Ever have a friend complain about how the payments they’re making towards their loans aren’t actually going to pay off…well, the freakin’ loans? Your friend is onto something.
At the beginning stages of a loan, a big proportion of the loan payments that a borrower makes are applied towards the loan’s interest as opposed to the principal balance. Especially if the loan is spread out over a long time-frame such as many years, most early payments are applied almost totally to interest.
Due to a method of calculation called amortization, loan payments are split between interest and principal, heavy on the interest in the beginning stages. Towards the end, the effect usually reverses. When an amortization calculation is displayed visually, it is called an amortization schedule and graph.
We’re going to get into some of the nitty-gritty amortization info, but before we go there, we just want to be straight with you: This is an incredibly complex topic. We’re going to try to break it down the best we can, but please understand that this info is general in nature and does not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs; it should not be considered advice. SoFi always recommends that you speak to a professional about your unique situation. Okay, and we’re back in.
Amortization is calculated on all installment loans, which are loans that have regular, predetermined monthly payments, such as mortgages and student loans. Below, we will discuss how amortization is calculated, take a closer look at student loan amortization and a student loan amortization schedule, and explore some ideas for borrowers who want to lessen the amount they’ll pay in interest over time.
Before we dive into a student loan amortization calculation and schedule, it is helpful to first understand the basics of calculating the cost of a loan. You’ll need to know these three variables:
1. The value of the loan, also known as the principal
2. The interest rate on the loan (and whether it is fixed or variable)
3. The duration, or length, of the loan (usually given in months or years)
With this information, it is possible to determine both the monthly payment on the loan and the total interest paid during the life of the loan, assuming all payments are made. Although the math itself is difficult, it is easy to plug the information into an online student loan interest calculator.
The next step is to determine how much of each monthly payment is going towards both interest and principal. This is where the amortization calculation and the amortization schedule come in. As mentioned, amortization happens only on “installment” loans, and all student loans are installment loans.
There are two types of loans: installment loans and revolving credit. A mortgage, student loan, or car loan are all examples of installment loans. With an installment loan, the borrower is loaned an amount of money (called the principal) to be paid back over a designated amount of time, with interest.
Revolving credit, on the other hand, is not a loan disbursed in one lump sum, but is a certain amount of credit to be used as the borrower pleases, up to a designated limit. A credit card and a line of credit are forms of revolving credit.
A borrower’s monthly payment on revolving credit is determined by how much of the available credit they are using at any given time; therefore, minimum payments change from month to month.
Student Loan Amortization Examples
Because student loans are a form of installment loan—a specific amount of money is disbursed to the borrower—student loans are amortized. Parts of each payment are spent on both the loan’s principal and its interest.
At the front-end of the loan, a much larger proportion will be allocated to interest. Due to the way compounding returns work, the effect is more dramatic the longer the length of the loan.
Take, for example, a $30,000 loan at 7% fixed interest rate amortized over a 10-year repayment period. The borrower’s monthly payment is $348.33 total (rounded down to $348 for simplicity in the grid below). Each year, the hypothetical borrower will pay $4,180 total towards their loan.
This never changes, although the proportion that is paid both towards principal and interest will. Here’s how that hypothetical borrower’s hypothetical loan amortization might look. (All examples calculated using this student loan interest calculator, by Bankrate .)
Amortization Schedule Student Loan $30,000, 7% interest over 10 years starting January 2019
|Date||Interest Paid||Principal Paid||Balance|
So, during the first year, the example borrower’s monthly payments are made up of about half interest and half principal. At the end of that first year, the borrower has paid $4,180 total towards their student loan. $2,032 of that went to interest, while $2,148 went to paying down the principal.
At the end of the first year, the loan is not reduced by the total amount the borrower had paid, but only the amount paid towards the principal—the $2,148. The $30,000 loan is therefore valued at $27,852 at the end of the year.
That’s the whole thing with amortization—because only a small proportion of payments is applied to the loan’s principal at the early stages, the interest rate charges continue to be calculated off a relatively high loan balance figure. Eventually, this swings in the other direction as the loan’s principal is reduced.
With each passing month and year paying down debt, more of each payment is allocated towards the principal. By the ninth and final year, the borrower pays only $154 to interest and $4,026 to principal.
Let’s look at another example of a hypothetical student loan amortization schedule, but along a longer timeline, such as twenty years. It should be noted that a twenty-year payback period isn’t “standard” for federal student loans, but the important takeaway here is the impact of time on amortization calculations.
Here’s a table with the results of a hypothetical $60,000 student loan at a 7% fixed rate, paid back over 20 years.
Amortization Schedule Student Loan $60,000, 7% interest over 20 years:
|May, 2038||$21||$444||$3,182||Jun, 2038||$19||$447||$2,735|
In this example, each monthly payment for the 20-year duration is $465.18 (again, rounded down to $465 for simplicity’s sake above). In January 2019, the first month of the first year of the loan, $350 is paid towards interest, and just $115 is paid towards the principal. That’s less than 25% of the total payment, compared to 50% in the previous example.
By the end of the hypothetical loan, hardly any of the payment is allocated towards interest, and the majority is applied to the principal. In the very last monthly payment in the last year, only $3 goes towards interest and $462 to principal. In the last year, only $206 total goes towards interest versus $4,155 in the first year.
To calculate your student loan amortization schedule, you too can use an online calculator . It can also be really helpful to see the numbers in graph form, and to see each amortized payment listed out—so you know how much of your money is going to both interest and principal in each monthly payment.
Can You Pay Less Interest on Your Loans?
If amortized payments are frustrating to you, you’re not alone. One way to possibly alleviate the pain is to pay your loan back faster than the stated term. Especially at the beginning of the loan’s repayment term, making additional payments towards the principal might lower what you’ll owe in interest.
If you go this route, consider letting your lender know that the additional payment is to be applied to the principal of the loan, not the interest. If you are mailing a check, you could include a note. If you’re making a payment online, you may want to call your loan servicer to make sure that they apply the money correctly.
For borrowers with multiple loans that want to expedite their debt payment, it’s hard to know where to start. If your goal is really to nip loan amortization in the bud, you might want to consider the “debt avalanche” method of debt repayment.
Using this method, you would choose the source of debt with the highest interest rate and work on “attacking” it first, while making the minimum payment on all other loans. After the highest interest rate loan is paid off, you would move to the next highest interest rate loan, and so on.
Graduates can also consider refinancing their student loans. When you refinance, you’re essentially paying off your old loan or loans with a new loan from a private lender, like SoFi. Ideally, you refinance in order to get a lower rate on your loans than you currently have.
No matter your current financial standing, it’s usually worth checking to see if you qualify for a lower rate than you’re currently paying. With refinancing, you’re also usually able to adjust other terms to your loans, such as the repayment schedule. You can extend it, if you’re looking for lower monthly payments, or shorten it, if you want to pay less in interest—and outsmart amortization—on your loan.
Borrowers shouldn’t refinance their loans if they’re currently using one of the special federal loan repayment plans such as income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. When you refinance, you will lose access to these programs. Otherwise, it’s usually worth looking into.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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FOR MORE INFORMATION. Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.