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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 2021!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.89% – 5.99%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 5.64%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 6.84%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.91% – 5.25%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.53%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.17% – 4.47%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 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 Feburary 1, 2021.
2 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 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% 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 October 26, 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 10/26/2020. 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.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
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 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
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.
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 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
6 Important Disclosures for PenFed.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.99%-5.15% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.17%-4.47% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.