7 Tips for Parents Paying A Child’s Student LoansFebruary 5, 2020
By Tracey Suhr
$233,610. This is the amount of money today’s average American family can expect to spend raising one child. If this seems like a lot, get ready for more sticker shock since this doesn’t include the cost of college. The average tuition at a public in-state school for the 2019-2020 school year is $10,116. Multiply that by four years (plus student loan interest), and you’re adding another $50,000+ to the total cost of raising a child.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely well aware of the cost of college, and you might now be looking for ways to help your son or daughter pay their college debt. Your recent graduate likely has a student loan (and if they’re lucky, parents who offered to make payments toward that loan). Or you might have taken out a parent loan* to fully cover the cost of college for your child. Either way, those loans are staring you in the face, begging to be paid.
Luckily, there are no rules against helping your son or daughter pay off student loan debt. Here are some tips for parents who are paying a child’s student loans.
Set Up Automatic Payments
The easiest way to help manage your child’s student loan debt is by setting up automatic payments from your checking or savings account. We all get busy and forget items on our to-do list. And while one or two missed payments might not make a difference, several can result in late fee charges and dings on your credit, especially if the loan is in your name or if you were a co-signer for the loan.
Play By the Rules (Tax Rules)
If you help pay your child’s student loan debt, you might need to pay gift tax and file a gift tax return during tax season. A gift tax applies to the giver (that’s you) and to any contributions more than $15,000, as of 2020. Tuition is excluded from gift tax but, unfortunately, loan payments are not. Double-check current IRS regulations around loan payments before making the decision to help pay your child’s student loan debt. Here is a current FAQ list around gift tax.
Focus on Loans with High-Interest Rates
Look at all your loans—car loans, mortgage loans, credit card debt—and focus on those with the highest interest rate. If you have a credit card with an 18% interest rate, and the interest on your child’s student loan is just 8%, it would be wiser to focus on paying your card first. Even adding an extra $50 or $100 per paycheck to those higher rate loans can help in the long run.
Prepay the Loan
If you receive a bonus or a cushy tax return, allocate those extra funds toward the student loan debt. By paying down your child’s student loan faster, you can reduce the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan by paying less monthly interest.
You can also allocate extra funds toward paying your child’s student loans by rearranging other existing finances. For example, if you have multiple credit cards, consolidate the balances into one loan. A single loan with a fixed interest rate that’s lower than the APR on your credit card will help you simplify and save.
Refinance Student Loans
Refinancing student loans is another way to simplify payments and readjust finances. Whether the loan is a parent loan or student loan, reducing the interest rate lowers monthly and total loan payments. You can also change the term of the loan to 5, 7, or 10 years to help lower monthly payments, allowing you to reallocate funds to other expenses or debts (refer back to our tip about paying off debts with high-interest rates first).
Related >> Should You Refinance Parent PLUS Loans?
ELFI offers student loan refinancing options for both parents and students, with some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available and flexible terms. We also have no application fees, no loan origination fees, and no penalty of paying off your student loan early. See how much you could save with ELFI Student Loan Refinancing*.
Set Up Biweekly vs. Monthly Payments
You might have noticed that some months, you get an extra paycheck. This is because the 52 weeks in a year don’t evenly divide into four weeks for every 12 months. You can take advantage of these extra four weeks by setting up biweekly loan payments. If your monthly payment is $300, and you readjust to paying $150 every other week, you pay the same amount each paycheck, but end up with an extra loan payment paid over the course of a year. This pays your student loan debt faster. Another bonus? This tip works for paying off any loans, not just student loans.
Fully Understand Your Offer
Paying your child’s student loans, whether partially or in full, is a generous offer. It can help your new graduate get on his or her feet in the working world. It can also help free up money for dealing with other debts or life’s unexpected surprises. Since your offer also impacts your financial situation, be sure you fully understand the pros and cons. Consider how close you are to retirement, and if your 401k or other funds will suffer. Be aware of the balances and interest rates in your other debts.
Whether or not you chose to help your child pay their loan, student loan refinancing (or even refinancing your parent loan) can help avoid the hassle of multiple payments and get a more affordable rate and flexible terms. See if you qualify for student loan refinancing*.
*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
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