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#TorchStudentDebt Series: CMO Josh Phillips

March 17, 2020

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.

 

  • Josh didn’t use an Income-Based Repayment plan because he didn’t want to accrue more interest than what he was already paying down. He always tried to make sure the number was “going in the right direction,” i.e., downward.
  • He applied any quarterly or annual bonuses as lump-sum payments toward his higher-interest student loans. This tactic is known as the debt snowball strategy
  • He didn’t change his lifestyle as his career developed. He didn’t buy a new car. He did buy a house on a short sale, but he had roommates to help cover the cost of the mortgage. He didn’t go on any expensive vacations, but would instead stay with family and friends in other states.
  • He avoided credit card debt. He did use a credit card, but more for the points and rewards than out of necessity.

 

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.

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Happy couple admiring their home
2020-10-22
Should I Build Home Equity or Pay Down Student Loans?

Owning a home is a goal for many people. In fact, 40% of young millennials are saving to buy a home. If you already own a home, congratulations on achieving your goal! If you are now faced with a mortgage and student loans, you may wonder which debt you should prioritize. Should you build home equity or pay down your student loans?    Here we will explain what home equity is, how to build it and when it’s better to focus on home equity or paying down student loans.   

What is Home Equity?

When you pay on a mortgage, even if you haven’t yet paid it off completely, you’re building equity in your home. Home equity is the difference between the market value of the house and what you owe. Here’s an example of how to calculate it:  

How to Calculate Home Equity

  You can calculate your home equity by subtracting the balance of your mortgage from the current value of your home. The value of your home is determined by the fair market value of your house or the appraised value. This number is the true value of your asset (your house) since it takes into account the amount you owe on the loan.    Your home equity is calculated in your net worth. You may have heard that home equity can be “tapped into.” This means you can borrow against the equity of your home and use the money in a variety of ways. A home equity loan can cover home renovations or pay off higher-interest debt.    Your home is valued at $375,000 and your mortgage balance is $275,000. You determine the equity by taking the value of $375,000 and subtracting the mortgage balance of $275,000. The equity in your home is $100,000.   

Home Equity and the Housing Market

  Your home’s equity often increases when you make mortgage payments, especially when paying down the principal on your loan. Your home’s equity can also increase when its value rises. Although the value is determined primarily by the housing market, you can raise the value through home improvements.   Just as the value of your home can increase based on the market, however, it can also decrease based on the market. The only sure way to increase your home equity is by paying down your mortgage loan. The more of the loan you pay off, the more your equity increases.  

Building Home Equity vs. Paying Down Student Loans

  If you follow the normal payment schedule, you’ll increase your home equity slowly. If you make extra payments towards your mortgage, you can build equity faster. However, if you also have student loans, should you build home equity or pay down your student loans instead? Let’s take a look at some factors that can help determine the best course of action:   

Interest Rates

If either your mortgage or any student loan has a variable interest rate, you may want to focus on that loan first, because you are at risk that the rate can rise and leave you with a higher payment to make. In addition, if one of your loans has a much higher interest rate than the other, you may choose to focus on it first.  

Security

With student loans, in certain instances, if you are facing financial hardships you can temporarily suspend payments. Mortgages offer less flexibility with payments, therefore missing payments can result in foreclosure and losing your home.  

Loan Balances

If you have student loans with lower balances than your mortgage, you may be able to pay them off more quickly. Then, you can continue to build equity after paying down your student loan debt.   

Tax Implications

You may get a bigger tax break by building equity versus paying off student loans. However, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Interest paid on student loans is deductible, however, there is a cap on how much. As of 2020 the cap is $2,500. Your income must meet the requirements to be able to deduct this amount.    Interest paid on mortgages is also deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions. The mortgage interest deduction can be much higher than $2,500. To learn more about either of these options, consult with your tax advisor.  

Refinancing Your Student Loans With ELFI

If you don’t want to choose between building equity or paying off your student loans, then consider refinancing your student loans with ELFI. Use our student loan refinance calculator* to see how much you may be able to save.   

The Bottom Line 

Each person’s financial goals and situation are unique, so you have to make the best decision for you. Hopefully, however, knowing more about both options and which is better in certain circumstances will help you make an informed decision.  
  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.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
2020-10-20
Engineering School Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is a fantastic option in many high-earning professions, and engineering is no exception. Most engineering students pursue bachelor’s degrees, and the average engineer’s student debt falls roughly in line with the national average of $35,173.    While engineers work hard to earn their degrees, the payoff is oh, so worthwhile. The average entry-level salary for engineers is $57,506, and the average salary across all experience levels is $79,000. This varies by the type of engineering you choose, as well. Big data engineers are among the highest-paid in 2020, with a median salary of $155,000.   Engineering students are often top candidates for student loan refinancing because of their low debt-to-income ratios. Here are a few more things you should consider refinancing your engineering student loans:  

Benefits of Student Loan Refinancing for Engineers

Student loan refinancing is a strategy that can help engineers better manage and pay off debt. When you refinance your engineering student loans, a private lender will “purchase” your debt from your original lenders. You can request rate quotes from several different lenders, then refinance with the one that offers you the most competitive rate. Decreasing your interest rate means you’ll pay less over the life of the loan.   Here are just a few of the benefits of student loan refinancing for engineers:
  • Ability to consolidate student loans into one monthly payment
  • Option to choose between fixed and variable student loan refinancing interest rates 
  • Chance to earn a lower interest rate, potentially lower than federal student loans 
  • Opportunity to change your student loan repayment term
  To see how much you could save by refinancing your engineering student loans with Education Loan Finance, try our Student Loan Refinance Calculator.*  

How to Refinance Engineering Student Loans

Refinancing your student loans is normally a quick and simple process, and you can apply in minutes at home. If you’re curious about the process of refinancing, take a look at our student loan refinancing guide.   Researching lenders has very few downsides. Most lenders prequalify applicants using a soft credit check, which won’t hurt your credit score. Just know that before you can officially refinance your loans, your lender will likely need to do a hard credit check.   Here are the next steps to take if you’re thinking about refinancing your engineering student loans:
  • Figure out which how much or which loans you’d like to refinance. 
  • Make sure you meet student loan refinancing eligibility requirements.
  • Shop around and compare pre-qualified rates from multiple lenders. 
  • Submit an application to refinance your student loans 
  • Finalize the loan application by reviewing the loan terms & signing the documents provided by the lender. 
 

Alternatives to Pay Off Engineering Student Loans

If student loan refinancing doesn’t seem like the right fit, you have plenty of alternatives to explore. From student loan assistance to student loan forgiveness, engineers may qualify for a variety of repayment options.  

Student Loan Forgiveness for Engineers

  Select engineers may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If you do qualify, you’ll make payments for a specified amount of time, normally 10 years, then the remaining balance will be forgiven. You will, however, still have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount.   Here are a few ways in which engineers may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness:
  • Working in areas of national need could provide up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness over five years of service
  • Working for a non-profit, government agency, or other eligible employers could provide loan forgiveness after 120 payments (10 years)
  • Working as a teacher could provide up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness if working at a low-income school or other eligible agencies
  If you aren’t sure which is right for you, research student loan refinancing vs. PSLF. While both may help decrease your debt, it’s important to know how they compare before taking the next steps.  

Income-Based Repayment Plans

If you don’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may also choose to pursue an income-based repayment plan. These types of plans set a monthly payment as a percentage of your income. Income-based repayment may be a good fit for entry-level engineers who are still working toward higher salaries.   Here are a few types of income-based repayment plans available to engineers:
  • Pay-as-You-Earn (PAYE): PAYE plans are based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income and family size. They are available to individuals who borrowed after 10/1/2007, or those who received eligible Direct Loan disbursements after 10/1/2011.
  • Revised Pay-As-You-Earn (REPAYE): REPAYE plans are similar to PAYE plans, but do not have date restrictions on the loans. They do take your state of residence into consideration, however.
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR): IBR plans require you to be experiencing financial hardship. If you qualify, they are based on a percentage of your adjusted gross income and family size.
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): Many individuals who can’t qualify for PAYE or IBR plans apply for ICR. These start as a percentage of your adjusted gross income, then grow as your income grows.
 

State Student Loan Assistance Programs

Engineers are highly valued in the professional world. Some states and private organizations have created student loan repayment assistance programs for STEM professionals, with the goal of encouraging students to pursue these careers.   If you’re an engineer looking for student loan assistance, here are a few examples of state-driven programs you may be eligible for:
  • Harold Arnold Foundation
  • Wavemaker Fellowship
  • North Dakota DEAL Loans
 

Employer Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Some employers provide student loan repayment assistance as a job benefit, which operates similarly to a 401(k). You designate a certain dollar amount to your student loan payments each month, and your employer matches your contribution up to a cap amount. These types of benefits can help improve employee retention rates while supplying necessary financial aid.  

Refinance Your Engineering Student Loans with ELFI

If you’re ready to refinance your engineering student loans, ELFI can help. By refinancing your engineering student loans with ELFI, you’ll enjoy benefits including:
  • No application fees 
  • No origination fees
  • No penalty for paying loans off early
  • If approved for refinancing, ELFI has a referral bonus program
  Ready to get started? Learn more about student loan refinancing with ELFI and apply today: https://www.elfi.com/student-loan-refinancing/.*  
  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.   *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
Current LIBOR Rate
2020-10-19
Current LIBOR Rate Update: October 2020

This blog provides the most current LIBOR rate data as of October 19, 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 – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 1 month LIBOR rate is 0.15%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.15% (0.15% + 3.00%=3.15%). 

 

Current 3 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 3 month LIBOR rate is 0.24%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.24% (0.24% + 3.00%=3.24%). 

 

Current 6 Month LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, the 6 month LIBOR rate is 0.25%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.25% (0.25% + 3.00%=3.25%). 

 

Current 1 Year LIBOR Rate – October 2020

As of October 19, 2020, 2020, the 1 year LIBOR rate is 0.35%. If the lender sets their margin at 3%, your new rate would be 3.35% (0.35% + 3.00%=3.35%). 

 

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.