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Fixed or Variable: Which Student Loan Rates Do You Want?

August 23, 2017

College graduates have essentially proven themselves to be a smart bunch. You made a good decision for your future, did the hard work and now you have a degree to show for it. Sure, you had to take on some student loan debt in the process, but as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and investing in yourself is always smart.

Now you’ve nabbed a good job and you’re on your way to becoming the best version of yourself, complete with the career of your dreams. You’re grabbing life by the horns and adulting like a pro, building your resume, networking and paying down your student loans as you go. You didn’t get to this position in life by making poor decisions, so it’s only natural that you’re interested in refinancing your student loans as a way to save money, get ahead and knock out that five-year plan in just three.

Before you pull the trigger, however, you might want to stay your hand and take a moment to consider whether fixed- or variable-rate loans are more likely to deliver the best advantages. It’s tempting to follow the knee-jerk reaction that fixed-rate loans are safer (because quantities are known), but this might not actually serve your best interest, so to speak. Here’s what you need to know about fixed versus variable rates before you refinance your student loans.

Fixed Rate Pros and Cons

The difference between fixed- and variable-rate loans is pretty rudimentary. The former is characterized by a locked-in interest rate that remains the same throughout the life of the loan, regardless of market fluctuations. The latter starts out at an agreed-upon rate, which may change as the market changes, fluctuating in response to market interest rates and altering your payments in the process.

Is one better than another? That depends. Let’s look at the pros and cons of fixed rates first. The major benefit is that you always know what your payment is going to be – it’s predictable. A fixed rate is static, so your interest today will be the same as the day you pay off your loan. This can help you to plan your monthly and annual budget and bring you peace of mind.

Of course, peace of mind can cost you. The biggest downside to fixed-rate loans is that they are almost sure to have higher interest rates than their variable counterparts, at least initially, and this has to do with risks. Banks are betting that rate variances will work out in their favor in the long run, showing greater returns (and ultimately costing you more). Avoiding such risk will mean paying more up front to lock in a fixed rate. However, if your current plan involves a long term for repayment, say 20 years, this is probably your best option.

Variable Rate Pros and Cons

As you’ve probably guessed, the major downside to choosing a variable-rate loan is the potential for interest rates to increase and bump up your monthly payments. The upside is that rates could also remain low or even go down, saving you what you might have been stuck paying with a fixed-rate loan.

In other words, it’s a bit of a gamble. It can be a calculated risk, though. At the moment, the market is on the rise, with the prime increasing to 4.25% in June. Will it go down again? Eventually, but probably not before further increases, since the economy is currently on an upswing. If you’re on track to pay off debt early and the market is trending down, variable rates make sense. In the current economic climate, it’s probably better to proceed with caution.

Which is Right for You?

Choosing the right loan for you depends not only on current economic conditions, but also on your particular circumstances. Some personal considerations could include:

  • Current loans
  • Income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Your personality

If you have yet to refinance or consolidate, you’re probably juggling at least a few student loan payments, some of which may be fixed while others are variable. Since July of 2006, all federal student loans feature fixed interest rates, although the set rates have fluctuated from year to year and from one loan type to another, so that different loans have different rates. You might also have some private student loans with either fixed or variable rates.

There’s a lot to be said for consolidating all of your loans to lock in a single, fixed rate, and when you do so with a favorable lender like Education Loan Finance, you can consolidate all your loans (whereas only federal loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan through the government, and there may be restrictions based on loan type and eligibility). On the other hand, you might prefer a variable rate that is lower than fixed options, especially if your income allows you to make larger payments, pay down debt before rates go up, and take advantage of less accruing interest in the meantime. A low debt-to-income ratio could net you even better rates and improve your odds of speedy repayment.

Naturally, your personality also plays a role. Are you a risk-taker or do you hyperventilate at the thought that loan rates, while low now, could increase next month or next year? If you play it safe, will you be kicking yourself over the money you could have saved with variable rates? In Hamlet, Polonius famously uttered the oft-quoted line, “To thine own self be true.” You have to know yourself if you want to make a decision about refinancing that you can reasonably live with.

Whether you end up choosing fixed rates or variable when you refinance, you need to understand both options so you can make an informed decision that confers the greatest benefits. To a degree, it might depend on the offers you receive, but assuming both options are on the table, you’ll want to consider the terms, research the forecast for interest rates, and perform a realistic appraisal of yourself and what you can manage. Then you can weigh all the pros and cons to select the terms that will have you refinancing your student loans like a boss.

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2020-01-17
This Week in Student Loans: January 17

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
House of representatives

House Democrats Overturn DeVos on Student Loan Forgiveness

This Thursday, the Democrat-controlled House voted to overturn regulations introduced by Education Secretary Betsy Devos that eliminate the "borrower defense" rules introduced by the Obama administration. Critics have said the new regulations make it more difficult to get student loan forgiveness if a college suddenly closes. Sources say that the move to overturn Devos' new regulations won't pass the GOP-controlled Senate, however – and Trump is likely to veto the bill even if it does.  

Source: USA Today

 

signing legislation

Could Elizabeth Warren Really Wipe Out $1 Trillion in Student Loans in a Single Stroke?

Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren recently vowed to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans on her first day in office if elected president. Her plan was released just before Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate. While the ability to erase debt is typically a decision left to Congress, student loans may be a different story due to a loophole involving the "Higher Education Act" passed in 1965.  

Source: CBS News

 

can't pay student loans

Study: Barely Anyone is Paying Off Their Student Loans

A recent study revealed that very few people are making progress on paying off their student loans, along with shifting factors in the nation's rising student loan debt. The study found that 51 percent of students who took out loans from 2010-12 haven’t made any progress in paying them off. Additionally, it showed that while in the past higher enrollment and rising tuition costs were the main drivers in the rising debt, slow repayments and amassing interest have now become the primary drivers.  

Source: NY Daily News

 
IRS building

IRS Issues Tax Guidance On Discharged Student Loans

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance for some taxpayers who took out federal or private student loans and qualified to have their loans discharged. Typically, having loans discharged is treated as a taxable event, in which the forgiven amount is treated as income – but the tax break from the IRS allows the discharged amount to not be recognized as taxable income.

 

Source: Forbes

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

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.

2020-01-10
This Week in Student Loans: January 10

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
Income-Driven Repayment Borrowers After Missed Deadlines to Recertify

Half of Income-Driven Repayment Borrowers Miss Recertification Deadlines

Over 8 million student loan borrowers use the Federal Income-Driven Repayment plan to help afford monthly payments. The plan can drop payments as low as $0 per month, depending on the borrower's income and family size. However, in order to stay in these plans, borrowers must recertify annually to avoid consequences such as increased payments, a larger loan balance, and potentially defaulting on the loans. ABC News reported that according to Department of Education data, more than half of borrowers miss the deadline to recertify.   While they will likely have to recertify annually, a new law is being put in place to allow borrowers to opt into automatic recertification. The article encourages borrowers with income-driven repayment plans to watch for the option to become available.  

Source: ABC News

 

Colorado weighs "get on your feet" bill to help in-state graduated with student loans

Colorado Weighs "Get On Your Feet" Bill to Assist College Graduates in State

New graduates of public colleges in Colorado may have more incentive to stay in-state following graduation due to a new bill in the works that could mandate the state to pay their student loan payments for two years. If passed, the "Get On Your Feet" bill will take effect for public college graduates who commit to staying in Colorado and enroll in an income-based repayment program.  

Source: Denver Post

 

college student panicking because of FAFSA rumors

Filling Out FAFSA Won't Get You Drafted, Experts Say

With tensions rising between the U.S. and Iran this week, a misinterpretation of the fine print within the FAFSA application led some college students to panic over the potential of being drafted. Despite the widespread social media panic, experts say that the federal form won't actually increase your chances of being drafted.  

Source: USA Today

 
student loan forgiveness tax implications

The Student Loan Forgiveness Tax Bomb

Forbes writer Robert Farrington published an article on January 6 highlighting the tax liabilities that borrowers who receive loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment plans will face. While it's not widely known, forgiven debt is treated as taxable income during the year that debt is forgiven through an income-based repayment plan. The article outlines the surprising amount that borrowers might pay in taxes when having their loans forgiven.

 

Source: Forbes

 
ELFI team celebrates $1 billion in refinanced student loans

ELFI Surpasses $1 Billion in Student Loan Refinancing

Education Loan Finance (ELFI), a division of SouthEast Bank, announced the successful funding of over $1 billion in student loan refinancing and consolidation loans. This funding has positively impacted over 14,500 graduates, parents, and cosigners since they began offering student loan refinance products in December of 2015. ELFI maintains an industry-leading “Excellent” 4.8/5 rating on Trustpilot.com and has been named one of NerdWallet's Best Student Loan Refi Companies for Customer Service for 2019.

 

Source: Education Loan Finance

  That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

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.

2020-01-09
Resolutions: How to Erase Your Student Loan Debt by 2025

By Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been featured in publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and more. She is focused on helping people pay down their debt and boost their income.

  If you’re like most college graduates, you left school with student loan debt. According to 
The Institute for College Access & Success, graduates have $29,200 in student loans, on average. Depending on your repayment term, you could be in debt for a long time. In fact, you could make payments for anywhere from 10 to 30 years.    Having such a large burden on your shoulders can cause you to put off other goals, like starting a business or buying a home. To free yourself from your student loan debt, think of repayment strategies to pay off your student loans as soon as possible.    If you’re determined to become debt-free, here’s how to pay off your student loans by 2025.   

1. Create a budget

To pay off your student loans early, you need to have a complete picture of your finances, so you know exactly how much money you have to work with. Creating a monthly budget is an essential first step.    You can use programs like Mint or You Need a Budget (YNAB) to craft a budget and track your spending. Hopefully, you make more money than you spend each month. If that’s not the case — or if money is tight— you’ll have to make some changes to your lifestyle.   

2. Cut Corners 

To free up more money for debt repayment, you’ll have to take a hard look at your expenses and make some significant cuts. These life changes are not just for recent college students or those just starting out in their careers. If you’re committed to changing your financial situation in a short amount of time, some drastic life changes may be called for. Some things to consider include: 
  • Getting a roommate: While having a roommate may not be ideal, it can be a worthwhile decision. Considering that the average one-bedroom apartment costs $1,025, getting a roommate can help you save over $500 per month. That savings could make a big dent in your student loan balance. 
  • Taking public transportation: If possible, skip buying a car and rely on buses and trains, instead. You’ll be able to save money on a car payment, insurance, and repairs for a vehicle. 
  • Moving to a cheaper area: While moving to a more affordable area isn’t feasible for everyone, it can be a great way to save money. Moving to a less trendy area or even to another state can help you drastically reduce your living expenses. 
  >> Related: U.S. Cities With the Most Student Loan Debt  
  • Cooking at home: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends $3,469 per year on food consumed away from home, such as restaurants or fast food locations. If you skip eating out and brown-bag your meals, you could save thousands. 
  • Negotiating bills: You’re probably paying more than you need to for your cell phone, cable, and internet. You can use a service like Trim to negotiate your utility bills for you, reducing your monthly expenses.
 

3. Increase Your Income

Exploring ways of increasing your income isn’t just for new college graduates. Even if you’re gaining a firm foundation in your career and just want to attack your student loan debt with voracity, putting in extra work hours could accelerate your financial goals.    With a side gig, you can earn a significant amount of money. According to a BankRate survey, the average side job earns an individual $1,122 per month — which can make a big difference in knocking down your student loan debt. Here are some ideas to help you get started: 
  • Deliver groceries: If you have a car and a smartphone, you can make money delivering groceries for services like Shipt or Instacart. Depending on your location and speed, you could make up to $22 per hour. 
  • Rent out extra space: If you have a spare bedroom, closet, or empty garage, you can earn cash by renting out your extra space to locals who need to store items with Neighbor. 
  • Tutor online: If you have a computer and reliable internet, you can earn money by tutoring online. With services like Tutor.com and Chegg, you can make up to $20 per hour. 
  • Assemble furniture: If you have a knack for assembling Ikea furniture or toys, you have a lucrative side hustle. You can find clients with TaskRabbit or Takl
  • Walk dogs: If you love dogs, you can earn an hourly fee for walking them while their owners are at work. Create an account on Rover or DogVacay to get started. 
  • Work overtime: Public service officials, medical professionals, and educators can make a substantial amount of money on the side by working overtime. 
  • Offer consultation services: If you’re a savvy marketer or have a knack for e-commerce, create a side business of setting up social media accounts for local businesses. 
 

4. Research Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs 

Depending on your major and location, you may qualify for student loan repayment assistance.    For example, highly qualified teachers who teach for at least five years at an eligible school can receive up to $17,500 in loan help through Teacher Loan Forgiveness, a federal program.    Healthcare providers in Pennsylvania can receive up to $100,000 in student loan aid through the state’s Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. In exchange, participants must agree to a service term in a high-need area.    In Florida, lawyers who work for a legal aid organization can receive up to $5,000 per year through the Loan Repayment Assistance Program   To find programs you may qualify for, check out the federal government’s list of forgiveness programs, and visit your state’s Department of Education website.   

5. Use Windfalls Strategically

Using windfalls — unexpected influxes of cash — strategically can cut off years from your loan term.   For example, the IRS reported that the average tax refund in 2019 was $2,860. To put that number in perspective, let’s say you had $30,000 in student loans with an interest rate of 5% and ten years left in your repayment term. If you made a lump sum payment of $2,860, you’d pay off your student loans 14 months early. And, you’d save $1,722 over the length of your loan.   

6. Consider Student Loan Refinancing

If you’re determined to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, student loan refinancing can be a smart strategy.    To refinance student loans, you work with a private lender like ELFI* to take out a new loan for the amount of your existing debt. The new loan has different repayment terms than the old ones. You’ll have a new interest rate, loan term, and minimum monthly payment.    If you have good credit and steady income, you could qualify for a lower interest rate and save money.    Let’s say you had $35,000 in student loan debt at 7% interest with a 10-year repayment term. By the end of your repayment term, you’d pay a total of $48,766. Interest charges would cause you to pay back $13,766 more than you originally borrowed.    If you refinanced your student loans and qualified for a 10-year loan at just 5% interest, you’d repay $44,548. Refinancing your debt would help you save $4,218.    ELFI’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator can help you determine how much you could save by refinancing.  

7. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation

As your career advances and you start to pay off some of your loan debt, you might be tempted to splurge on a new car, bigger apartment, or fancier electronics to reward yourself. However, try to avoid the urge. Instead, allocate any extra money you have toward your loan payments. You’ll pay off your student loans faster, so you can become debt-free and enjoy more freedom.   

The Bottom Line

While your debt may be stressful, you can conquer it by coming up with detailed student loan repayment strategies. With some sacrifice and hard work now, you can eliminate your debt years ahead of schedule.   If you decide to refinance your student loans, use ELFI’s “Find My Rate” tool to get a rate quote, without impacting your credit score.  
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

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.