7 Ways to Take Control When It Feels Like Student Loans Are Ruining Your Life

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When something is stressful or scary like student debt can be, your natural instinct may be to void it. But experts say that’s a mistake.

“Just by ignoring debt, it won’t go away,” said Joshua Harris, a certified financial planner and finance lecturer at Clemson University’s College of Business. “It’ll only get worse with penalties, excess interest, and other ramifications.”

Still, facing student loan struggles head-on can feel daunting for many borrowers. If you feel like saying “student loans are ruining my life”, consider some of these strategies to feel more in control of your situation:

1. Review your student debt
2. Use your debt stress to fuel action
3. Don’t let your student debt define you
4. Recognize the progress you’ve made
5. Talk about your student debt
6. Take a break from student debt when needed
7. Seek professional help if needed

1. Review your student debt

The first step in coming to terms with your student debt is to shine a light on it. Be willing to face the truth, no matter how ugly.

Start by figuring out exactly how much you owe:

  • Check the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find a full list of federal student loans in your name.
  • Review your credit report to verify that it lists your NSLDS accounts accurately. Your credit report should also list your private student loan amounts, as well as the federal ones.

Once you know how much you owe, it’s time to own your debt. Know that even a big student loan bill can be conquered — it’s just a question of finding a solution that fits your situation.

2. Use your debt stress to fuel action

Student loans sometimes can feel so scary that even the thought of them can trigger a fight-or-flight response. In fact, a previous student debt stress survey conducted by Student Loan Hero found more than 67% of respondents suffered from physical symptoms as a result of their student debt stress, including headaches, sleep loss, muscle tension and stomachaches.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, treat them as important feedback from your nervous system. Consider ways to relieve your stress as you tackle repayment.

At the same time, you can use these feelings to make yourself take action. Knowing that this debt is weighing on you can help motivate you to work toward a solution for your student loan debt.

3. Don’t let your student debt define you

Unfortunately, student loans can affect more than your emotions and mood. “Borrowers will carry a lot of mixed feelings about their debt, and it’s important to recognize those feelings before you make a plan to get out of debt,” Harris said.

Student debt can reinforce negative beliefs you might harbor about debt, money, and even yourself. Instead of being one issue you have to deal with, your student debt can — unfortunately — become part of how you view yourself.

Pay attention to how you think about yourself and your debt. Notice if it brings on negative self-talk. You might call yourself stupid, for instance, or berate yourself for taking out the loans.

If that happens, take a step back and challenge those negative beliefs. “What’s … important to remember is that numbers on a spreadsheet don’t make you you,” Harris said.

Remind yourself that your value and worth as a person could never be measured by your assets or debt. Try to view yourself and your student debt with more compassion and less judgment.

4. Recognize the progress you’ve made

Have you ever made a student loan mistake? If something comes to mind right away, try to think of something you did right with your student debt. It might not be as easy to come up with an example.

That’s because the mind has a tendency to overlook successes. Instead, it might catalog and dwell on every misstep. This process is called mental filtering. Since your mind might more naturally recall student debt mistakes, try being your own mental champion.

“Student loans are scary and overwhelming — but remember that, with each payment, you’re closer to being completely independent of that debt,” Harris said.

Celebrate every student loan win, even the small steps forward. Give yourself credit for the work you’ve done and are doing on your debt.

5. Talk about your student debt

Another way to come to terms with your student debt is to talk about it with others. That might go against your natural instincts. Borrowers often shut other people out of their lives in response to student debt stress, feeling embarrassed and ashamed of their student debt.

But if you start opening up about this struggle with people you trust, you’ll likely find that others in your social circle are facing similar situations with student loan debt. Maybe they can even offer support as you work to pay off your student loans.

“Don’t be afraid to be proud of each payment you’re making, as it’s bringing you that much closer to being free of the debt,” Harris said of sharing student loan struggles with others. “You’d be surprised how much support you’ll receive from friends who are experiencing the same thing.”

6. Take a break from student debt when needed

Sometimes you need a break from your student loans. While many get-out-of-debt gurus suggest tackling debt with a laser-like focus, the truth is life might not always cooperate with your efforts.

For instance, you might need to defer your student loan payments after a job loss. And if you’re having trouble keeping up with your monthly loan payments in general, an income-driven repayment plan could be an excellent solution, capping your bills at a set percentage of your disposable income in order to give you some breathing room in your budget.

At times, the most responsible way to manage student debt might be to take a break from it. “Explore the repayment options available to you and determine what time frame, monthly payment, and overall interest works best with your own financial plan,” Harris said.

7. Seek professional help if needed

A professional can provide invaluable advice and support while you manage your student debt and financial stress. “If that still feels overwhelming, working with a certified financial planner who specializes in student loans can help you make a plan to eliminate the debt,” Harris said.

In some cases, borrowers might also benefit from therapy with a licensed professional who can give personalized support and treatment.

Most of all, remember to keep it all in perspective.

“Right now, your life is not defined by how much debt you have,” Harris said. “You define your own life and how you want to live it.”

Michael Kitchen contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.99% – 5.64%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.89% – 5.90%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.25% – 6.09%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.89% – 6.77%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.99% – 5.41%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% 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 July 31, 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 7/31/2020. 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.

© 2020 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 Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. 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. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. 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. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.09% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.18% plus 2.32% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. 

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. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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 September 10, 2020.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. 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 0.16% effective August 10, 2020.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.