I Due: How To Tackle Student Loan Debt Without Sidelining Your Marriage

Getting married soon? Congratulations! Just be warned—there comes a moment in many weddings when half the guests suddenly slip away to watch a big game (just follow the cheers to find your wedding party).

Football especially is a pretty good analogy for a wedding – after all, in both football and marriage, you’re either tackling things together or you’re being tackled by them. Money is a common example of this (in marriage, not football), as the growing number of couples dealing with student loan debt can attest.

Whether the loans belong to you, your spouse or all of the above, once you get married it doesn’t really matter anymore. Paying off debt is now something you can tackle together. It may be tough, but with open communication and planning you can work as a team to get that student loan linebacker off your, er, back.

So what’s the best strategy for taking down student loans without letting them clobber your marriage? Here are five tips for proactively – and collaboratively – running a play that could help lead to the big pay-off: a debt-free happily ever after.

Tip #1: Create Your Big Financial Picture

Preparing to take on a big financial goal usually requires some conversation and preparation upfront. Before making any decisions, sit down and talk about your short- and long-term financial objectives, and make sure you’re both on the same page (or as close to it as possible). This can be an overwhelming topic, so see if you can break it down into chunks.

Have you established a household budget? How do student loans (and paying them off) fit into your long-term and short-term goals? Should you start aggressively paying off debt, or might it be better for you to ramp up over time? What other factors (e.g., buying a home, changing careers, having children, etc.) could affect your decisions?

Not only can this exercise help give you more clarity to create an action plan, it can also actually be kind of fun – after all, planning a life together is part of the reason you got married in the first place. The key is to listen to each other and remember that you’re both on the same team.

Tip #2: Take Advantage of Technology

Once you’re clear on the big picture, it’s time to get into the weeds. Many people have more than one student loan, often with multiple lenders, so a good place to start can be to gather all of your loan info in one place. You can use an online student loan management tool to collect this information, compare student loan repayment options, and even analyze prepayment strategies.

After crunching the numbers, your debt payoff strategy may include putting extra money toward your loans each month, which means creating and sticking to a budget that supports that goal. Platforms like Mint and Learnvest can help you aggregate household accounts and track spending.

Note: tracking your spending so precisely may feel like ripping off a bandage at first, but over time, this kind of discipline can help you better see where your money goes and help you make conscious choices about your spending. And once you have your budget in place, these apps can be set up to alert you both when spending is getting off track.

Tip #3: Define The Who, What, When

Whether your finances are separate or combined, you’ll probably want to come to an agreement on how to collectively pay all of your financial obligations. Many couples address this based on each person’s share of the total household income.

For example, if one person makes 40% and the other makes 60%, the former might pay 40% of the shared bills and the latter might pay 60%. Others find it simpler and more cohesive to have one household checking account and pay all bills from there.

However you decide to split things up, it could make things much easier to agree upon a plan that accounts for everything, because missed payments can potentially impact your credit (and/or your spouse’s), making your future financial objectives that much tougher to achieve.

Tip #4: Look For Opportunities to Optimize

Okay, so now you’ve established a plan and a budget, and you know who’s on point for each bill. You’re on the path to getting student loan debt off your plate. Is there anything else you can do to speed up the process?

Short of winning the lottery, the most common ways to accelerate student loan payoff are prepayment (meaning, paying more than the minimum) or lowering the interest rate, the latter of which is most commonly accomplished through refinancing.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans, you have a few possibilities: you can lower your monthly payments (by choosing a longer term) or lower your interest rate (which could also lower your monthly payments) – or you could shorten the payment term, and that means you could save money on interest over the life of the loan – money that could come in handy for those other financial goals you’ve both agreed to pursue.

Tip #5: Be on the Same Team

Living with debt is stressful for any couple, but being part of a relationship has its advantages, too. There’s a reason that weight loss experts often recommend finding a “buddy” to help cheer you on and keep you honest in your diet and exercise journey – and the same applies for achieving a big goal like paying off student loan debt.

Keep it positive and keep the lines of communication open, and you may even find that the journey to being debt-free makes your marriage even stronger – so you can take the hits that come your way as easily as your favorite team does.

Check out SoFi to see how you can save money by refinancing your student loans.

The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.


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How To Refinance Your Car And Lower Your Payment

You love your car, whether it’s a bare-bones hatchback or a souped-up Escalade. After all, it gets you places and keeps you from having to wait outside in the cold for the bus.

But maybe you’re struggling to make the payments on your auto loan, or you’re worried your interest rate is higher than it should be. No one likes to overpay, and there are a lot of reasons why you might be paying more than you need to on your auto loan. So how do you lower your monthly car payment?

The easiest fix is to refinance your auto loan. Refinancing a car will allow you to potentially qualify for a lower interest rate on your loan. This could potentially save you money, lower your monthly payment, or both. Or, you can also look into extending your repayment over a longer period of time.

But before you get on the phone with your car dealer to ask about your auto loan, you might want to consider the different ways you can refinance. Many people assume that the only way to refinance an auto loan is to replace it with another auto loan—but that’s not actually the case. In fact, you might find that using a personal loan to refinance your auto loan is actually a better idea.

When it’s Smart to Refinance a Car

There are a lot of reasons refinancing a car could be a great idea. One common reason is that you have improved your credit score since originally taking out your auto loan, so you’re likely to qualify for a more favorable rate now.

That’s partly because if you take out an auto loan and make your payments on time, often your credit will naturally improve as long as you’re diligent when it comes to credit in other areas of your life as well.

But there are other reasons you might suddenly qualify for a better interest rate. Maybe interest rates have gone down since you originally took out your loan, or maybe a slick car salesman convinced you to get an auto loan directly from the dealership–and charged you a premium for it. You might have gotten your ride more quickly, but you’ve since realized that you’re throwing money away on your auto loan.

One final factor that could be important when considering when to refinance a car is whether you need a lower monthly payment. Life changes fast—and sometimes you don’t have as much expendable income as you once did. Refinancing allows you to lower your interest rate, but it also lets you extend the term of your auto loan so that you end up paying less monthly.

Auto Loans vs Personal Loans

When it comes to refinancing your car loan, you can either get another car loan, or you can think outside the box and get a personal loan to pay off your car. An auto loan is a secured loan in which your car is used as collateral.

That means that if you don’t make your payments, your car can potentially get repossessed. In contrast, a personal loan is an unsecured loan that you can take out for [personal, family or household purposes. There is no collateral involved. Personal loans often have broader terms, options, and rates—and they can cost you less over the course of your loan.

One important thing to note is that since auto loans are amortized loans, you pay more interest at the beginning of your loan. So the sooner you’re able to refinance your auto loan for a lower rate, the more you’ll save.

To start the refinancing process, you first need to consider how much you’re currently paying on your auto loan. Look at both your monthly payment and your interest rate. Then you need to figure out what your refinanced interest rate and monthly payment would be if you used an auto loan versus a personal loan.

If you didn’t have great credit when you took out your auto loan, you could be paying from 7% to 15% interest on your car loan. By refinancing, you might be able to qualify for a new auto loan or a personal loan, with interest rates starting around 4% or 5%.

Deciding Between the Two

Personal loans are beneficial because you can take them out for personal, family or household purposes, and you have a wide range of what the loan can cover. Also, if you have good credit and a steady income, the interest rates that you’ll qualify for on a personal loan can be very competitive.

You’ll likely be able to get better terms on your personal loan—like the option to extend your payment schedule—and there might be fewer hidden fees. SoFi, for example, offers personal loans with zero fees or hidden costs.

When it comes to refinancing your auto loan with a brand-new auto loan, one key benefit is that you could be more likely to qualify if you don’t have good credit. And you could still get a lower interest rate, because it’s a secured loan.

However, the terms on your refinanced auto loan aren’t likely to be as good. For example, if your car is too old, you might not qualify for refinancing at all. Furthermore, an auto loan is usually tied to things like the age, make, and model of the car.

If you are able to refinance, you might not qualify for a desirable term length because the depreciation on your car might not make it worthwhile as collateral. In addition, you could struggle to refinance your auto loan if you currently owe more on your car than your car is worth—either because you paid too much for your car or because your car depreciated quickly.

Interested in taking out a personal loan to refinance your auto loan? Check out SoFi personal loans today.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website . on credit.


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6 Real Questions About Your Emergency Fund—Answered

You probably already know that you should have an emergency fund—a bit of extra cash on hand in case of an unforeseen event, like getting laid off or needing to move.

But many of us don’t know more than that. How much should you have? How, exactly, do you save that cash? And should you focus on building this fund or paying off debt first?

SoFi advisor and Certified Financial Planner Alison Norris recently talked about all of this and more at a recent #WealthWednesday discussion on the SoFi Member Facebook page. (Yep, SoFi members have daily access to complimentary advisors on social media and via phone—check out more about the SoFi Member Benefits.)

And today, we’re bringing that discussion, as well as other common questions about emergency funds and her expert answers, to you.

How much should I have in an emergency fund?

Your emergency fund should be three to 12 times the amount you spend monthly. The exact amount should reflect your risk aversion to unexpected unemployment. If you have reason to believe you could quickly land another job—say, you’re a software engineer in San Francisco—then you might be comfortable with three months’.

If, on the other hand, you’d expect a longer job search—for example, you’re in a specialized line of work, or a finding a new job would likely entail moving to a new city—your emergency fund should reflect that

Also, consider this: Would you be willing to amend your lifestyle if income slows or something costly crops up? If you’re OK living on a friend’s couch eating ramen, then you might survive with a smaller rainy day fund. If you wish to keep living the life you’re accustomed to, then you may want more of a backup.

Where should I keep my emergency fund—my checking account, a savings account, or elsewhere?

You want to keep your emergency fund money “liquid,” or available to access as soon as you need it. It’s also smart to separate cash on hand from your emergency fund. Cash on hand can be left in your checking account, earmarked for paying upcoming bills. Your emergency fund works well in a FDIC-insured savings account.

With that said, many savings accounts only pay you 0.01% interest on cash balances. This doesn’t keep pace with inflation, so you’re essentially losing money. Instead, you might consider a high-yield savings account that earns 1.0% interest or more. Bankrate is a good place to compare your options.

What do you suggest if you have roughly $5K built up so far for an emergency fund and also about $3K in credit card debt?

Should I wipe out the debt and then build the fund back up, or chip away at the debt and maintain the fund?

I might suggest knocking out that credit card debt in full. Here’s the order of operations that works best for most:

•   1. Keep enough cash on hand to pay recurring bills and avoid living paycheck to paycheck. (This isn’t your emergency fund, just cash that’s good to have on hand.)

•   2. If your employer matches contributions to a retirement plan, max out that match.

•   3. Pay off consumer debt, including high-interest credit cards.

•   4. Build your emergency fund.

Also keep in mind that the comfort of having a cash cushion and not living on the financial edge may outweigh other purely financial benefits of wiping out high-interest debt. Sleeping soundly at night is another benefit to building up an emergency fund.

Could a credit line be considered a pseudo emergency fund?

While I don’t have credit card debt, I do have a ton of student loans I want to pay off more aggressively. My credit cards would allow me to live for a good three months or so if I needed to.

I commend your desire to pay off your student loans aggressively, but I wouldn’t do so if it means you would instead have revolving credit card debt.

Say, for example, you have a 6% rate on your student loans and a 20% rate on your credit card loans, and $1,000 in outstanding debt with both. You’ll end up paying $140 less toward your student loan each year (maybe even less because there are tax deductions for student loan interest). I might suggest prioritizing the emergency fund while making minimum payments on your student loans.

What’s the best way to save up for my emergency fund, quickly?

The basic equation for wealth building is: Money In – Money Out = Money Saved.

But you don’t need us to tell you how math works. The key is to figure out which levers to pull to increase your odds of success.

Start by tracking your expenses, either in a spreadsheet or using a free service like Mint.com. You’ll quickly get a handle on your monthly cash flows, which will enable you to target an emergency savings goal tailored to your needs.

The next step is key: Pay yourself first. Schedule recurring auto-deposits into your savings account to coincide with your paychecks. You’ll find this cash flow will quickly become painless and invisible. More importantly, it ensures that when you overspend in a given month, it’s discretionary items—like eating out one more time—that get cut, rather than your savings.

I’m almost at my savings goal for my emergency fund. Where should I put my money next?

The earlier you save for retirement, the better, so you can let the power of compounding interest work for you. And even better than compounding is free money. For both reasons, the first place to invest for retirement should be in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, if you have access to one.

Many employers will match part of your contribution, which is essentially free money. Once that match is met, aim to keep contributing to tax-advantaged accounts. You can invest in the employer retirement beyond your match, contribute to an IRA, or (our preferred strategy) both. To understand which IRA account you can contribute to, use this IRA calculator.

From there, document your assets and liabilities. Know your good debt from bad. A mortgage or student loan? Good. A high-interest credit card? Not so good. Also write down your long- and short-term goals—for example, paying for wedding, saving for a house down payment, or even taking a summer vacation.

Once you’re saving for retirement, you can plan a savings or investment strategy for these goals, based on their time horizon.

Are you ready to start saving? Learn more about SoFi Invest® to see if it is the right fit for you!

SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.
SoFi doesn’t provide tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique. Consult with a qualified tax advisor or attorney.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi Checking and SavingsTM is offered through SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.


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Life After Refi: 6 Things to Do With Your Student Loan Refinance Savings

Student loan refinancing is most likely the first major financial decision you’ve made as a young professional—and it was a smart one. For starters, you’ve achieved an immediate psychological win, and you can breathe easier knowing you’ve taken a strong step toward eliminating your student loan burden.

Plus, by scoring a lower interest rate and more manageable monthly payments, you now have wiggle room to chalk up some other financial gains.tr

Here’s how to get cracking on achieving major money milestones now that you’ve refinanced your student loans:

1. Track Your Spending

If you haven’t already created a budget, do so and take it seriously. Tracking your income and expenses—and automating monthly loan payments—will give you a sense of where your money goes, and guide you toward spending mindfully.

Budgeting will also help you allocate cash toward your short-term (i.e., home down payment) and long-term (retirement) savings objectives.

2. Pull Out Your Crystal Ball

Now that your student loans are no longer suffocating you, give some thought to what’s next on your personal and career agendas, and how you’ll accomplish those goals. Do you plan on relocating for a new job? Is marriage in your future? Children? Focus on the debt you currently carry and how it influences your long-term financial objectives.

Since student loan refinancing reduced your interest rate, you can save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. That means you can continue to make minimum payments and redirect those savings toward growing your investment portfolio, reducing bad debt, or saving for a wedding, for example.

Think about it this way: A big drop in loan interest usually means that more of your payment can go toward the principal than before, especially if you’ve been paying the loan for a while. Other factors at play might include a new loan term, so start number-crunching. You’ll likely realize that putting extra funds toward maxing out your 401(k) instead of accelerating your loan payments, for instance, will garner a higher return.

Related: How Student Loans Could Impact Your Taxes

3. Become Conscious of Tradeoffs

In order to complete your money missions, you’ll have to accept that they come with tradeoffs and sacrifices. This mindset will help you avoid falling victim to “lifestyle inflation”—the idea that as you earn more, your needs and desires get more expensive.

So instead of joining another wine club, for example, focus on actions that provide long-term value and happiness, such as strengthening your investment portfolio and saving for a home.

Learning to make sacrifices early in life will keep you on the right track financially. That being said, don’t feel like you have to give up everything you enjoy. Go ahead and celebrate wins, make memories, and treat yourself to nice things—just avoid deviating too far from your big-picture goals.

4. Tackle High-Interest Credit

If you have credit card debt, dealing with it is of the utmost importance. The money you’ll save by eliminating a revolving balance that typically carries an interest rate of 15% or more can go toward building your nest egg or saving for your child’s education.

Consider consolidating your credit cards into a personal loan to secure a lower interest rate. Paying down credit card debt can also improve your credit score, which will help you qualify for more favorable interest rates and terms in the future.

Debt utilization—the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limit—is the second biggest factor that FICO and other scoring models use to calculate your credit score. So if you have a $10,000 credit card limit and owe $7,500, that equates to a 75% debt utilization rate. To maximize your credit score, aim to keep that rate under 30 percent, but as close to zero as possible.

Read Next: Two Couples Open Up About How They Manage Money, Together

5. Save For Your Dream Home

When you’re hoping to buy your first home, coming up with a down payment is probably your biggest obstacle. But the savings from your newly refinanced student loan and—should you choose it—credit card consolidation can get you on track.

If you live in a high-rent city or plan on relocating to one, buying a home could be just as affordable as renting. Plus, you can save for a down payment while still paying down your student loans. The fact is, you might not even have to save as much as you think.

Although conventional wisdom says to put 20% down on a home, you might qualify for a mortgage loan with as little as 10% down, or even just 3.5% if you go with a government-insured FHA mortgage .

To get started, create a home savings account and automate deposits to it each pay period. You’re more likely to stick with it if you never actually have the cash in hand. You might also consider tapping into other assets, such as a Roth IRA, which allows you a one-time, penalty-free withdrawal if you’re using it for a first-time home purchase.

6. Fund and Contribute to Retirement Accounts

Using your student loan refinancing savings to fund your retirement accounts will put you that much ahead of the game. If you have an employer-matching 401(k) that you’re not maxing out, that should be your first move.

If you have savings left over, contribute to an individual retirement account, such as a traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA. For more information on which IRA account you can contribute to, check out SoFi’s IRA calculator. Choose a low-cost investment platform to save on fees while building your savings.

Just be aware that you may be penalized and taxed for early withdrawals, so work with a professional. Investing in retirement while in your 20s and 30s will make a huge difference in the long run, thanks to compound interest, which allows your earnings to also earn interest.

Leveraging the money you save by refinancing to achieve your financial goals takes forethought and determination, but the sooner you get started, the better. Whether it’s buying a home, developing a strong investment portfolio, or finally achieving debt-free status, putting your money to work for you will get you closer to your dreams.

Speak to a SoFi Invest® Advisor today to help put your post-refinance game plan in motion.

SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.
SoFi doesn’t provide tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances are unique. Consult with a qualified tax advisor or attorney.


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