How to Deal with Student Loan Debt
During a recent online discussion, lots of people had questions about student loan debt. Here are my answers to a couple I didn't get a chance to address.
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One person wanted to know whether when carrying student loan debt -- in this case at 7 percent -- you should dip into your savings to pay it off. The reader wrote: "The debt would be paid off in a year at my current payment rate. Since the interest rate is so high, I'd like to raid my savings to just be rid of it. My job is stable, so otherwise I'd keep my savings just in case I had a car repair, a needed new roof, etc. What do you think?"
I'm an advocate of getting rid of debt as soon as you can -- unless you feel you're in jeopardy of losing your job or you know there's a big expense to cover soon. Otherwise, why hang on to the debt like it's a pet rock? Why put out the extra money in interest, especially if your savings aren't earning much in a bank account?
In this case, the person won't completely drain his or her savings. So pay off the student loan. Lift that weight off your shoulders a year early and then take the money you were paying on the debt and rebuild your savings.
And while one person is getting rid of student debt, another asked about taking it on.
"I've been putting my niece through college and now I'm getting to the point where we're going to have to look for more ways to finance it," the reader wrote. "It's not an option for her to move closer to home and transfer schools, so I'm wondering how student loans work. She has two loans through the school, but are there other loans she can get? Or is the only other option to take out personal loans from a bank?"
I can't skip over the fact that this person is helping out a niece. How magnanimous. My husband and I helped pay for some college costs for two of our nieces.
But I have to ask: Was there ever a long-term plan for how you were going to cover the costs over the years?
I'm guessing the answer is no. Had the reader had this discussion, it should have been factored into where the niece attended school. A closer school where the student could commute would have been financially wiser -- at least trimming the cost of room and board. I bring this up not to make the relative feel bad but to help others facing a similar situation.
Source: Washington Post
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Or e-mail: email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com .
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