Paying Off $20,000 in Credit Card Debt

Paying Off $20,000 in Credit Card Debt

Having credit card debt of any amount can feel overwhelming, but this is especially true with a steep amount like $20,000. Not sure how to pay off $20,000 in credit card debt? There are a number of options to consider to get your credit card debt under control and paid off.

For one, you might consolidate the debt using a balance transfer credit card or debt consolidation loan. Or, it might come down to adjusting your monthly budget or simply choosing the repayment method that works for you. Another option is pursuing a debt management program. Really, once you understand the potential solutions at your fingertips, paying off $20,000 in credit card debt can start to sound more doable.

Tips on Paying Off $20,000 in Credit Card Debt

Having $20,000 in credit card debt does present a challenge to the borrower working to pay that amount off, but it is possible to make progress and become debt-free. Let’s look at some ways you can make progress on paying off your debt.

Open a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Paying off credit card debt can be more difficult when you’re juggling multiple credit card balances. To help simplify the debt repayment process, you might consider opening a balance transfer card.

It’s possible to transfer just one credit card balance or multiple to a balance transfer card. This can be a good move to make if you can qualify for a balance transfer card with an introductory annual percentage rate (APR) of 0%.

While this 0% APR period is temporary, it can last at least six months and sometimes longer than a year. Not having to pay interest during that time period means all payments go toward the principal balance. This makes it a lot easier to pay down credit card debt faster, and it can save a lot of money in the process.

The trick here though is to pay off the entire balance before that introductory period ends and the interest rate shoots up.

Use a Debt Consolidation Loan

If someone has multiple sources of credit card debt, they might also consider consolidating that debt using a debt consolidation loan. This will lead to taking out a $20,000 loan, but it can help streamline the debt repayment process. In fact, debt consolidation is one of the common uses for personal loans.

After you apply for and get your personal loan approved, the way a debt consolidation loan works is that you’ll then use the loan funds to pay off your other sources of debt. This could be multiple credit cards or other types of debt, like personal loans mixed with credit cards.

Ideally, when someone applies for this new loan, they’ll be able to qualify for a lower interest rate than they’re currently paying on their other sources of debt. That way, they’ll spend less on interest and can afford to put more money each month toward repaying their debt. This can make it easier to pay the debt off faster and save on interest (you can even determine your exact savings with a personal loan calculator).

Another benefit of a debt consolidation loan is that it takes multiple sources of debt and turns them into just one source, with a single interest rate, minimum monthly payment, and payment due date.

Choose the Right Repayment Method

Paying down debt takes a lot of work and discipline, and sometimes you need the right type of motivation to stay on track with debt repayment. This is where the debt snowball and debt avalanche repayment methods can come into play, with some consumers finding one method helps them make more progress than the other.

•   Debt snowball. With this method, the borrower makes the minimum payments on all credit cards each month, but focuses on making extra payments on the card with the lowest balance. Once they pay that one off (it will be the fastest to pay off), they’ll move onto focusing on the card with the next lowest balance. Making progress quickly like this can be really motivating for some people.

•   Debt avalanche. Again, the borrower will continue to make all minimum debt payments each month. With this strategy though, any extra payments go toward the debt with the highest interest rate first. This method saves the most money, which can free up room in someone’s budget to make more debt payments each month.

Debt Management Program

Another option consumers have for getting help paying down their $20,000 credit card debt is to join a debt management program. This can be a good path forward for consumers who can’t afford to make extra debt payments each month or whose credit score doesn’t make it possible for them to qualify for a balance transfer card or a personal loan for debt consolidation.

Debt management plans are offered by credit counseling agencies. During the course of these programs, the credit counselor will alert the borrower’s creditors that they’re working with a debt management plan. From there, the counselor will attempt to negotiate a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments.

These plans tend to last three to five years, but they can help consumers make progress on their debt and avoid bankruptcy.

Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to negotiate credit card debt forgiveness and it rarely happens. When someone opens a credit card, they agree to repay the money they borrow.

It can, however, be possible to negotiate a new payment plan that is easier on the borrower’s budget, especially if some kind of hardship occurred that’s making repayment challenging.

Additional Options for Paying Off Debt

One of the best ways to make progress on paying off debt is simply to make repayment a priority. To stay on track, consumers need to make their minimum required debt payments a fixed part of their monthly budget. By budgeting for debt payments and prioritizing them over other spending temptations, it’s more likely to make faster progress.

Another way to make progress on paying off $20,000 in credit card debt is to work on making additional room in your budget for extra credit card payments. Finding ways to lower expenses and other bills can leave more money each month to pay off debt. Remember — the faster you pay off your debt, the less you’ll spend on interest.

It may be necessary to make some spending sacrifices until you’re debt free, but once you are, you’ll have a lot more room in your monthly budget to add fun spending back in. Cutting back on dining out, shopping, traveling, and entertainment now can really pay off in the future.

The Takeaway

It is possible to pay off $20,000 worth of credit card debt, but it will take time. Patience is key here, as is assessing which approach for tackling $20,000 in credit card debt will be right for you. For some, a debt consolidation loan (one of the types of personal loans) may make sense, while others may opt for the debt snowball or avalanche method. Spending time focusing on paying off credit card debt can really help improve your financial outlook though, and it’s very much worth the effort.

If someone decides that consolidating their debt would really help them streamline repayment and possibly even save them money on interest, they may want to research their personal loan options. SoFi makes personal loans easy — it’s possible to check your rates in 60 seconds, and you can borrow up to $100,000.

Apply for a SoFi Personal Loan in minutes!

Photo credit: iStock/filadendron

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 Equal Housing Lender.


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Comparing Personal Loans and Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Balance Transfer Credit Cards vs Personal Loans

Three ways to consolidate and pay off debt are a balance transfer credit card, a personal loan, or a combination of the two. Which option is best depends on the type and amount of debt you have and your ability to pay off that debt over time.

For instance, a balance transfer credit card might be a smart choice if you have good credit and debt across a few credit cards. On the other hand, a personal loan might be better if you have multiple types of debts (credit cards plus other types of loans) and need more time to pay off your debt.

Read on to learn more about the choice between a balance transfer or personal loan, including the pros and cons of each option and how to leverage the benefits of both.

What Is a Personal Loan?

A personal loan is a lump sum borrowed from traditional banks, credit unions, or online lenders that you agree to pay back over time, usually with interest. The borrower will make regular payments, usually on a monthly basis, to the lender over a fixed period of time until the loan is repaid.

Unlike many other types of loans, personal loans can be used for just about anything. Often, these loans are used to resolve short-term cash flow problems, cover unexpected expenses during an emergency, or pay for large expenses.

Personal loans are also used for debt consolidation, where a borrower takes out a personal loan and uses it to pay off balances on high-interest credit cards and other debts. Because personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards, the borrower can potentially save money while paying off their debt.

Though there are different types of personal loans, they’re most often unsecured loans. This means they’re not backed by collateral like, say, your mortgage is backed by your house. As such, the lender will usually assess your creditworthiness and financial situation when determining whether to approve you for the loan.

Recommended: Check Your Personal Loan Rate

What Is a Balance Transfer Credit Card?

A balance transfer credit card is a credit card that allows you to transfer balances from other accounts. Let’s say an individual has outstanding balances on three or four high-interest credit cards. They could transfer that debt to a balance transfer credit card that charges a lower or even 0% annual percentage rate (APR).

If a lower rate is offered, it will usually last for a limited period of time — 12 to 18 months is the norm. Should that person pay off their debt within that window, they could save money on interest and have all of their payments go directly toward paying down the principal. After the promotional period ends, however, the interest rate could be quite high, usually higher than the interest rate on a personal loan.

Balance Transfer vs Personal Loan for Debt Consolidation

When deciding on either a balance transfer credit card or personal loan for debt consolidation, consider the type of debt you have and your capacity for monthly payments.

A balance transfer credit card might be the right choice if you’re confident you can pay off your debt within the APR introductory period. However, a personal loan might be the better choice if you find it difficult to resist spending on a credit card, or if you have debt that needs to be paid off over a longer period of time. Personal loans are also preferable if you want a fixed interest rate and would like to know ahead of time how much your monthly payment will be, as it’s going to be the same each month.

Balance Transfer Credit Card vs. Personal Loan

Balance Transfer Credit Card

Personal Loan

Types of Debt You Can Consolidate

•   Generally best for credit card debt

•   Good for multiple types of debt

Interest Rates

•   Can offer a lower intro APR, after which the rate will likely be higher than a personal loan

•   Generally a variable rate

•   Tend to have lower rates compared to credit cards

•   Typically a fixed rate


•   One-time balance transfer fee that’s usually 3% to 5% of the amount transferred

•   One-time origination fee ranging from 0% to 8% of the loan amount


•   Promo APR offers generally limited to 18-21 months

•   Can have terms up to 72 months or longer


•   Only have to make the minimum required payment

•   Fixed payments over a set period of time, with a predetermined payoff date

Credit Score Requirements

•   Generally need at least good credit (670+) to qualify

•   Best rates and terms reserved for those with good credit

Credit Score Impacts

•   Might increase credit utilization, which can negatively affect credit

•   Might lower your credit utilization, which can help credit

Pros and Cons of Personal Loans

Both balance transfer credit cards and personal loans can be good options depending on the amount and type of debt you have. Personal loans generally offer lower APRs, which can be helpful if you have a variety of types of debt that may take some time to pay off. Personal loan terms vary, but it’s possible to borrow up to $100,000 and pay off the balance over several years.

However, your interest rate will also depend on your credit score — a low score can mean a high interest rate. It’s smart to compare a few rates, such as SoFi personal loan rates against those of other lenders.

Pros and Cons of Personal Loans for Debt Consolidation



Loans can be large enough to consolidate many types of debt. The interest rate may be high if you have bad credit.
Those with good credit can secure low APRs. It could be a few years before your debt is fully paid off.
Budgeting is easier with fixed interest rates and monthly payments. There’s less flexibility in your monthly payments, as they’re fixed.
You have the option to choose from different loan terms. An origination fee may apply, which could be up to 8% of the loan amount.

Pros and Cons of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

If you only have debt on a few credit cards, a balance transfer credit card might allow you to save on interest while you pay it down. These cards can offer lower or even 0% APRs for a certain period of time, usually for 12 to 18 months. This gives you time to pay off the total balance transferred from other cards.

However, suppose you do not pay off the balance within that window. In that case, the interest rate could rise above the rate you were initially paying before you consolidated the amounts to your balance transfer credit card.

Pros and Cons of A Balance Transfer Credit Card for Debt Consolidation



You can get a low or 0% APR for an initial period, thus saving on interest. You need a good to excellent credit score to qualify.
Once your debt is paid off, you have an additional open credit line, which may boost your credit score. You may not be able to transfer the full amount of your debt to the card.
Some balance transfer credit cards offer rewards, points, or other perks. There may be a balance transfer fee, which generally is 3-5% of the balance transferred.
You’ll have the flexibility to pay off as much as you’d like each month with no fixed payment schedule. If you don’t pay off your debt during the promo period, the interest rate may become higher than that of your initial debt.

Using A Balance Transfer Credit Card and a Personal Loan

A third option for debt consolidation is to use both a personal loan and a balance transfer credit card. You could use a balance transfer credit card to pay off as much high-interest credit card debt as you can at a low APR. Then, you’d take out a personal loan to pay off the rest of your debt at a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying.

To figure out how much of a personal loan to take out in this scenario, add up your total debt. Next, calculate how much you would have to pay each month in order to pay off your debt in full by the end of the promotional APR.

For example, if you had $4,000 in credit card debt and a 0% APR that lasted for 18 months, you’d have to pay $222 each month. If you weren’t able to pay that much, you could consider applying for a personal loan to pay off the remaining amount.

The Takeaway

Three ways to proactively consolidate and pay off debt are to use a balance transfer credit card, a personal loan, or a combination of the two. To determine what’s right for your situation, it helps to know the differences between a balance transfer credit card vs. personal loan. In general, a balance transfer credit card is best for those with good credit and primarily credit card debt. Those with various types of debts and who need a structured debt payment plan may prefer a personal loan.

Deciding which option to choose requires some research upfront on how much debt you have, what type of debt it is, and how long you will need to pay it off. Those looking to consolidate their debt should also check the terms and fees of their options.

One option to explore might be SoFi, which offers personal loans for debt consolidation. The online application is convenient and fast. Plus, our personal loans have zero origination, prepayment, or late payment fees. They offer low fixed rates, and amounts range from $5,000 up to $100,000.

Apply today for a SoFi personal loan!


What is a balance transfer loan?

A balance transfer is a credit card transaction whereby debt is moved from one account to another. These cards often offer a 0% introductory APR for 12 to 18 months, which means any balances moved to the card could potentially be paid off interest-free. The downsides are that there is often a balance transfer fee, and there may be a limit to the total amount you can transfer to the new card.

Does a balance transfer hurt your credit?

It depends. Opening a new credit card and transferring all your other credit card balances to it could push your credit utilization ratio to its limit, which would hurt your credit score. Your score is also negatively affected from the hard inquiry that results from applying for a new card. However, if you use a balance transfer credit card wisely and pay off all of your higher-interest cards, that will lower your credit utilization ratio and lift your score.

Is there a difference between a loan and a balance transfer?

Both a loan and a balance transfer are ways to consolidate debt, but they are not the same thing. A debt consolidation loan is where you take out a loan to pay off your existing debt, while a balance transfer allows you to move your existing debt onto one credit card. Each option has unique pros and cons.

Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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 Equal Housing Lender.

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 .


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Why your debt-to-income ratio matters

Why Your Debt to Income Ratio Matters

Imagine you’re a lender, and a wellness entrepreneur comes to you to borrow thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The loan seeker is the picture of health, drives a Tesla S, and lives in a solar-powered manse. But what if the would-be borrower is overextended, and not in a yoga-like way?

You’re going to want to compare their current income to their debts to help gauge how likely you are to be paid back.

Makes sense, right? A debt-to-income ratio helps to determine whether someone qualifies for a loan, credit card, or line of credit and at what interest rate.

A low DTI ratio demonstrates that there is probably sufficient income to pay debts and take on more. But what’s “low” or “good” in most lenders’ eyes?

First, a Debt to Income Ratio Refresher

In case you don’t know how to calculate the percentage or have forgotten, here’s how it works:

DTI = monthly debts / gross monthly income

Let’s say monthly debt payments are as follows:

•   Auto loan: $400

•   Student loans: $300

•   Credit cards: $300

•   Mortgage payment: $1,300

That’s $2,300 in monthly obligations. Now let’s say gross monthly income is $7,000.

$2,300 / $7,000 = 0.328

Multiply the result by 100 for a DTI ratio of nearly 33%, meaning 33% of this person’s gross monthly income goes toward debt repayment.

What Is Considered a Good DTI?

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises homeowners to consider maintaining a DTI ratio of 36% or less and for renters to consider keeping a DTI ratio of 15% to 20% or less (rent is not included in this ratio).

In general, mortgage lenders like to see a DTI ratio of no more than 36%, though that is not necessarily the maximum.

For instance, DTI limits can change based on whether or not you are considering a qualified or nonqualified mortgage. A qualified mortgage is a home loan with more stable features and without risky features like interest-only payments. Qualified mortgages limit how high your DTI ratio can be.

A nonqualified mortgage loan is not inherently high-risk or subprime. It is simply a loan that doesn’t fit into the complex rules associated with a qualified mortgage.

Nonqualified mortgages can be helpful for borrowers in unusual circumstances, such as having been self-employed for less than two years. A lender may make an exception if you have a high DTI ratio as long as, for example, you have a lot of cash reserves.

In general, borrowers looking for a qualified mortgage can expect lenders to require a DTI of 43% or less.

Under certain criteria, a maximum allowable DTI ratio can be as high as 50%. Fannie Mae’s maximum DTI ratio is 36% for manually underwritten loans, but the affordable-lending promoter will allow a 45% DTI ratio if a borrower meets credit score and reserve requirements, and up to 50% for loans issued through automated underwriting.

In the market for a personal loan? Some lenders may allow a high DTI ratio because a common use of personal loans is credit card debt consolidation. But most lenders will want to be sure that you are gainfully employed and have sufficient income to repay the loan.

Front End vs Back End

Some mortgage lenders like to break a number into front-end and back-end DTI (28/36, for instance). The top number represents the front-end ratio, and the bottom number is the back-end ratio.

A front-end ratio, also known as the housing ratio, takes into account housing costs or potential housing costs.

A back-end ratio is more comprehensive. It includes all current recurring debt payments and housing expenses.

Lenders typically look for a front-end ratio of 28% tops, and a back-end ratio no higher than 36%, though they may accept higher ratios if a credit score, savings, and down payment are robust.

How Can I Lower My Debt-to-Income Ratio?

So what do you do if the number you’ve calculated isn’t your ideal? There are two ways to lower your DTI ratio: Increase your income or decrease your debt.

Working overtime, starting a side hustle, getting a new job, or asking for a raise are all good options to boost income.

Strangely enough, if you choose to tackle your debt by only increasing your payments each month, it can have a negative effect on your DTI ratio. Instead, it can be a good idea to consider ways to reduce your outstanding debt altogether.

The best-known debt management plans are likely the snowball and avalanche methods, but there’s also the fireball method, which combines both strategies.

Instead of canceling a credit card, it might be better to cut it up or hide it. In the world of credit, established credit in good standing is looked upon more favorably than new.

The Takeaway

Your debt-to-income ratio matters because it affects your ability to borrow money and the interest rate for doing so. In general, lenders look at a lower DTI ratio as favorable, but sometimes there’s wiggle room.

If you’re struggling with student loan debt, refinancing might be a good option if you can lower your interest rate. And if you’re trying to pay off high-interest credit card debt, one method is to consolidate the debt with a fixed-rate personal loan. This can lower your monthly payment, thus changing your DTI ratio.

Check your rate on SoFi’s student loan refinancing and personal loans.

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 Equal Housing Lender.

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.

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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What Is Net Worth and Why Should You Know Yours?

A person’s net worth describes their total financial value, and is calculated by subtracting their liabilities from their assets. Though we generally discuss net worth in relation to very wealthy individuals, it can be important for people who aren’t billionaires to know their net worth as well.

A person’s net worth can be an important reference point in understanding one’s financial position. Net worth can be negative, especially early on in one’s careers. But net worth can help an individual figure out how much they need to save, how much spending they need to cut back on, or how much they’ve saved for retirement.

How to Calculate Net Worth

If you’re wondering how to calculate net worth, it’s actually a simple formula:

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

The hard part is usually determining a person’s assets and liabilities. And a person’s assets can go beyond what they have in their checking account. In fact, a person’s assets can include a whole host of things.


Assets basically boil down to how much money you have, as well as the value of things you own. In order to know one’s net worth, estimate the value of each asset below:

•   Money in savings accounts

•   Money in checking accounts

•   Money in investing or retirement accounts. Brokerage accounts or 401(k)s are in this bucket.

•   Physical cash

•   Value from insurance policies

•   Value from business ownership or stakes

•   Value of cars

•   Valuable personal goods, like jewelry or art

•   Value of real estate, including home

Calculating the value of a home can be a task in itself. It’s important to research the value of the homes around you, the size of your home, any deferred maintenance on the home, additional benefits like parking spots, backyard space, room count, etc. There are a number of home value calculators online, too.

Recommended: Understanding Property Valuations

There are other ways to think about assets:

•   Liquid Assets: Items like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs that are easy to sell quickly and whose sale will not greatly affect their price.

•   Fixed Assets: These are items that would take a longer time to convert to cash. These assets are often deposited for extended periods of time in exchange for high interest accrual and thus cannot be cashed before their agreed-upon time frame is up.

•   Equity Assets: Equity assets include your shares in a company, either private or public.

Intangible Assets, such as brand recognition for a company or any other intellectual property like patents, trademarks or even goodwill, are trickier to factor into your net worth due to the complexity of measuring their value.


Liabilities are debts. The following categories are what most often make up liabilities:

•   Auto loans

•   Student loans

•   Personal loans

•   Business loans (personally guaranteed)

•   Credit card balances

•   Mortgages

While liabilities are on the negative side of the net worth equation, it doesn’t necessarily have to symbolize something negative about your finances. For example, student loans or mortgage loans are typically seen as necessary loans that individuals take on as they reach milestones in life, like going to college, graduate school or buying a home.

Meanwhile, knowing one’s total liabilities can help with figuring out a plan to start paying off debt that has higher interest rates, like from credit card balances.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

Median and Average Net Worth in US

An individual or household’s net worth isn’t set in stone, and it ebbs and flows all the time. For that reason, it can be difficult to nail down median or average net worth figures for both individuals and households in the U.S. You can find some numbers if you search for them, but they’re often several years old, and may not be accurate given the time lapse.

For instance, the Federal Reserve tracks median and average net worth data in the U.S., but generally, they do so using survey data that it publishes once every few years. So, while data from a few years ago may be fine, large-scale world events–such as a pandemic, natural disaster, recession, or similar–may have led to large changes in those numbers.

This is all something to keep in mind if you seek out average net worth numbers. It’s not that they’re inaccurate, it’s simply that the data may be hard to capture and synthesize in a reasonable amount of time.

Remember, too, that it’s important to keep abreast of your net worth because this number may fluctuate depending on factors such as stock values, interest rates, real estate trends, and other tides of the financial world. It’s important to have an idea of overall trends so you can generally understand your financial health and have an idea of your true wealth.

💡 Quick Tip: Distributing your money across a range of assets — also known as diversification — can be beneficial for long-term investors. When you put your eggs in many baskets, it may be beneficial if a single asset class goes down.

The Takeaway

True wealth can be an important factor in knowing when you might expect to retire. It’s a good idea to focus on your gains year over year, rather than the number you get at the end of the equation. If you’re concerned about your net worth or are hoping to increase it, especially for future retirement goals, then it might be helpful to consider investing.

There are a multitude of things that can have an effect on your net worth. And focusing strictly on your net worth probably shouldn’t be your focus. If you’re concerned about it, though, it may be worthwhile to talk to a financial professional.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

SoFi Invest®
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA ( Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.


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The Impact of Student Loan Debt on the Economy

Unpaid student loans can put a heavy yoke on personal finances. For millions of Americans, outstanding student debt means years and years of ongoing payments (averaging hundreds of dollars per month).

It can be hard to balance paying back what’s owed on student loans while meeting immediate expenses (like, paying rent) or pursuing long-term financial goals (like, saving up for a mortgage down payment).

But, the impact of student loan debt on the economy goes deeper than dinging individuals’ wallets, affecting entire job sectors.

Student loans now account for almost 40% of outstanding consumer debt in the U.S., outpacing the amounts owed on motor vehicle loans, for example, by more than $355 billion.

For a wide-angle view of student loan debt and the economy, it’s useful to know just how much money is owed by borrowers across the U.S. on educational debt. In 2023, the cumulative total of student loan debt in the U.S. surpassed $1.7 trillion, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Understanding How Many Americans Have Student Loans

This educational debt load affects tens of millions of Americans. More than 43 million borrowers have federal student loan debt, with the average balance per individual being $37,338. To obtain a bachelor’s degree, the average student borrower takes out more than $31,000 in student loans.

For those with master’s degrees, student loan debt is even higher. The average master’s degree holder’s student loan debt is $83,651, which is 141% higher than the average student debt balance.

Given these massive numbers, it becomes clearer how the U.S. college student loan debt crisis and the economy are enmeshed in a tangled tango.

Reviewing Effects of Student Loan Debt on the Economy

If the total amount of student loan debt held by Americans sounds staggering, it’s because it is. That total — $1.757 trillion — is more than the GDP of countries such as Australia, Spain, and Mexico.

And, it’s more than double that of Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. It even outpaces the global box office totals of the 20-highest grossing films in history — a list that includes blockbusters like, Avengers: Endgame, Avatar, and Titanic — by more than 50 times!

With these numbers in mind, let’s dive deeper into the drag that this massive amount of educational debt continues to have on the U.S. economy.

Does Student Loan Debt Hamper Spending?

For the average individual paying off a student loan, typical payments amount to $200 to $299 each month. For many — especially those embarking on a career and earning an entry-level salary — this ongoing financial obligation can put a deleterious dent in funds they could otherwise spend elsewhere.

Student loan repayments can place a very real squeeze on the money that individuals have available each month for buying, investing, saving, or starting a business.

More money spent paying back student loans, in practice, means less money in pocket or saved. Consumer-driven economies grow when people (aka consumers) spend their hard-earned money. So, millions of people redirecting income towards loan payments can significantly slow or stifle economic growth. If someone is struggling to pay off their student loans, they’ll have less money to spend on purchases that help fuel the economy, businesses, and the workforce. The more young people there are who struggle to pay off loans, the greater this economic dampening effect that occurs.

During periods that require economic resilience, such as in a recession, reduced spending can be especially nefarious.

Consumer spending can help to stimulate a floundering economy, mitigating or reversing sudden downturns in specific sectors.

When that spending doesn’t happen during a downturn, it can take longer for the economy as a whole to bounce back.

For those with student debt, it can also be harder to weather a financial crisis, compounding the pain of higher unemployment and lower spending.

How Do Student Loans Affect the Housing Market?

With less money to spend, it’s no surprise that people with student loans have fewer funds for big ticket items, such as buying a home or saving for retirement.

And, since home ownership is a major driver of wealth accumulation, delaying when one buys a home can impact an individual’s net worth for decades to come.

How Do Student Loans Stifle Entrepreneurship?

Small businesses contribute to the economy in major ways. In fact, they’re responsible for 1.5 million jobs annually and generate 44% of economic activity in the U.S.

Future business owners may not be able to turn toward traditional means of financing, such as small business loans, when saddled with student loan debt. It can be harder to get approved for financing when your debt-to-income ratio is high due to loans.

And, when an individual with student debt does become an entrepreneur, they’re at risk of falling behind on student loan payments if their incoming income decreases.

Paying Off Student Loans Can Benefit Individuals and the Economy

When examining student loan debt and the economy, it may be helpful for borrowers to research additional ways to pay off existing student loans — both for their own financial well-being and the future growth of the U.S. economy on a whole.

Here are some strategies that could help those with outstanding student debt to pay down their educational loans faster.

Paying More than the Minimum Due

Student loans are generally subject to interest. Interest is a percentage charged by the lender on what’s been borrowed. Practically speaking, student loan interest accrues over time. So, borrowers who are unable to pay off their loan balances quickly typically end up spending more in interest over the entire life of the loan.

In most cases, the longer student loan debt goes unpaid, the more the borrower will owe, as unpaid interest gets added to the base dollar amount that had been borrowed from the lender. This is called compounding, and most student loans compound their interest daily. This can get confusing quickly, so here’s a student loan calculator so you can see exactly how much you’re spending on interest over the life of the loan.

Many lenders allow borrowers the option to submit a “minimum payment.” In the short term, paying a lower amount per month can free up some income or cash. But, paying the minimum does little or nothing to tackle the outstanding loan balance — typically, the borrower is just paying the accruing interest.

Paying more than the minimum can help reduce the length of time it will take to pay off an existing student loan — shrinking the principal balance as well as the amount of interest paid (aka total money spent) during the life of the loan.

While increasing monthly payments may not be manageable for every individual, paying a little extra when the opportunity presents itself can still help borrowers to eliminate student debt faster.

If nothing else, borrowers may want to apply a share of occasional windfalls, such as a work bonus or tax refund, towards outstanding student debt.

Applying for Loan Forgiveness

Under some circumstances, the government will even forgive federal student loans, essentially canceling out the remaining debt. Some teachers and public servants are among the groups that may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness programs.

It’s worth noting that this Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program is not available to all workers (including some in the public sector) and applies only to federal, not privately held, student loans.

Refinancing Student Loans

Refinancing a student loan with a private lender may result in lower interest rates and/or the ability to pay off what’s owed in a shorter amount of time for well-qualified borrowers.

Student loan refinancing replaces an outstanding educational debt (e.g., a student loan or loans) with a new loan. As such, the new loan can have different terms and interest rates.

For some student loan holders, refinancing allows them to reduce their monthly payments or the total interest paid over the life of the loan.

It’s worth remembering, though, that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means that the borrower will forfeit federal benefits, such as access to income-driven repayment plans or public service forgiveness programs.

Paying Off Student Loans Faster

Student loans have the potential to keep taking a big bite out of the economy. But, unpaid educational debts undoubtedly hurt the borrower even more, creating accruing interest and loan balances that can take years and years to pay off.

Refinancing educational debt with SoFi could potentially save borrowers money. SoFi’s loan refinancing comes with no application fee, a quick and easy online application, and competitive rates.

See if you prequalify for a student loan refinance with SoFi in just two minutes.

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 Equal Housing Lender.

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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