ELFI is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and following guidance from state and federal agencies. If you have been impacted by the Coronavirus, our Customer Care Center is available to help you.

Millions May Be Eligible to Refinance Their Student Debt and Don’t Know It

Can you think of any time, ever, that you’ve had the opportunity to save money and turned it down? Suppose you’re in a retail store, looking at a leather jacket you’ve been saving up for. The sales clerk approaches you and says, “You can have that jacket for 20% off simply by applying for a discount.”

Are you going to say, “No thanks, I’d rather pay full price?” Of course not! You’re going to take the discount and laugh all the way to the bank. Anybody would.

This is why it’s so surprising that millions of college grads are leaving money on the table. We’re not talking about scholarships you missed out on, either. We’re talking about the chance at a lower student loan payment, as well as reducing overall student loan debt.

Like many college grads, you likely had to take out student loans in the course of completing an undergrad and/or graduate degree. Now that you’ve graduated and found gainful employment, you’re diligently paying down loans to maintain a stellar credit rating.

Are you paying more than you have to? If you have yet to consider student loan refinancing, there’s a chance you could be leaving money on the table. By refinancing, you could lower student loan interest rates, monthly payments and possibly overall debt. Doesn’t it seem worth looking into, at the very least?

It’s not difficult to find out if you’re eligible for student loan refinancing and whether or not it’s right for you. It starts simply enough by speaking with lenders. Here are a few things you need to know going into the process.

Am I Eligible?

Many people seem to suffer from the misconception that in order to refinance a loan, they have to first be in serious financial straits. This is not the case. In fact, people who are doing well financially tend to enjoy greater eligibility and stand to benefit the most from student loan refinancing (or other loan refinancing).

Just because you aren’t necessarily desperate for a lower student loan payment doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of savings and work smarter instead of harder. It’s a question of setting yourself up for the most profitable and advantageous financial situation, now and in the future.

Finding out if you’re eligible requires little more than applying. Qualifications for refinancing student loan debt vary by lender, but the main thing you need to prove is an ability (and willingness) to repay any loan you’re given. Other possible qualifying factors could include:

  • Good credit score
  • Solid history of repayment to date
  • Steady income
  • Debt-to-income ratio

In other words, being well-situated financially can greatly increase your odds of getting approved for student loan refinancing, as well as getting a low interest rate. Other considerations on your part may include carrying loans with variable interest rates (which are likely to go up in coming years) or carrying already high interest rates that could be reduced through consolidation and refinancing.

How Does Student Loan Refinancing Work?

The process of refinancing begins with filling out an application to find out if you’re eligible to participate. This generally includes providing information about your financial situation, including the number of loans you wish to consolidate/refinance. You may also be asked to provide other information such as your income and other debts (i.e., credit card debt, auto or mortgage loans, etc.).

You will also have to agree to a credit check, which will reveal your credit score and credit history, including current debts and whether or not you have any black marks over the last three to five years (late or missed payments, defaults, bankruptcies, etc.). If everything looks good, you may receive an offer for refinancing or consolidating loans and potentially lower student loan interest rates and debt in the process.

From there you will have to consider your options. Accepting a new loan means figuring out which terms are going to provide you with the greatest overall benefit. There are several questions you should ask.

  • Can I reduce monthly payments?
  • Can I reduce overall debt?
  • Can I replace variable rates with a single, fixed-rate loan?
  • Will I save money with a lower interest rate even if the term is longer?
  • Are comparable or shorter terms for repayment an option?
  • Will I reduce my debt-to-income ratio?
  • Are there fees attached and how will they impact overall savings?

Refinancing your student loans ultimately has to make sense for you, but determining your options begins with finding out if you’re eligible to consolidate and refinance.

Benefits of Refinancing

There is no shortage of reasons to consider refinancing your student loans, especially if you’re already doing well financially. When you refinance, you could enjoy:

  • The convenience of a single, consolidated loan payment
  • One rate (as opposed to a combination of rates over multiple loans)
  • Lower monthly payments
  • Reduced overall debt
  • Improved debt-to-income ratio

If it turns out you’re one of the millions of people that are currently eligible to refinance student loans but have yet to do so, you may be able to do a lot more than lower student loan interest rates. You may be able to take advantage of a major opportunity.

Even if you don’t necessarily pay attention to the economy, you probably understand that it has improved significantly since the lows of the Great Recession. The natural byproduct of this recovery is that the Federal Reserve has recently increased the federal funds (interest) rate, which is the benchmark for other interest rates across the nation, including loans of every type.

By refinancing now, you can potentially lock in a lower student loan payment that might not be available a few months from now. You may also be able to consolidate loans, reduce monthly payments and, depending on the term you choose, reduce long-term debt. Now is the time to find out if you are eligible for refinancing so you can say yes to significant savings.

The Trump Administration and Student Loan Debt

You’ve graduated from college, found a job and are comfortable with your income. However, there’s still one weight on your shoulders – student loan debt. Even with your steady income stream, you have financial obligations that may include hefty student loan payments, which can take a big chunk out of your paycheck.

Paying the minimum on your monthly student loan bill will only mean that you owe more on your student loan debt in the long run, thanks to accruing interest. Student loan refinancing could be the answer that helps you to secure a lower interest rate.

Postponing your decision to refinance might not be the best solution for you. If you’re waiting for the Trump administration to develop new policies to determine your course of action, you could suffer unintended consequences as a result.

Since Donald Trump took office as President, many college graduates have wondered how the administration will handle student debt. As of yet, there have been no executive orders regarding student loan debt, and Trump’s policies on student loans have been vague, at best.

The current administration seems to have many other priorities at the moment. For now, let’s examine Trump’s views on the subject, their potential downfalls and how students can regain control of their own financial future.

The Trump Repayment Plan

• During his campaign, Trump floated the idea of an income-based repayment plan that would allow borrowers to have student loans forgiven sooner by committing to higher monthly payments. Proposed details of the plan include paying 12.5% of income (instead of the 10% under the current plan) and having remaining debt forgiven after 15 years (as opposed to a 25-year maximum under the existing program, although borrowers could enjoy forgiveness in as little as 10 with qualifying public service jobs). There is potential here to help borrowers with low income and those with high debt, but if your debts are manageable and you enjoy a decent income, you’ll likely pay off student loans before benefits kick in.

• Increase student loan forgiveness amounts. The plan would lower federal spending, and therefore shorten repayment terms. Also, it wouldn’t apply if you had a private student loan payment every month. You can’t receive forgiveness on such a loan, plus you’d have to spend 10 consecutive years working for a nonprofit organization, which in today’s job market is hard to achieve.

• Get rid of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. To date, over half a million students have signed up to participate in a loan forgiveness program that will eliminate remaining student debt after 10 years of faithful payment, supposing you work in a qualifying public service job. Unfortunately, this program is not only fraught with restrictions and limitation, but a legal filing by the Department of Education in March alleges that borrowers who thought they were eligible and were working toward forgiveness may, in fact, not qualify at all. Will students enrolled in this program be better or worse off under a new plan? Do you want to wait to find out?

Why Choose Student Loan Refinancing?

Lowering your payments today and/or reducing the term on your student loans may be a better way to go if you are looking to pay your debt off sooner rather than later and want to realize interest savings today. The advantages of going the route of refinancing are explained below:

• Lower the interest rate(s) on your loan(s). You keep more cash in the bank while the loan is being repaid. Saving on student loan repayment is even more feasible if interest rates have dropped since you borrowed from the lender, and your credit score is higher than it was then.

• Option to lock in today’s low rates. If you have high fixed rates on your loans or you have variable rate loans which could see interest costs increase if rates go up, you stand to save more by taking out a fixed rate loan today and locking in low rates.

• Lower payments every month. Typically, student loans have terms of 10 years. Extending the term can reduce what you pay each month, which can be good if you need to allocate funds to other expenses.

• Breathing room for earnings increases. If you receive an increase in salary, you can always pay more toward the loan every month. This may potentially decrease your repayment term and save on accrued interest as well.

Don’t Wait for Trump’s Policies on Student Loans 

President Trump has not announced any time frame for policy changes, nor has he taken a strong stance on student loan debt to date. When he finally does come up with solid policies, you may have been able to save hundreds if not thousands on your student loan by simply refinancing. You should also focus on keeping the relationship with your lender on good terms. That means staying current with every student loan payment; you’ll have more options going forward, and your credit will be in good standing.

There are other ways to reduce your payment terms. These include paying more than the minimum amount; many people just pay what they need to each month, but this only means paying more in interest later. One option is to set up automatic payments, so you don’t have to decide every month, which often results in paying a lower amount.

More Ways to Handle Student Loan Debt

The Trump administration appears to be leaving the issue of student loan debt on the back burner. That doesn’t mean you should sit around and wait for help. You can do various things to manage your debt, such as applying funds from your annual raises. Putting half of a salary increase into paying student loans is an effective strategy.

Effectively managing your budget is another option. You can free more funds to pay off debt by living where the rent is cheaper, eating in and cutting unnecessary spending. Working extra hours at a side job can yield more income to devote to student loan repayment, as well. You could also take a student loan interest deduction when you file your federal tax returns. Up to $2,500 in taxes can presently be deducted from federal income taxes, subject to certain income limitations.

There are effective ways to deal with your debt now, regardless of whether Trump’s policies on student loans might help you in the future. Lowering your interest rate now on your student loan debt can deliver significant rewards.

5 Personal Finance Apps to Keep Your Finances in Check

In today’s tech-savvy environment, it doesn’t take much to find that there’s an app for everything. If you want to edit a photo to post on Instagram, read a book, or track your food or workouts, there’s likely an app for it. It is as simple as making a few taps on your smartphone. With 95% of Americans owning some kind of cellphone according to PEW Research Center, it doesn’t seem surprising that apps are becoming so easy to use. Apps help make everyday life a little bit easier. The same simplicity can apply to personal finance apps.


If you are an avid smartphone user, you may have noticed that your experience is getting significantly easier. Instead of driving to your nearest bank to deposit a check, you can now do so from your smartphone in a matter of minutes. Checking your balance and transferring funds are simpler than ever. Did you know, there are apps that help you stick to your budget, remind you to pay bills, and invest money? Read on for five personal finance apps that could help make your life easier:



Category: Investing

Cost: Free app install, $1 per month for the service

Best for: Wanting to make an extra buck

The idea behind Acorns™ is using your spare change to earn additional money. Essentially, this app is meant for investing, especially small amounts. You can start off by putting in just $5 and Acorns™ economists will invest your money into stocks and bonds for you. One major benefit to this app is it is mostly hands-off. There are three options for depositing money, which can all be done automatically:

  1. Investments from your bank account (recurring or one-time)
  2. Round up to the nearest dollar whenever you make a purchase on a debit or credit card (you will not see any money leave your credit or debit card until the round-ups reach $5)
  3. “Earn Found Money” is where you receive money from purchases made with specific brands

Acorns™ will then invest your money into over 7,000 stocks in bonds, and when you earn dividends the app will reinvest those without you even needing to tell it to. The service does come at a cost: $1 per month. You can pay $2 per month to add on Acorns Later™, which is an IRA that saves for retirement. There is also the option to withdraw your money whenever you would like. Investing your spare change in Acorns™ will likely give you a higher return than just letting it sit in your wallet.


Do You Need a Financial Advisor to Start Investing?



Category: Budgeting

Cost: Free

Best for: Keeping track of finances

Mint™ is one of the most popular finance apps, and it is totally free. The purpose of the app is to manage your money, plain and simple. Whether that includes investments, credit cards, bills, or budgeting, you can take a look at all of your finances all in one place. You can also keep track of your credit score and the app will give you tips as to how to make it better. Mint™ will notify you when you need to pay your bills and tell you what you owe so you won’t miss any payments. The app tracks your purchases to make sure you are not going over your set budget and will let you know if you are close to doing so. Mint™ comes from Intuit™, which also owns TurboTax™, so there is a strong level of safety involved.  Get this app if you are looking for convenience and simplicity in managing your finances for no cost.



Category: Budgeting

Cost: Free

Best for: Couples

This is an app that is made for couples. If you are in a relationship or married and have a hard time keeping up with finances with your partner, this is the app for you. It is designed to be collaborative, so both you and your partner are aware of bills and spending and can keep track of expenses. Custom categories can be created and then you set a monthly budget for each one. You can set bill reminders for just one person – that way you know for sure who is responsible for that bill. It doesn’t matter if you have a combined account or if your finances are completely separate because you can customize how much you share with each other. This app is sure to cut down on disagreements about finances between couples.


Personal Capital™

Category: Investing/Money Management

Cost: Free

Best for: Working on your net worth

Personal Capital™ is for investment and money management and tracking your net worth. The app pulls together all of your investments, loans, credit cards, and bank accounts and determines what your net worth is and whether you are investing in the right places and gives advice as to how to improve your portfolio. This is a free app and is run by financial advisors both human and automated. There are tools for budgeting as well, but the real strength in this app is in discovering and improving your net worth. You can also use the technology and advisors to plan for retirement.


You Need a Budget (YNAB) ™

Category: Investing/Money Management

Cost: Free app install, $6.99 per month after free trial for service

Best for: Getting out of debt

YNAB™ has been growing in popularity over the last few years and has the goal to get you out of debt. It is primarily a budgeting app, but it also gives you the tools to learn how to get out and stay out of debt. You Need a Budget lives by four rules:

  1. Give every dollar a job: make sure you have budgeted for every dollar you get in income monthly
  2. Embrace your true expenses: always include expenses that occur less frequently within your monthly budget
  3. Roll with the punches: be aware that your budget will probably have to change – and be willing to make those changes
  4. Age your money: this is just saying that you should be using last month’s paycheck to pay this month’s bills

YNAB™ is an effective app that many users swear by, but it does cost money. You will be charged $6.99 each month after a 34-day free trial. Use that free trial period to determine whether the guidance is worth the price.


Add Personal Finance Apps to Your List


According to PEW Research Center, 77% of Americans go online on a daily basis. Of those 77% of Americans, 43% of them go online multiple times a day. If you frequently use apps to make your life easier, why not add a few personal finance apps to your phone? The more you keep up with your finances, the more aware of them you will be. There are apps for sticking to your budget, tracking credit score, investing, fraud protection, and more, and these are just a few of the many personal finance apps out there.


Cards and Accounts That Pay You


NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.