If you are struggling to pay your student loans in today’s economy, you are not alone. According to The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization, "about two in three (65 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2018 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $29,200". It may seem impossible to make enough money to provide for yourself and your student loans every month, but read on to learn how to keep your wages intact.
If you have loans from the Federal government and stop paying your monthly loan, your debt will be considered “delinquent” after 90 days. Your delinquency will be reported to the major credit bureaus. When this happens, you can lose the ability to sign a lease, buy a car, or even turn on new utilities. Bad credit also makes it impossible for you to obtain another loan so your choices are limited.
If you don’t make an effort to work with whatever programs may be available to help you, you will go into default on your loan after 270 days of non-payment. If you end up in default, your loan will be accelerated. This term just means that your entire loan and all interest for the loan becomes due immediately. At this point, the federal government can legally garnish your wages. Garnishment means that they will take a portion up to 15% out of each paycheck that you receive as repayment for your student loan.
Apply for Aid
To avoid student loan garnishment, visit studentaid.gov and see what your options may be. There are several possibilities that may help you if you are struggling financially. Read on to learn about your options.
Income Based Repayment
Check out the Loan Simulator at studentaid.gov or contact your loan servicer to see if you are eligible for a lower monthly payment amount under the Income-Based Repayment Plan
Deferments & Forbearances
Deferments and forbearances are limited amounts of time that you are not required to pay your loan due to economic hardship or other extenuating circumstances. These are programs you must apply for through Student Aid.
A grace period after you finish school can be extended if you are called to active military duty before the end of your grace period or if you return to school half time before the end of your grace period.
Apply for a Consolidated Loan or a Lower Interest Private Loan
If you have more than one Federal loan, you may be able to consolidate the loans into one loan with a lower monthly payment. Also, with a good credit score, you may qualify for another type of loan. Some creditors and lenders have better terms than others. Don’t give up the fight to find your way through this maze.
Pay Down the Principal
When paying back student loans, it is important to always pay the most you can toward the principal. Any extra money paid toward the principal part of the loan will save you thousands in interest money over the years of your loan. Paying the principal down can also literally take years off of the life of your loan. The Consumer FInancial Consumer Protection Agency declares that "If you are financially able to make payments or continue making payments on your student loans, any payments you make after March 13 will be applied directly to principal. This will help you pay off your loans faster.”
Time is Ticking Down
Also, if your federal student loan is already in default, The Department of Education has stopped the collection of defaulted federal student loans, including garnishment of wages and the offset of tax refunds and Social Security benefits, through December 31, 2020. This means that you have a few months to find a job or cut back on expenses so that you can get back on track with your student loan payments.
Work on a Budget
To keep your good credit, it is worth going without extras and working a bit harder until you can make that loan payment monthly. If you work out a budget and stick to it, you can often do more than you thought. You may have to take a job you don't like, but if you start working, you are more likely to keep finding employment. Staying current on your loans and going through some hardship may feel depressing right now, but as you finish paying that loan off in a few years, you will be able to recognize yourself for working hard and accomplishing paying for your education.
Seek Wise Counsel
If you do not qualify for one of the above options, do not give up hope. There are still ways to make this situation manageable. Keep seeking answers until you find the way out. Sometimes, we just need to gain some knowledge about how loans, finances, and budgets work. Keep asking people who know how to help or seek more knowledge from informational and educational websites.
If you need someone who is on your side and can help you find your way, seek out an attorney who specializes in consumer protection. There are loan companies that engage in predatory lending practices that you will need to avoid. There are also easier and harder ways of working through student loan debt. A knowledgeable attorney can often help you see the light at the end of the tunnel.