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Your 6-Step Plan for Managing Student Loans—and the Tools to Help You Do It

April 05, 2021 · 4 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Your 6-Step Plan for Managing Student Loans—and the Tools to Help You Do It

When you’re struggling to pay student loans, it helps to know you’re not alone. Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt. It may not be easy to deal with, but there is good news: You live in the digital age!

Want to redecorate your home? There’s an app for that. Manage your bucket list? There’s an app for that, too.

Yet you’re busy and there’s no quick way to filter through hundreds of online student loan resources to find the best tools and apps for your needs, so here are some in a six-pronged plan to manage your student loans and get your spending and saving on track to meet all of your financial goals.

6 Steps to Help Manage Student Loans

Step 1: Get Organized and Face Your Total Loan Debt

It can be scary to meet your loan debt head-on, but you can’t take steps to get out of debt until you know exactly how much you owe.

So take a deep breath and consider downloading Debt Payoff Planner. The app will tell you how many years you have to go until you’re debt-free. Add your loans, input your balance, minimum payment, and annual percentage rate, and then create a payoff plan.

One benefit of the app is the ability to see the result of making minimum payments vs. additional payments.

Debt Manager is another app for fans of popular debt repayment plans. Once you’ve repaid one loan, the app automatically applies payments to the next loan in the queue.

You can also use SoFi’s student loan calculator to estimate your monthly student loan payments.

And SoFi’s student loan payoff calculator will give you an idea of your loan payoff date.

Step 2: Review Your Rates and Terms

You don’t want to pay more loan interest than you have to, right?

First, you may want to bone up on the topics of consolidating vs. refinancing and federal income-driven repayment plans vs. refinancing with a private lender.

And it’s best to know how interest adds up .

If refinancing is intriguing, here’s a good student loan refinancing calculator.

Step 3: Protect Your Credit Score—It’s Gold

Protecting your credit is critical while you’re in debt and once you’re out of it.

If you’re thinking about refinancing your loans, making a major purchase (like a home or a car), getting a new credit card, or simply setting yourself up for general financial success, you need to have good credit.

You can track your credit score at no cost, with weekly updates to help you stay on top of when your score changes, with SoFi Relay’s credit score monitoring.

Step 4: Set a Budget and Know Where Your Money Is Going

You need to stay on top of your money, especially when paying off student loans. So a great budgeting app is a must-have.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) helps you put every dollar to work, finds wasted money in your budget, and holds you accountable to your goals.

Mvelopes allows you to connect your bank accounts, pay your bills, and upload receipts so you can see your budget work in real time.

SoFi Relay tracks all of your money in one place. Along with seeing credit score changes, you can set monthly spending targets and review your top spending categories.

Wally is another budget app with nice features. You get a 360-degree view of your finances, bill payment reminders, and even virtual pats on the back when you reach your money milestones.

Mint earns an honorable mention.

Step 5: Look Into Employer-Provided Options

More and more companies are recognizing that student loan debt hampers their employees’ ability to contribute to a 401(k) or savings account, so they’re offering student loan assistance.

Through 2025, employers can make a tax-exempt annual contribution of up to $5,250 per employee toward eligible education debt. By lightening the debt load, employers are helping to prepare workers to meet future financial goals.

SoFi is not only part of this movement but it’s helping to lead the charge. SoFi at Work provides employees with a snapshot of their finances, a suite of tools to help them make good decisions, and a portal to their benefits.

You may want to ask your human resources department if you’re eligible for this benefit.

Step 6: Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture

When you focus on a specific goal, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. So it’s best to keep in mind that student loans are only part of your overall financial picture.

In addition to budgeting monthly for food, entertainment and utilities, you might have a car loan and rent or a mortgage to pay. And all that spending should be tracked.

Broad personal finance management sites like Mint and YNAB can help you manage your student loans with an eye on the future. Using your log-in details for credit cards, bank accounts, and lenders, these sites update your information on a regular basis, providing you with a comprehensive financial overview.

Personal Capital is a popular app for seeing all money accounts in one place, in real time.

Recommended: 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Student Loan Refinance Lender

Not all accounts are free by any means, but SoFi Money® has no account fees. It’s a cash management account that earns interest and offers cash-back rewards. Money can be tucked into vaults for goals or an emergency fund. Checks can be deposited from your phone, and more.

Student loans can be overwhelming—we get it! But remember that when you’re in debt, information is your friend.

The Takeaway

How to manage student loans? Step 1 is to know exactly what you owe. Then follow five more steps to help harness your overall debt and income. Apps, calculators, and knowledge lead the way.

If refinancing student loans—combining all loans into one new private loan, with a new, hopefully lower, interest rate and/or new term—seems intriguing, it’s easy to check your rate.

An advantage that SoFi loans and apps offer that others do not is access to a range of exclusive benefits when you sign up for any SoFi product and become a member.

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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
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