As an accountant, dealing with the ins and outs of money is your thing. But even when you work in finance, paying off your student loans isn’t always easy.
Accountants earn $76,730 on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet even on that salary, the average student loan debt of $37,172 can be overwhelming. And that’s not to mention your starting salary out of school may be much less.
Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate your student debt faster if you’re an accountant. For example, you may be able to apply for student loan forgiveness or student loan repayment programs specifically available to accountants.
If you’re an accountant with student loans, here’s what you need to know about paying down your debt quickly and dropping that liability from the books.
Student loan forgiveness for accountants
After graduation, you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). To be eligible for PSLF, you must meet the following requirements:
- Your loans must be under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. This includes Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans.
- You must make on-time payments for 120 months, or 10 years. The payments don’t have to be consecutive, meaning you can take breaks for deferment or forbearance.
- You must work for a local, state, federal, or tribal government. Not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organizations also apply, as do other not-for-profit organizations if they provide qualifying public services.
- You must work at least 30 hours a week or your employer’s definition of full-time, whichever is greater. If you work more than one part-time job for qualifying employers, you may combine your hours to meet the 30-hour minimum.
- You must work for an eligible organization throughout your time in the program.
Should you consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program?
Applying for PSLF is tempting for anyone who feels the burden of student loans, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. Here are a few things you should keep in mind:
It’s a 10-year commitment
PSLF requires that you work for the government in some capacity for a decade. You won’t get partial credit, even if you stick around for nine years; it’s all or nothing.
Additionally, by working for the government, you may be giving up a higher earning potential. Over time, a better salary path can provide more value than what you’d get with student loan forgiveness.
For example, say you have $30,000 in student loans and a starting salary with a public accounting firm at $50,000. Alternatively, if you choose a public service job, your salary would start at $45,000. We’ll also assume that you’d get annual raises at a rate of three percent with either job.
Your annual salaries would be as follows:
|Year||Public Accounting Job||Public Service Job|
|Total Amount Earned||$573,195||$515,875|
We’ll also assume that, after 10 years, your student loan balance is $15,000. With PSLF, that amount would forgiven, so your total benefit would be $15,000.
If you were to choose the public accounting job, however, you’d earn $57,320 more over that time. Even with taxes, you’d get more long-term value with the public accounting job.
You may be done in 10 years anyway
If your federal student loans are on the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan, your repayment period will be the same as that of the PSLF program. So by the time you’re eligible to have your remaining student loan balance forgiven, there may not be one to forgive.
If you plan to apply for an income-driven repayment plan, however, applying for PSLF would make more sense. That’s because income-driven repayment plans typically have repayment terms of 20 to 25 years.
How to find a public service job
If you’re interested in taking a public service accounting job, be sure to check your local and state government websites, as well as the following:
Once you land a qualifying job, keep track of your student loan payments and pay stubs. That way, when you fill out the application for PSLF once you’ve reached the 120-month mark, you’ll have the supporting documents to speed up the process.
Other student loan repayment options
Student loan forgiveness for accountants is just one option and it may or may not be your best choice. Fortunately, there are other ways to eliminate your student loan debt more quickly.
Student loan refinancing
Depending on the terms of your current student loans, refinancing them may help you get a lower rate, a lower monthly payment, or both.
Refinancing can also give you more control over the terms of the loan.
For example, say you want to pay off your student debt in half the time as the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. Several student loan refinancing lenders offer repayment terms as short as five years. As you’re comparing refinancing lenders, consider a shorter repayment period to repay debt faster.
Prepay your student loans
If your student loan servicer doesn’t have a prepayment penalty, you can budget in extra cash each month to put toward your student loan payments and pay them off faster.
For example, say you have $25,000 in student loans with an average APR of 6.00% and a 10-year repayment period. Your monthly payment would be $278, and you’d pay $8,306 in interest over the life of the loan.
If you add an extra $100 to your payment each month, though, you’ll pay off your student loans a little more than three years early. You’ll also save $2,855 in interest.
Curious to see how prepayment can help you? Use a prepayment calculator to see how much time and money you can save by putting extra money toward your student loans every month.
Make your student loans a priority
The sooner you pay off your student loans, the sooner you’ll have that extra money each month to put toward something that’s more important to you.
First, consider student loan forgiveness for accountants. But if that isn’t your cup of tea, be proactive about finding another way to pay off your student loans early that works for you.
Once you have your own student loan repayment program in place with a goal and an action plan, you’ll be that much closer to freedom from student debt.
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