For the average student, debt can feel overwhelming. You’ve just graduated from college, and now you have to pay back a lot of money just as you’re trying to find a job and make your way in the world.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average amount of student debt was $30,100 for people who graduated in 2015. Furthermore, 69 percent of college students graduated with debt. That’s nearly 7 out of 10.
For graduates in the Northeast, the average student debt is higher than the national average. Last year, New Hampshire graduates had the highest average student debt in the nation at $36,101 per borrower. Not to mention that 76 percent of New Hampshire’s class of 2015 graduated with debt.
The important thing is that debt can be paid off.
Five tips for recent graduates and students to stay on top of their student debt:
Know your loans
First of all, know the terms and conditions of your loans. Are they federal or private? What are the interest rates? What’s the repayment schedule? View your loans at the National Student Loan Data System, a central database of student aid maintained by the U.S. Department of Education. AAA also offers private student loans as well as financial aid guidance.
Pay early, pay often
Start repaying loans early – ideally while you are still in school – because every bit helps. Earlier payments equal less interest. Even a small amount now saves you a lot later. And pay more than the minimum if you can. Pay every payday, when you get bonuses and tax refunds or even just pay extra once a year. It all helps.
Set a budget
Know how much of your money needs to be set aside to pay off loans. Create a budget to stay aware of how much money you have coming in, and what expenses you have going out. This will help you keep on track and develop a repayment strategy.
Do not miss a payment
Set up automatic payments to stay on schedule. Not only does missing a payment increase the interest on a loan, it adds late fees, which could lead to default. If you cannot pay your loans, call your lender and discuss payment plans. You may be able to consolidate, lessen or even postpone your payments.
Explore your options
There are many ways to reduce your loan payments. For example, look into consolidating your loans – grouping all of your debt into one payment with a fixed interest rate. Consolidation can lower your monthly payment, but it may extend the repayment period.
Ask about income-driven repayment plans. These plans readjust loan payments based on your income and the size of your family.
Consider a new job. Certain employers and careers offer loan forgiveness programs in exchange for working in high-need areas. In particular, public service careers will forgive certain federal loans after 10 years of payments. This applies to all sorts of employers, so look to see if you qualify.
Check out possibilities and options often, as what is right for you now may not be right for you later.
More questions to ask before borrowing:
Do I have to borrow?
While taking an auto loan or a personal loan can connect you with funds in just a few days, you may want to ask yourself if you could avoid borrowing by waiting a bit longer and putting money into a savings account. You typically earn interest on money in a savings account, and you’ll avoid borrowing costs.
Should I cover myself, and my investment?
The payout from a totaled car doesn’t always cover the remaining balance on an auto loan. GAP coverage – guaranteed asset protection – is intended to help in such a situation. Some borrowers also take on debt protection coverage. It protects borrowers if they become disabled or unemployed and can’t make loan payments.
Is this the best credit card offer available?
When weighing credit card offers, you should always consider the account’s interest rate and the type of rewards you get for using the card. The AAA Member Visa Rewards Card, for example, offers triple points on qualifying AAA travel purchases.
AAA offers student lending services and resources at AAA.com/FinancialAid.