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How to Save for Retirement While Making Student Loan Payments

July 13, 2020

If you have student loans, you know how your debt can affect your ability to pursue your other financial goals, especially saving for retirement. 

 

According to a recent survey by TIAA, 84% of responding adults said that their student loans negatively impacted the amount they were able to save for retirement. For those who aren’t saving for retirement at all, 26% said their student loan balances were why they couldn’t afford to do so. 

 

However, putting off saving for your retirement is a costly mistake. It’s important to balance saving for your future with paying down student loan debt now. If you’re struggling to manage both priorities, here’s how to save for retirement while keeping up with your loan payments.

 

Why you need to save for retirement now

When it comes to saving for retirement, the earlier you begin saving, the better. Compound interest and the power of annual returns can help your money grow over time. The longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the more you’ll have to invest your own money to have enough saved to retire comfortably.

 

For example, let’s say Jen begins saving for retirement at the age of 25. She contributes $250 per month into her retirement account, and her average annual return is 9%. By the time Jen reaches the age of 67, she’s contributed just $126,000 into the account, but her retirement account is worth $1,406,746.

 

By contrast, Jen’s friend Stephanie puts off saving for retirement until she pays off her student loans and doesn’t start contributing to her retirement until she’s 35. She starts putting $500 per month toward her retirement fund — double what Jen contributes each month. Like Jen, Stephanie earns an average annual return of 9%, but by the age of 67, her retirement fund is worth only $1,108,257. Stephanie contributed $192,000 of her own money — nearly $70,000 more than Jen — but her retirement account is worth approximately $300,000 less than Jen’s because Stephanie got a later start.

 

Chart showing the impact of saving for retirement earlier

 

Retirement savings options

If you’re not sure how to save for retirement, here are some popular retirement plans. 

 

401(k) 

A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement plan, meaning it’s a benefit offered through your job. With a 401(k), you invest a portion of your pre-tax salary in the investments you choose. Your contributions and the earnings are not taxed until you withdraw from the account.

 

401(3)b 

401(3)b plans are very similar to 401(k) plans, but they’re offered to employees of non-profit organizations, churches, public schools, and universities. You make contributions to your retirement plan on a pre-tax basis, and your contributions and earnings aren’t taxed until you make withdrawals.

 

IRAs

Another great option is to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) on your own. There are two options: a Traditional IRA and a Roth IRA.

 

Traditional IRA

Anyone can contribute to a Traditional IRA, regardless of income. With an IRA, your earnings can grow tax-deferred, meaning you only pay taxes on your gains when you make withdrawals in retirement. Your contributions may be tax-deductible depending on your income level and if you have access to an employer-sponsored plan.

 

Roth IRA

If you meet the income restrictions, a Roth IRA may be a useful option. With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. Why is that a good thing? While your contributions aren’t tax-deductible, your earnings and withdrawals are tax-free. And, you can take out the money you contribute to your Roth IRA — but not your earnings — before you reach retirement age without paying any penalties, so your Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund in a pinch.

 

How to save for retirement while paying student loans

Finding a balance between saving for retirement and paying down student loan debt can be tricky, but it can be done if you follow these three steps:

 

1. Make the minimum payments on all of your student loans

It’s important to stay current on all of your debt to maintain and protect your credit score and prevent racking up costly late fees. Keep making all of the required minimum payments on your federal and private student loans to avoid falling behind and entering student loan default.*

 

2. If your employer offers matching contributions, contribute enough to earn the full match

If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) and your employer offers matching contributions, contribute enough to your account to qualify for the full match. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on free money that is a key part of your compensation package. Over time, skipping the match could cost you thousands of dollars.

 

For example, let’s say you make $40,000 per year, and your employer will match 100% of your contributions, up to 5% of your salary. That means if you contribute $2,000 per year to your retirement plan — 5% of your salary — your employer will match your contribution, giving you an additional $2,000 per year toward your retirement fund.

 

If you didn’t take advantage of the match while you were with that employer for five years, you’d miss out on $10,000. But the long-term consequences are even worse. If that money earned an average 9% annual return, in 30 years, that $10,000 would be worth over $147,000. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of employer matching contributions if they’re available to you.

 

If your employer doesn’t offer a match, or if you don’t have access to an employer-sponsored plan, contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA  instead.

 

3. Tackle your high-interest student loan debt

If you have extra money left over each month, put it toward high-interest student loan debt, meaning loans with an interest rate of over 5%. You can also consider student loan refinancing to lower your interest rate and reduce your monthly payment.

 

By refinancing your student loans, you can save money and free up more money in your monthly budget to save for retirement. Use the student loan refinance calculator to see how much you can save.*

 

The bottom line 

When it comes to saving for retirement while paying student loans, you should develop a balanced strategy. Aim to both save for retirement and pay down your student loans at the same time. By taking advantage of employer contributions and tackling high-interest debt, you can improve your finances and build a secure future.

 


 

*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.

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Current LIBOR Rate
2020-10-19
Current LIBOR Rate Update: October 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of October 19, 2020, along with a brief overview of the meaning of LIBOR and how it applies to variable-rate student loans. For more information on how LIBOR affects variable rate loans, read our blog, LIBOR: What It Means for Student Loans.

 

What is LIBOR?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a money market interest rate that is considered to be the standard in the interbank Eurodollar market. In short, it is the rate at which international banks are willing to offer Eurodollar deposits to one another. Many variable rate loans and lines of credit, such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans, base their interest rates on the LIBOR rate.

 

How LIBOR Affects Variable Rate Student Loans

If you have variable-rate student loans, changes to the LIBOR impact the interest rate you’ll pay on the loan throughout your repayment. Private student loans, including refinanced student loans, have interest rates that are tied to an index, such as LIBOR. But that’s not the rate you’ll pay. The lender also adds a margin that is based on your credit – the better your credit, the lower the margin. By adding the LIBOR rate to the margin along with any other fees or charges that may be included, you can determine your annual percentage rate (APR), which is the full cost a lender charges you per year for funds expressed as a percentage. Your APR is the actual amount you pay.

 

LIBOR Maturities

There are seven different maturities for LIBOR, including overnight, one week, one month, two months, three months, six months, and twelve months. The most commonly quoted rate is the three-month U.S. dollar rate. Some student loan companies, including ELFI, adjust their interest rates every quarter based on the three-month LIBOR rate.

 

Current 1 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.15%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.15% (0.15% + 3.00%=3.15%). 

 

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 0.24%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.24% (0.24% + 3.00%=3.24%). 

 

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.25%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.25% (0.25% + 3.00%=3.25%). 

 

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.35%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.35% (0.35% + 3.00%=3.35%). 

 

Understanding LIBOR

If you are planning to refinance your student loans or take out a personal loan or line of credit, understanding how the LIBOR rate works can help you choose between a fixed or variable-rate loan. Keep in mind that ELFI has some of the lowest student loan refinancing rates available, and you can prequalify in minutes without affecting your credit score.* Keep up with the ELFI blog for monthly updates on the current 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and 1 year LIBOR rate data.

 
 

*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.

Woman struggling with student loan refinancing misconceptions
2020-10-16
7 Common Student Loan Refinancing Misconceptions

Refinancing is kind of like leveling up. After months or even years of working hard to become debt-free, you then gain access to a higher tier of borrowing - better terms, a lower interest rate or a smaller monthly payment. Many people have misconceptions about student loan refinancing, however, which keep them from taking advantage of the benefits that student loan refinancing has to offer.   If you're new to borrowing, it's easy to get scared of changing anything about your loan repayment process - even if that means losing out on the money that refinancing can save you. Here are some of the most common student loan refinancing myths - and what you need to know instead.  

Refinancing Student Loans Takes Too Long

Don't fall prey to the misconception that student loan refinancing is a lengthy, tedious process. In fact, refinancing student loans is usually very straightforward. You fill out an application and wait a couple of days for the lender to run your credit report and verify your personal information. Once that’s been completed, you’ll be presented with the refinance offers you qualify for.   The total length of time from beginning to end should take a couple of weeks. This also depends on how quickly you respond to questions from the lender and provide any additional forms or information they request.  

Student Loan Refinancing Has Expensive Upfront Costs

Unlike mortgage refinancing, student loan refinancing has no upfront costs like application or origination fees. That’s also why there’s no downside to applying for a student loan refinancing multiple times.   Plus, most lenders don’t charge a prepayment penalty, which is a fee for repaying the loan ahead of schedule. The only fee you’ll pay is the stated interest rate. You may owe a late fee if you make a payment after the due date, but that can be avoided if you set up automatic payments.  

You Need a High Income to Refinance Student Loans

While some lenders require that borrowers have a high income to qualify for student loan refinancing, others are more lenient. All lenders, however, care about the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which is your monthly debt payments divided by your gross income. Most lenders want a DTI percentage below 50%.   To calculate your DTI, add up your monthly debt payments including mortgage, car loan, personal loan, credit card payment and any other loans. Include a rent payment if you don't own your property. Then, divide that total figure by your gross or pre-tax monthly income.   If your DTI is below 50%, then you’re likely a good student loan refinancing candidate. If it’s higher, then you need to increase your income, decrease your monthly housing payment or pay down some of your debts  

You Need a Perfect Credit Score to Refinance Student Loans

Another misconception about student loan refinancing is that you need an excellent credit score to qualify, but lenders often accept borrowers with credit scores as low as 660. This is great news for young borrowers who haven’t built a strong credit history yet, or who ran up some credit card debt in college.   What may hurt your chances of being approved are any recent late payments, bankruptcies, defaults, liens or recent applications for other loans or lines of credit. Before applying to refinance your student loans, check your official credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.   About one in five people have a mistake on their credit report, which can lead to an application being denied. Look at your credit report from all three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - and make sure you recognize all the accounts.   If you notice a mistake, file a dispute directly with each of the credit bureaus. It may take a few weeks to have it removed from your credit report. Make sure to follow up and verify that it’s been deleted.   You can check your credit score for free through a bank or credit card provider, or a service like Credit Karma. If your score is 660 or higher, you can feel free to apply for student loan refinancing.   You can increase your shot of being approved by applying with a cosigner. A co-signer is someone who agrees to assume legal liability for your debt if you stop making payments and default. The loan will also show up on the cosigner’s credit report.   Even if you can be approved to refinance by yourself, you may receive lower interest rates if you apply with a cosigner.  

You Can Only Refinance Once

A common misconception is that you have only one opportunity to refinance your student loans. In reality, however, there’s no limit on how many times you can refinance. Many choose to refinance every time the Federal Reserve decreases interest rates because they can get a better deal on their student loans.   The only thing that might affect how often you can refinance is your credit score. If your credit dips below a certain threshold, then a lender may not approve your application. Also, you may be denied if you lose your job or your income drastically plummets.  

You Refinance All Your Student Loans

Many borrowers have a mix of federal and private student loans and assume they have to refinance all those loans at the same time.   But borrowers can choose to refinance the loans they want. They can keep their federal loans as they are and only refinance their private loans. If they have a private loan with a low interest rate and one with a high interest rate, they can choose to only refinance the latter.   In some cases, borrowers may have a better chance of being approved if they only refinance some of their loans instead of all of them.  

Student Loan Refinancing is a Confusing Process

When you apply to refinance with ELFI, you’ll be matched to a member of the Personal Loan Advisor team. Every time you call ELFI, you can speak to that same person. This minimizes the confusion and frustration involved with the refinancing process.   As of 10/19/2020, ELFI has a 4.9 rating on Trustpilot with more than 1,200 reviews. More than 90% of those are five-star reviews. ELFI also has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.  
  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.
Man feeling overwhelmed by student loans
2020-10-15
What to do When Your Student Loan Payment is Overwhelming   

Having student loans is not unusual. In fact, 45 million people have them. It’s also incredibly common to feel overwhelmed by your student loan payments.   A survey of student loan borrowers found that almost 65% of respondents said they lose sleep because of the stress caused by their loans. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your monthly student loan payment, there are some options you should consider to lessen the burden.   Before you can explore alternatives, however, you need to know the types of loans you have. Certain options are only available for federal loans as opposed to private loans. Check the Federal Student Aid website to determine any federal loans you may have, and request your free credit report to see any private loans. Once you’re familiar with your loans, you can consider new courses of action.  

Create a Budget

If you don’t already have a budget, create one! This will allow you to see if you can afford your current student loan payment. It will also show you areas where you’re spending unnecessarily. If you find there just isn’t enough income to cover all your necessary expenses, then you can begin working on different ways to reduce your student loan payment.  

Research Different Payment Plans

If your federal student loan payment is overwhelming, consider switching to a different payment plan. When you initially begin repayment, your loans are automatically put on the standard repayment plan. On this plan, your payments are based on a ten-year repayment term.   A Direct Consolidation Loan can help you change your payment plan to help make your payment more affordable. It can also help consolidate multiple federal loans into one loan. (Note: Consolidating your federal loans is different from student loan refinancing, discussed below.)   This will help you qualify for certain longer repayment plans, resulting in a lower monthly payment. One of the drawbacks of extending your payment term is you will end up paying more in interest costs over time.  

Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment

Certain loans are eligible for income-driven repayment plans. They can help make your payments more affordable and are based on your income and family size.  

Graduated Student Loan Repayment

If an income-driven repayment plan does not work for you, you can change to a graduated repayment plan. Your payment will begin low and increase over time for a ten-year term.  

Extended Student Loan Repayment

Another option is an extended repayment plan. To qualify, you must have certain loans over at least $30,000. Your payment may be fixed or may increase over time for a 25-year term.  

Look Into Refinancing

If you have overwhelming private or federal student loan payments, consider student loan refinancing. Refinancing may lower your interest rate and reduce your monthly payment. This is a good option even if your current payment fits your budget.   Refinancing can help lower your monthly payment, and can also save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. Refinancing means obtaining a private loan to pay off your existing student loan or multiple loans.   Student loan refinancing differs from consolidation, which is only for federal student loans and may not necessarily reduce your interest rate. You can refinance private or federal loans, or both, and can also change your student loan repayment term to better fit your needs.   Here is an example of how refinancing can save you money:   If you have $65,000 of student loans with a 6% interest rate and have 10 years remaining on your loans, you will pay approximately $722 per month. If you refinance and qualify for a lower interest of 3.61%, your monthly payment would be reduced to approximately $646 per month. This equals savings $76 per month in savings. You will also save more than $9,000 in interest over the life of the loan.   To see how much you could save, try ELFI’s Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  

Increase Your Income

Of course, increasing your income is easier said than done. If your student loans payments are becoming overwhelming, however, it may be a necessary step. Increasing your income through overtime hours or a side hustle can make your payments more manageable. A side hustle can be as easy as babysitting or dog walking, or more involved like starting a side business based on a passion.   If you haven’t begun repayment on your loans, but know you will face a significant loan payment after graduation, consider these steps:  

Build a Budget Early

Start a budget before repayment begins that includes your future student loan payment. This will allow you to see if you will be able to comfortably afford your payment. It will also help you build an emergency fund and a strong financial foundation.  

Seek Employer Student Loan Benefits

Look for an employer that offers student loan assistance. The number of companies that are offering student loan benefits is increasing, although the benefit is still rare. Some offer monthly benefits that can help you pay your loans off faster. Others offer a yearly benefit amount for a certain number of years. Either way, extra money from an employer to help pay loans will help you reduce your loan amount faster.  

Work Toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Apply for employment that may qualify for forgiveness. If you have federal loans, certain employment can qualify for forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Certain loans and types of employment are required so be sure to pay close attention to the requirements.  

Bottom Line

If you have an overwhelming student loan payment, explore your options to reduce your payment while furthering your debt-free journey.  
  *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.