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?
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
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.
– Paying Down Then Investing
– Investing While Paying Down Debt
– Refinancing Student Loan Debt
– Refinancing and Paying Down Debt Then Investing
– 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.
: 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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