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Student Loan Repayment: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche

December 10, 2019

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.

 

To cope with the high cost of college, you likely took out several different student loans. According to Saving For College, the average 2019 graduate left school with eight to 12 different student loans.

 

With so much debt and so many different individual loans, you may be overwhelmed and can’t decide where to start with your repayment. If you want to pay off your loans ahead of schedule, there are two main strategies that financial experts recommend: the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.

 

Here’s how each of these strategies work and how to decide which approach is right for you.

 

The difference between the debt snowball and debt avalanche strategies

Both the debt avalanche and debt snowball methods are strategies for paying off your debt early. However, how they work is quite different.

 

Debt avalanche

With the debt avalanche method, you list all of your student loans from the one with the highest interest rate to the one with the lowest interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of your loans. However, you put any extra money you have toward the loan with the highest interest rate.

 

Under the debt avalanche, you keep making extra payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate. Once that loan is paid off, you roll over that loan’s monthly payment and pay it toward the loan with the next highest interest rate.

 

For example, let’s say you had the following loans:

  • $10,000 Private student loan at 7% interest
  • $15,000 Private student loan at 6.5% interest
  • $5,000 Direct Loan at 4.45% interest

 

In this scenario, you would make extra payments toward the private student loan at 7% interest first with the debt avalanche method. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the private student loan at 6.5% interest, and then finally you’d tackle the Unsubsidized Direct Loan.

 

Debt snowball

The debt snowball method is more focused on quick wins. With this approach, you list all of your student loans according to their balance, rather than their interest rate. You continue making the minimum payments on all of them, but you put extra money toward the loan with the smallest balance first.

 

Once the smallest loan is paid off, you roll your payment toward the loan with the next lowest balance. You continue this process until all of your debt is paid off.

 

If you had the same loans as in the above example and followed the debt snowball method, you’d pay off the Direct Loan with the $5,000 balance first since it’s the smallest loan. Once that loan was paid off, you’d make extra payments toward the $10,000 private loan, and then you’d pay off the $15,000 private loan.

 

Pros and cons of the debt avalanche method

The debt avalanche strategy has several benefits and drawbacks:

 

Pros

  • You save more in interest: By tackling the highest-interest debt first, you’ll save more money in interest charges over the length of your loan. Compared to the debt snowball method, using the debt avalanche method can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • You’ll pay off the loans faster: Because you’re addressing the highest-interest debt first, there’s less time for interest to accrue on the loan. With less interest building, you can pay off your loans much earlier.

 

Cons

  • You don’t see results as quickly: Because you’re tackling the debt with the highest interest rate rather than the smallest balance, it can take longer before you can pay off a loan.
  • You may lose focus: It takes longer to pay off each loan, so it’s easier to lose motivation.

 

Pros and cons of the debt snowball method

The debt snowball method has the following pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • You get results quickly: Since you’re targeting the loan with the lowest balance first, you’ll pay off individual loans quicker than you would with the debt avalanche method.
  • Frees up money to pay down the next loan: You’ll be able to pay off loans quickly and roll the payments toward the next loan, helping you stay focused on your goals.

 

Cons

  • You’ll pay more in interest fees: By paying extra toward the loan with the smallest balance rather than the highest interest rate, you’ll pay more in interest fees than you would if you followed the debt avalanche method.
  • It could take longer to pay off your debt: Because you aren’t targeting the loans with the highest interest rate first, more interest can accrue over the length of the loan. The added interest means it will take longer to pay off your loans.

 

Which strategy is best for paying off student loans?

So which strategy is best for paying off student loans: the debt avalanche or the debt snowball? If your goal is to save as much money as possible and pay off your loans as quickly as you can, the debt avalanche method makes the most financial sense.

 

Psychologically, the debt snowball may have the advantage. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, the debt snowball method is the most effective approach over the long-term, as borrowers are more likely to stick to their repayment strategy. However, which strategy is best for you is dependent on your mindset, motivation level, and your determination to pay off your debt.

 

Managing your student loan debt

Regardless of which repayment strategy you choose, you could save even more money or pay off your loans earlier by refinancing your student loans. When you refinance student loans, you apply for a loan from a private lender for the amount of your current student loans, including both private and federal loans.

 

The new loan has completely different repayment terms than your old ones, including interest rate, repayment term, and monthly payment. Even better, you’ll only have one student loan with one monthly payment to remember.

 

Use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool 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.

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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.