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2018-10-15
9 Signs It’s Time to Refinance Student Loan Debt

When is it time to swipe right on a refinance of student loan debt? It can be a tough question because everyone’s situation is so unique, and your goals or your motivation might be totally different from someone else. That’s why we’ve put together a simple explanation of signs that refinancing might be a good option for you. Here are nine signs it might be time to refinance student loan debt:  

You have a good credit score.

If you don’t have a good credit score, now is probably not the time to try to refinance. You will not get as favorable of interest rates and you might even be turned down outright. Check your credit score and go over your credit report asap. If there’s anything that needs to be fixed, do it. If your score could be better or if your credit history isn’t very long, look into ways to improve it. You can get your score up and clean up your report, but it takes work. That needs to be in order before you choose to refinance student loan debt.  

You’re up to date on your loan payments.

Have you been making your payments no problem? Great! If not, now is probably not the time to refinance. You might need a new payment plan instead of refinancing, but you will not look like as good of a borrower if you are behind on payments or have had trouble paying. Get up to date and make your payments on time for a while before trying to refinance. If you’re having trouble coming up with the money, be sure to reach out to your servicer to see what your options are.  

You are employed with a steady income.

If you are unemployed or your income is spotty, refinancing will likely be difficult or impossible. The best time to refinance is when you land a good main gig that has a consistent paycheck. You’ll have to report your income, so you may want to postpone your refinancing now if you aren’t already making a decent income. If you are self-employed, try giving yourself a few months of solid income before proceeding.  

You have a good debt-income ratio.

This one can be kind of a bummer because a lot of millennials are saddled with a fair amount of student loan debt (and maybe other kinds of debt) along with being underemployed. To get a hold on some of this debt, you might be looking to refinance. The problem is rates may not be as favorable or you may not qualify—if your debt to income ratio is too high. Look at options for gaining more income or reducing some debts you currently have, like cutting out credit cards and paying down those other debts.  

You are not planning on student loan forgiveness for public service work.

If you’re in public service and know you’ll qualify for loan forgiveness after the ten-year mark, refinancing can interrupt that and disqualify you for loan forgiveness. If you’re counting on loan forgiveness we’d recommend you don’t refinance your loan with a private vendor, but be sure to verify that you qualify for loan forgiveness.  

You know which loans to refinance and why.

If you’re not sure about which loans you want to refinance and why check out our guide to student loan refinancing. We help explain why you might not want to refinance federal loans, and which private loans are best to be refinanced.  

Loan benefits don’t apply to your situation.

If you are not going to qualify for loan forgiveness or if you don’t need benefits like income-based repayment plan options that you’re currently taking advantage of, it might be cool to refinance. Know what special plans you’re using with your current lender before you refinance because you don’t want to lose those in the process.  

You could save a boatload on interest or loan terms.

People usually think about refinancing when they are looking at a super long-term payment plan that they want to shorten or when they realize that their interest rate is high and they might be able to do better. If you aren’t sure how good your interest rate is, ask a friend or Google current rates. Start comparing. You’ll get an idea. And that will help you understand whether you can keep the same payment and shorten the length of time you pay, too, because this is also tied to interest rates.  

You know how to find a good lender.

Even if you don’t know how to find a good lender, you can figure it out! We encourage you to reach out and get in touch. With ELFI, applicants get their own Personal Loan Advisor who will stick with you throughout the application and setup if you decide to refinance, making the process simple and straightforward.  

What To Know Before Refinancing Student Loans

2018-10-12
Women and Student Loan Debt

The cost of college has been on a slow increase since about 1976, and it’s no wonder the cost of student loan debt has too, seen a hike. According to AAUW the cost of college has increased 148% since then. Student loan debt has been estimated to total around $1.5 Trillion according to the Federal Reserve. Women prove to hold more than half of student loan debt. Let’s take a look at some factors that could be causing women to keep more student loan debt than men.

Click Here for Our Infographic

Women Less Likely to Refinance Student Loans

Refinancing student loans can help to achieve a lower interest rate and consolidate multiple loans. Refinancing also allows borrowers to change the repayment period, so they are paying less over the life of the loan. According to Student Loan Hero research, of the women who have heard about student loan refinancing, only 6% have proceeded to refinance their student loans. By not refinancing, women are subject to long payment periods that could end up costing them more over time.  

Lack of Opportunity

Women are shown to have less executive or leadership roles in companies when compared to men. Research by Pew Research Center shows that woman hold only 10% of top executive positions. That leaves 90% of the remaining leadership positions for men. With mostly men in high ranking positions, it seems reasonable to assume that men, in general, would be making larger salaries than women due to a higher percentage of men in executive positions.  

Student Loan Refinance Head Barbara Thomas' Advice to Those Caught in the Gender Gap

 

Missed Work Hours

A possible reason for women holding more student loan debt is that they may be getting paid less because of their time off. Women have traditionally held the majority of the parenting responsibility. If a child was sick or ill it was usually the female who would stay home with the child or that is what traditional gender roles would assume. Pew Research has shown that parenting can hurt your earnings. Time away from the office dealing with children could be not only a reason for less pay but a lack of ability to pay student loan debt down faster.  

Women Get Paid Less

The pay gap between men and women varies based on location, but women still make less than men. Can you believe it in 2018 women are still fighting for their right to be equal? According to information provided by the US Census Bureau, women earn 19.5% less than their male counterparts. In some states like Louisiana, the gender pay gap is a whopping 30%. In states like New York, it is only 11%.  

Lack of Financial Literacy

According to CNBC women are shown to be less financially literate than men. If women make poor choices with their money, it could end up costing them in the long run, causing women to have more substantial student loan debt than men. Women are two times more likely to see their student loan debt as “unmanageable” according to Student Loan Hero.   Refinancing student loans is a great option for those with student loan debt. If you qualify for refinancing you can change repayment dates and possibly get a lower interest rate. An added benefit for those with multiple loans is that if you choose to refinance all your loans you’ll only have to make one payment a month instead of multiple payments. Refinancing your student loans can help to eliminate student loan debt faster depending on the repayment terms you select. Let’s start lowering the number of men and women with student loan debt!  

Click to View Our Student Loan Refinancing Guide

2018-10-12
FDIC-Backed and Why You Should Care

You know the orange Chance cards you used to draw when you played Monopoly? Remember the one where the little guy was so broke he was wearing his pockets on the outside of his pants? Well, imagine that guy is your bank, and through bad luck or bad decisions, they negatively affect your life. You go to get a loan, and they aggressively try to get you to borrow more than you can afford. Or, when you show up to get your money, they just shrug, and you’re out of luck. Things are different today and the protections for account holders and borrowers for certain banks are better than ever, but how did we get here? What exactly does FDIC insured mean?

Banking used to be very risky.

Believe it or not, that’s pretty much how things were for a long time in the United States, and it happened quite a bit. Lending practices were not necessarily based on sound data and information. More than a third of the banks in the1920s closed their doors, and deposit holders had little recourse. That’s why many people of that generation had a deep distrust of banks and why you may have heard stories of people stashing money in their mattress or burying it in a jar in the backyard to keep it safe.

The creation of the FDIC.

You’ll notice that most people aren’t hiding money in their bed these days, and no one is wearing their pockets on the outside of their pants anymore. Sure maybe no one ever really wore their pants that way, but it could also be because Congress passed the banking act of 1933 and created the FDIC. FDIC stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, but we usually just say FDIC because the government loves acronyms. The FDIC is quite literally an insurance company and just like other insurance companies, they provide protection from an unforeseen event, in this case, a bank failure. They also function as a regulatory agency to make sure banks are following laws and guidelines.

What happens when an FDIC insured bank fails?

When a bank becomes insolvent, the FDIC essentially takes over the bank. Almost no matter what, the bank will still have some deposits and assets. The FDIC will try to sell the bank’s deposits and loans to another member bank. In this case, you the customer will find their deposits at a new bank. If for some reason the FDIC cannot successfully sell the bank, they will issue a check to the depositor directly.

It’s not the 1920s anymore, why should I care?

Sure, the Roaring 20s and all its banking peril are long in the past, but you might be old enough to remember the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s or the financial collapse of 2008. These were both significant events that wreaked havoc on the banking industry. Banks can still have problems and sometimes big problems. In fact, from 2008 to 2012, 465 banks completely failed. While most everyone felt the effects of the financial collapse in some way, bank depositors were spared significant loss thanks to the FDIC. This is why you absolutely want to make sure your bank is a member of the FDIC.

What else does the FDIC do?

Member banks are subject to strict overview of the FDIC. They monitor debts and assets and help to ensure banks have enough cash on hand for safe and responsible operation. They aren’t just guaranteeing your money, they are actively working to make sure the bank is healthy. Additionally, they work to make sure banks are compliant with the latest consumer and banking regulations.

Are there protections for borrowers as well?

Yes. The FDIC isn’t only focused on depositors, they protect borrowers as well. So if you are in the market for a home loan or you are looking to refinance those student loans, it’s important to pay attention to which lenders are FDIC members. Member lenders are under scrutiny to make sure the debt to income ratios for borrowers aren’t outside what borrowers can afford to realistically pay. You want to work with a member bank to ensure an upfront and transparent process.

Are all financial institutions FDIC insured?

No, not all financial institutions are FDIC members. The FDIC examines and supervises approximately 4,000 banking institutions in the United States.  

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender

  Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Deposit_Insurance_Corporation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bank_failures_in_the_United_States_(2008-present) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBOFiDpmESI
2018-10-10
Top 5 Barriers to Homeownership for Millennials

Most millennials rent their living spaces and don’t purchase them. Ever wonder why that has become such a common stereotype of the millennial generation? Well according to some research done by Urban Institute it isn’t just a stereotype. It dives deep into this issue to explain the main barriers to homeownership for millennials and how to address them. Here are five of those barriers:

Location-

Millennials are moving to the biggest cities in the country in larger numbers than any generation before. In these cities (like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco), housing prices are extremely high and the actual housing supply for purchasing is low. You can save money in a major city by using mass transit instead of driving or taking cabs.

Starting a family-

In the past, getting married and having children were the life steps that often led to home ownership. Now, we’re getting married and starting families later in life (or not at all), causing a delay in the need to buy a home. If you are wanting to buy a house, don’t let your marital or family status stand in your way. You can save for a down payment now to speed up the process.

Student debt-

The total amount of student loan debt in the United States is at a historical high, and more students are taking out loans than ever before. Many people who are trying to pay off their student loans feel as if they cannot save for a down payment and do not want to add a mortgage on top of their existing debt. Also, a high debt-to-income ratio can make it more difficult to obtain a mortgage. Refinancing your student loan can help you reduce your rate, allowing you to pay off your principal faster and lower that ratio.

Renting-

Typically before taking the step to owning a home, you will rent a place for a few years. Rental rates have continuously risen for years, which is not allowing people to save as much money for their future down payment. This delays reaching that next step by at least a couple of years. You do not have to let this stop you from saving for a down payment if you are hoping to buy a home soon.

Poor credit-

Low credit scores are plaguing many millennials. The average credit score for this generation is 640, which is lower than both gen x and baby boomers as well as the median credit score for obtaining a mortgage loan. Whether those low scores are from lack of credit, high credit card debt, missing payments, or any other reason, there are plenty of ways to bring that score up.  

Consider These Factors before Buying Your First House

2018-10-10
How to be a Financially Successful Pharmacist after Graduation

Pharmacy school teaches you most everything you need to know about being a pharmacist, but most don’t teach you about personal finance. If you’re like a lot of pharmacy grads, you’ve probably dug yourself into a bit of a hole. That’s okay. Now what you need is a plan to get back out. For some people, that’s figuring out how to get out of debt as fast as possible. For others, it’s a slow but steady plan to get there. Just as in pharmacology, what’s right for some people isn’t for others. Your plan will depend on your circumstances, but the important thing is not to let it overwhelm you. You’ve finished your educational journey, now it’s time to move on to the next chapter.  

After graduation – set a realistic goal.

  Getting to where you want to be financially is attainable, but you have to define what that is. Is it to be out of debt in 3 years? Refinance student loans? Save for a house? Make sure you have enough money for an emergency? Or some combination of all of those? All great and worthy goals, but if you don’t define a goal, you won’t know the things you need to do to attain it.  

Assessing your situation.

  Even if you know your goal, you can’t get there unless you know where you’re starting. You need to assess your debts and any assets you may have. The average pharmacy grad has nearly $160,000 in student loan debt. Quite often they also have credit card debt. If this is you, it’s okay. You may even have a car loan. You just need to know, that all debt is not equal and the best way to prioritize is to look at your interest rates to determine which ones you should try and pay down first. Consider using a debt pay down method like the debt snowball method.  

Credit Cards

  If you’re carrying credit card debt, that’s probably your highest priority. Typically credit card interest rates are between 15 and 20%, but they can go even higher. If you’re holding any significant balance with that kind of rate, making minimum payments will essentially have you paying the balance until the end of time. Even though your student loan balance is higher, it doesn’t make sense to pay beyond the minimum payment until your credit card debt is in control.   If you have multiple credit cards, figure out which one has the highest interest rate and start paying more there first. You may even be able to transfer to another lower interest card you have. Establish how much you’re going to pay over the minimum, say $500 or $1,000 and stick to it. It’s probably not wise to open a new card now, but as you pay down your cards you may notice special offers from the cards you have. You might see things like 0%APR for 12 months on balance transfers. Read the fine print, and if it’s good, do it. It can really speed up the process and save you a lot of money. If you have good credit, consider getting a Personal Loan to pay off your credit card balances. A Personal Loan will usually come with a lower interest rate than you had been paying with the credit cards.  

Refinance your student loans from pharmacy school.

  One of your best bets to improve your financial situation both in the short- and long-term is to refinance your student loans. Many student loans carry an interest rate around 5.8% While much lower than the average credit card, it’s a number you may be able to reduce several percentage points which can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Another thing refinancing can do is adjust your loan term. We’ll look at two general approaches that should help you decide what might work best for you.   Option 1: As fast as possible.   If you’re starting from a pretty good place financially and you’re not carrying a lot of other debt you may want to just knock out your student loans as quickly as you can. This approach would likely mean refinancing to a shorter term, say 5 years. The lower interest rate could save you money as will the shorter term, but it also means you’ll pay it off a lot sooner. This also means you might have a hefty payment every month. Though hefty, this monthly payment will knock out the balance accrued by interest faster, so you pay down more on the principal balance of the loan. This may mean a lot of scrimping and saving. Brown bag lunches and making do with what you have for now, but if you’re in a position to make it work without putting too much of a burden on yourself then this can set you up to be in a very good place financially and much faster than if you didn’t refinance.   Option 2: Slow and steady   A lot of us don’t have the luxury to do a shorter-term loan, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t take advantage of refinancing your student loan debt. It will still save you lots of money in the long run. And refinancing to say a 10-year loan can give your budget a little more breathing room. You may even be able to lower your monthly payments to give yourself a little more cash to pay off your credit cards or to save for an emergency.  

Don’t skimp on retirement savings!

  When you’re starting your pharmacy career it may be tempting to forego things like your 401K to have more money in your paycheck. This is a bad idea for many reasons. You want to establish your retirement savings right away. What you contribute in your 20s and 30s becomes much more valuable to you in your 40s and 50s. It’s just a habit you want to start early and not wish you had later.  

Enjoy the ride.

  Don’t stress over finances. Worrying will get you nowhere, but a plan can take you anywhere you want to go. Concentrate on getting your career going and stick to your financial plan and you’ll soon see the results you want.  

Why You Should Not Put Student Loans In Deferment or Forbearance

   
2018-10-09
Our Simplest Guide To Student Loan Refinancing – Part II

We covered some of the nuts and bolts of refinancing your student loans in Part I of this guide, but there’s still more to learn before you can confidently approach refinancing your loans. So strap yourself in for Part II of Education Loan Finance’s Simplest Guide to Student Loan Refinancing!

Refinancing Different Types of Student Loans

How and why you refinance your student loans depends a lot on what type of loans you have. Here’s why:

Private Loans

When considering refinancing private loans, it usually comes down to the math of how much you’ll save. Because there are so many private servicer options, you can take time to compare the customer service, terms, and interest rates. Since you’re refinancing a private loan, you probably aren’t losing any benefits moving from one servicer to another. Make sure you understand how much you’re saving because that will be a major factor in choosing the company, along with their service.

Federal Loans

Some people believe that federal loans can’t be refinanced, but they totally can. They’re actually the most common loans to refinance because so many people can get better rates now than they did with the federal loans initially. You can easily find private companies that will refinance your federal loans. The reason why people don’t choose to refinance their federal loans is because you can lose benefits that are only available on federal loans if you refinance them. Federal loans might have more payment options or qualify for programs like loan forgiveness where private loans won’t have those same benefits. But if you’re not counting on loan forgiveness and you are set with private payment options, refinancing your federal loans might be a great financial choice for you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to refinance all loans of either type. You might have one or two private federal loans that are a higher rate and you want to refinance those, but you keep others as-is because the rates and servicers still fit your needs. How you do it is up to you.

Other Loans

You can also refinance other kinds of student loans like PLUS loans. PLUS loans can be refinanced by the parent who holds them or can be transferred to the student/child from whom the money was borrowed. If the child recipient of these loans has a good credit score and good credit history along with sufficient income and an appropriate debt-income ratio, this might be a good solution. Just keep in mind that these new payments have to fit into the budget and you want to make sure you’re ready.  

What to Consider When Refinancing Student Loans

Interest Rates

If you’re not going to save money (either monthly or by reducing the length of time you’re paying back your loans) then it usually doesn’t make sense to refinance. That’s why most people look first to interest rates to understand whether they should refinance or not. If you qualify for significantly lower interest rates than what you currently pay, then take a look at how much you’ll save and see if it makes sense to move forward. Online student loan refinance calculators can give you an idea of what difference those small percentages can make depending on how much time you have left to pay your loan.

Loan Terms

Another factor for student loan refinancing can be the terms of your loans or the amount of time that you’ll continue to pay these loans before they are paid off. For example, say you have ten years left to pay off your student loans, but you can refinance. When you refinance, you make the same payment amount but finish payments in seven years instead of ten—heck yes! That’s three fewer years that you’ll be making that payment. On the other hand, maybe you want longer terms to pay off your loan so that you can get a lower monthly payment. Some people refinance into the same length of time for their loan but take the savings from refinancing and use that to save for something else. This is why it might make sense to refinance even if your payment isn’t going down.

Servicer Considerations

You might find that more than one loan servicer can give you a good drop in interest rates or better loan terms—so how, then, do you decide between them? There are lots of things that matter to you that may not be apparent at first. How you pay, like whether you can pay online or make automatic payments, can be a big one. Customer service is crucial when you are dealing with something that can be difficult to navigate on your own or as a first-timer, too. Plus, not all servicers are equally reputable. Check out information about companies you’re considering and make sure you’re not signing up for a shady new student loan.

When is it time to refinance your student loans?

Understanding when is the right time to refinance is a whole other can of worms. There are several markers or goals you might want to reach before looking into refinancing. Check out our article on signs that it’s time to refinance.

Should I refinance?

It’s a personal decision to decide if now is the time to refinance. The best thing you can do is to understand your current situation and equip yourself with information on refinancing and personal finance. Look for help connecting your specific situation to good advice. Consult trusted sources and look at the big picture. How would refinancing help you hit your goals? Are you doing something right now that would make refinancing tough and maybe it could wait a month or two, or does it make sense to get started today? You can always reach out to us and speak to an expert at ELFI. We help people with their unique refinancing situations every day. You’ll get connected with someone who can help you through the entire process so that you never get left in the dark. What could be simpler than calling your own personal advisor today?  

10 Facts About Student Loans That Will Save Your Money

2018-08-28
Empowering a Brighter Future Video Contest Winner

On a bright and sunny day in over 100-degree heat in Virginia, Barbara Thomas and ELFI team arrived at the home of the winner to surprise them with their prize. It was a tough decision to pick only one winner, but we’d like to announce the 2018 Empowering a Brighter Future video contest winner: Simon Rivera from Moseley, Virginia.  
  Simon Rivera, a husband, and father of two from Virginia used his video to share how important eliminating student debt would be to him and his family.  Simon is a self-taught videographer and he uses video as a platform for his creative expression. “I started just making fun videos for my nephews, but now having my own family has given me the opportunity to capture the most important stories and moments in my life…My boys are age 4, and 20 months—which I find to be such precious ages. I don’t want to miss a single moment! Enjoying family time alongside my interest in videography certainly complements each other well.” said Simon when asked about his interest in video.  

Click Here to View Simon's Winning Video

 
Simon’s winning video submission illustrates his family life and discusses the strain student loan debt can put onto a young family. Many young people who carry student loan debt are waiting longer to reach family milestones, from buying houses to having children.  Some families have had to hold back on their growth to eliminate or make student loan debt manageable. Before heading to school, Simon served in the U.S Air Force Reserves for six years. He received a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree through the Touro College Physician Assistant Program. The prize earnings from the Education Loan Finance video contest will allow Rivera to pay off his debt and possibly allow his wife to return to complete her education. Thank you to all who participated in the Empowering a Brighter Future video contest.  The entries provided showed the creativity of entrants along with the struggle to meet student loan obligations.  Education Loan Finance is committed to helping those refinance their student loan debt so that they can Empower a Brighter Future!

What Could You Be Saving When You Refinance?

2018-08-27
Our Simplest Guide To Student Loan Refinancing: Part I

Student loan refinancing can seem like a terrible exercise in adulting, but if you’ve ever thought you’d rather get a root canal than learn about refinancing options, we’re here to save you.This is Part I of ELFI’s Simplest Guide to Student Loan Refinancing!

What Is Student Loan Refinancing?

Definition

Refinancing a student loan means you set up a new loan. That new loan pays off your old loan and sets you up with usually a new loan servicer, new interest rate, and different payments. The interest rate is based on current standard interest rates as well as your personal financial situation like your credit score and report and your annual income. It’s important to note that not everyone qualifies for student loan refinancing, so be sure to speak with one of our Personal Loan Advisors to see what your options are.

Example

For example, maybe you have a mix of private and federal student loans that are higher interest than what you can currently get. So if you have $25,000 in loans and you’re paying anything from 5% to 8.75% interest, if you can get them refinanced at 4%, then you will save a lot of money by lowering the rest of your payments until the debt is paid off.

Information About Student Loan Repayment Plans

When should I change my repayment plan instead of refinancing?

Sometimes you may want to pay your loans off quicker or get a lower payment if your situation has changed (like you make less money now). Those can be reasons to set up a new payment plan. Depending on the type of loan you have, you may be able to set up payments that are based on your income or that change your repayment based on helping you pay off the loan faster, or draw out payments for a longer amount of time. Make sure to check with your loan servicer to understand your repayment options. Federal student loans have several repayment options that can lower your payment or raise your payment to help you pay off faster, but private loan options vary.

Consolidation vs. Refinancing

Consolidating

Consolidating your student loans simply means combining several loans from different servicers into one loan. It’s pretty similar to refinancing. You can combine all or some of your loans, and you’ll get an opportunity to pick repayment options that can be more manageable than paying all of your loans separately. It’s especially helpful to consolidate when you have loans from many servicers, which can be confusing to manage.
  • The interest rate you get from consolidating is based on an average of your combined loans, or a weighted average.
  • Consolidating extends the life of your loans, which can be a way to get lower payments. You pay less each month, but for a longer period of time.
  • Be careful consolidating federal loans into a private loan. There are some rights you lose under the federal student loan program if you switch your federal loans into private loans.
  • Consolidating is one way you can get out of default and start making payments again to get in good financial standing.

With the Direct Loan Consolidation Program, borrowers can consolidate:

  • Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized)
  • Supplemental Loans for Students
  • Federally Insured Student Loans
  • PLUS Loans, Direct Loans
  • Perkins Loans
  • Health Education Assistance Loans
  • And just about any other type of federal student loan
  • State and private loans that are not federally guaranteed aren’t eligible for consolidation with this program.

A Note About Refinancing Student Loans Instead of Consolidating

Refinancing can combine your loans and get a new interest rate and payment terms, but when you refinance federal loans, you have to get a private loan. There is no refinancing option to be taken out through the government. Government loans, however, can be consolidated through Direct Loans. There’s so much more we could say about refinancing your student loans! That’s why we’ll be continuing this guide in Part II, which will cover different types of student loans, what to take into consideration, and what to watch out for when refinancing.  

Be Sure to Check Out Part II of Our Student Loan Refinancing Guide

  Questions about Part I? Give us a shout here to talk more!
2018-08-26
Student Loan Refinance Head Barbara Thomas’ Advice to Those Caught in the Gender Gap

The gender gap, sounds like something that ended when women gained the right to vote, but think again. Every day women are fighting for the same treatment as men. Not only do women get paid 80 cents to the dollar that men receive, but recent research from Pew Research Center shows that women hold only 10% of the top executive positions. The same report goes on to illustrate that in the financial sector, women make up only 8.1% of executive level positions. Basically, what all these stats are showing is that women not only get paid less, but they also don’t have leadership positions. If you’re like us, you’re thinking finding a woman executive in the financial sector is like finding a unicorn, but we did it! Luckily, we have the pleasure of working with SouthEast Bank Executive Vice President and Head of its student loan refinance division Education Loan Finance, Barbara Thomas. We sat down with Barbara and discussed what her long and successful financial career has been like and if she has been affected in the past by the gender gap. How did you start working in the financial industry? My first job out of college was a credit research analyst for a municipal bond insurance company. After graduate school, I went into investment banking. Why did you want to work in finance? My BS degree is in mathematics, and MBA in Finance, so I consider myself quantitative and highly analytical. I always had a knack for numbers so a career in finance was a natural fit. Did you ever feel that people in your personal life tried to deter you from working in the finance industry? My family and friends have been very supportive of me and my career throughout my life. Did you have moments when you reconsidered your career? How did you move past them? Yes for sure. I have three children - I traveled a lot and worked very long hours, including weekends, throughout my career so I was away from them quite a bit. The work life balance just doesn’t exist in investment banking. However, I achieved so much in my career, and my children have been so supportive of me and are proud of my accomplishments. I believe I set a great example of how hard work and perseverance can lead to success and all three of my children are successful in their own right. In addition, I always made sure that I was there for them when they needed me most and for the important events in their life. Whether it was editing their papers at midnight when I arrived home from work or driving for hours after a long business trip to make my daughter’s field hockey game, I made sure I was there for them. Can you explain a bit about the gender dynamics in the finance industry at that time? No doubt, the finance industry has been and still remains today an old boys’ club. I believe that not much has changed to promote women, including providing the proper mentoring and advancement opportunities, in the past 25 years that I have been in the business. When I finally achieved Managing Director status at Morgan Stanley, so many of my clients and professionals outside of the firm thought that I was already an MD for years. Can you share some moments that you think may have been different, if you were of a different gender? There are so many moments- from being promoted long after demonstrated success, lack of invitations to casual events (i.e. golf outings and yes I play!) outside of the office, lower compensation than my male peers and lack of opportunity for lateral moves within financial firms. Just to name a few. There is often a stigma associated with women – you have to choose between your career or a family. Do you have any comments regarding that statement? Yes, in fact, when I had my third child and was an investment banker, my colleagues thought I was going to retire. So I left that firm to take on a new investment banking position in a more exciting industry at another investment banking firm – that showed them all that they truly misjudged me! Were there other women that you had worked with in finance? Did they too notice the gender dynamics of the industry? There were very few women and most left after they made vice president because the opportunities for advancement were slim and the uphill climb was just too steep. We all felt it. Have you seen gender dynamics change in the finance industry within the last decade? Nothing has really changed other than the creation of “Heads of Diversity” and “Diversity Committees” in corporations. It is very hard to change the dynamics when men continue to serve in the vast majority of leadership and management roles in the finance industry. Have you had similar experiences in your current role?  In my current role as an Executive of Southeast Bank, I have been presented with opportunities to take on new challenges and leadership roles with the full support of our CEO. As head of certain of the Bank’s business lines for the bank, including Education Loan Finance, mentoring and promoting women is a high priority for me. What advice can you share with women today who may be facing similar challenges in industries like technology? Where the gender dynamics may not be equal? Always stay true to who you are, demand to take the lead on those plum assignments, prove that you are the right choice for the position, have a voice and speak up but make sure what you say is relevant and toot your own horn, because no one is going to promote you like you can!  

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