Speaking with a friend via email about business today, she mentioned trying to do more to earn enough to pay off her student loans. She is well into her 30s since she is a few years older than me. I knew she had student loans but she joked about paying them off well into her 50s.
Unfortunately, paying off student loans into your 50s is a reality for many people.
It worries me when I talk to friends and family who are on 20 and 30 year loan repayment plans… for their student loans. It makes sense when you are buying a house but paying for your student loans over multiple decades sounds terrible.
Help Paying Student Loans
Update, in 2018, I started paying off student loans again that I didn’t know were not being paid by a parent as agreed. You can learn more about that debt snowball journey.
Because of this, I’ve shared a lot more content about paying off student loans. Check it all out:
- Taking Control Of Debt With A New Debt Payoff Plan
- Best Books To Read When Getting Out Of Debt
- 25 Frugal Tips I’ve Learned From The Debt Free Community
- How I Paid Off $22,000 In Student Loans
- Paying Student Loans With Credit Cards
How long it took me to pay off my student loans!
This means it took me 5 years from the time I graduated college to pay off my student loans which were just over $22,000.
Active repayment of my student loans took just a couple years, but I wish I’d tackled the loans immediately after graduating.
Admittedly, I didn’t start paying off my student loans right away. I took a roundabout route and delayed and deferred for about two years when I first graduated college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I simply took random jobs and made so little money that I was allowed to skip paying for a while.
When I finally got around to having a “real job” and making decent money, I finally decided to attack my student loans and get rid of them. That process took a couple years and wasn’t super fun, but I’m happy to be rid of those monthly loan payments now. It’s nice to not have a huge debt over my head! I always highly recommend people pay off debt quickly if possible because debt freedom feels so nice.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Pay Off Your Student Loans
Unfortunately, waiting to pay off your student loans just makes your financial situation worse.
Using my parent plus loans as an example, only $21,000 of the $43,000 was actually used for education. The rest of the amount was interest and fees from the loans being ignored for years.
Student loans are not bankrupt-able except for death and disability so it is a mistake to ignore them. Each year you ignore the loans they grow bigger and bigger. Buying your head in the sand might sound appealing but ultimately it just makes the situation worse.
I regret waiting so long to take charge of the loans my parents signed for because they grew much larger than they started.
Tips for paying off student loans
If you’re wondering “when will my student loans be paid off?” or “how can I pay my student loans off faster?” there are a few ways to speed up the process.
1. Find out how long it will take with minimum payments.
Use a student loan repayment calculator to figure out how long it will take you to pay off the loans using just the minimum payment. Most standard loan repayments are 10 years but if you’ve chosen a different plan it could take as long as 20. Knowing where you currently stand will help you plan a faster repayment plan.
2. Make larger monthly payments.
Plan to pay more than the minimum amount each month. Most lenders will apply the monthly payment to the loan interest before principal which means making minimum payments does not provide much progress. Making larger payments means more money will go to paying down the principal of the loan and you will speed up repayment.
3. Make additional payments each month.
Making extra payments targeted toward the principal balance each month will greatly speed up your debt repayment. You’ll have less interest accrued and and a higher percentage will go toward principal. Any time you get extra money on hand, plan to make an extra loan payment.
4. Find more money in your budget for payments.
Making a budget and sticking to it will help you free up more money to pay toward your student loans each month. Creating a budget and then tracking your spending will help you find out which expenses you can cut. The money you free up by budgeting can be used to pay down your student loans faster.
5. Explore your student loan repayment options.
While you can’t easily get rid of student loans, you can find a lot of ways to make paying them easier. You can look into refinancing your loans, setting up an income based repayment play, or even qualifying for public service loan forgiveness. You can also research if your company gives any options for student loan repayment. Many of these options can help you pay down your loan faster.
6. Make more money.
Finding ways to make extra income will help you tremendously when you are paying off your student loans. I used extra income from my blog and babysitting jobs to make extra payments toward my student loans. Whenever I could work extra on the weekends I took the chance so that I could throw the extra money toward repaying the student loans.
7. Stay motivated.
Paying off debt sucks. There is no way around it. It’s hard to stay motivated and continue to follow your plan when it feels like your money is disappearing with no benefit. Stay motivated by reading great books about debt or listening to podcasts or talking to friends and family about achieving your debt payoff goals.
No matter what plan you are on, planning and discipline are what really helps pay off student loans faster.
Paying Off Parent Plus Student Loans
Update: In 2018 I starting paying off parent plus loans that were taken out for my education. Despite promises that these loans would not be my responsibility, I decided to pay them back to help out my family.
I paid off the first $13,000 in six months and plan to complete the debt payment by the end of 2020. Paying off $43,000 in just two years is even more rapid than my original student loan debt payments.
Ultimately the decision on whether or not to pay off loans in someone else’s name is a very personal decision. In my case I decided to go ahead and treat the loans like they were mine even if they weren’t in my name, because they were used for my education.
How long did it take you to pay off your student loans?
I’m curious how long it took other people to pay off their student loans. Was it a long process for you? Did you pay the minimum payments? Or did you throw large chunks of money at your loans like I did?
If you haven’t paid off your student loans yet, how long will it take you? Do you have an estimated pay off date? What’s your payment plan? Is it longer than normal or shorter?
Also, what is the longest you’ve heard for someone paying off student loans? I’m curious how far these things stick around with people – it’s kinda scary! I’ve heard callers to the Dave Ramsey show in their 50s and 60s paying off student loans!