Looking over different types of employee benefits
Navigating Insurance and Benefits as a New Employee

Starting a new job can be an exciting experience. However, after you begin, there’s a good chance you’ll be confronted with a bunch of paperwork detailing types of employee benefits and asking you to make decisions about insurance and retirement plans.   Understanding job benefits is an important part of making sure that you get more from your employment. Here’s what you need to know about how to choose the right benefits for you.  

Retirement Plan

The first rule of employee benefits is to sign up for the company retirement plan. Many workplaces offer a 401(k), but you might also see a 403(b) or 457(b) plan. Smaller workplaces might offer to help you contribute to an IRA.   No matter what this plan is called, however, a retirement plan is one of the most important types of employee benefits because it allows you to receive a tax benefit as you save for your future. Some employers offer a matching contribution. If your company will match a portion of your contribution, it often makes sense to adjust your paycheck so you get the maximum match.   For example, let’s say your company will match 100% of your contribution, up to 3% of your income. If that’s the case, you want to try to have 3% of your income withheld from your paycheck each month in order to take full advantage of this benefit. You can increase your contributions later, but if you’re just starting out, it can make sense to at least get your full match. As your finances improve, you can increase your retirement contributions or start investing in other ways.  

Health Insurance

When considering the importance of employee benefits, health insurance is at the top of the list. The cost of healthcare continues to rise, and a company that provides access to less-expensive health insurance can be very valuable.    Review your own health needs and situation as you look at different health plan options. When deciding how to choose the right benefits for healthcare, it has a lot to do with cost, as well as your individual needs. If you don’t have a lot of need for medications or a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment, you might be able to get a lower-cost plan with less coverage and higher out-of-pocket requirements.   On the other hand, if you have more healthcare needs, employer health insurance can help. You might need a more expensive plan, but it’s likely to be more affordable than trying to get coverage on your own.  

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

In recent years, more companies are offering health insurance plans that come with HSAs. An HSA allows you to save for health care costs over time. You can have some of your paycheck set aside in a special account that allows your money to grow tax-free. You do have to meet certain requirements to qualify — including a plan that has a high deductible. If you can afford to pay more out of pocket due to a high deductible, one of these plans can be useful.   For those who might not be able to get a high-deductible plan, a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) can be a good health-related benefit. It, too, comes with tax benefits. However, the main drawback to the FSA is that you might have to use the money or lose it, while HSA funds always roll over from year to year.  

Other Insurance

Some companies also offer other insurance benefits that can be valuable as an employee.   
  • Life insurance: If you’re looking for an affordable way to protect your income on behalf of your loved ones, life insurance can make sense. However, not everyone needs to get life insurance through work. Carefully consider your needs. There are many term life companies that offer low-cost plans that might meet your needs.
  • Disability insurance: Check to see if your company offers this employee benefit. If you’re hurt or have a long-standing illness, this type of insurance can help you pay your bills. This is different from Workers Compensation insurance, which covers you if your injury or illness is directly related to your job. Consider if you’ll be able to pay your bills if you’re temporarily or permanently unable to work.
  Look at your own needs. In some cases, you get a certain amount of coverage for free, so take advantage of that. Then, see if you need additional coverage on top of what’s already offered for free. Compare prices to see if it makes sense to buy additional coverage.  

Student Loan Benefit

An increasingly popular employer benefit is a student loan repayment benefit. While Congress has yet to provide a tax break for this type of employee benefit, it can still be valuable. If your company offers to help you pay a portion of your student loans, or offers a matching repayment option, you could end up getting rid of student debt a little bit faster. Having someone else help you pay off a portion of your student loans can be a big relief, and help you better position your finances for the future.   Just make sure that you weigh your matching retirement contribution against your student loan matching repayment benefit. In many cases, it might make more sense to get your full retirement match first and then put the remaining toward taking advantage of a matching student loan repayment benefit. Run the numbers to see what makes the most sense for you, keeping in mind the power of compounding returns on investments.  

Other Types of Employee Benefits

Finally, you might have access to other types of employee benefits that can be useful to you as you move forward, depending on your situation.   
  • Child care: Some employers offer to help you pay for child care, including a special Flexible Savings Account aimed at covering daycare and preschool costs.
  • Health stipend: In addition to health insurance, some employers offer a stipend for gym memberships, healthy meal delivery plans and more. Check to see if you can get help with these items through an extra benefit.
  • Education: You might have access to tuition reimbursement for continuing education or a stipend for courses or certain books.
  • Financial literacy: Some employers offer access to financial planning services that can help you navigate your benefits as well as make progress in other areas of your financial life.
  Speak with your human resources representative to help you with understanding job benefits, then take some time to think about your individual situation and needs so that you put together a job benefits package designed to work best for you.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Family buying a house with student loan debt
Should I Buy a House While I Still Have Student Loan Debt?

For some, buying a house is the American dream. But if you have student loans, you may feel like that dream is unattainable. In fact a survey by the National Association of Realtors found that 83% of non-homeowners said their student loans were delaying them from buying a house. High student loan payments may be holding you back from saving for a down payment or even from entertaining the idea of a mortgage. However, it is possible to buy a house with student loan debt. It just might take some extra work.   Just like any financial decision, you have to make the decision that’s best for you. If you are trying to decide whether you should buy a house while you have student loan debt, weigh these pros and cons to help with your decision.  

Pros of Buying a House Before Paying Off Student Debt

Here are a few potential upsides to buying a house before fully paying down your student loans:  

Lock in a Low Interest Rate

During an economic time when mortgage interest rates are low, like now in November 2020, it is great to be able to lock in a low mortgage interest rate if you qualify for a mortgage. If you wait until your loans are paid off, interest rates may rise during your waiting period.  

Take Advantage of a Buyer’s Market

If you are able to take advantage of a buyer’s market, that’s a plus, even if you still have student loan debt. Buying a house when there is a lot of inventory gives you more choices and possibly allows you to buy a house for less than the median price.  

Sometimes, Buying May Be Cheaper Than Renting

If you live in a city where rental rates are high, you may even save money by buying a house rather than renting. For example, in Jacksonville, Florida the median home price for a single-family residence is $215,000 and a possible mortgage payment could be $964 compared to the average monthly rent of $1,395. However, this does take into account a 20% down payment, which could be a large goal to achieve.  

Increase Your Assets

If you make a wise financial purchase, it’s possible that your home could increase in value, especially if you improve upon it while living there. If you wait until your student debt is paid off, you may miss out on a wealth-building asset.  

Cons of Buying a House Before Paying Off Student Debt

Just like there are pros to buying a house while you have student loan debt, there are also some cons to consider.  

Slows Down Student Loan Repayment

If you are saving for a down payment or purchase a house and then have to pay for maintenance and upkeep, you may be using extra funds that could have been put towards your student debt. This could slow down your student loan repayment process, and cause you to pay more in interest over time.  

Qualifying May Be Difficult

If you have a large amount of student loan debt your debt-to-income ratio may be too high to qualify for a mortgage or may qualify you for a less than stellar interest rate or mortgage type. This could cause you to end up paying even more in interest for the mortgage.   Your debt-to-income ratio is calculated by adding up all your minimum debt payments including the future mortgage payment and dividing it by your monthly gross income and multiplying by 100 to get a percentage. In order to lower your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, you could think about refinancing your student loans in order to lower your monthly payment.  

Loan in Default

If you have any student loans in default, you will need to rehabilitate the loan before you will be able to obtain a mortgage so that the default will not remain on your credit history. Having a federal student loan in default will prevent you from qualifying for an FHA mortgage, which is typically easier to qualify for since it requires a lower down payment and has easier credit guidelines to meet.   Rehabilitating a loan will require additional time before you can even qualify for a mortgage. In order to rehabilitate a loan, you need to make 9 payments during a consecutive 10 months.  

Loan in Deferment

If you are attempting to purchase a home with student loans in deferment you may find it difficult to qualify for a mortgage, especially a FHA mortgage. For a FHA mortgage, deferred loans are still included in your debt-to-income ratio. The FHA will calculate your DTI by taking 1% of the deferred student loan balance, which may be higher than what your actual payment may end up being. This can make it difficult to qualify for the mortgage based on a high DTI ratio.  

When Might You Consider Buying a House While You Still Have Student Debt?

After weighing the pros and cons, if you are still unsure whether purchasing a home while you have student loan debt is a good decision for you, check out these scenarios where buying a home may be better fit:  
  • You have a three-month emergency fund, contribute to a retirement account, pay the minimum on your student loans and have no additional debt.
  • You refinance your student loans to lower your monthly payment and thereby lower your DTI ratio when applying for a mortgage. You qualify for an FHA mortgage and take advantage of a buyer’s market to get the home that meets your needs now.
  • You are able to save a 20% down payment and buy a home where your mortgage payment is less than your rent payment.

The Bottom Line

If buying a house is a goal of yours, your student loans don’t have to prevent you from achieving that goal. But if you have large amounts of debt or a defaulted loan it may take some time and hard work on your finances to better improve your chances of qualifying for a mortgage. Either way, you will be improving your finances and closer to achieving your dream.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Woman starting a business with student loans
Starting a Business With Student Loans

Starting a business with student loan debt presents some unique challenges. You may have difficulty securing funding for your business, or you may struggle to make payments on your educational debt while trying to sink money into your startup.   The good news is, it's not impossible to become an entrepreneur while you're launching your company. You don't even have to pay off your student loans before starting a business.   You can explore ways to reduce your student loan debt and can pursue multiple funding options. These include the possibility of actually using student loans to start a business.  Here's what you need to know:  

Repayment Options When Starting a Business With Student Loan Debt

Starting a business with student loan debt presents a few challenges. You'll need a plan to continue making loan payments in case your company doesn't make money immediately. You'll also need to decide how much of your own money you'd like to spend on your company.   Some of your options include the following.  

Income-driven repayment

If you have federal student loans, choosing an income-driven repayment plan could be one of your best options when starting a business. With an income-driven plan, payments are capped at a percentage of your income. That means, if your company isn't making much yet, your payments could be very low or even non-existent.   Depending on the specific income-driven plan you select, your payments could be as low as $0 per month. And after you've made enough on-time payments, eventually the remaining balance of your loan will be forgiven. Of course, if your business does well and your income goes up, your payments will rise. By then, however, you should be able to easily afford to foot the bill.  

Student loan refinancing

Income-driven repayment plans are an option only for federal student loans. If you have private loans, you can't change your repayment term without refinancing. However, when refinancing with a private student lender such as ELFI, you may be able to reduce your interest rate and lengthen your repayment term to lower your monthly payments.   You do need to qualify for a student loan refinancing based on your income and credit score. A cosigner could help if your income isn't very high when your company is first getting off the ground. Also, be aware that if you opt for a longer repayment term, you may pay more in interest over time.  

Student loan forgiveness for entrepreneurs

The federal government doesn't offer student loan forgiveness specifically for entrepreneurs. You may, however, qualify for other programs that could help with your student loan debt.   If you work for a qualifying not-for-profit organization, for example, you could potentially earn Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you decide to operate your business as a non-profit and you meet the requirements, PSLF could lead to the remaining balance of your federal student loans being forgiven after you make the requisite number of on-time monthly payments.  

Student loan forbearance

Federal and private student loan lenders will sometimes allow you to temporarily pause payments on your loans. However, interest will keep accruing while your payments are paused, so you'll end up with a larger balance to repay.  

Borrowing to start a business

Borrowing to start a business can sometimes be a challenge if you have student debt. When you already owe money for student loans, some lenders may not be comfortable giving you a small business loan or a personal loan. The good news is, you may have multiple options for securing the funding you need.  

Explore personal loan or business loan options

While it can be more difficult to get a personal or business loan if you have a lot of debt, it's not necessarily impossible. A cosigner could up your chances of getting a personal loan, and a solid business model makes approval of a personal loan much more likely.   You may also be able to increase your chances of loan approval if you switch to an income-driven student loan repayment plan or refinance your loans. If doing either lowers your monthly payment, you become a more attractive borrower because your debt-to-income ratio is lower.  

Use your savings

If you can save money before starting your business, you may be able to use the proceeds from your savings account to get your company off the ground without having to borrow. This can be challenging, but if you’re able to keep startup costs down, it may be doable.  

Borrow from friends and family

Your loved ones may be interested in investing in your business if they have the money to do so. However, before you secure a loan from loved ones, make sure that everyone involved understands the loan terms. Make sure you and your family agree on when the loan will be paid back, what interest if any will be charged, and whether your loved ones will get any stake in the business in exchange for giving you money to get the doors open.  

Seek funding from angel investors

Angel investors are willing to invest in startups that they believe have a solid business model and a great idea, but they'll generally want an ownership interest in the company. You can share the risk of your startup if you can get angel investors interested, but you will have to give up some of your future potential profits.  

Consider using student loans to start a business

If you are still in school, you may be able to divert some of your student loan funds to your new venture. If you live frugally and keep your cost-of-living below what the school projects, the extra money could be just what you need to get your startup off the ground.   Of course, you're taking a risk with this approach since you'll graduate with more student loan debt. The upside is, however, that the interest rate could be lower than on other types of loans and you can stretch repayment out over time.   On the other hand, it's very hard to discharge student loans in bankruptcy, so if you get in way over your head in debt, you'll have few options to wipe the slate clean.  

Make smart choices when starting a business with student loans

When you're starting a business with student loans, it's important you've done the work to maximize the chances your company will be a success. If you have a solid business model and you've researched the logistics of what it will take to make a profit, hopefully your company will turn a profit and give you the funding you need to pay off your student debt easily over time.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Medical professional holding test tube
7 Unique Careers in Medicine

When most people think about careers in medicine, their minds are drawn to the most prominent jobs, such as physicians, surgeons, and nurses. But there are several careers in the medical field that don’t require you to practice, and some of them may be even more rewarding based on your goals and interests.   If you’re trying to figure out what to do with a medical degree but aren’t sure about working directly with patients, you have options.  

7 alternative careers with a medical degree

What can you do with a medical degree besides practicing medicine? Surprisingly, there are a lot of options. Here are just seven of the unique options available to you.  

1. Medical Illustrator

If you love both art and the science of medicine, becoming a medical illustrator could be an excellent career choice. You’ll use graphic design and other mediums to produce visual images to simplify complex medical information.   Your illustrations may show up in brochures and leaflets, textbooks, corporate materials, and even physicians’ offices.    To qualify for a job as a medical illustrator, you’ll typically need an educational background in both medicine and art — such as a double major in biology and visual art. Also, you can join specific graduate programs designed for that type of career.  

2. Medical Writer

The internet has a wealth of medical information, both for professionals in the field and for patients. If you’re interested in medicine and communications or journalism, you can combine those passions by becoming a medical writer.   As a writer, you’ll be able to research, write, edit and publish medical content to provide the most up-to-date information via medical journals, newspapers, newsletters and other channels.    Medical writers can also provide consulting services to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and corporations. Whether it’s advertising, education or legal and regulatory rules, you can play an important role in different areas of medicine.  

3. Musical Therapist

Music therapy employs various interventions to provide for a patient’s emotional, physical, and physiological needs through music. It’s been shown to help people who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, dementia, and even chronic pain.    If you love music but don’t know that you want to make it your main career focus, becoming a musical therapist could be the right move. Alternatively, there are careers in the medical field for art therapists, dance therapists, and animal therapists.  

4. Medical Interpreter

If you speak more than one language fluently, you could provide essential services to patients who experience language barriers. Of course, not just anyone can be a translator in the medical field — you need to know the complex vocabulary that most people learning a second language typically don’t study.    But your experience in medical school can provide you with the knowledge you need to make it happen. Medical interpreters may also be used to translate written material for medical providers, such as paperwork and educational brochures and pamphlets. You may also get the chance to educate medical providers on cultural differences that can help them better serve their patients.  

5. Forensic Specialist

One of the most fascinating careers in medicine is that of a forensic specialist. In the forensic medicine field, you’ll spend your time studying crime scenes and evidence to assist law enforcement.    You’ll also be able to help to provide critical evidence in the justice system, and your recommendations and assessments can make a big difference in the defense of an innocent person or in the prosecution of a guilty one.    In other words, your expertise as a forensic specialist can have a significant impact on the lives of everyday people and their loved ones.  

6. Medical Photographer

Medical photography provides an important function in the medical treatment process. It’s used to help diagnose conditions and show changes brought about by treatment. It’s important for medical photographers to provide photos that are definitive in their interpretations and are not misleading.   In some cases, you may also work with video, graphic design, and illustration. If you’re interested in clinical photography, look into the education requirements and what it takes to land a career.  

7. Medical Science Liaison

A medical science liaison works with researchers, clinicians, and physicians to provide knowledge and advice about products, treatment plans, initiatives and more. To be a good liaison, you must be up to date with the latest clinical data and research in the healthcare industry.   In many cases, medical science liaisons have practiced in the past and are moving into an advisory or consulting role. But there may be other paths based on your goals.  

The Bottom Line

If you’ve ever wondered, “What can you do with an MD degree without residency?” the answer is a lot. These are only seven medical degree jobs that don’t require you to practice medicine, and there are several more.   As you consider different careers in medicine, think about your interests and goals. Also, do some research on the educational requirements and location of medical school jobs because they can vary depending on which area you want to specialize in.    Finally, try to find professionals in the field you’re considering and talk to them about their experiences. This can give you important insight into their daily lives and whether the career path might be a good fit for you too.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Veterinarian at work
The 10 Best Cities for Veterinary School Graduates

On average, veterinary school graduates start their careers with roughly $167,534 in debt, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The average starting salary, though, is just $87,000.   As you leave college to begin your career as a veterinarian, it’s important to consider where to take your skills and either join a practice or start your own. To help you decide, we looked at data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to help you find the 10 best cities for veterinarians and vet students.  

The 10 best cities for veterinarians and vet students

Getting into a career in veterinary medicine is a pretty good idea if it’s something you’re passionate about. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of veterinarians is projected to grow by 16% from 2019 to 2029, which is a much higher rate than most professions.   It can be challenging to know where to live after you leave college, though, especially if you have a specialty like veterinary medicine. You may be tempted to stay where you are or go back home where you feel comfortable. But depending on where that is, you may be selling yourself short.   The best places to work as a veterinarian will make it easy to get by on a salary based on the average wages and cost of living. It’ll also be an area where there are plenty of veterinary jobs available and at least a decent-sized population, so you’ll have plenty of business.   Here are our top picks for the best cities for veterinary students after they leave school.  

10. Houston, Texas

Houston and the surrounding metropolitan area have the tenth-highest number of jobs in the country in veterinary medicine at 1,130. What’s more, the average salary is $159,140, which is the fourth-best in the nation.   Considering that Houston’s cost of living is 96.5% of the national average, that high salary will go a little further than it would many places in the country.   Also, Houston is home to roughly 2.3 million people, so it’s safe to say that there will always be business.  

9. San Diego, California

One of the southernmost cities in the Golden State is an excellent place to live overall with its relatively mild climate. For veterinarians, though, it can be a boon. The city has 1,170 veterinarian jobs, making it ninth on our list.   The average salary for veterinary professionals in the area, which also includes Carlsbad to the north, is $118,450. The only drawback is that the cost of living in the city is a whopping 160.1% of the national average, so your salary won’t go nearly as far as it will in other areas.   Still, job security and an excellent place to live can be worth that trade-off. There are more than 1.4 million people living in San Diego, which means there’s room to grow in your career.  

8. Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston metropolitan area has just as many veterinarian jobs as San Diego (1,170), but the city itself has fewer than half the population at 692,600. The average salary for a veterinarian there is $111,630, which is high, but with a cost of living that’s 62.4% higher than the national average, it may be more challenging to get by on that income.   But as with San Diego, job security is an important aspect of a long and happy career, and Boston can be an excellent place for that.  

7. Dallas, Texas

Our other pick in the Lone Star State, Dallas is a growing hub for jobs of all kinds. According to BLS, the city and its surrounding area have 1,180 veterinarian jobs, making it one of the best cities for veterinary school graduates.   The average salary is the same as what you can expect in Boston at $111,630, but Dallas’s cost of living is quite a bit lower — just 101.6% the national average. So if you want some of the same job security you can expect from Boston, but want more real value from your salary, Dallas should be on your radar. The city has more than 1.3 million people, so there will always be room for more veterinary professionals.  

6. Atlanta, Georgia

This capital city in the South may be the right place for you, with 1,270 veterinary jobs in total. For veterinary professionals who work there, the average salary is $100,390, which is the lowest on our list.   Also, the city’s cost of living is 107.5% of the national average. But compared with some of the other big cities we’ve discussed, you may still find that your smaller salary does just fine. The city has almost 507,000 residents.  

5. Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital and the surrounding metropolitan area has 1,720 veterinary jobs, a huge step up from Atlanta. The area also has the second-highest average salary on our list at $133,210, which can be appealing for many veterinary school graduates.   Just keep in mind that the cost of living there is 152.1% the national average, which reduces the real value you gain from working there. But the city has almost 706,000 residents, so there is room for career growth.  

4. Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City and its surrounding area have 1,790 veterinarians, plus there are roughly 2.7 million people living in the city, so it’s unlikely demand for professionals will wane anytime soon.   According to BLS, the average salary for a veterinarian is $105,840, which is the second-lowest on our list. The good news is that the cost of living in the city is just 106.9% the national average, so you may still do better in terms of how far your money will go than some other cities with higher averages.  

3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia’s metropolitan area also encompasses Camden, New Jersey, and Wilmington, Delaware, so you don’t necessarily have to settle down in the City of Brotherly Love. The average veterinarian salary in the area is $114,240, which is on the higher end of our list.   Also, the cost of living in the city is just 101.2% the national average. Among the current population of almost 1.6 million, there are 1,820 veterinarians, so the demand is there, and it could be an excellent place to grow into your career.  

2. Los Angeles, California

The West Coast city could be a welcome destination for veterinary school graduates who prefer a warmer climate. Los Angeles has almost 4 million residents, 1,930 of which are veterinarians. While that’s low relative to the population, especially compared with some of the other cities we’ve covered, it also means the demand is high.   Just keep in mind that the city’s cost of living is very high at 173.3% the national average, which means the average veterinarian salary of $116,860 may feel like a lot less. But with such a large population and need for veterinary medicine, you may not struggle to find and keep a job.  

1. New York City, New York

Our best place to work as a veterinarian is New York City, where there are a whopping 3,430 veterinarians, far more than any other city in the country. Of course, the city’s population is 8.3 million, so the demand is much higher than anywhere else.   Veterinarians in New York City can expect to earn an average salary of $124,590, which is the third highest on our list of options. But New York also has the highest cost of living at 187.2% the national average. That said, city lovers can’t beat the atmosphere in the Big Apple, and there will always be a high demand for veterinary services in such a large area.  

How to Choose Where to Begin Your Career as a Veterinarian

Deciding where to live after you graduate veterinary school can feel daunting, and it’s important to consider all aspects of each option before you choose. For example, understanding average salaries is good in the long run, but you’ll also want to know what starting salaries look like for the short term.   Also, many of these cities have very high populations, which means the demand for veterinarians will always be high. But if you prefer a smaller city or even a rural area, it may be more challenging to find all this information online. Do your research to improve your chances of finding the right fit for you.   The best cities for veterinary school graduates offer a lot of opportunity and room for growth, but where you choose to land is a personal decision, so do your due diligence.  


  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Family celebrating Halloween together
7 Halloween Costumes You Can Make on a Budget

Halloween is here at last. The problem is that the older you get, the harder it is to find the perfect costume without breaking the bank. Don’t worry, though, because we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of easy costumes that will keep your bank account intact and your budget on track.  


We said we had you covered, but you didn’t think we meant it literally. A ghost is the ultimate last-minute costume that you can put together on a budget. All that’s required are a white sheet and scissors.   However, the ghost costume is not without its drawbacks. If you’re covered by a sheet, you may have trouble moving at any pace faster than a walk. In any case, this costume is easy, quick, and incredibly low-budget. Perfect for someone who forgot that Halloween was coming up.  


Snag some ears, face paint and black clothes, and your costume is done! You can probably even find someone who dressed as a cat last year and borrow their costume. It’s popular for a reason. Few costumes are cheaper and easier to put together than the simple, effective cat costume.  


Another easy costume: Waldo. Requiring a few simple pieces, including a red and white shirt, beanie, and your favorite pair of jeans, Waldo couldn’t be an easier costume to put together. It’s also one of the most comfortable Halloween costumes you can wear!   If you’re not feeling the plain old Waldo, you’re in luck. There are a dozen other Waldos you can dress up as. You could be Odlaw, Waldo’s nefarious twin, or Wenda, Waldo’s current girlfriend. Dig a little deeper into the Waldo lore, and you could dress as Wizard Whitebeard, the wizard that allows Waldo and his friends to travel to far-off lands. All these make great conversation starters, and they’re equally easy, still requiring just a striped shirt, beanie, and jeans.  


There’s lots of space to maneuver with this one. All you’ll need are gloves, a robe and some athletic shorts. You might even have the pieces already!   A bonus of dressing as a boxer is that there are so many famous boxing movies to choose from, with a dozen Rocky movies alone. If you felt like it, you could go through years of Halloweens without changing from the Rocky universe.  


There’s no denying, a mime costume is a fun way to dress up that’s also easy on your wallet. You’re basically Waldo with face make-up. To top it all off, everyone is sure to be amazed by your pantomime skills.  

Bob Ross

Dressing as Bob Ross is a great way to create a fun costume without breaking the bank. Get your wig out, your double denim, your beard and your palette. It doesn’t matter if you don’t look like Bob Ross. As he would say, there are no mistakes.   There are hundreds of other fantastic and affordable costumes out there, and these are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re looking for a few more ways to avoid breaking the bank, consider student loan refinancing. Take a look at what it can do for you here.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.
Student planning his loan repayment strategies
7 Not-So-Scary Student Loan Repayment Strategies

Paying off student loans can seem scary, especially when you feel like the balance is not going down fast enough. Luckily, these student loan repayment strategies can help you pay down your debt faster and save money in the long run. Here are 7 not-so-scary repayment strategies you can use to slash your student loan debt balance.   

Pay More Than the Minimum

Your student loans accrue interest daily, so your payment covers both principal and interest charges. To pay your loan off more quickly, pay more than the minimum to save on interest costs. Save toward this goal by making small lifestyle changes, for example, eating out one less time per week or cutting a subscription service you no longer use.    Even just a few extra dollars per month can add up to big savings over time. When you do pay more than the minimum, just be sure your payment is attributed to the loan’s principal rather than to future payments.    If you have federal loans on an income-driven repayment plan without loan forgiveness, paying more than the minimum can be especially helpful. Your minimum payment may not cover your monthly principal and interest expenses, meaning your loans could grow every month.   

Make Bi-Weekly Payments

Bi-weekly payments are a great way to make an extra student loan payment every year. This strategy will also help you save on interest costs.    To try this method, divide your monthly payment in half and make that half-payment every two weeks. If you make a payment every two weeks, you will end up making 26 half-payments (52 weeks divided by 2) which is 13 full monthly payments in one year.    If you’re using this method, make sure your half-payments are made before your due date so you don’t encounter late fees. Also be sure when you make an extra half-payment that it is applied directly to the principal of your loan.   

Enroll in Autopay

You have to pay your student loan payment every month either way, so you might as well save yourself some time and money in the process! Enrolling in autopay is the easiest way to accomplish both.    Autopay allows your loan servicer to withdraw the minimum monthly payment directly from your bank account. If you have federal student loans, you will save 0.25% every month while autopay is set up. Some private lenders also offer a monthly discount, so check with your servicer to see if the option is available. This may not seem like significant savings but it can add up to hundreds of dollars over the life of the loan with no extra work on your part.    Enrolling in autopay also helps you to avoid late fees. Your payment will always be on time as long as you have sufficient funds in your bank account.   

Refinance to Lower Your Interest Rate

Another student loan repayment strategy that can result in significant savings is refinancing. You can refinance one or multiple student loans, both federal and private.    When you refinance, you obtain one new student loan to pay off your old loans. Your new loan may have a lower interest rate, which could result in thousands of dollars in savings. When you refinance, you can also change the term of your loan.    By shortening your student loan repayment term, you’ll make larger monthly payments and save on interest over the life of the loan. Alternately, you can lengthen your student loan repayment term to reduce your monthly payments. Use ELFI’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator* to see how refinancing could impact your student loan repayment strategy.   

Ask Your Employer About Student Loan Assistance

An increasing number of companies are offering student loan repayment assistance as a benefit. Different employers offer different types of loan assistance. Many, however, make direct monthly payments to lenders or pay an annual lump sum to their employees. A majority of employer programs have a cap on the amount of assistance they will provide.    If you are fortunate to work for a company that provides loan assistance, do your best to continue making your monthly payments. You can then consider employer assistance to be “extra” progress on your loan. This student loan repayment strategy enables you to make progress quickly.  

Make a Lump Sum Payment with Found Money

Found money is any sum you receive outside of your regular paycheck. Examples include a bonus received at work, gift money you receive during the holidays or cash back from reward credit cards.   By now you know that making extra payments can help you pay your loans off more quickly and save on interest. By making extra payments with found money, you don’t have to find extra money in your budget. Applying money you did not expect to receive towards your debt will help you establish a stronger financial future.  

Diversify Your Income Streams

You can diversify your income streams by starting a side hustle. While it will require some extra time and effort, if repaying your loan quickly is a top priority, this student loan repayment strategy is for you.    A side hustle can take on any form, such as driving for a ride share company, selling items online or providing childcare. If you apply all your earnings from your side hustle towards your student loan debt, you will be able to reach your payoff goal faster.  

Bottom Line

Implementing just one of these strategies will help you save money and pay your loan off more quickly. Student loan debt doesn’t have to be scary when you have a plan and use different repayment strategies to accomplish your goals.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
Refinancing Private Student Loans

Many individuals take out private student loans to finance their undergraduate or graduate school education. Once they have obtained their respective degrees and graduated, student loan payments will begin coming due, typically following a grace period. While many individuals will pay their student loans to their original lender with the same interest rates and terms as when they obtained their loans, many choose to refinance their private student loans to reduce their monthly payment, save on interest, or pay off their loans faster.   Refinancing private student loans is the process of taking a new loan out with a private lender, often with a different interest rate and loan term. This page will provide an overview of refinancing private student loans to help you determine whether you should consider it.  

Should I Refinance Private Student Loans?

Refinancing private student loans is very similar to the process of consolidating student loans, which is when you combine multiple student loans into one loan with a weighted average interest rate. However, there are several potential benefits of refinancing private student loans that student loan consolidation does not offer. Here are a few of the benefits of student loan refinancing.  

Lower Private Student Loan Refinancing Rates

Above all, the primary benefit of refinancing student loans is the potential to save money by lowering your interest rate. When you graduated from your respective program, the interest rates on your private student loans may have been higher than what private lenders currently offer to refinance student loans.   For example, if you took our $50,000 in private student loans at a 6.0% interest rate for a 20-year term, your monthly payment would be $358.22 per month, and you would pay a total of $85,971.73 over your loan term if all payments were made on time, with approximately $35,971.73 of that total being paid on interest alone. If you refinanced your $50,000 private student loans to the 20-year term with a 4.5% interest rate, your monthly payment would drop to $316.32 and you would pay just $75,917.93 over your loan term, with approximately $25,917.93 of that total being paid in interest. You would save $41.90 per month and $10,053.80 in interest costs.   The interest rate that is offered to you depends on a variety of factors that are typical when taking out a loan, such as your credit score, credit history, debt-to-income ratio, among other factors. Raising your credit score 50 or 100 points could make a considerable impact on how much you could save by refinancing private student loans. See how much you could potentially save by using our student loan refinancing calculator.*  

Adjusting Your Repayment Terms

In addition to lowering your interest rate, refinancing private student loans also allows you to adjust the length of your loan term to fit your goals and budget. Typically, shorter loan terms come with lower interest rates, allowing you to save on interest over your loan term, while longer loan terms come with slightly higher rates, but allow you to save on your monthly payments. Here are three ways that adjusting your repayment can help you better manage your student loans.
  • Simplify repayment by combining loans. When you refinance your private student loans, you can consolidate or combine multiple loans into a single loan with a single monthly payment. This can help you better track your total loan balance and get a clearer look at your repayment timeline.
  • Extend your loan term to save on monthly payments. By extending your loan term, you can spread out your payments over a longer period of time, often allowing you to reduce the amount you pay monthly. Having this extra cash can allow you to use that money for other financial goals, such as saving for retirement or purchasing a home.
  • Shorten your loan term to save on interest and pay off your loan faster. Oppositely of extending your loan term, shortening your loan term can often allow you to lower your interest rate and will shorten the amount of time that interest accrues, allowing you to save on interest and pay off your loans faster.

Choosing a New Lender

Another benefit of refinancing private student loans is the opportunity to switch to a new lender who may have additional benefits, such as forbearance options in the case of financial hardship or superior customer service. For example, with Education Loan Finance, if you are unable to repay your loan because of financial hardship or medical difficulty, Education Loan Finance may grant forbearance for up to 12 months. Additionally, Education Loan Finance offers superior customer service in the form of readily available Personal Loan Advisors who can help you through each step of the refinancing process and guide you toward the right repayment plan. Keep in mind that refinancing student loans for the sole purpose of switching lenders may not be the best decision, especially if it costs you money. If you're interested in refinancing student loans, learn more about Education Loan Finance.  

Reasons Not to Refinance Private Student Loans

Refinancing private student loans can be beneficial to many people, however, there are certain circumstances in which this may not be the case. It's important to understand whether refinancing private student loans will help you save on your student loans or pay them off faster.   For example, if you attempt to refinance private student loans and the interest rate you qualify for doesn't either help you save in total interest paid, nor helps you lower your monthly payments, you may want to wait some time and improve your borrowing credentials before refinancing. In some situations, even if you are able to lower your monthly payments, but will be paying a significant amount more in total interest costs, you may want to consider if it's the best solution. Likewise, if you are saving in total interest, but your monthly payment will be unmanageable, you may be at risk of missing payments or, even worse, defaulting on your loan. Additionally, refinancing with a new lender may cost you certain benefits that your current lender offers.  

Consolidating Private Student Loans vs Refinancing

When you are attempting to adjust your student loan repayment terms, you may come across student loan consolidation options. While student loan refinancing and consolidation are similar in that you are combining multiple loans into one loan with a single lender, the two are not exactly the same. Learn more about the difference between student loan consolidation vs. refinancing.  

Can I Refinance My Private Student Loans?

Anyone with private student loans can refinance them as long as they qualify by meeting a private lender's specific eligibility requirements for refinancing student loans.   For example, in order to refinance with Education Loan Finance*, you must meet the following criteria at a minimum:
  • be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien without conditions and with proper evidence of eligibility.
  • be at the age of majority or older at the time of loan application.
  • have a minimum loan amount of $15,000.
  • have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • have a minimum income of $35,000.
  • have a minimum credit score of 680.
  • have a minimum credit history of 36 months.
  • have received a degree from an approved post-secondary institution and program of study.
  In conclusion, refinancing private student loans can be very helpful to individuals who qualify and are interested in saving money in interest or lowering their monthly payments. Learn more about student loan refinancing with ELFI to see if it's right for you.
paying down student loans with a credit card
Should I Pay Down Credit Card or Student Loan Debt?

Dealing with student loans can be incredibly challenging for many college graduates. According to Experian, Americans carry an average student loan balance of $35,359. On top of that, the average credit card debt is nearly $6,200, says the credit reporting agency.    In most cases, targeting one debt at a time can help you pay off your balances faster and save you more money on interest. So should you pay down credit card or student loan debt first?   Here’s how to develop your strategy:  

Should You Pay Off a Credit Card or Student Loan First?

In the vast majority of cases, it’s better to prioritize your credit card debt before your student loan debt. This is primarily because credit cards charge higher interest rates than student loans.    Additionally, credit cards don’t have set repayment schedules, so it’s easy to add to your balance even while you’re paying them off. As a result, credit cards may keep you in debt for longer than student loans with firm repayment terms.   For example, let’s say you have the following debts:  
  • A credit card balance of $7,000 on an account with a 20% annual percentage rate (APR) and a $120 monthly payment.
  • Combined student loans worth $30,000 with a weighted-average rate of 6.5% and a $341 monthly payment. 
  In total, your minimum monthly payment would be $461, and if you were to pay just that amount and add no new debt to your credit card, you’d pay off the student loans in 10 years and the credit card in a little more than 11 years. You’d also pay a total of $24,739 in interest over that time.   Now, let’s say you could afford to put $510 toward your debt every month. If you were to add the extra payment toward your credit card debt until it was paid down, your balance would be paid off in a little under six years. Then if you use the total amount you were putting toward your card toward your student loans, you’d pay those off about a year and a half early. You’d also save $9,643 in interest.   If you were to do the opposite and focus on your student loans first, you’d pay those off sooner, but the higher interest rate on your credit cards will result in more total interest charges.    You can use a debt avalanche calculator to find out what you could save with your specific situation.  

Can You Pay Off Student Loans with a Credit Card?

Another thing you may be wondering is, can you transfer student loans to a credit card? The U.S. Department of the Treasury doesn’t allow federal student loan servicers to accept credit cards as a payment method, and it’s unlikely you’ll find a private lender that offers it as an option.   But you still can technically use a credit card to pay off a student loan by using the balance transfer feature. 

Many credit card issuers send out blank balance transfer checks that you can use to pay off other credit card accounts or other types of debt. These checks often include an introductory 0% APR promotion, which could potentially save you money as you pay down your balance.   To use one to pay off student loans, you’d write the check out to your loan servicer and submit it as payment or write the check to yourself and deposit it into your checking account, then make a payment.   But just because it’s possible to do this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a scenario where using a credit card balance transfer to pay off a student loan is the right move. Here’s why:  
  • Balance transfers come with fees, which can range up to 5% of the transfer amount.
  • If you don’t pay off the balance before the promotional period ends, you’ll be stuck paying a higher interest rate, which can be in the mid teens or even upwards of 20%, on the remaining balance. 
  • The lack of a set repayment term on a credit card can make it more difficult to stick to your repayment plan and keep you in debt longer. 
  In other words, if you have credit card debt, using a balance transfer credit card to pay it off interest-free is generally a good idea. But it’s not worth doing the same thing with your student loan balance.   If you have a cash-back rewards credit card, you can also opt to use your rewards to help pay down your student loans.   

Using Your Credit Cards Wisely While You Have Student Loan Debt

In an ideal world, you’d never carry a balance on a credit card because when you pay your bill in full every month, you’ll avoid interest charges. But if your financial situation is tight because of student loan debt and other obligations, it can be difficult to avoid.    Whether or not you can afford to avoid credit card debt right now, here are some tips to help you limit your exposure to the risks they present:  

Always pay on time

Even if you can just make the minimum monthly payment, paying on time will ensure that you don’t get slapped with late fees and a ding to your credit score. If you do miss a payment, make sure to get caught up quickly — you won’t avoid a late fee but late payments aren’t reported to the credit bureaus until they’re past due by 30 days.  

Try to avoid a high balance

Your credit utilization rate is the percentage of available credit you’re using at a given time. So if you have a $1,000 balance on a card with a $2,000 credit limit, your utilization rate is 50%. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for what your rate should be, but the higher it is, the more damage it will do to your credit score. So if you can, try to keep your balance as low as possible relative to your credit limit.  

Seek lower interest rates

As you work to pay down credit card debt, a balance transfer card with a 0% APR promotion can be a great way to save money on interest charges, even if you can’t pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends. If you can’t qualify for a balance transfer card, you may try to call your card issuer and see if you can get a reduced interest rate. There’s no guarantee your request will be granted, but credit card companies will sometimes offer a lower rate for at least a short period.  

Avoid using your card as you pay it off

If you keep adding charges to your credit card while you’re paying down the balance, it can feel like you’re taking two steps forward and one step back. If you can, try to stick to using cash or your debit card while you pay down your debt — at least for most of your expenses — to make it easier to achieve your goal.   As you take these steps, you’ll be able to avoid some of the drawbacks that come with using credit cards regularly. They’ll not only help preserve your credit score but also make it easier to pay off your balance, so you can turn your focus to your student loans.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: 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.