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Student Loan Refinancing

Refinancing Student Loans to Buy Your First Home

February 4, 2020

So, you’re ready to buy your first home? Look at you all grown up and wanting to be smart with your money. The truth is, you were smart enough to invest in your future by working hard for your degree(s), and now you want to double down and dig in some roots. But you may be wondering how you’re going to juggle both a mortgage AND a burdensome student loan payment every month. In fact, 41% of college grads with student loan debt hesitate to purchase a home because of the sizeable amount of student loan debt they have.

 

Note: This blog was previously published in March of 2018, but has been updated to be current for our readers.

 

Purchasing your first home is a massive decision, and you’re wise to not take it lightly. But it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?

 

Picture yourself parking in the driveway of your first dream home. As you slowly walk up to the front door, everything has this wonderful soft glow and your peripherals are a bit cloudy because, well it’s a dream and that’s what they do in the movies. Anyways, you reach out for the door handle and are pleasantly surprised to find it has the perfect form, as if it were fitted for your hand alone.

 

You squeeze the latch, crack the door open and take the first step inside. It’s perfect. Everything is just as you imagined. You take another step towards the living room and brush against something with your foot. You look down to find a pile of old mail. “That’s strange,” you think to yourself. “This home doesn’t have any previous owners. This is MY dream home.” Perplexed, you shuffle through the stack and are horrified to find they’re all bills…. And they’re all addressed to you.

 

An eerie feeling crawls up your spine about the same time you hear a chilling voice say, “Stuuuudent Loooaaans.” The front door slams behind you, presumably by the Ghost of Student Loan Future. To your dismay, the living room begins to shrink and warp into a strangely familiar studio apartment. It’s at this moment you realize your dream has just become a nightmare and you have descended to the basement of Homeowner’s Purgatory, known as, “Oh Yeah, I Have Enough Student Loan Debt to Buy a Mid-Sized House. Maybe One Day I’ll Be Able to Afford It. Maybe.”

 

Fortunately, this is only a dream, and a fake one at that. More relieving, perhaps, is that this blog was not written to encourage or discourage you from purchasing a home; chances are you’ve already made up your mind on that. Besides, there are plenty of other blogs out there that can take you down that rabbit hole. What we’d like to do is help you understand how your student loan debt can and will affect your eligibility for homeownership, as well as ways to improve your chances of approval by offering ways for you to possibly pay off your debt faster and reduce the amount you’ll pay in total, such as refinancing your student loans.

 

Graduated Savings Plan

First and foremost, paying off student loan debt and purchasing a home are not linear. With a graduated savings plan, you can pay down your debt and save for a home at the same time. Start out by putting the majority of your discretionary income towards your debt and set aside 10% for down-payment savings. Next year, decrease your student loan payments to 75% and increase your savings to 25%. The following year, aim for a 50/50 split and continue the trend until you’ve paid off your student loan debt and can finally allocate 100% of your discretionary income towards your down payment.

 

Lower Your Monthly Payment

Before approving your mortgage, lenders are going to be looking closely at how much other debt you owe. Your student loan debt will likely be the heaviest hitter on that roster. They will also take into account car loans, financed furniture, etc. Your best chance for approval is to aim for a debt-to-income ratio of about 25%. Technically the cut-off is at 43%, but you’ll likely borrow at a much higher interest rate and require you to have mortgage insurance. That’s going to really ramp up your monthly payments. While your overall debt-to-income ratio will certainly play a role in your eligibility, it may surprise you to learn that mortgage lenders are not so much concerned with the overall balance as they are with your monthly payments going towards the debt.

 

One of the best things you can do to get your financial house in order is to lower your monthly student loan payments by refinancing their student loans. While this will not remove the reality of student loan debt, consolidating your multiple student loans into one loan will eliminate the hassle of keeping track on your slew of different rates and terms. You can lower your monthly payment even more by extending the repayment term of your loan by few years, though this will affect the total amount of interest you end up.

 

Lock-In Your Rates

Over the past several years, variable interest rate loans have hovered around historical lows. However, you may have noticed that the prime rate has been on the rise, and this will surely affect anyone with variable rate loans. When you consolidate loans, you have the opportunity to lock-in a fixed interest rate for all of your student loan debt, eliminating any variable rates that could prove problematic when the economy improves and interest rates follow suit. Locked-in rates mean locked-in payment, and it’s comforting to know exactly how much you’ll owe every month for the rest of your loan term (the bank will like it too). If you are even thinking about refinancing as a way to get one step closer to purchasing your first home, now is the time to take advantage of your good credit score and get the lowest rates you can qualify for in the event they continue to rise.

 

Opening Doors to a New Life

In the end, purchasing your first home while simultaneously paying down student loan debt is more than simply crunching the numbers. Keep in mind that homeownership is far more than a mortgage payment. It’s also furniture and renovations, not to mention general upkeep, which tends to average more than one percent of the total cost of the home per year. You need to weigh very real costs against your invaluable personal happiness – both present and future. As no one can help you with this formula, it’s best to follow your gut.

 

Remember, your student loan debt and your first home purchase are both investments. Get creative with this abstract equation by having a roommate or utilizing online vacation rental websites, as either option may cover the majority of your mortgage. If you buy in the right neighborhood, you might even earn a couple hundred bucks, which, being the smart and financially responsible adult you are, will go directly towards paying down your student loan debt. It’s a great way to have your cake and eat it too until the day comes when you can reach out and cut a little slice of heaven out of that pie in the sky.

 

All that being said, take a serious look at refinancing student debt. If you are able to get in on a home purchase more quickly by reducing student loan payments now, you may also enjoy a lower rate on your mortgage loan. ‘A dollar saved is a dollar earned’, especially when it comes to student loan debt. Find out home much you can save with ELFI.*

 


 

*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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2020-03-20
A Lawyer’s Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

When Matt Sembach, an assistant public defender, graduated from law school, he had a mix of both private and federal student loans — some with interest rates as high as 10.75%.    

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.

  “In terms of law school, I took out an estimated $135,000,” he said. “When I graduated from law school, I owed about $147,000. The $147,000.00 figure is higher than the amount that I actually took out because my big loan was unsubsidized and the interest was accruing while I was still in law school.”   Sembach’s situation isn’t unusual. According to the
AccessLex Institute, the vast majority of law school graduates borrow money to pay for school. On average, they leave school with $142,870 in student loan debt.    While attorneys take on a significant amount of debt, their earning potential is immense. The National Association for Law Placement reported that the overall median first-year salary in private practice was $155,000 in 2019, a $20,000 increase from 2017.    With large balances but six-figure incomes, lawyers are good candidates for student loan refinancing, especially if you have high-interest student loans.   

When refinancing law school debt makes sense

When you refinance your law school debt, you take out a loan from a lender like Education Loan Finance for the amount of your current debt. The new loan has different terms, including interest rate and length of repayment.    While refinancing isn’t for everyone, it’s a good idea in the following scenarios:   

1. You have high-interest student loans

As Sembach found out, graduate, professional, and bar exam loans can have extremely high interest rates. Over time, those high rates can cause your loan balance to balloon, adding thousands to your loan cost.    When you refinance your debt, you can qualify for a lower interest rate and save money over the life of your loan.   

2. You want to pay off your loans early

If you refinance your loans and qualify for a lower interest rate, more of your monthly payment will go toward the principal rather than interest charges. If you keep making the same payment that you had before you refinanced, you can pay off your loan months or even years early.   

3. You want to simplify your payments

If you’re like most graduates, you had to take out a number of different loans to pay for school.    “When I graduated law school, I had 10 to 15 different loans that I needed to consolidate,” said Sembach.    Unfortunately, that’s very common. Graduates often have several loans to manage, with multiple payment due dates and loan servicers to remember.    By refinancing your debt, you consolidate your loan together. After that, you have just one loan and one payment to handle.   

4. You want to reduce your monthly payments

If your payments are currently too expensive, refinancing may provide you with some relief. When you refinance your debt, you can extend your repayment term. For example, if you are currently on a 10-year repayment plan, you could opt for a 20-year repayment plan. You’ll pay more in interest charges with a longer term, but your monthly payments will be much more affordable.   

5. You aren’t eligible for loan forgiveness

While student loan refinancing can be an effective tool for managing your debt, one of its biggest drawbacks is that you lose out on federal benefits when you refinance federal student loans. If you’re a public defender or work for a legal aid organization, you could be eligible for loan forgiveness through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). But if you refinance your loans, you’ll lose your eligibility.    However, lawyers who work in private practice or who have loans from private student loan lenders don’t qualify for PSLF. In that case, refinancing can make good financial sense.   

How to refinance your loans

Refinancing law school debt is surprisingly easy. Just follow these three simple steps:   

1. Check the eligibility requirements

Before refinancing, make sure you meet the lender’s eligibility requirements and collect the necessary documentation to speed up the process. With ELFI, you must meet the following criteria: 
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • You must have at least $15,000 in student loans
  • You must have a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • You must have a credit score of 680 or higher
  • You must have an income of $35,000 or higher
  • Your credit history must be at least 36 months old
  • Your degree must be granted by an approved post-secondary institution
If you don’t meet the criteria on your own, you may still be able to get a loan by adding a co-signer to your application. A co-signer is usually a parent, relative, or friend who applies for a loan with you and is responsible for making the payments if you fall behind. Adding a co-signer increases your chances of qualifying for a loan and securing a lower interest rate.   

2. Get a rate quote 

Before submitting your application, get a rate quote. With ELFI’s Find My Rate tool, you can get an interest rate estimate and view loan terms without affecting your credit score.* Once you find a loan that works for you, you can proceed with the application process.   

3. Submit your application

To complete the application, you should be prepared to enter personal information about yourself, including your name, address, Social Security number, employer information, and income.    You’ll also need to submit documentation, including: 
  • A copy of a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license
  • Proof of income, like a W-2 or recent tax return
  • Bank account information if you’re signing up for automatic payments
  • Current billing statement or payoff letter for each current student loan
 

Alternatives to student loan refinancing

Refinancing can help you save money and pay off your debt early, but it’s not a great solution for all attorneys. If you don’t think that student loan refinancing is right for you, there are other ways to manage your debt more effectively.   

1. Apply for PSLF

One option is to pursue loan forgiveness through PSLF. For many borrowers, like Sembach, PSLF can be a powerful debt relief tool. Previously, Sembach worked in private practice. But he switched career tracks to take advantage of PSLF.    “I pursued PSLF to help get rid of the debt,” he said. “I took a $10,000 pay cut when I left private practice to become a public defender, but I took the pay cut because of PSLF.”   To qualify for PSLF, you must have federal student loans and work for a qualifying non-profit organization or government agency for at least 10 years. During that time, you must make 120 qualifying monthly payments. If you meet those requirements, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven tax-free.   

2. Apply for an income-driven repayment plan

If you can’t afford your monthly payments and you have federal student loans, you may be able to reduce your payments by applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. Under an IDR plan, your loan servicer extends your repayment term and sets your monthly payment at a percentage of your discretionary income.    You can apply for an IDR plan online or by contacting your loan servicer over the phone.   

3. See if you qualify for repayment assistance

Some states try to attract talented attorneys by offering student loan repayment assistance programs. They will repay some or all of your student loans in exchange for a service commitment.    For example, attorneys in Vermont who work for certain civil legal aid organizations can qualify for up to $5,000 per year in student loan repayment assistance from the Vermont Bar Foundation.   The American Bar Foundation hosts a database of student loan repayment assistance programs available all over the nation. You can search the database to find programs you may be eligible for near you.    

Repaying your student loans

As a lawyer, you likely have a significant amount of student loans. While your loan balance can be a burden, student loan refinancing can help you save money and lower your monthly payments.     To find out how much you can save by refinancing law school debt, use the student loan refinance calculator.*  
  *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.
2020-03-18
How to Plan a Wedding While Paying Student Loans

By Caroline Farhat   Congratulations, you’re engaged! Planning a wedding is an exciting time! From choosing your attire to picking out a venue and decor, there are a lot of decisions to make and many that can be costly. If you’re starting to plan your big day, you might be wondering how you’ll pay all of these extra expenses while still paying your student loan debt and regular bills. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Read on for some tips on how to plan a wedding with student loans on your radar.    

1. Set Realistic Expectations

A majority of the costs for a wedding are based on the number of guests, so you can save money by keeping your guest list relatively small. For example, if you plan a wedding for 350 people you will most likely need a bigger venue than you would for 100 guests. Venue costs typically account for one-third of ceremony and reception costs so this can be a major budget buster. Food and beverage and wedding favors are also typically charged per person. Because weddings can be expensive and extravagant or budget-friendly and low-key, it’s critical to discuss your desires and budget with your partner before you start planning.  

Here are some good points to discuss:

  • Parameters for the guest list: Do you want to invite your college roommate you haven’t seen in three years and every cousin on your partner’s side? Or are you looking for a more intimate affair with just your closest family and friends? 
  • Your near-term financial goals (besides the wedding): Are you saving for a down payment for a home? Considering starting a family? Understanding your joint financial goals is a great way to guide your expectations. 
  • Location of the wedding: Agreement on location is key because it will drive all of your other planning. If you’re eyeing a destination wedding and your partner wants a backyard wedding, you will want to understand each other’s individual desires so that you can create a joint wedding that makes both of you happy!
 

2. Set a Budget and Stick to It

Before you plan a budget, it helps to know who will be contributing to the wedding costs. Will you be paying for wedding expenses equally with your partner? Do any family members want to help with costs? This information can help shape your budget.     The average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $28,000 according to
The Knot 2019 Real Weddings Survey. This figure only accounts for the ceremony and reception and can vary widely depending on your location. When you add in the average costs of an engagement ring ($5,900), a honeymoon ($5,000), and other wedding events such as the rehearsal dinner, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and engagement parties, the actual wedding costs can be much higher. If these numbers are making you want to elope in Vegas, don’t panic. There are some ways you can try to lower the cost of a wedding: 
  • Going DIY - DIYing at least some elements of the wedding can save you a good chunk of money. If you’re a Pinterest aficionado, try creating your own wedding invitations or centerpieces. Better yet, homemade wedding favors would be extra special for your guests and can save you hundreds of dollars.
  • Barter - Do you have friends that are photographers, florists, musicians, or bartenders? Bartering can help keep your expenses down while still getting the services you need. 
  • Timing - Are you dead set on having a June wedding or are you more flexible? In some areas, the month you pick can have a big impact on cost! Typically, June is a higher cost since it’s considered peak season, while winter weddings tend to be less expensive. Additionally, having your wedding on a Friday or Sunday can save you some money compared to a Saturday wedding. 
  Tip: It’s important to keep in mind that most wedding vendors do not require full payment upfront. Many vendors require a downpayment to secure their services and final payment closer to the wedding date. Open a separate bank account or flag any money you set aside for final wedding payments so that it doesn’t get used for other expenses that might pop up.   

3. Cut Expenses

In the midst of all the wedding costs, it may seem like any money you had leftover at the end of the month is now going towards the wedding. If money gets tight, think of ways to cut expenses: 
  • Refinance your student loans: Refinancing can be a great way to get extra cash now and set you and your partner up for a better financial future. Refinancing can save you on your monthly payment, as well as save you on interest costs over the life of the loan. For example, if you have a $35,000 loan with an 8% interest rate and get approved for an interest rate as low as 3.99% you could be saving up to $70 per month and over $8,000 in interest costs. Check out our student loan refinance calculator to see how much you could be saving.*   
  • Cut cable or cell phone bill: If you still have cable, it’s easier now than ever to cut the cord and still watch the shows and sports you want to see. Still paying a high cell phone bill? Compare carriers and call your existing provider to see if you can lower your bill.  
  • Reduce eating out or other entertainment expenses: It may not seem easy or fun to stop eating out or to cut back on entertainment, but reducing these expenses now could be just what you need to afford the band or DJ you really want at your wedding. 
 

4. Start a Side Hustle

A side hustle is a way you can earn money outside of your day job. The possibilities for a side hustle are endless: You could babysit, walk dogs, pick up a part-time job, etc. The extra money can help pay for your wedding expenses or you could put it towards your future financial goals. Earning extra money is not only helpful during wedding planning when you will experience extra expenses, but it can also help you after the wedding to make additional payments on your student loans, save for a new car or fund a dream trip.   

Bottom Line

Planning a wedding with student loans can be a stressful time. Don’t let your student loans be a part of the stress. With realistic expectations and a budget, you can manage to have the wedding of your dreams while still paying down your student loan debt!   
  *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.
2020-03-17
#TorchStudentDebt Series: CMO Josh Phillips

Welcome to the first episode of our #TorchStudentDebt blog series! At ELFI, our goal is to empower a brighter future for those with student loan debt. We do this by offering competitive rates and flexible terms for student loan refinancing* as well as sharing helpful tips for helping you achieve financial freedom. In this exclusive blog series, we’re sharing the stories of individuals who have torched their student loan debt, covering everything from the challenges they faced to the tactics they used to eliminate their debt. Hopefully these experiences can provide you with some insight on how you can eliminate yours.   To kick this series off, we’re sharing the story of Josh Phillips, SouthEast Bank’s Chief Marketing Officer. Note: SouthEast Bank is the parent holding company of Education Loan Finance.   

Background

Josh is a Brimley, Michigan native that decided to go to college for the same reason that many of us do – to learn and make more money. His first job was picking up shingles around construction sites for his father, who was a licensed builder. He worked at McDonald’s through high school, handing out food in the drive-thru and eventually moving up into the role of “maintenance man,” being in charge of facilities around the building.  
“The variety of jobs I had growing up taught me a lot… although I did enjoy some parts of them, I also knew that they weren’t what I wanted to do for the entire adult experience.”
  Like a good portion of millennials, Josh was a first-generation college student. This left him in somewhat of uncharted territory when it came to choosing a college and acquiring financial aid.  
“Being the first person in my family to go to college, I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing in terms of the best way to approach it. This was in the early 2000s, so there were some resources online to help guide you through the process, but not nearly the amount of resources as there are now on the internet.”
  Josh used the U.S. News and World Report college tool to do his research, made a shortlist of schools, and began applying and going on college visits. He ultimately decided to attend Maryville College (TN), a private liberal arts college in East Tennessee.   

Taking Out Loans

Going into college, Josh took the same view of his loans that many of us do – putting off the worry until after school.  
“I definitely didn’t actively think about the amount of debt I was accruing throughout my college education. Four years seemed like a ways away, so I kind of took the approach of, ‘do what you have to do to get the education and experience you want,’ and worry about those minor details afterward.”
 

Facing Reality

Josh graduated with a double major in International Business and Political Science, but he also graduated with around $55,000 in student loan debt that consisted of both federal and private student loans.   
“At that point in time, I had loans in a variety of places – so it was kind of like this slow, painful trickle of letters coming in telling me how much I owed different lenders. I wouldn’t say it was completely demoralizing, but it definitely made me understand that this was going to be one of the major payments that I’d be making on a monthly basis for a good length of time.”
  This was in 2008, right before the bottom fell out of the market. Josh was lucky to find a job with a small startup prior to graduating and transitioned into that after school. He believed that working for a startup would give him the opportunity to potentially grow with the company and accelerate his career faster, but it was definitely a roll of the dice.  
“I heard the rule that you shouldn’t go into more student debt than what your first year’s salary will be upon graduation… well, I broke that rule.” 
  The startup Josh worked for was a marketing and advertising agency that was going through a transition from traditional marketing to digital marketing. Josh was an Account Manager and had the opportunity to work with a number of their larger, newer customers and also assist with general business operations.   

Strategy for Paying Down Debt

When Josh transitioned into his new role, he didn’t have much of a strategy for paying down his debt. He simply wanted a job that allowed him to meet the minimum monthly payments and afford his living expenses. As his role within the company grew, he began focusing more heavily on ways to eliminate debt.  
  Using these strategies, Josh was able to pay down his $55,000 in student loan debt in just seven years.  

Regrets Along the Way

Despite the impressive timeframe in which Josh paid off his student loans, he did mention that he had some regrets about how he went about it.   
“Looking back, I took out extra money to cover living expenses while I was in college… If I had to do it again, I would have probably tightened those purse strings more when I was in school, because living on borrowed money just costs you more and more over time.”
  He also mentioned that he wished he would have known about his ability to refinance student loans and lock in a better interest rate. He said that doing so would have allowed him to save on interest and possibly even extend his repayment period so that he could prioritize other financial goals, like saving for retirement.    In hindsight, he also wished he would have looked into scholarships and financial aid earlier in the process, as many others with student loan debt do.  

Being Debt-Free

As one would assume, Josh is happy to now be free from his student debt.   
“I mean, it’s great – I think any time you can eliminate debt, it just opens up new options. Whether you want to go into more debt for a new car or a bigger house, or maybe you just want to get to the point where you don’t owe anyone anything, paying down debt almost gives you a bit of a high. It’s great to see the number going down, and once it’s gone, you kind of want to turn around and figure out what you want to pay down next. Currently, my last debt is my mortgage.”
 

Advice for Others with Student Loan Debt

When asked what advice he would give others with student loan debt, Josh emphasized the trade-off of having great experiences vs. being debt-free.  
“Everyone loves doing new things and getting new experiences, but I would always counter that with the freedom you can feel from getting out of debt. There are plenty of things you can experience for free if you’re creative or thoughtful about how you do it… If you’ve got debt that keeps you worried or at a job you don’t like, it’s a good trade-off to delay your experiences and instead put that money toward your own financial freedom.”
 

#TorchStudentDebt

That wraps up our first #TorchStudentDebt blog! Stay tuned for more stories of how others put strategies in place to torch their student loan debt, challenges they faced along the way, and advice they have for others still on their student loan repayment journey. Thanks for reading!  
 

About Education Loan Finance

Education Loan Finance, a division of SouthEast Bank, is a leading online lender designed to assist borrowers by consolidating and refinancing private and federal student loans into one simple, low-cost loan. Education Loan Finance believes that providing consumers comprehensive refinancing and consolidation options empowers the consumers on their financial 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.