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What Student Loan Repayment Plan Should You Choose? Take the Quiz

Federal student loans offer a specific selection of repayment plans that borrowers can choose from. Federal student loan borrowers may be assigned a repayment plan when they begin loan repayment, but they can change their repayment plan at any time without fees.

Choosing the right repayment plan may feel overwhelming, but understanding the repayment plans available to federal student loan borrowers can help.

The student loan repayment options for federal loans covered in this article are:

•   Standard Repayment Plan

•   Extended Repayment Plan

•   Graduated Repayment Plan

•   Income-Driven Repayment Plans

The Standard Repayment Plan is 10 years (10 to 30 years for those with Consolidation Loans) and usually has the highest monthly payments, but it allows borrowers to repay their loans in the shortest period of time. That may help a borrower pay less in accrued interest over the life of the loan.

The Extended Repayment plan stretches out the repayment period so that you’re putting money toward student loans for up to 25 years. Payments can be fixed or they may increase gradually over time. This repayment plan may be worth considering for borrowers who have more than $30,000 in federal Direct Loans and cannot meet the monthly payments on the Standard Repayment Plan.

On the Graduated Repayment Plan, the repayment period is typically 10 (10 to 30 years for those with Consolidation Loans). The monthly payments start out low and then increase every two years. This plan may be worth considering for borrowers who have a relatively low income now, but anticipate that their salary may increase substantially over time.

Income-Driven Repayment plans tie a borrower’s income to their monthly payments. These options may be worth considering for borrowers who are struggling to make payments under the other payment plans or who are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Choosing a repayment plan is one of the basics of student loans. For help determining which plan may be a good choice for your situation, you can take this quiz. Or, you can go directly to the overviews of the different repayment plans below to get a better understanding of them.

Quiz: What Student Loan Repayment Plan is Right for You?

Student Loan Repayment Plan Options for Federal Student Loans

Standard Repayment Plan

The Standard Repayment Plan ​is essentially the default repayment plan for federal student loans. This plan extends repayment up to 10 years (10 to 30 years for those with Consolidation Loans) and monthly payments are set at a fixed amount. The interest on the loan remains the same as when it was originally disbursed.

One of the benefits of the Standard Repayment plan is that it may save you money in interest over the life of your loan because, generally, you’ll pay back your loan in the shortest amount of time (10 years) compared to the other federal repayment plans (20 to 30 years).

A common challenge associated with the standard repayment plan is that payments can be too high for some borrowers to manage. Remember that this is the default option when it comes time to set up a repayment plan, so if you would prefer another option, you’ll need to choose one when the time comes to start repaying your loans.

Student Loans Eligible for the Standard Repayment Plan

The following federal loans are eligible for the Standard Repayment Plan:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Direct Consolidation Loans

•   Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   FFEL PLUS Loans

•   FFEL Consolidation Loans

Extended Repayment Plan

If you have over $30,000 in Direct Loan debt and the payments are too high for you to manage on the standard 10-year repayment plan, you can choose the Extended Repayment Plan for your federal loans. Under this plan, the term is up to 25 years and payments are generally lower than with the Standard and Graduated Repayment Plans. You can also choose between fixed or graduated payments.

If you’re eligible, an Extended Repayment Plan can provide significant relief if you’re struggling to pay your monthly loan payments by lengthening your term and potentially lowering your monthly payments.

This can help keep you out of default (which is important!). But it is critical to be aware that lengthening your loan term usually means you will be paying significantly more interest over the life of the loan — because it will take you longer to pay off your loan — and it may not give you the lowest monthly payments, depending on your circumstances.

Student Loans Eligible for the Extended Repayment Plan

The following federal loans are eligible for the Extended Repayment Plan:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Direct Consolidation Loans

•   Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   FFEL PLUS Loans

•   FFEL Consolidation Loans

Graduated Repayment Plan

With this plan, you would pay your federal student loans back over a 10-year period (10 to 30 years for Consolidations Loans), with lower payments at the beginning of the term that gradually increase every two years.

The idea behind the Graduated Repayment Plan is that a borrower’s income will likely increase over time, but may not be much at the start of their career.

Of course, the income boost may not happen. With this plan, because interest keeps accruing on the outstanding principal balance over a longer period of time, even though you’re making payments, the longer you take to repay your loan(s), the more interest you’ll wind up paying in the end. (Remember, more payments with interest = more interest paid total.)

Student Loans Eligible for the Graduated Repayment Plan

The following federal loans are eligible for the Graduated Repayment Plan:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•   Direct PLUS Loans

•   Direct Consolidation Loans

•   Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•   FFEL PLUS Loans

•   FFEL Consolidation Loans

💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Each of the three plans listed above (Standard, Extended, and Graduated) are considered traditional repayment plans. Income-Driven Repayment Plans , though, are different because the student loan payment amount is based upon the borrower’s income and family size.

To be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, you’ll need to go through a recertification process each year, and your monthly payment could change (increase or decrease) annually based upon your current income and family size.

Maximum payments are set at 10% or 20% of what’s considered your discretionary income (the difference between 150% of the poverty guideline and your adjusted gross income), depending on the loan and the plan. There are multiple types of income-driven plans, including:

•   Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)

•   Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)

•   Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), the new plan announced by the Biden Administration that’s replacing the Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE) plan

•   Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)

A significant advantage of using income-driven repayment plans is that your payment can be adjusted to accommodate a lower income. And, in most cases, if you choose one of these plans, any remaining balance after 20 or 25 years may be forgiven if repayment has been satisfactorily made.

Again, the longer you extend your loan term, the more payments (with interest) you’ll be making. Not all loans qualify for this type of program; you’ll need to be vigilant about recertifying for this repayment program and regularly provide updated information to the federal government. And, if the remaining portion of the debt is forgiven, you may owe taxes on that dollar amount.

Another Option to Consider: Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing student loans with a private lender allows borrowers to consolidate (that is, combine) the loans. This could help make repayment convenient because there will be just one monthly payment.

One of the other possible advantages of refinancing student loans is that borrowers who qualify for a lower interest rate may be able to reduce the amount of money they spend in interest over the life of the loan.

You typically need a certain credit score to qualify for student loan refinancing, along with other fairly standard lending qualifications (like income and employment verification, among other factors).

And know this: Once federal student loans are refinanced with a private lender, they will become ineligible for federal repayment plans, programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and other borrower protections like deferment or forbearance.

💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.

Repayment Plans for Private Student Loans

The repayment plans for private student loans are set by the lender. If you have private student loans,you can review the loan terms or contact the lender directly to review the payment options available to you. This private student loans guide may also help you learn more about how these loans work.

The Takeaway

Borrowers repaying federal student loans have three traditional repayment plans to choose from (Standard, Extended, and Graduated) and four Income-Driven Repayment Plans. When selecting a repayment plan, consider factors like your current income and expenses, potential future income, and career goals. For example, borrowers pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness will need to be in an income-driven repayment plan.

Those who choose a longer term to lower their payments, should keep in mind that this may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan. If the goal is to pay off debt more quickly and pay less back in interest overall, potential borrowers may pick a shorter term.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


External Websites: 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.

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The Pros and Cons of Graduated Repayment Plans

Graduation from college or grad school is a time to celebrate the great achievement of years of hard work. But once the party is over, many graduates will be thinking of their next steps: new careers, new cities, and a life filled with new experiences and responsibilities.

For most recent grads, one of those responsibilities is a major one — managing and organizing the repayment of student loans. The average undergrad leaves school with $37,388 in student loan debt, joining the growing population of Americans who, together, are repaying more than $1.7 trillion in student loans.

Student Loan Repayment Options

Managing the repayment of a federal student loan debt requires strategy, organization, diligence, and a bit of know-how, especially when it comes to picking a repayment plan.

There are several federal repayment options: the standard plan, income-driven plans, and the graduated repayment plan, among others. New grads can also consider consolidating or refinancing their student loans into one new loan with a new rate and new terms. For a recent grad overwhelmed by new choices and decisions, parsing out the details of these loans can be a chore — one that frequently gets ignored.

The graduated repayment plan has been somewhat replaced by newer repayment options, like income-based and income-contingent plans. For some borrowers, though, this plan can be a useful way to begin repayment slowly but still pay off federal loans in 10 years (10-30 years for consolidation loans).


💡 Quick Tip: Often, the main goal of refinancing is to lower the interest rate on your student loans — federal and/or private — by taking out one loan with a new rate to replace your existing loans. Refinancing makes sense if you qualify for a lower rate and you don’t plan to use federal repayment programs or protections.

How Do Graduated Repayment and Extended Graduated Repayment Plans Work?

Graduated Repayment Plan

The graduated repayment plan is designed to help keep repayment costs low for recent graduates who may have lower starting salaries, but who expect to see their salaries increase substantially over the next 10 years.

Under the graduated repayment plan, the repayment term for federal loans will be 10 years (10-30 years for consolidated loans), which is the same length as the standard repayment plan. With the standard repayment plan, you will pay the same fixed amount each month for the length of the term.

On the graduated plan, your payments will be lower than what you would pay if you were to stay on the standard plan, but never too low that you aren’t paying the amount of interest that is accruing each month. Then, every two years, your payment amount will increase.

Extended Graduated Repayment Plan

The extended graduated repayment plan is similar to the graduated plan, however, the repayment term is over 25 years rather than 10. Typically, borrowers who select this plan will have lower monthly payments than they would under the standard or graduated plan. While their payments will increase over time, they’ll do so more gradually than they would under the extended plan due to the longer term.

With this plan, borrowers may have a much lighter bill to pay each month than they would on many other plans, however, they will end up paying more in interest over time.

What Are the Benefits of a Graduated Repayment Plan?

The main benefit of the graduated repayment plan is that your payments will be low for the first few years of repayment. This can be a big help to recent graduates on entry-level salaries who may not have additional cash flow and are just learning how to build a solid financial foundation while staying within their budget.

Payments will increase over time, but your repayment term (for unconsolidated loans) is 10 years. This means that if you make scheduled payments, you’ll be finished paying off your debt relatively quickly. For Direct Consolidation Loans, your repayment period will depend on the amount of debt you have and could be between 10 and 30 years.

What Are the Drawbacks of a Graduated Repayment Plan?

There are a number of drawbacks to the graduated repayment plan, which can make it a less attractive option than some of the other repayment options available. First, even though you’ll be paying off your loans in 10 years, you will end up paying more in interest using this plan as opposed to the standard plan.

Why? Because with the graduated plan, you’re making lower payments in the first few years. As a result, you’re not paying down as much of the principle as you would be on the standard plan, which means you’re paying more in interest over time.

Another potential drawback is that your payments are scheduled to increase every two years. Depending on the amount you owe, these increases can be staggering.

While the lower payments up front might fit your budget as you start your career, it’s hard to predict whether your salary will increase at just the same rate as your payments will. However, if you end up having a difficult time making the higher payments that eventually come with a graduated repayment plan, you can switch to an income-based plan or an extended plan.

Refinancing Student Debt vs Graduated Repayment Plans

Once you’ve gotten settled into a steady job, another option to consider is refinancing your student loans with a private lender. When you refinance, you are essentially using one new loan to pay off all your current student loans. Then, you just have the new loan to repay, which will have a new interest rate and new terms.

There are a number of benefits to refinancing, including getting a lower interest rate, a lower monthly payment, or a shorter or longer loan term. Additionally, replacing all your loans with one loan will help you streamline your repayment. Some lenders even allow you to refinance private and federal loans together. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

Refinancing your loans with a private lender at a lower interest rate and shorter term can potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan. However, when you refinance, you give up some of the benefits that come with keeping your federal loans, including student loan forgiveness and income-based repayment plans.

If you foresee a need to use any of these benefits that come with federal loans, it might not be in your best interest to refinance. But, if you have built a strong financial foundation and have a steady income coming in, refinancing could be the best strategy for paying your loans down quickly — and for saving money in the process.

Refinancing Student Loans with SoFi

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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.

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 Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Pay Off Debt in 9 Steps

Being debt-free can be a terrific feeling of freedom. However, many of us don’t know that sensation. According to Experian, the average American is carrying $101,915 in debt. And paying off the amount that you owe — whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or something else — can be a considerable challenge.

While each person’s finances are different, there are smart strategies to pay off debt effectively and quickly. That will not only likely reduce your money stress and improve your finances, it can also free up funds to help you achieve some big-picture goals, whether that means funding a wedding or growing your toddler’s college fund.

Here, you’ll learn why it’s important to pay off debt, the best how-tos, and tips for managing debt as you work to shake it off.

Why Is It Important to Pay Off Debt?

Granted, not all debt should necessarily be paid off ASAP. There’s “good debt,” which is typically lower interest and can have a positive impact on your financial status. For example, if you have a mortgage, that is likely low-interest and it is helping you build equity and, by extension, your net worth.

However, there is also “bad debt” of the high interest variety, like credit card debt, which can wind up having a negative effect on your finances and your life. Some examples of why this kind of debt can be problematic:

•  It takes up funds that could otherwise be put towards long-term goals like retirement or short-term goals, such as a vacation fund.

•  It gives you more bills to pay.

•  It can cause you stress.

•  It can have a negative impact on your credit score, which can have further ramifications, such as making it more expensive to open other lines of credit.

•  It means you are subject to the lender’s decisions (such as raising your interest rate).

When you are debt-free, you likely don’t have to deal with those issues any longer. So here are smart debt payoff strategies to help you take control of your money.

💡 Quick Tip: With low interest rates compared to credit cards, a debt consolidation loan can substantially lower your payments.

steps to paying off debt

1. Create a Budget

A budget can help you understand and create a plan for where your money is going. This is where you can start to figure out how to live within your means to avoid accumulating new or more debt in the future, such as credit card debt.

•  To start your budget, take an inventory of all of your after-tax income. If you have a job, simply look at your net paycheck and multiply the number by how many times you’re paid each month.

•  Next, tally up necessary expenses. These might already include debt payments such as your student loans or a car payment. They can also include rent, utilities, insurance payments, groceries, and so on.

•  Subtract this total from your income and what you have left represents the money available for discretionary spending. If the amount of money you’re spending on discretionary expenses exceeds the amount you have available, you’ll likely need to make some adjustments to how you spend.

•  To pay off debt, focus a portion of the available discretionary income on debt payments. One approach is known as the 20/10 rule, which says that you should put no more than 20% of your annual take-home pay or 10% of your monthly income towards consumer debt.

2. Set Realistic Goals

It takes a lot of discipline to get debt-free. Setting measurable and achievable goals can help you stay on track. Think carefully about how much money you actually are able to put toward your debts each month. Include factors like how much spending you can reasonably cut and how much you might be able to add to your income.

Don’t factor in extra income unless you’re sure you’ll be able to come up with it. Once you settle on your monthly amount, you can calculate how many months it will take you to pay your debt off.

For example, say you have $500 dollars per month to help you pay off $10,000 in credit card debt with a 19.99% interest. With an online credit card payoff calculator, you can determine that it will take you about 25 months to pay off your card. So, a reasonable goal might be two years to get out of debt, which even builds in a little wiggle room if you can’t come up with a full $500 in one of those months.

3. Try a Payoff Method

Once you’ve identified funds you can use to pay down debt, there are a number of strategies you can use to put that money to work towards different debts you’re shouldering.

The Snowball Method

Here’s how the snowball method of debt repayment works:

•  List your debts in order of smallest balance to largest. Look exclusively at the amount you owe, ignoring the interest rate.

•  Make minimum payments on all the debts to avoid penalties. Make all extra payments toward paying off the smallest debt.

•  Once the smallest debt is paid in full, move on to the next largest debt and so on. Use all of the money you were directing toward the previous debt, including minimum and extra payments, to pay off the next smallest. In this way, the amount you’re able to direct toward the larger debts should grow or “snowball.”

One downside to the snowball method is that while targeting your smaller debts first, you may be holding onto your higher interest debts for a longer period of time.

However, you should also theoretically get a psychological boost every time you pay off a debt that helps you build momentum toward paying all of your debts off. And if this extra push can help keep you motivated to continue eliminating debt, the benefits of this strategy might outweigh the extra costs.

The Avalanche Method

The avalanche method takes a slightly different approach:

•  List your debts in order of highest interest rate to lowest. Once again, commit to making minimum payments on all of your debts first.

•  Make any extra payments toward your highest interest rate debt. As you pay each debt off, move on to the next debt with the highest rate. The debt avalanche method minimizes the amount of interest you pay as you work to get debt-free, potentially saving you money in the long-term.

The Fireball Method

This is a hybrid approach to the snowball and avalanche methods:

•  Group your debts by good and bad debt. As noted above, good debts are those that help you build your future net worth, like a mortgage, business loan, or student loan, and typically have lower interest rates. Bad debts have high interest rates and work against your ability to save; think credit card debt. (Btw, credit card debt should always be characterized as bad debt even if you are taking advantage of a 0% interest promotion.)

•  Next, list your bad debts in order from smallest to largest based on balance size. Continue making minimum payments on all debts, but funnel extra cash toward paying off the smallest of the bad debts.

•  Work your way up the list until all your bad debts are paid off. You can pay off your good debts on a regular schedule while investing in your future. Once you’ve blazed through your bad debt, you may even have extra cash to help you accomplish your long-term goals.

Choose the strategy that fits your personality and financial situation to increase the chances for success.

4. Complete a Balance Transfer

A balance transfer allows you to pay off debt from one or more high-interest credit cards (or other high-interest debt) by using a card with a lower interest rate. This strategy has a number of benefits.

•  First, it helps you get organized. Staying on top of one credit card statement might be easier than keeping track of many cards.

•  This strategy also helps you free up the money you were paying toward higher interest rates, which you could use to accelerate your debt payments.

Research what’s available carefully. Some credit cards offer teaser rates as low as 0% for a set period of time, such as six months to a year or even longer. It may make sense to take advantage of one of these deals if you think you can pay down your debt within that time frame.

However, when these teaser rates expire, the card might jump to its regular rate, which could be higher than the rates you were previously paying.

5. Make More Than the Minimum Payment

Credit cards allow you to make minimum payments — small portions of the balance you owe — until your debt is paid off. While this might seem convenient on the surface, this system is stacked in the credit companies’ favor. Making minimum payments can cost more in the long run than making larger payments and paying down debt faster.

That’s because as you make minimum payments, the remaining balance continues to accrue interest. Consider a credit card balance of $5,000 with a 15% interest rate. According to this credit card interest calculator, if you only make minimum payments of $112.50 per month, it will take you 64 months (5 years and 4 months!) to pay off your debt of $7,344. And in that time you will have spent more than $2,344 on interest payments alone.

In an ideal world, you would pay your credit card balance off each month and wouldn’t owe any interest. But, if that’s not possible, consider paying as much as you can to minimize the cost of high interest rates.

6. Find Extra Cash

Finding the cash to pay off your debt can be tough, especially if you’re looking to accelerate your debt payments. The most obvious place to start is by cutting unnecessary expenses.

For example, you might save money on streaming services by dropping some or all of your subscriptions, or give up your gym membership while you’re getting your debt in check. You may also try negotiating lower rates for some necessary expenses such as phone or internet bills, or consider starting a side hustle that can boost your income.

You can also use any windfalls, such as extra cash from tax returns, bonuses at work, or generous birthday gifts, to help accelerate your debt payments.

7. Avoid Taking on More Debt

While you’re paying off debt, it’s important that you work hard to not add to your debt. If you’re trying to pay off a credit card, you might want to stop using it. You may not want to cancel your credit card, but consider putting it somewhere where it’s not easily accessible. That way you’ll be less tempted to use it for impulse buys.

It can also be helpful to track your spending with a free budget app to help understand where your money is going and how not to increase your debt.

8. Consolidate Debt

Consolidating is another strategy that makes use of lower interest rates to pay off debt.

•  When you take out a loan, it will come with a fixed interest rate and a set term. When you consolidate your debts, you are essentially taking out a new loan to pay off debts, hopefully with a better interest rate or term.

•  A new loan with a lower interest rate can save you money in the long run, especially if you’re carrying a sizable balance. You may also be able to lower your monthly payments to make a budget more manageable on a month to month basis — or you may be able to shorten your terms, which can let you pay off the loan faster. Do keep in mind extending the term of the loan could lead to lower monthly payments but you may end up paying more in interest over time.

•  You may want to consider consolidating if you’ve established your credit history since you took out your loan. That may mean banks are more willing to trust a borrower with a loan and will give them more favorable rates and terms.

•  Also, keep an eye on the prime interest rate set by the Federal Reserve. When the Fed lowers interest rates, banks often follow suit, providing you with a possible chance to find a loan with lower interest rates.

9. Reward Yourself

Paying off debt can be a challenging process. That’s why it’s so important to treat yourself as you reach debt milestones.

Tethering productive behavior to rewards is a process that Wharton business school professor Katherine Milkman calls “temptation bundling.” This process can help you boost your willpower and stick to your goals.

So, choose a reward and tie it to a debt milestone like paying off a credit card, or paying off 10% of your debt. Each of these steps puts you closer to being debt-free, and that’s worth celebrating. When you reach a goal, indulge in a free or budget-friendly reward.

Debt Payoff Tips

Paying off debt often requires patience and persistence. Here’s some smart advice to address common concerns and help keep you going as you whittle down that debt.

What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Paying off Debt?

Some common mistakes when paying off debt are hiding from the situation (that is, not looking at how much you owe and creating a plan), taking out high interest payday loans, and, in some cases, taking out a home equity loan. Here’s a closer look at each:

•  It can be a common mistake to not dig in, review the full picture, and make a plan. Some people would rather be in denial and just keep paying a little bit here and there. Knowing your debt and developing a way to pay it off can be the best move.

•  Taking out a payday loan or other high-interest option to make a payment. This can make a tough situation worse by adding more money owed to your situation. A personal loan might be a better option with lower rates.

•  Tapping your home equity. Credit card debt is unsecured; you don’t put up anything as collateral. A home equity loan, however, uses your home as collateral. Yes, a home equity loan can be a helpful option in some situations, but if you use that equity to continue spending at a level your income can’t support, that can mean bigger problems lie ahead. You could wind up losing your home.

How Can I Balance Paying off Debt with Saving for Other Financial Goals?

To manage both debt repayment and saving, it’s important to make sure you keep current on paying what you owe. Next, you might want to create a budget, cut your spending, and automate your finances (which will send some money to savings) to help maintain a good balance. Here’s guidance:

•  Create a budget, keep paying off your debt, and work to create an emergency fund (even saving $20 or $25 a month is a good start).

•  Commit to cutting your spending. Some people like gamifying this: Say, one month, you vow to not eat dinner out; another month, you decide to forgo buying any new clothes.

•  Automate your finances. This can be as simple as setting up a recurring transfer from your checking account to savings just after payday. That whisks some money into savings (a small amount is fine), and you won’t see it sitting in checking, tempting you to spend it.

What Are My Debt Relief Options if I’m Struggling to Make Payments?

Some ways to get help with debt relief can include a balance transfer credit card, a personal loan, a debt management plan, and (if no other options are possible) considering declaring bankruptcy. If you are having a hard time with debt payoff, there are several options:

•  As mentioned above, you might take advantage of zero-percent balance transfer credit card offers.

•  You can contact your creditors and see if they will lower your interest rate or otherwise reduce your burden.

•  You might consider a personal loan (mentioned above) to pay off high-interest debt with a lower-interest loan.

•  You could participate in a debt management plan that consolidates your debt into one payment monthly that is then divvied up among those to whom you owe money. Look for a plan that is backed by a reputable organization such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America.

•  You might decide to declare bankruptcy; the most common form is known as Chapter 7 liquidation, and can get rid of credit card debt, medical debt, and unsecured personal loans. Educate yourself carefully to see if you qualify, and be sure you understand the long-term impact it may have on your personal finances.

The Takeaway

Digging yourself out of debt can be a challenging process, but with a well-crafted plan and discipline, it can be achieved. Evaluate your spending habits, determine how you are going to prioritize your debts, and stick to your plan by setting small, measurable goals. One option people consider is consolidating multiple high-interest debts into a one personal loan with one payment. However, note that extending the loan term could lead to lower monthly payments, but you may end up paying more interest in the long run.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Why is it important to have a plan to pay off debt?

It’s important to have a plan to pay off debt so you can be organized and strategic in this effort. Only by knowing the full extent of your debt and your resources can you make a plan. Whether you choose to use a method like the snowball or avalanche technique, take out a personal loan, or try a debt management program, it’s vital to know just where you stand.

What are some strategies for dealing with multiple sources of debt?

If you have multiple sources of debt, you may want to research the snowball, avalanche, and fireball methods of paying down what you owe. These consider such factors as how much you owe and the interest rate you are being charged and can help you prioritize how you repay the debt. These strategies can help focus your efforts and contribute to your success.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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 .

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Happy mother and daughter

Should Parents Cosign on Student Loans?

Sending your child off to college is a major milestone towards their independence. But if your kid decides to get a private student loan, they will most likely need to have a cosigner. Typically, that means mom and dad step up to the plate.

Should parents cosign on student loans? The answer will depend on such factors as your risk tolerance, your child’s probable ability to repay the loan, and if it makes sense for your family and your finances.

Cosigning for a student loan has benefits and disadvantages. There are also other options that can help bridge the gap between the cost of higher education and what you’re able to pay.

This guide will provide important facts to know about being the cosigner on a private student loan.

Why Are Student Loans Cosigned So Often?

It’s no secret that the cost of college education has skyrocketed. Consider these statistics:

•   The average cost of college has doubled since year 2000.

•   The current average cost for one year of college at a public institution is $26,027, including living expenses, with tuition and fees costing $9,678 in-state and $27,091 on average out-of-state.

•   For a private, nonprofit university, that number rises to $55,840 on average, with tuition and fees accounting for $38,768 of that sum.

There are many kinds of funding and different types of student loans to contemplate when budgeting for college. When savings, federal student loans, federal work-study, and scholarships or grants can’t fill the gap, students may look to private lenders to help them cover the rest.

Unfortunately, students just starting out usually don’t have the credit history needed to get a loan from a private lender, so cosigners sometimes step in.

But do students have to have a cosigner for a private student loan? Almost always. Since many lenders won’t lend money to young adults with no or little credit history, they typically require cosigners. Roughly 92% of all private undergraduate student loans have a cosigner.

💡 Quick Tip: You’ll make no payments on some private student loans for six months after graduation.

What Are the Downsides to Cosigning My Child’s Loan?

If you’re looking to privately fund your child’s education costs, it means they likely need the help to pay for college, just like many Americans do. But cosigning for your child’s private student loan is not without potential repercussions. Think over the following:

•   When wondering “Should I cosign a student loan?” do consider your relationship with your child. If something goes wrong — missed payments, extended unemployment, or worse, default — the potential for financial stress could create the possibility of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. If your relationship with your child is already tenuous, bringing financial stress into it will likely not help.

•   Cosigning could put your own finances at risk. You may have the most responsible young adult in the whole state, but if something goes awry and the loan goes into default, the lender may sue you or hire a collection agency to try to recoup the debt.

A student loan default might also tarnish your credit score. Simply signing the loan also affects your score. Even if you’re not the one making payments, you’re still responsible for the loan, according to the major credit bureaus.

Recommended: What Is a Credit Bureau?

What Are Alternatives to Cosigned Loans?

Do parents have to cosign student loans? Not necessarily. And so you may wonder what options you have to cosigning a loan for your child’s education. Here, a few to know about:

The First Step for Federal Aid: FAFSA®

Do parents have to cosign a private student loan? The answer in the previous section was “almost always.” The “almost” part of that answer is “not if they can find other sources of funding.” Scholarships and grants, which don’t have to be repaid, are a good place to start, but they often don’t cover the entire cost of an entire college education. The first source of funding that should be exhausted before any others is federal student aid.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is the first step to figuring out how much federal (and frequently state) financial assistance your child is eligible for. You’ll add your financial information that will determine the amount of federal assistance, which includes Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and other student aid from the federal government, like grants and work-study.

Some states and colleges also base merit aid on FAFSA information, so the application is an important one for all types of financial aid, not just federal.

Establishing Their Credit Score

There are also some other pathways to consider when trying to find loans without a cosigner. One good idea is to have your child start building their credit history. A credit score is typically enhanced over time as the record of their successful payments grows, along with other factors like their outstanding debt, credit mix, and more. A couple of pointers:

•   Your student might start by either getting a secured credit card at a credit union or other financial institution, then showing they can make timely monthly payments on a purchase.

•   If your student is trustworthy and mature, you could also consider adding them as an authorized user to a credit card you already have. You’ll be responsible for making the monthly payments, but they could benefit from your financial behavior.

Scholarships

Loans and scholarships can go hand-in-hand to make college affordable. Like the real estate mantra concerning location, the college payment mantra might be, “Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships!” Money you don’t have to pay back? Yes, please.

The FAFSA will help colleges determine what federal student aid, scholarships, and grants your child might qualify for, but don’t let your student stop there.

Merit scholarships come in all sizes and from diverse sources, including local and national organizations, heritage associations, and various writing and other contests sponsored by nonprofits and other organizations. It might help to look at groups that your family might be closely associated with, such as unions, professional associations, or alumni organizations.

Keep in mind that your child can apply for scholarships while they are still in college, because some are tied to college majors, and your student is likely to have settled on a major after the first year or two. This could open up scholarship options that couldn’t be considered before they declared a major.

Recommended: Pennsylvania Student Loan and Scholarship Information

Budgeting

You might also be able to forego cosigning a student loan by making strategic decisions about education costs. Can your student reduce the overall cost of college by ditching the meal plan, living off campus, or even attending a significantly less expensive college?

Or, instead of paring down expenses, maybe your student could consider boosting their income to avoid the need for a cosigner on a student loan. One idea might be to start a low-cost side hustle. Another could be to take a year off to work — this may be enough to close the gap, avoiding the need for a loan altogether.

Serious savings. Save thousands of dollars
thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.


Loans for Parents

Parents who don’t mind shouldering more of the cost can also take out their own federal student loans with the Direct PLUS Loan , sometimes referred to as a “parent PLUS loan.”

Even though your student benefits from the loan, they are not the borrower, and you’ll be solely responsible for paying it back. Some parents may consider working out a repayment arrangement between themselves and their student. If this will be the expectation, however, it’s a good idea to discuss the arrangement with your student before taking out this type of loan.

Direct PLUS Loans can also be taken out by graduate or professional students. Whether a parent or a graduate student, there is a downside for the borrower. The interest rate for Direct PLUS Loans is often higher when compared to other federal student loans — 8.05% for the 2023-2024 school year versus 5.50% for Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

However, in this scenario, you won’t be asking yourself, “Should a parent cosign a student loan?” because you’re helping fill the gap without depending on your student to pay the loan back.

💡 Quick Tip: Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans that are available: private student loans, federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.

The Takeaway

There are options available to eligible students before considering a private student loan. However, if all other options have been exhausted, a private student loan can be a good choice to help your child complete their college education.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: 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.

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 .

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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The Problems with Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

The Problems With Online Payday Loans and Fast Cash Lending

Whether you need to pay for an emergency root canal or have unexpected home repairs, sometimes life can’t wait for your next paycheck.

If you’ve researched how to access cash quickly, you might wonder if online payday loans are the answer. Lenders that offer payday loans typically promise you things like quick applications, no credit checks, and expedited approvals. They may say you’ll get the cold hard cash you need the very next day.

It’s an easy solution, right? Not so fast.

How Do Payday Loans Work?

Payday loans are called that because they’re meant to be paid back the next time you get a paycheck. They’re generally for small amounts, and usually don’t require collateral or even necessarily a credit check.

The catch? Payday loans come at a price — and a high one, at that. They can have interest rates of more than 600%, depending on the lender you choose and which state you’re in. (Some states have stronger protective laws, including rate caps.)

Such high-interest rates and other associated fees can quickly lead to situations where you end up getting behind on the loan. You may end up having to borrow more and more in order to pay back the money you borrowed, especially since the loan might come due in only two weeks or a month. Soon you may be in a hole so deep you might not know how to get out. It can be costly, greatly damage your credit, or even lead to bankruptcy.

Recommended: What Are Common Uses for Personal Loans?

How Much Does a Payday Loan Cost?

The short answer: a lot. But let’s look at an example.

Say you take out a $500 payday loan at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 300%. You would only pay that full 300% if you took a whole year to pay off the loan because the APR is what you would be charged in interest over 12 months.

However, even if you only borrow money for one month, you’d have to pay 1/12 of 300%, which translates to 25%. Here’s where the math gets ugly: 25% of $500 is $125, which means that when your loan comes due at the end of its very short term, you’ll owe $625. This amount might be tough to meet, especially if you’re in a situation where you needed a payday loan in the first place.

What Is a Direct Payday Loan?

Payday loans are offered by a wide variety of vendors, but for the most part, they break down into two categories: direct payday loans and those offered through a broker.

With direct payday loans, the entire loan process, from application to funding to repayment, is all managed by the same company. Although these can be slightly better than indirect loans — which may involve multiple fees, longer funding wait times, and harder-to-pin-down communication — they’re still generally considered a bad idea.

Why Is it Best To Avoid Payday Lending?

Other than the possibility that you can get money quickly if you have bad credit, there aren’t many benefits associated with payday loans. You’ll end up paying a significant amount in interest, and you’re usually expected to pay the money back in a very short period of time — usually within two weeks or so.

The interest on your loan can also compound daily, weekly, or monthly. This means that interest charges will start accumulating on the interest you already owe, which will inflate your loan balance even more.

Depending on how much you borrowed and your financial situation, compounding interest can make it incredibly difficult for you to pay back the loan. Many times borrowers end up taking out additional loans to pay off the payday loan, which can lock them into a seemingly endless cycle of debt.

You’re also unlikely to be able to borrow a large amount of money because payday and fast cash loan lenders typically have low maximum borrowing amounts.

What’s more, you won’t even be building your credit if you do manage to pay the loan back on time, because most of these lenders don’t report your behavior back to credit bureaus. In contrast, above-board lenders will report back to credit bureaus when you’re paying your bills on time and in full, and that can boost your credit score.

What Are Some Alternatives to Payday Loans?

In an ideal world, you’d avoid any kind of consumer debt. But sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. There are financially favorable alternatives to consider before you sign up for a risky payday loan.

Paycheck Advance

The best kind of money to borrow is money you’ve already earned. While not every employer offers it, a paycheck advance can be a relatively low-risk way to fund last-minute emergencies. An advance on your paycheck basically means getting paid earlier than you normally would, with the balance deducted from your future paycheck.

But tread carefully: Many employers offer paycheck advances through apps and platforms that may assess a one-time fee or even charge interest. While the rates may not be as astronomical as payday loan rates, it’s still worth taking a second look at the paperwork to ensure you understand what you’re signing up for ahead of time.

Recommended: What to Know About Credit Card Cash Advances

Debt Settlement

Another option is debt settlement, which is where you offer a creditor a lump sum payment on a delinquent debt — a lump sum that often ends up being far less than the original amount you owed.

However, doing this does require some negotiating, and sometimes even some legal know-how, which is why many people seek the help of professional debt settlement companies. This, too, is tricky, because scams abound, and some debt settlement companies may try to charge exorbitant fees to “eliminate your debt,” all without actually doing any work on your behalf. The Federal Trade Commission has more information on debt settlement and how to look for a reliable firm if you choose to go this route.

Personal Loans

Many types of personal loans are unsecured loans — meaning no collateral is involved — that can be used to pay for just about anything. And although they tend to have higher interest rates than secured loans, like mortgages or auto loans, those rates are still much lower than payday loans.

With its lower interest rate and longer-term, a personal loan will likely cost you less money than a payday loan in the long run. And some online personal loan lenders can process your application quickly and even get you the money you need in a matter of days.

Unlike payday loans, you have to go through a credit check to qualify and get approved for a personal loan. However, if you have a steady income and meet the lender’s eligibility requirements, you’re likely to qualify for a lower interest rate than you would if you used an online payday loan.

Your repayment timeline could also be less stressful if you opt for a personal loan rather than a payday loan. Personal loans come with the option of longer terms — a few years, for example, instead of a few months.

And because you can pay your loan off over a longer-term, your monthly payments might be more manageable than a payday loan. There also tend to be fewer fees attached to personal loans, and you might be able to borrow more because personal loans have higher loan maximums.

Personal loans aren’t much more difficult to apply for than payday or fast cash loans. You can typically get pre-qualified online by answering a few questions about your income, financial history, and occupation.

Recommended: Personal Loan Calculator

The Takeaway

When you need money quickly, payday loans — and their promise of fast money — can be tempting. But you’ll want to proceed with caution. These loans generally come with very high interest rates and associated fees, and you may only have a couple of weeks or so to pay back the money you borrowed. There are less-risky alternatives to consider, including paycheck advance, debt settlement, or a personal loan.

If you are thinking about taking out a loan to help you repay debts on time, a SoFi personal loan may be a good option for your unique financial situation. SoFi personal loans offer competitive, fixed rates and a variety of terms. Checking your rate won’t affect your credit score, and it takes just one minute.

See if a personal loan from SoFi is right for you.

FAQ

What is a disadvantage of a payday loan?

Payday loans generally come with high interest rates and associated fees. What’s more, you typically have to pay back the money you borrowed on your next payday.

Are payday loans a good idea?

Payday loans are usually not the top choice when you need cash quickly. That’s because they often come with high interest rates and tight repayment timelines.

What is the catch to payday lending?

The catch to payday loans is that borrowers are typically charged very high fees and interest rates.

Are payday loans easy or hard to pay back?

With their high interest rates and fees and short repayment timelines, payday loans can be difficult for borrowers to pay back on time.

Can payday loans hurt your credit?

While payday loans are unlikely to help your credit score, they can hurt your credit if you don’t pay back your loan and your lender sends the debt to a debt collector.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: 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.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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