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Student Loan Refinancing

Starting a Family? Why Now’s the Time to Refinance Student Loans

January 15, 2020

By Caroline Farhat

 

Are you planning to start (or add to your) family? Congratulations! Children are such a special joy, and starting a family is an incredible journey. Whether you’re already expecting or are just in the planning stages, there is a good chance you’ve started crunching some numbers to see how adding a family member will affect your monthly budget. It’s no secret that kids are expensive — the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that, on average, it would cost a middle-income family $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 through the age of 17. If you’re currently paying off debt, the eye-popping numbers a child costs may look even more daunting. But money should absolutely not stop you from starting a family. Of course, you want to be financially responsible, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to be debt-free before starting a family. Instead, focus on the things you can do to lighten your budget and leave more room for your new bundle of joy. Here’s how refinancing student loans can help. 

 

Why Refinancing Student Loans When Starting a Family is a Smart Move

One of the biggest worries many new parents have about starting a family is the financial unpredictability children can bring to the household budget. Medical costs, childcare, and all of the latest baby products can certainly add up. One of the best ways to combat this unpredictability is by lowering your fixed monthly costs. 

 

If you are currently paying off student loan debt, refinancing student loans is one of the smartest steps you can take to lower your monthly payment. In fact, student loan borrowers who refinance with ELFI* have reported an average savings of $272 per month1. To put that in perspective, that would get you 38 packs of 32-count diapers. Plus, the emotional benefits you can receive by throwing less money at your student loan debt and more on what is really meaningful to you can be priceless. 

 

How To Refinance Student Loans

If you’re looking at your interest rate and are ready to refinance, you’ll be happy to know that it’s a simple process that can be done entirely online. If you refinance student loans with ELFI, the application process is 100% free, and refinancing has no origination fees or prepayment penalties. The ROI of refinancing student loans can also be quite large. Just an hour or two of work can yield you thousands of dollars in savings. Not bad, right? Here’s what to do:

 

  • Check the requirements – While student loan refinancing is a smart move for many student loan borrowers, there are a few cases where refinancing may not be the best option. For example, if you qualify for student loan forgiveness through a federal program, refinancing student loans would make you ineligible for this benefit. Review the basic criteria for student loan refinancing to make sure it’s the best fit for your particular situation. It’s important to fully understand how the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program works and the eligibility requirements. 

 

>> Related: Student Loan Refinancing vs. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

 

  • Crunch the Numbers – Put your data into our student loan refinance calculator to see your potential savings. Our calculator has options for fixed and variable interests and loan terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, or even 20-year terms so you can see how your choices affect your monthly and lifetime payment*.
  • Get prequalified – You can get prequalified and receive personalized rates in just a few minutes without it affecting your credit score.
  • Gather your documents and apply – As mentioned, the application is 100% online, easy, and free. When refinancing with ELFI, you are paired with a personal loan advisor who will guide you through every step of the process. The Personal Loan Advisor who speak with at the beginning of the student loan refinancing process is the same person you’ll speak with at the end, which is nice because you won’t find yourself repeating information or prior discussions.

 

What to Do About Other Debt and Expenses

If you’re like many Americans, student loan debt may not be the only debt you are currently paying off. A whopping 80% of Americans are currently in debt, according to a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Here are a few ways you can pay off your debt more quickly or more efficiently.

 

  • Refinance Your Debt – Similar to refinancing student loans, you should look for opportunities to refinance any of your other debt. For example, if you have a mortgage, refinancing could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Auto loans can also be good candidates for refinancing. 
  • Call Your Credit Card Companies – A reduction in the interest rates on your credit cards can make a big difference in how quickly you can pay down debt. A simple, polite phone call to your credit card companies requesting an interest rate reduction can sometimes be all that it takes. You have nothing to lose (except a few minutes), and the payoff can make a major difference in your monthly budget. 
  • Explore Medical Debt Options – Approximately 66.5% of Americans who file for bankruptcy due so because of medical bills. There are options to get this debt under control, but it will take some leg work. NerdWallet has a number of good tips for how to negotiate down your medical debt or develop a payment plan that works for your budget. 

 

Typically, when paying off debt, it’s wise to start with the loan with the highest interest, as that will save you the most money in the long run. Once you have reduced your interest rates as much as possible, take stock of all of your existing debt payments and their monthly costs, and develop a plan. With any of the money you saved, you can start a separate savings account for your growing family. 

 

Children Are Priceless, So Don’t Let Debt Stop You

It may sound cliché, but there are things in life that are just priceless. For many people, the love and joy a child can bring to life are worth more than any spreadsheet will tell you. If you are currently working towards paying off debt, don’t let the goal of being debt-free trump your desire to start a family. There simply may never be a perfect time. Plus, with a little planning, it’s entirely possible to start a family and still work on your financial goals. 

 

Good luck to all of our current and future parents out there – you got this!

 


 

*Education Loan Finance is a nationwide student loan debt consolidation and refinance program offered by Tennessee based SouthEast Bank. ELFI is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating and refinancing loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your cost of education debt and/or makes repayment very simple. Subject to credit approval. See Terms & Conditions, The interest rate and monthly payment for a variable rate loan may increase after closing, but will never exceed 9.95% APR. For example, a 10-year loan with a fixed rate of 6% would have 120 payments of $11.00 per $1,000 borrowed. Rates are subject to change.

 

1Average savings calculations are based on information provided by SouthEast Bank/ Education Loan Finance customers who refinanced their student loans between 2/7/2020 and 2/21/2020. While these amounts represent reported average amounts saved, actual amounts saved will vary depending upon a number of factors.

 

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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2020-03-30
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.
2020-03-20
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.