steps they’re taking to overcome these challenges and come out on top.
1. Loan forgiveness might never pan out
When J.R. Duren, personal finance blogger and senior editor at consumer review site HighYa.com, put his student loans on an Income-Based Repayment plan, his reasons were two-fold: He wanted to lower monthly payments and earn loan forgiveness at the end of his repayment term. But after an unsettling conversation with his loan servicer, Duren worries that that loan forgiveness might never come.
“One of my biggest fears regarding my student loans is whether or not my IBR balance will be forgiven at the end of my … repayment term,” said Duren. “A conversation with my loan servicer made that way more murky than it should have been.”
Duren made several calls but was unable to get a clear answer to his questions.
“The servicer told me this was something the Department of Education does,” he said. “I called the Department of Education, and they said they didn’t know what I was talking about, and that I should call my servicer. This scares me.”
Since Income-Based Repayment was introduced in 2007, the first borrowers won’t become eligible for forgiveness until 2027. Duren is afraid that when the time comes, the program’s promise of forgiveness could go unfulfilled.
This fear also likely resonates with borrowers pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a program that has only granted forgiveness to a few of its applicants so far.
But while there’s no guarantee these programs will stick around forever, they could still be worth pursuing. Just make sure you’re filling out the right paperwork from year to year so you don’t get to the end of the road, only to find out you’re ineligible due to a technicality.
2. Debt could drag down my quality of life
As a money blogger at the financial website Millionaire Mob, Kyle Kroeger is familiar with the ins and outs of personal finance. But he’s had his own fiscal challenges, including more than $60,000 in student loans.
“The main stresses I have with personal finance is the limitations and burden that debt can have on your lifestyle and quality of life,” said Kroeger. “There’s a component of guilt to spending your money on things you enjoy when you are in debt or haven’t properly budgeted.”
Even if you carefully follow a budget, it’s common to feel guilty on non-essential expenses if you owe student loans or credit card debt. This feeling of guilt can take over if you don’t think carefully about how to prioritize your spending.
For Kroeger, it was important to get out from under the dark cloud of debt as soon as possible.
“I developed a sense of urgency with my debt repayment strategy,” he said. “I committed myself to eliminating debt as soon as possible.”
Kroeger started by taking inventory of his debts and coming up with a step-by-step plan for which ones to tackle first. Then he made moves to decrease his spending and increase his income so he could make extra payments on his loans.
“It’s important to have a detailed plan to follow,” said Kroeger. “This will help you stay motivated when you reach your goals and remove guilt when you want to purchase something you’d really be happy having.”
3. My debt will never go away
Even if you celebrate small financial wins, it can be tough to stay motivated when it feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Student loan borrower and co-founder of the budget-focused blog Budgeting Couple, Evan Sutherland, says he feels the most anxiety around his student loans when he thinks about how long they’ll be in his life.
“When it’s clear that you won’t pay off your debt for another 15 years, and that you’ll easily spend more than $10k in interest, anxiety is imminent,” said Sutherland. “Debt feels like a money-sucking black hole has opened at the center of your checking account.”
But he’s able to control his anxiety by shifting his mindset. Instead of stressing about the total costs of his loan, Sutherland said, it’s easier to take things one month at a time.
“Debt’s not nearly this scary when you look at it in the right light,” he said. “In reality, debt is nothing more than a swarm of small, annoying pests, each one demanding a little money from you every month.”
For Sutherland, planning and following a budget makes him feel more in control of his financial situation — and less overwhelmed as a result.
“Keep your focus on what’s in your control,” he advised. “Take it one bill at a time, increase your monthly payments as you feel comfortable, and you will become debt-free.”
4. Student debt will undermine my career goals
As an entrepreneur, Jason Patel’s main financial fear is that his debt will stand in the way of his career aspirations.
“I worry that student loans will weigh me down to the point that I won’t be able to accomplish the things I’ve set my heart on pursuing,” said Patel. “Many of these accomplishments are intertwined with entrepreneurship, and, as we all know, entrepreneurship costs money.”
But Patel decided not to wait until his student debt was gone to start a business. Since graduating from George Washington University, he founded Transizion, a college- and career-prep company.
“Dealing with paying myself enough to pay my loans and managing business cash flow is a balancing act,” said Patel. “You need to balance paying your bills versus growing your beloved business.”
For Patel, the secret to finding this balance boils down to self-discipline.
“I formed a plan and set spending limits on myself,” Patel said. “Anytime I feel stressed, I make sure to trust my plan.”
He also focuses on the present rather than stressing about how long his loans will be in his life.
“[I] refuse to focus too much on how long my loan payments will take to pay off,” he said. “The time will come when I finally pay them off, so there’s no point of getting myself upset. I need to trust the process.”
As long as he keeps up with minimum payments, Patel is confident he’ll be debt-free eventually.
“Looking far too deeply into the past or future will waste the precious time we have in the present,” said Patel. “The loans will be gone one day — I know that much.”
5. Disagreements over money could damage my relationship
Through his work as an accredited financial counselor with the nonprofit Money Fit, Todd Christensen has helped people with their financial challenges for over 15 years. He’s seen many clients deal with the same concerns as he himself has over the years.
“Even as a financial educator and counselor, I have many of the same fears as most people,” said Christensen. One common concern is how people in relationships can avoid arguing over money.
“We all fear damage to important relationships,” said Christensen. “I recommend to all my adult learners to sit down once a week with their spouse for 10 minutes to review their shared financial goals (not just retirement, but vacations, replacement of important items, college savings, etc.).”
During that conversation, he said, the couple should also “identify current cash balances, discuss upcoming payments and purchases and who will make them, and then return to the goals to see how to save more over the next week to accelerate them.”
This “financial huddle” will make sure you and your partner are on the same page financially and could help avoid potential conflict. Christensen also says to remember that everyone has financial regrets, but it’s important not to beat yourself up over choices you made in the past.
“We all make financial mistakes,” he said. “I share many of my bad choices with my workshop participants so they understand it’s not about where we have been, but where we are headed.”
You’re not alone in worrying about money
Even if your money concerns aren’t going to go away overnight, it can help to share your issues with others. By realizing you’re not alone in the struggles of paying off debt, you can find much-needed support from friends, family, or an online community.
Plus, you can learn valuable advice for managing anxiety and overcoming financial obstacles, no matter how insurmountable they might seem. That said, if your money stress feels paralyzing, it might be time to seek professional assistance from a therapist or counselor.
Even though it might seem indirect, prioritizing your mental and emotional health could be the best first step you can make toward financial wellness.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 7 lenders of 2019!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
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 3.45% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.81% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.49% 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 November 6, 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 11/06/2019. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 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 November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.
4 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.
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 1.9299999999999997% effective October 10, 2019.
6 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 11/07/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.65% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
7 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 09/23/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
|1.81% – 6.49%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.81% – 7.36%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.43% – 7.60%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.02% – 6.30%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.90% – 8.65%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.74% – 6.24%7||Undergrad & Graduate|