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Pay Down Student Loan Debt or Invest In a Traditional 401(k)?

April 22, 2019

Student loan debt in the United States has amounted to $1.5 trillion according to the Federal Reserve. This large student loan debt burden has affected many young people who are looking to start families and create a life for themselves. Despite this tough obstacle, many young people still have excess savings and need to determine what to do with these savings. Should they take their savings and invest in a traditional 401(k) or use that savings to pay down their student loan debt? We’re going to share different situations all spanning 10 years that involve paying down student loan debt and investing in a traditional 401(k) plan.

 

 

Let’s say you have a taxable income of $150,000 and file taxes jointly with a spouse. Under the new 2018 tax brackets, your effective federal tax rate is 16.59%.  Let’s also assume you have $70,000 of student loan debt with 10 years left at a 7% interest rate. Your monthly student loan payment would be about $812.76 assuming you’re making the same payment amount every month.  What should you do? Pay down the student loan or invest in a traditional 401(k) account?

 

 

Income: $150,000

Effective Tax Rate: 16.59%

Student Loan Debt: $70,000

Monthly Payment: $812.76

Term: 10 years

Interest Rate: 7%

 

Scenario 1 – Paying Down Debt Student Loans Then Investing

Let’s start off by taking a look at how you can pay this debt down faster. Did you know that if you pay an extra $100 a month in addition to your regular student loan monthly payment, you’ll save $4,464.13 in interest paid? Not only will you save money by paying extra every month, but you’ll cut down the overall repayment period by a year and a half. Yes, you’ll be debt-free a year and a half earlier than you thought!

 

$812.76 + $100 = $912.76 Monthly Payment

 

After being debt free sooner than expected, you may decide to start investing in your 401(k). If you put all of the money you were paying from your student loan into your 401(k), you’d contribute $1,094.31 monthly.

 

You may be wondering how you can contribute more money towards your 401(k) than your student loan payment. The answer lies in taxes.

 

Student loan payments are made with post-tax income. 401(k) contributions are made with pre-tax income. Since a traditional 401(k) account uses pre-tax income, you are able to contribute more towards your 401(k) than you would have your student loan debt with the same income. Though you don’t pay taxes on 401(k) contributions, ordinary income tax will be applied on 401(k) distributions.

 

$912.76 / (1-16.59%) = $1.094.31 Monthly Contribution

 

After a year and half of contributing $1,094.31 per month, compounded monthly, at an assumed 7% rate of return, you would have $20,826.09. The investment amount of $20,826.09 combined with the student loan interest savings of $4,464.13 would give you a total 10-year net value of $25,290.23.

 

Scenario 2 – Investing While Paying Down Student Loan Debt

 

If you have a higher priority of saving for retirement than paying off your student loan debt, you may want a different option. Let’s see what would happen if you decided to put that extra $100 a month into a tax-deferred 401(k) account. The $100 would be contributed to your 401(k) account instead of your student loan debt balance, but you would continue to make monthly student loan debt payments. Due to the pre-tax nature of a 401(k), your contribution of $100 post-tax would become $119.89 pre-tax.

 

$100 / (1-16.59%) = $119.89 Monthly Contribution

 

With an assumed 7% rate of return, compounded monthly, on your 401(k), you will have approximately $20,872.19 in your 401(k) after 10 years.

 

Scenario 3 – Employer Contributions 401(k)

 

Some employers will match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your income. This could be a real game-changer. Turning down your employer’s 401(k) match is like throwing away free money. If you have student loan debt, but your employer offers a match, consider contributing to receive the maximum employer match. If you contribute $119.89 a month with an employer match while making your normal student loan payments, your money can really grow.  If your employer matches the 401(k) contribution dollar for dollar, you will double your investment of $20,872.19 from Scenario 2 to $41,744.37 in your 401(k) account after 10 years.

 

Contributions to a traditional 401(k) are made prior to your income being taxed. The withdrawals on a traditional 401(k) are taxed. The tax rate that is applied to your withdrawals depends on your tax bracket in retirement.  As the average person’s career develops, they typically continue to increase their salary and move into a higher tax bracket. Upon retirement, they will see a decrease in income and move to a lower tax bracket. This means your 401(k) withdrawals could be taxed in a lower tax bracket if done while in retirement, instead of in your working years. Note that this will only be the case if your retirement income is less than your working income.

 

 

Scenario 1 – Paying Down Then Investing

Scenario 2 – Investing While Paying Down Debt

Scenario 3 – Employer Contribution 401k

 

As you can see from the chart above, investing while paying down student loan debt or paying down debt than investing produces almost the same total net value. One debt pays down and investment strategy might perform better than the other depending on the return in the 401(k) account. It’s important to keep in mind that the returns on a 401(k) account are never guaranteed

 

The real deciding factor on whether to invest or pay down your student loan debt will be if an employer offers a 401(k) match. Matching contributions from your employer will make investing significantly more attractive than paying down debt. If an employer match to your 401(k) is available, it’s wise to take advantage of it.

 

Your comfort level with your student loan debt can be a large factor in your decision to invest in a traditional 401(k) account or to pay down debt. Knowing whether you are more interested in being debt free or being prepared for retirement can help you make a decision. Let’s look at how student loan refinancing can help you amplify your student loan debt pay down and investment strategy.

 

In Scenarios 1, 2, and 3, the big question was whether you should use the additional $100 a month to pay down student loan debt or invest in a 401(k). What if you wanted to spend that $100 a month instead? Is it possible to find a way to save on student loan debt while spending that extra $100 a month? You’re in luck! This can be done with student loan refinancing.

 

Scenario 4 – Refinancing Student Loan Debt

By refinancing your student loan debt, you should be able to decrease the high-interest rate of your student loan. In addition, you should be able to save money over the life of the loan and in some cases monthly.

 

The total interest you would have to pay on your student loans of $70,000 at 7% interest over 10 years is $27,531.12. If you qualify to refinance your student loan debt to a 5% interest rate, the total interest you would pay is $19,095.03. This would mean that refinancing your student loans would be saving you $8,436.09 in interest over the life of the loan or $70.30 a month.  When comparing your new 5% interest rate to your previous interest rate of 7%, not only would you be saving over the life of the loan, but reducing your monthly payment!

 

$8,436.09 / 120 = $70.30 Monthly Interest Savings

 

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing

 

 

Scenario 5 – Refinancing and Paying Down Debt Then Investing

 

Now, what happens if you refinance your student loan debt, pay down the debt, and then start investing? Refinancing your student loan debt will cut your interest rate, saving you $70.30 a month, making your monthly student loan payment now $742.46 instead of $812.76 per month. By taking the additional $100 a month and the $70.30 in student loan savings from refinancing and applying them to your monthly student loan payment, you will be debt free two years and three months sooner than expected. Two years and three months are earlier compared to the one and a half years from Scenario 1. Just a reminder, in Scenario 1, there an additional $100 a month put towards your student loan debt. With refinancing and making the same monthly payment as Scenario 1, you will save $13,017.87 in interest over your original loan.

 

$742.46 + $70.30 + $100 = $912.76 Monthly Payment

 

Now that you’re debt free, you can use the money that would have been used for your student loan payment to contribute to your 401(k). Since 401(k) contributions are done with pre-tax income, you will be able to contribute a pre-tax amount of $912.76, which is $1094.31.

 

$912.76 / (1-16.59%) = $1.094.31 Monthly Contribution

 

After two years and three months of contributing $1,094.31 per month, compounded monthly, at an assumed 7% rate of return, you would have $32,085.89. The investment amount of $32,085.09 combined with the student loan interest savings of $13,017.87 would give you a total 10-year net value of $45,103.76.

 

Scenario 6 – Refinancing and Investing While Paying Down Debt

 

Now let’s try refinancing while you simultaneously pay down debt and invest. In this scenario, you will cut down the interest rate on your student loan debt from 7% to 5% by refinancing. You’ll be contributing the pre-tax amount of the extra $100 a month and $70.30 a month in interest savings towards your 401(k). You will end up contributing a total of $204.17 a month to your 401(k) account.

 

($100 + $70.30) / (1-16.59%) = $204.17 Monthly Contribution

 

With an assumed 7% rate of return, compounded monthly, you will have approximately $35,544.87 in your 401(k) after 10 years. Combined with the interest savings of $8,436.09, you will have a total net value of $43,980.96.

 

 

 

Scenario 1 – Paying Down Then Investing

Scenario 2 – Investing While Paying Down Debt

Scenario 4 – Refinancing Student Loan Debt

Scenario 5 – Refinancing and Paying Down Debt Then Investing

Scenario 6 – Refinancing and Investing While Paying Down Debt

 

As you can see from the chart above, just from refinancing your student loan debt, you can save money and increase your total net value. If you take it one step further and supplement your debt pay down and investment strategy with student loan refinancing, you would approximately double your total net value! By taking advantage of student loan refinancing, you will be able to supercharge your debt pay down and investment strategy. For those who are just trying to save money on student loans or have more money to invest in their 401(k), student loan refinancing is the way to go.

 

Check Out Our Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

 

NOTICE: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not authorized to provide tax advice or financial advice. If you need tax advice or financial advice contacts a professional. All statements regarding 401(k) contributions assume that you have a 401(k) plan and that you are able to contribute those amounts without contributing more than the current federal law limits.

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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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2020-03-30
Should You Save for Your Child’s College Fund or Pay Your Student Loans?

As you start to grow your family, you may be wondering whether you should continue to aggressively pay down your student loans or start saving for your little bundle of joy’s college fund. Do you immediately set up a 529 to start saving for their college expenses? Or should you focus on paying your student loans before saving for your kid’s college? Here is some information to consider before you decide.   For the 2018-2019 school year, families spent an average of $26,226 on college. With tuition rates and the cost of living increasing, higher education can be an expensive endeavor to undertake. In 2019, 64% of families planned to pay for college by saving, according to Sallie Mae’s “How America Pays for College 2019 Study”   With all this in mind, you may think it’s a good idea to start saving for your child to attend college when they are a newborn. Perhaps the heavy burden of your student loans is something you want your child to avoid. However, it’s important to consider some factors:  

Do you have a healthy retirement account?

Financial experts will argue you should not save for your child’s college expenses if it prevents you from saving for your retirement. The argument is based on the fact that you can’t borrow for your living expenses in retirement, but your child can borrow for school costs. If you wait to save for retirement after sending your child off to school with their tuition saved for, you will be missing out on vital years of compounding. Saving for retirement early can earn you thousands of dollars more than if you were to start saving later!  

What do your other debt payments look like?

Is your financial situation stable enough to be able to pay tuition or save for future tuition costs? To determine this you should consider what debt (including your student loans) you have. Are you able to make all your debt payments? Do you have an emergency fund you are contributing to? If you have unpaid debts or don’t have an emergency fund, you may need to delay saving for future college expenses at this time.   

Can you afford tuition payments or monthly college savings in your budget?

If saving for your child’s college expenses is a priority for you, plan for it in your budget. If you are able to continue making your own student loan payments, save for retirement, and continue to build an emergency fund while saving for your child’s college expenses, go for it! Ready to make a budget, but not sure how? Check out this budgeting method  

Options to Consider 

If you want to help with your child’s college expenses but it’s not financially feasible at this time, here are some ways you may still be able to help:
  • Refinance your student loans. If you are trying to save some money in your budget for your child’s college expenses consider refinancing your student loans. Refinancing allows you to obtain a new loan, presumably at a lower interest rate, to pay off your old loan. The new loan with a lower interest rate can result in significant savings for your monthly payment and in interest costs over the life of the loan. This monthly savings can go directly into your child’s college savings. To find out how much you may be able to save, check out our student loan refinance calculator.* 
  • Don’t feel bad if saving for your child’s higher education is not something you can afford. In 2019, 50% of families borrowed for college. This figure also includes families who had some savings. Student loans, both federal and private, are an important resource to pay for college expenses. Help your child determine how much they need to borrow and compare their options.     
  • If it’s not in the budget to save for future education expenses start saving any cash gifts your child receives. Take those gifts and open a 529 plan for your child. A 529 is a tax-advantaged investment account that allows you to save for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition and room and board. 
 

Ways to Save on College Costs

When you are deciding how to pay for college expenses, be sure to include your child in the discussion. After all, they will be starting their adult life and should have a good understanding of finances. Here are some points of discussion to get you started:
  1. Can they take Advanced Placement classes or do dual enrollment in high school to earn college credits? Earning college credits while still in high school is significantly less expensive, or possibly free in some cases, and can cut down on the required number of classes when they actually attend college. This can help them graduate early or reduce the amount of tuition you need to pay. 
  2. Is your child considering a private or public college? The type of school they are considering can have a significant impact on the cost. In 2019, the average cost of a private school was $48,510 per year compared to $21,370 for a public college. Though the sticker price for a private college is a lot higher, private schools often have the ability to give more generous financial aid. Before eliminating a potential college due to costs, be sure to look at their financial aid statistics. 
  3. Will they be eligible for any scholarships? There are a number of general and niche scholarships that your child can apply to. College Board’s Scholarship Search is a good resource to find out about scholarship opportunities. Tip: Be sure to fill out the FASFA, which allows you to be eligible to receive aid such as grants, scholarships, work-study and federal student loans. 
  4. Will your child have a job during school to help pay for expenses? A job on campus can be a great way for a college student to be more involved on campus and earn money for their living expenses. 
 

Bottom Line 

The ability to help your child pay for future educational expenses can be a great feeling. But before you take on this endeavor, you’ll want to be sure that your financial situation is stable enough. Armed with this information, you can make an informed decision for how you can successfully pay off your student loans and save for your child’s college expenses.  
  *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.
2020-03-27
Millennials and Money: Surprising Facts You Should Know

When it comes to millennials and money, they have a bad reputation. The Pew Research Center defines millennials as people born between 1981 and 1996. Despite this wide age range, many stereotypes exist about millennials, including poor work and financial habits, especially when it comes to student loan debt, managing a monthly budget, and saving for the future.    But you may be surprised by how frugal millennials really are. Here are some facts about millennials and money that you should know.   

1. Nearly half of millennials have a side gig

During the 2008 recession, many millennials watched their parents lose their long-time jobs and investments. They learned the importance of diversifying their investments and of having multiple income streams.    With that experience in mind, millennials are leading the charge when it comes to side hustles. In a BankRate survey, 48% of responding millennials said they earned extra money on the side.    On average, people with side gigs earn $1,122 in extra income per month, working 12 hours a week. They use those additional earnings to boost their savings, pay down debt, and even afford their regular living expenses.   

2. Millennials have one of the highest student loan balances of any generation

Millennials are dealing with unprecedented levels of student loan debt. However, that’s not entirely their fault.    In recent years, college costs have skyrocketed. The College Board reported that from 1989-1990 to 2019-2020, the average cost of tuition and fees at a public four-year university tripled. With such high expenses, millennials have had to take out more in student loans to pay for school.   In fact, the average loan balance for millennials is $34,505. That’s the third-highest average balance for student loan debt. Only Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers have more.    Such a high loan balance affects millennials’ ability to pursue other goals, like buying a home, getting married, or starting a business.   

3. Millennial households are earning more than ever before

Despite their substantial student loan debt, millennials have very high earning potential.    According to the Pew Research Center, the median income for millennial households is $69,000. That’s significantly higher than the median household income for all age groups, which is just $61,937.    While that’s good news, much of that higher income goes toward their student loan payments and living expenses, so the economy is not reaping the benefits of millennials’ salaries as much as you’d expect.   

4. Millennial credit card debt is lower than average

After watching their families struggle with debt, millennials are notoriously wary of taking on consumer debt themselves. That’s especially true when it comes to credit cards.    Experian reported that consumers carry $6,028 in credit card debt, on average. But for millennials, the number is much lower; they carry an average of just $4,712.    That’s a good decision. Credit cards often have sky-high interest rates. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rates on credit cards that assess interest was 16.88% as of November 2019, the last available data. But some credit cards have interest rates of 25% or higher, which can cause you to owe far more than you initially charged on your card.    Keeping your balances low — and paying off your statement balance in full each month — helps you reap the advantages of credit card rewards without paying interest charges.   

5. Millennials are delaying home ownership

While previous generations considered home ownership a huge step in becoming an adult, millennials are delaying this milestone.    According to CNBC, the home ownership rate for millennials is eight percentage points lower than it was for Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers when they were in the same age group.    There are a few reasons behind their reluctance to buy: 
  • Fear of commitment: Many millennials prize flexibility. They want to be able to take advantage of new opportunities that come along, like a dream job in a new city. They feel like home ownership would prevent them from being able to pursue those opportunities, while renting allows them to be more nimble. 
  • Lack of starter homes: Business Insider reported that there is a massive shortage of starter homes in the real estate market. Baby Boomers looking to downsize and real estate investors making all-cash offers are swooping up available homes, making home ownership unattainable for many millennials.
  • Prevalence of student loan debt: With high monthly student loan payments and a high debt-to-income ratio, millennials struggle to qualify for a mortgage and keep up with their payments. Until they pay off a significant portion of their debt — or eliminate their loans entirely — many millennials simply don’t feel comfortable making such a large investment. 
   

Millennials and money: Maximizing your finances

If you’re a millennial with student loan debt and it’s causing you to put off your other financial and personal goals, there are some steps you can take now to improve your situation: 
  • Create a budget: If you don’t have one already, spend some time creating a budget. Make sure you earn more than you spend each month and look for areas where you can cut back so you can free up extra money to put toward your debt so you can pay it off faster. 
  • Use your side hustle strategically: If you have a side hustle — such as graphic design, driving for a rideshare service, or delivering groceries — set aside your earnings solely for debt repayment. By using your extra income to make additional payments, you can pay off your student loans months or even years ahead of schedule — and cut down on interest charges. 
  • Refinance your student loans: To pay off your student loans even faster, consider refinancing your student loan debt. With this approach, you consolidate your loans together by taking out a loan through a lender like ELFI. The new loan has different repayment terms; you could even qualify for a lower interest rate, helping you save money over time.
        If you think that student loan refinancing sounds like a good idea for you, use ELFI's Student Loan Refinance Calculator to get a rate quote without affecting 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.
2020-03-25
Current LIBOR Rate Update: March 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of March 17, 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 - January 2020

As of Monday, March 17, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.75%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.75% (0.75% + 3.00%=3.75%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 1 month LIBOR rate over the past year.

 

(Source: macrotrends.net)

   

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate - January 2020

As of Monday, March 17, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 1.05%%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 4.05% (1.05% + 3.00%=4.05%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 3 month LIBOR rate over the past year.

  (Source: macrotrends.net)  

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate - January 2020

As of Monday, March 17, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.91%%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.91% (0.91% + 3.00%=3.91%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 6 month LIBOR rate over the past year.

  (Source: macrotrends.net)  

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate - January 2020

As of Monday, March 17, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.86%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.86% (0.86% + 3.00%=3.86%). The chart below displays fluctuations in the 1 year LIBOR rate over the past year.

  (Source: macrotrends.net)  

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.