smiling businesswoman with colleague

Student Loan Advice For Recent College Graduates

Now that you’ve graduated from college and started your career, you may have already received some student loan advice from well-meaning confidantes (or strangers, let’s be honest).

But something that worked well for a family member or friend may not work for you. With student loan payments looming, it’s wise to create a student loan repayment strategy based on your unique situation as soon as possible.

That includes understanding what type of student loans you have, what repayment options are available, and how to eliminate your debt as quickly as possible.

5 Pieces of Student Loan Advice to Help You Start Off On the Right Foot

Leaving college and entering the so-called “real world” can be overwhelming enough as it is. Knowing how you’re going to pay down your student loans can make everything else seem a little easier.

As you consider the right repayment strategy for your student loans, these tips might help. This stuff can get complicated, so of course we always recommend that you speak to a qualified financial advisor to help determine what’s best for you and your situation.

1. Know What Type of Student Loans You Have

There are two types of student loans: federal and private. The type of student loan you have can help determine what sort of repayment options are available to you and if you qualify for certain benefits, including student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. (Private lenders don’t typically offer flexible repayment options like these, so if your student loans are eligible for them they’re probably federal loans.)

If you don’t know what type of student loans you have, finding out should be easy. If you applied for student loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), for example, you have federal loans. You can also use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to track down all of the information on your federal student loans.

If you applied with a private lender and underwent a credit check to get approved, you have private student loans. If you’re still not sure, check with your student loan servicer. You likely received an email or letter from your servicer encouraging you to open an online account. Find that message and either email or call your servicer and ask.

2. Know When Payments Start

If you haven’t already started making monthly payments, it’s a good idea to find out when they’re due and to set up your payment schedule.

In most cases, you’ll have a six-month grace period from the time you left school. Check with your servicer as soon as possible to find out exactly when your first bill is due is and how to make payments.

3. Understand Your Repayment Options

Depending on what type of student loans you have, you may have different repayment options. With federal loans, for instance, you typically start out with the default 10-year repayment plan.

To simplify things, you can consolidate your federal student loans through the Department of Education . But while this can replace several loans with one, you can end up with a higher interest rate overall.

That’s because the government takes the weighted average rates on all of your loans and rounds it up to the nearest one-eighth of a percent (0.125%).

If you can’t afford your monthly payments, however, you can apply for one of four income-driven repayment plans, including:

•  REPAYE Plan: Your monthly payments are generally 10% of your discretionary income, and your repayment term will be extended to 20 or 25 years.

•  PAYE Plan: Your monthly payments are generally 10% of your discretionary income, and your repayment term will be doubled to 20 years.

•  Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan: Your monthly payment will generally be 10% or 15% of your discretionary income, and your repayment term will be either 20 or 25 years.

•  Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan: Your monthly payment will be calculated as the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income or what you would pay on a 12-year repayment plan with fixed payments. Your repayment term will update to 25 years.

Anyone can apply for the REPAYE and ICR plans , but you need to demonstrate financial need to get approved for the PAYE and IBR plans.

With federal loans, you may also qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Through PSLF, you can qualify to have your loans forgiven after you’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments on an income-driven repayment plan while working for an eligible employer.

Eligible employers include government organizations, tax-exempt not-for-profit organizations, and other not-for-profit organizations that provide qualifying public services.

Only Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF, so if you have a different type of federal loan —like a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) a Perkins Loan—you’ll need to consolidate it with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Depending on your career choice, there may be loan forgiveness program options for you, such as through the military, schools, or hospitals.

If you have private student loans, your repayment term was determined by you and the lender when you first applied for your loans. Private student lenders typically don’t offer student loan forgiveness programs, such as SoFi.

4. Consider Refinancing Your Student Loans

Of all the student loan advice that you receive, this tip could make the biggest difference in eliminating your debt. Refinancing your student loans can save you thousands by reducing your interest rate, shortening your repayment term, or both.

Lenders like SoFi offer fixed and variable rates that can be lower than what you’re currently paying. If you qualify, SoFi will pay off your current loans with a new loan.

So, like federal loan consolidation, you can replace several loans with one. But if you qualify, you can also get a lower interest rate, which can reduce the amount of money you spend on interest over the life of your loan.

Remember, however, when you refinance your federal student loans with a private lender, you forfeit access to federal benefits like income-based repayment plans and student loan forgiveness.

5. Avoid Missing Payments and Defaulting

Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to just stop paying your student loans. You typically can’t get student loans discharged in bankruptcy like you can other debts, and defaulting on your student loans could damage your credit.

What’s more, the federal government can garnish your wages and tax refund for payment on federal loans, and private student loan companies can sue you.

In other words, repaying your student loans may not always be easy. But the alternative can be so much worse.

Finalizing Your Student Loan Repayment Strategy

After you consider these tips for paying off student loans, keep in mind that there’s no single right answer. Start by looking into federal loan consolidation, income-driven repayment, and student loan forgiveness.

But also look into refinancing your loans to see if you can save yourself both money and time. To see what your student loans could look like if you refinance with SoFi, take advantage of our easy to use student loan refinance calculator.

Regardless of how you choose to pay off your student loans, consider adding extra payments each month to pay down your debt even faster. This may require cutting back in other areas of your budget, but it can pay off in the long run.

And of course, we always recommend that you speak to a qualified financial advisor to help determine what’s best for you and your situation.

Looking for a way to make your student loans more manageable? Consider refinancing with SoFi.

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.
No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
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.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit.

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20 Year Student Loan Refinance vs Income-Driven Repayment

Considering the over trillion-dollar student debt-load carried by millions of graduates in the U.S., it’s not exactly a surprise that many are exploring options for what their repayment journey will look like. For those looking for a lower monthly payment, a common option is income-driven student loan repayment.

For some students, an income-driven repayment plan, could be the best available choice. For example, this may be the correct course of action for those planning on having their loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Other times, this might not be the best or most affordable option over the long run, even for those looking for a lower overall monthly payment. That’s because lowering your payments often means extending your repayment timeline, which could mean paying more interest over the life of the loan.

It can be hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the two common options (a student loan income-driven repayment plan via the federal government and a student loan refinance from a private lender). That’s simply because what a borrower might pay on an income-driven repayment plan varies from person to person. However, it is still possible to make an informed decision about which makes more sense for your financial and personal situation and money goals.

The first step is gaining a thorough understanding of both common options. Then, you can make an informed decision about which is a better fit to your life and goals. Below, we’ll look at some pros and cons of both.

Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment

To understand income-driven repayment plans, it helps to first wrap your head around a standard repayment plan. Most people who take out a federal student loan or loans are opted into a repayment plan parsed out over 10 years. But standard repayment might not be the best option for everybody, because those carrying high debt balances may have a sky-high monthly payment.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which are need-based options where monthly payments correspond to your income. Depending on your income, and by stretching these payments out over as many as 20 or 25 years, monthly payments could be quite minimal compared to the standard 10-year repayment plan.

You may have already caught onto this, but a student loan income-driven repayment plan is only offered on federal student loans. Federal loans typically offer more flexibility in repayment than private loans, which are procured from a bank, credit union, or other lender.

If you are looking for some respite from your monthly payments on private loans, you’ll have to speak with each lender to see whether they can work with you. (That, or you can consider refinancing, which we’ll discuss below.)

While choosing one of these plans may help to lower monthly payments, they generally will not lessen how much you pay over time. Spreading your loan out over 20 or 25 years could actually increase how much you pay in interest.

Why does this happen? Because with a low monthly payment, the borrower might not be chipping away at much of the loan’s principal, on top of which interest payments are calculated. Even worse, if payments are too low they might not even cover the entire interest charge for the month, which means that interest is added to the balance of the loan (is capitalized).

Because your monthly payment amount is contingent on your income, your income and corresponding payments will be reassessed each year. This means that your monthly payments will likely fluctuate over time.

Loans on an income-driven repayment plans are often forgiven at the end of the 20 or 25-year repayment period. But, under the income-driven repayment plans, any amount that is forgiven will be taxed as ordinary income in the year that the loan is forgiven. For many graduates, this is a harsh realization in the year that the loans are forgiven, especially if the loan has grown in size over time due to capitalized interest.

Any person considering one of these plans in order to have their loans forgiven will want to seriously consider the implications of a hefty tax bill. You should consider how you will be prepared to pay this bill. Will you save extra each month for taxes, in addition to your monthly student loan payment? These are all questions that you may want to research on your own, and potentially discuss with your loan servicer or a financial advisor.

Refinancing Student Loans

People with a student loan or multiple loans, especially loans with higher rates of interest, could consider refinancing instead. With refinancing, the new lender will pay off a borrower’s old loans with a new one.

Depending on the lender, this can be done with both federal or private loans. Generally, the bank or lender evaluates a potential borrower’s financial situation to see if they qualify for a better interest rate. At this point, the potential borrower can also look at options for lengthening or shortening the repayment timeline. This is typically called “changing the terms” of your loan.

Let’s talk about what it means to change the terms of a student loan. In an ideal world, you’re either keeping the same term (or even shortening the term), and when combined with a (hopefully) better rate of interest, you’ll likely save some money on interest. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. You could also extend the length of the loan, remove cosigners, change from a variable rate to a fixed rate, and so on.

Why might one extend the life of their loan via refinancing? Usually, a borrower would do this to get lower monthly payments than they have on a standard, 10-year repayment plan. To be clear, this could cost a borrower more over time even if the loan is refinanced to a lower rate. That said, for some borrowers it still may be a better option than switching to an income-driven repayment plan.

Of course, you’ll want to do a side-by-side comparison of both options, although that’s not a particularly easy task considering that you can’t really predict how much you’ll pay on an income-driven repayment plan over the duration of a student loan, because it varies depending on your income each year.

And with a 20-year fixed-payment refinanced loan, you’re actually paying off the entire balance of the loan. This means you won’t have any part of the loans forgiven, which saves you from a potentially high tax bill .

Something else to consider: When you do a 20-year refinance that allows you to pay extra toward your loans without penalty, you can pay your student loans back faster than the 20-year period. For example, you could potentially pay a 20-year loan back in 10 years by making extra payments, all while keeping the flexibility of the resulting lower monthly payment.

Every lender has their own criteria for determining whether someone qualifies for particular types of loan and at what rates, but it’s usually based on credit score and history and your income (and may include other factors).

When is refinancing not a good idea? Basically, if you are ever planning to use one of the federal loan repayment or forgiveness options, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Because refinancing is the process of paying off loans with a private loan, refinancing federal loans with a private lender means you won’t have access to these federal repayment programs anymore.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make an informed decision about which of the two options is best for you and your financial situation. Good luck in your journey and in paying back your student loans!

Checking to see whether you qualify to refinance your student loans costs nothing and is unbelievably easy. SoFi offers competitive rates, borrower protections, and award-winning customer service.

The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice about bankruptcy.

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What to Know About Replacing Windows in Your Home

As a homeowner, home window repair is a fact of life. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice—perhaps because of storm damage. Other times, you might replace the windows as part of a remodel to change the aesthetics of a space, or to reduce energy costs.

Sometimes, you’ll need to decide between window repair and replacement. Then, you’ll need to select options in materials and glass. When talking to an expert about repairing or replacing windows, you may hear new lingo. The person will likely want to discuss the window frame, as well as the following:

•  Sill: That’s the strip running horizontally across the frame’s bottom.

•  Jamb: Those are the sides of the frame, running vertically.

•  Head: That’s the strip running horizontally across the frame’s bottom.

•  Sash: Some windows have one or more panels that move; the material that forms the frame that

•  holds these individual panes is the sash.

•  Stiles: These are sections of the sash that run vertically.

•  Rails: These are sections of the sash that run horizontally.

Here’s what you need to know about window replacements, cost considerations, and tips for financing the project.

Repairing vs Replacing Windows

If you’re having issues with your windows, you may be wondering whether or not you actually need to replace the window. Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide if you are going to fully replace windows or simply do a few small repairs to make sure they are still functional.

First, if you have one or more windows with cracked or otherwise broken glass, but frames are still solid—and you’re satisfied with how they look—it probably makes sense to just replace the glass with a quality product.

If you have double-pane windows, ones where two panes of glass are separated by a space (gas- or vacuum-sealed) to reduce heat transfer and increase efficiency, know that the seals can also break. You can tell if seals are broken with this simple test: If the window fogs up, you should be able to wipe the condensation off of the window, either from the inside or outside.

If you can’t, the seal is most likely compromised. If this happens, it’s highly unlikely you can simply replace the glass. But, if the frames are solid, you could still replace the panes, sashes, and seals. And be aware that if you have triple-paned windows, this seal breakage could happen in even more places.

Do you actually feel air coming in through a window? If so, you can caulk or weather-strip the trouble spots and see if this solves the problem. Are there small spots of wood that are rotting? If so, you can try scraping away rotted areas, then making putty repairs and repainting. Did you fix the problem? If repairs for either issue (air leaks or rotting wood) don’t solve the problem, that window will likely need replaced.

Here’s another issue to consider. Is the window stuck? There are a few different troubleshooting things to try, including looking for broken hardware pieces and replacing them; or scraping away paint, sanding down the area, opening up the window and cleaning the tracks. If one of these solves the problem, great. If not, then you’ll either need to replace them.

Finally, here is a benchmark to consider: Perhaps you fixed the problem, but the window is warped or otherwise damaged. This is a sign of issues to come and, as with most maintenance, being proactive about window replacement usually makes the most sense.

Benefits of Replacing Windows

If you decide that it is time to replace some or all of the windows in your house, you will likely cut your energy costs once the project is completed. According to ENERGY STAR® , windows granted the ENERGY STAR seal of approval can lead to the following annual savings for a typical home:

•  $126 to $465 when replacing single-pane windows

•  $27 to $111 when replacing double-pane windows that are clear glass

When you replace windows, you are also adding to the sales potential of your home, partly thanks to the energy savings. They also add to the curb appeal of the house, because windows are one of the most obvious features of a home as people walk or drive by. If the windows look old or poorly maintained, then potential buyers may conclude that the entire home needs maintenance, which may not be true at all.

And if you’re installing new windows as a way to invest in your home, consider larger ones that let in more natural light. Using daylight to brighten up your home has been found to be beneficial to people, enhancing productivity and improving mood. Natural light can help fine-tune circadian rhythms, which can add to a better sense of well-being.

Types of Window Materials

In general, you’ll need to choose what type of glass you want and what type of frame/sash materials. There are numerous materials you can choose from for your windows, ranging from vinyl to wood, fiberglass to aluminum and more. Vinyl choices are typically the most affordable and are usually low maintenance and durable. They can last a long time, since this material doesn’t peel or fade, chip, or rot.

For a traditional look, you can choose wood. They provide an elegant appearance, but typically come with more maintenance because wood can warp and rot, and paint will eventually chip and peel. Wood is almost always more expensive than vinyl.

Fiberglass is a little more expensive than vinyl, but can offer more durability and provide more energy efficiency. Scratches and nicks are harder to see, which is good; and, because the material doesn’t expand or contract to any significant degree, you seldom have to worry about air leaks.

Aluminum frames and sashes are long lasting and durable, and you can choose from numerous colors and finishes. This material creates a more modern look than wooden ones. And, although this material can be less efficient because the metal conducts heat, you can select ones with thermal breaks to minimize the issue.

You can also choose clad windows that are wooden inside your home, to provide a beautiful appearance, but vinyl, aluminum, or fiberglass on the outside where durability is more important. These windows are typically more expensive, but they do provide a versatile approach.

If you’ve got an historic home and you want to return your home to its original integrity, you may need to work with a company that can customize windows for you. The wrong style of window and use of anachronistic materials can significantly mar restoration efforts.

After you’ve selected material for the frame, you’ll have to decide on the type of glass. There are a few different types of glass, and they all have different functions—so do your research or work with a professional to find the best option for your home. Types of window glass include the following:

•  Insulated glass: These windows have at least two panes apiece, hermetically-sealed ones divided by spacers.

•  Heat-absorbing tinted glass: Because these windows can absorb heat from the sun, they can keep your home or business cooler. Plus, they reduce glare.

•  Reflective-coated glass: This can also reduce glare and heat in the home.

•  Gas-filled glass: These are insulated, gas-filled units that provide more insulation than just air. Gases used are usually krypton or argon.

•  Low-emissivity-coated glass: These windows can provide significant savings in energy costs in colder climates.

•  Spectrally-selective-coated glass: These allow in light while filtering out significant amounts of heat.

Window Replacement Cost

Home Advisor provides guidance into typical window replacement costs in 2018. Replacing windows can be an expensive project, but it could ultimately improve the value of your home. While prices vary based on a few factors, like where in the country you live and the size of the windows, these general estimates could give you an idea of what replacing windows might cost you.

•  Single-hung windows: $175 to $350 per window

•  Double-hung windows: $300 to $800 per window

•  Sliding windows: $325 to $1,200 per window

•  Casement windows: $275 to $750 per window

Using a Personal Loan When Installing New Windows

Once you’ve decided how many windows you will replace and what the window replacement cost will be, consider taking out a home improvement loan to fund the repairs. You can use the SoFi personal loan calculator to determine what a personal loan with SoFi could look like.

At soFi, you can get a low-rate personal loan with no fees required when you’re ready to repair or replace your windows. You can quickly and easily find your rate and complete an application online. Live customer support is available seven days a week, and if you lose your job through no fault of your own, you can apply for Unemployment Protection—we can even assist you in your job search.

Ready to upgrade your windows? See how a home improvement loan with SoFi can help.

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.
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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How to Still Save Money While Raising Young Children

This statistic has been making the rounds, but perhaps you’ve been too busy between work, kids, and just generally being superman or woman to notice it.

According to the Federal Reserve Board’s 2016 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, 44% of all respondents could not cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense, or would rely on borrowing or selling something in order to do so. And believe it or not, that 44% is actually an improvement over previous results that go back to 2013. Still, it’s not making anybody feel any better.

If you’re part of this statistic, rest assured that there are ways to liberate yourself from this kind of burden. Saving money is power.

While the great expense of raising children can make you feel financially insecure, there are ways to work it so that you and your kids come out ahead. Even if you grow your family, there are habits to learn and stick to that can help keep you on top of your finances. Getting a grip on your budget, your finances, and your expenses can make for a happier family and a somewhat less stressful existence.

Here are a few suggestions that can help you save money while raising young children.

Establishing an Emergency Fund

Even if you can only afford to contribute a few dollars a week, an emergency fund can help you deal with the unexpected without necessarily having to resort to a credit card. These funds should be in a separate account (not your checking account) where you can access the funds easily, but not that easily (really, save it only for emergencies).

Treating Your Family to Home Cooking

Cooking in bulk, say on Sunday night, before the week begins, is a good way to have meals on hand and to eliminate the temptation for takeout and ordering in. You can save a lot of money in the process, especially if you cook with good health in mind. It’s also a great group activity for the fam.

Rethinking Your Grocery Budget

Walking through a supermarket is an exercise in resisting temptation. Instead, arrive with a pre-prepared list in hand, and stick to it. Planning meals (see our second suggestion) can get your shopping chore done faster.

You don’t have to get completely frugal—some snacks should be allowed—but if the bulk of your shopping list is planned and practical, you’ll likely see the difference in your budget, and, more importantly, in your family’s health.

Staying at Home

It may seem old-fashioned, but young children usually love old-fashioned fun: board games, charades, watching movies, reading comic books, playing music, taking walks, and telling stories can save you money on most outside activities.

You don’t have to give up the outside world completely, but cutting down could surely make a difference in your monthly outgoing expenses.

Buy Secondhand

New clothes are not always a good solution for kids who quickly outgrow their old clothes. Accepting hand-me-downs, attending yard sales, and checking out online trading can be great ways to avoid the high prices of children’s clothing, and possibly the high price of your own wardrobe as well.

Sharing a Nanny

One of the most draining costs of raising young children is day care and/or a nanny. Nanny shares are actually a thing, because of the need to save money with a baby or young child while still benefiting from high-quality care. Nanny sharing can result in a cheaper monthly nanny bill, and a chance for your child to learn how to interact and get along with other children (hopefully).

Asking Your Doctor and Dentist for Free Product Samples

After your child’s checkup, it can’t hurt to ask if there are any free samples you can take with you. Whatever you get can be one less product you have to buy at the drugstore: eye drops, skin cream, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss. It’s a doggy bag that saves you money.

Cutting Down on Extracurricular Activities

This doesn’t make you a bad parent. Allowing your child horseback lessons or Little League baseball instead of horseback riding lessons and Little League still gives them the benefits of activity and socialization.

You child will usually let you know which activity is the most important to them. It also teaches your child one of the most difficult lessons to learn in life: we can’t always get everything we want. A great source for free activities for kids: your local library.

Reducing the Amount of Toys you Buy

This may sound cruel, but you may have noticed that your child plays with a toy for a few hours at the very most, and then abandons it (have you seen Toy Story?).

Buying fewer toys will save you money and make your child cherish the toys already there. This tip doesn’t mean that you should never buy another toy again. Check online for sales, discounts, and trades.

Signing up for Free Offers and Coupons

Online commerce wants you! They’ll do anything to attract you and keep you. This often includes getting messages to you for flash sales, discounts, and coupons you can use right from your phone. Check your favorite stores for kids. They’ll be glad to hear from you.

Other Ways to Save Money While Raising Young Children

Need additional guidance? Check out SoFi Relay, our new money tracker. You can see your finances at a glance, and track and categorize your spending.

You’ll be able to track your money and cash flow daily to help hit your targets. The best part? SoFi Relay has absolutely no cost.

Sign up for SoFi Relay today!

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.
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.
Automated and advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth LLC, a registered investment advisor.
SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance.
This information isn’t financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on specific financial needs, goals and risk appetite.
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank.
SoFi Checking and SavingsTM is offered through SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC, a registered investment advisor.


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How to Consolidate Multiple Debts into a Single Payment

It’s not exactly a surprise that the average American has plenty of debt . Households with credit card debt carry an average balance of over $15,000. Frustratingly, these debts often come with exorbitant interest rates.

While some folks are able to manage their debts just fine, some may feel overwhelmed juggling loan payments of varying sizes with due dates scattered throughout the month. When life gets busy, missing a payment is too easy and can land you even further behind. Having multiple debts can be stressful and can make budgeting and planning for the future challenging. And let’s be real: No one likes feeling overwhelmed by multiple debt payments.

For most people, the goal with paying back debt—especially consumer debt, like credit card debt—is to do so as quickly and painlessly as possible. If this is your goal, you have options. One of those options is debt consolidation, where you pay off qualifying debts using a new loan, often called a “debt consolidation loan” or a “debt relief loan.” To determine whether consolidating your debts into one single payment is the right choice for you, read on.

Should I Consolidate My Debts?

It may be worth considering consolidation if it will help you simplify your finances and lower the amount of interest you pay overall on your combined sources of debt. For example, if you have multiple credit cards and each has a high interest rate, consolidating to one loan with a lower interest rate could get you out of debt sooner. That, and you could enjoy the sweet relief of only having one payment to manage for the debt you consolidated.

Consolidating your credit cards to a lower interest rate with a debt consolidation loan could help you get out of debt sooner.

Pros of Debt Consolidation

1) You can streamline multiple debts into one payment, making the payback process easier and more efficient.

2) If you consolidate your debt, you may pay less interest over the life of your loan.

3) Consolidating credit card debt can lower your revolving credit utilization ratio, which is a factor considered by most credit bureaus in the calculation of credit scores. If you lower your balance on several credit cards, but keep them open, you’ll decrease your credit utilization ratio. That’s a good thing! Revolving credit utilization ratios are also often considered by lenders when making credit decisions.

That said, debt consolidation isn’t for everyone. Taking out a new loan may come with fees, so you’ll want to do the math and make sure it’s worth it before moving forward. You should also be mindful of the repayment period and ensure you only finance the debt on a timeline that works for you. Be wary of a loan term that’s too long—even if the loan has a lower interest rate, you can pay more in interest over time with longer repayment periods.

Cons of Debt Consolidation

1) If the loan term is longer than necessary, you could potentially pay more in interest even if the rate is lower.

2) Some debt consolidation programs are scams. It is important to understand that not all loan consolidation tactics are created equal. There have been some unsavory and even fraudulent loan consolidation services that don’t really help get your debt under control. If a lender is asking for money upfront to consolidate your debt, for example, that’s a red flag.

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How Do I Consolidate My Debt?

Debt consolidation, in theory, is very simple. You, or a lender, pays off all of your unsecured debts (like credit cards and personal loans) using a new loan. Then, moving forward, you’ll only make one monthly payment on your new loan.

A “debt consolidation loan” or a “debt relief loan” is often just a personal loan. This means that you have the option to seek out personal loans from reputable banks, credit unions, or online lenders. You do not have to work with a debt consolidation services provider that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with. Think of it this way: If it sounds sketchy, it probably is.

When it comes to low-rate personal loans, at SoFi we pride ourselves on transparency and a level of customer service unmatched in the lending industry. Also, our personal loans come with no origination fees, prepayment penalties, or late fees.

Learn more about how a SoFi personal loan can help you manage your debt.

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 on credit.

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