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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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Millennial reading news about student loans in coffee shop.
2020-07-10
This Week in Student Loans: July 10, 2020

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
US Capitol

GOP Concerns Over Costs Could Limit Student Loan Relief In Next Stimulus

GOP Senate leaders are showing increasing concern about the costs of additional economic relief, particularly when it comes to student loan relief, as they weigh a second stimulus bill.

Source: Forbes

 

State Senate Chambers

Democrats Fail to Override Trump Veto on Student Loan Policy

This Friday, House Democrats were unable to override the Trump Administration's veto on a proposal to reverse the Education Department's strict policy on loan forgiveness for students misled by for-profit colleges. The House voted 238-173 in support of the override measure, coming up short of the two-thirds majority needed to send it to the Senate.

Source: ABC News

 

question mark

Study Finds Gen Z Borrowers Are Unaware of COVID-19 Student Loan Relief Programs

While the CARES Act allowed those with federal student loans to pause payments until September, a recent survey from Student Debt Crisis shows that Gen Z borrowers, in particular, were the least aware of the relief program.  

Source: CNBC

 

note saying pay off debt

Author Shares Her Big 'Wake Up Call' That Led Her to Pay Off $81,00 in Student Debt

35-year-old Melanie Lockert, the author of "Dear Debt," shared with CNBS the story of how she was able to pay off $81,000 in student loan debt over 9 years, with her big wake up call coming five years into repayment.  

Source: CNBC

    That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

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.

picture of different loan term lengths
2020-07-08
Dash Through the Debt: How a Shorter Student Loan Term Adds Up

If you’re like most college graduates, you’re sick of your student loans. If you want to get rid of your debt once and for all, refinancing your loans and opting for a shorter student loan term is a smart strategy. You can secure a lower rate and pay off your loans years ahead of schedule while saving thousands.    Here’s what you need to know about shortening your loan term, as well as how much shortening your student loan term could save you.   

How long does the average graduate take to repay their student loans? 

When you graduate from college, you likely expect to pay off your student loans quickly. However, life often gets in the way of your plans, even if you make a good salary.    While the
Standard Repayment Plan for federal student loans is ten years, many students extend their repayment terms with income-driven repayment plans, forbearance or deferment periods, or by missing payments altogether. According to the One Wisconsin Institute, the average length of repayment for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is 19.7 years. If you have graduate student loans, the average repayment period is even longer.    With such a longer repayment term, you’ll pay thousands of dollars in interest charges on top of what you initially borrowed, adding to your loan's total cost. And, carrying such a heavy financial burden for decades can force you to put off other goals, like buying a house, starting a business, or even getting married.   

How to get a shorter student loan term

When you take out a student loan, you sign a loan agreement or promissory note where you promise to pay the loan back according to set repayment terms. The agreement will outline the loan’s interest rate, payments, and loan term.    Many borrowers don’t realize that you’re not stuck with those terms forever. If you’re unhappy with your current loan’s repayment terms or your finances improve, there is a way to change them: student loan refinancing.*    When you refinance your debt, you apply for a loan from a lender like Education Loan Finance for the amount of your total existing student loan debt. If you have both federal and private student loans, you can combine them so you’ll have just one loan to manage and one monthly payment to remember.*    The new loan will have different terms than your old ones, including the interest rate and monthly payment. When you apply for the loan, you can choose your own loan term that works for your goals and budget. For example, if you currently have a ten-year loan term, you can select a five or seven-year loan if you'd prefer a shorter term.   

Benefits of a shorter student loan term

Instead of making payments for 20 years or more, it’s a good idea to select a shorter loan term, if you can afford it. Opting for a shorter student loan term has many advantages:   

1. You can get a lower interest rate

When you have a long loan term, lenders consider you to be a riskier borrower and they charge you a higher interest rate. You’ll have a lower monthly payment, but the longer loan term will cost you more money in interest charges over time.    By contrast, lenders reserve their lowest interest rates for credit-worthy borrowers who choose the shortest loan terms. If you want the best possible rate, opting for a shorter loan term will allow you to save money.    You’re probably wondering, “How much can I save by shortening my loan term?” Let’s look at an example.    Pretend you had $30,000 in student loans with a ten-year loan term at 5% interest. By the end of your repayment term, you would repay a total of $38,184; interest charges would cost you $8,184.    If you refinanced your loans and chose a five-year loan and qualified for a 3.19% interest rate, you’d repay just $32,496 over the life of your loan. By refinancing your debt and selecting a shorter loan term, you’d save $5,688.   

Original Loan

Balance: $30,000 Interest Rate: 5% Loan Term: 10 Years Minimum Payment: $318 Total Interest: $8,184 Total Repaid: $38,184  

Refinanced Loan

Balance: $30,000 Interest Rate: 3.19% Minimum Payment: $542 Total Interest: $2,496 Total Repaid: $32,496

2. You’ll pay off your debt earlier 

When you choose a shorter loan term, you’ll be able to pay off your debt years ahead of schedule. Not only will you save a significant amount of money in interest charges, but you’ll also have the psychological benefit of not having to worry about debt any longer. If your student loan balance was causing you stress, that’s a significant advantage, and a huge weight off your shoulders.   

3. You’ll free up cash flow

Once you’ve paid off your student loans, you’ll free up extra cash flow. You’ll no longer have to make your monthly loan payment, so you can instead direct that money toward other goals, such as saving for retirement, boosting your emergency fund, or buying a home. If you use the above example, you’d have $542 per month you could use to fund your financial goals.    To put that in perspective, let’s say you paid off your loans by the time you turned 27. After that, you invested the $542 you were paying toward your student loans into your retirement nest egg. If you contributed $542 every month into your retirement fund and earned an 8% annual return, on average, your account would be worth over $1.8 million by the time you reached the age of 67.   

The bottom line

While extending your loan term may seem like a good idea to get a lower monthly payment, that can be a costly mistake. You’ll have to pay a higher interest rate and, over time, the longer loan term will cause you to pay back far more in interest charges.    Instead, consider refinancing your loans and selecting a shorter student loan term. You’ll be debt-free sooner, and you may save a substantial amount of money.    To find out how much you can save, 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.
2020-07-02
Should You Keep Paying Federal Student Loans During CARES Act Suspensions?

You probably already know that the CARES Act has suspended Federal student loan payments for the time being. Until September 30th, you aren’t required to make payments, and the interest rate of your loans is set to 0%. This is primarily to help those with student loans who are struggling during these uncertain times. If your student loans are in forbearance due to the CARES Act suspensions, you have several repayment options based on your financial goals.

 

Option 1: Take Advantage of That 0% Interest

Normally, when making extra payments on student loans, your money is first attributed to any collections charges or late fees, then to accrued interest, then to the principal itself.

 

With the current 0% interest rates, however, if your account doesn’t have any fees or charges, you’ll save some money at that step. The more you can reduce your principal balance, the more money you’ll save over time in interest.

 

For example, let’s say you have $25,000 in student loans at a 4% interest rate and you want to pay it off in the next 10 years. Over that period, you accrue $5,373.54 in interest. However, if you take advantage of the CARES Act 0% interest, you can change the course of your repayment.

 

For instance, if you continue to pay your student loans during this period, the payments will be attributed straight to principal and will save you about $300 in accrued interest over the course of your repayment.

 

Option 2: Wait Until September And Resume Payments

If the coronavirus has affected your finances, don’t worry about paying down your student loans too quickly. Instead, use this time to get your other debts under control. Focus on paying back higher interest rate debt, like credit card debt, which will impact your long-term financial health.

 

Option 3: Refinance and Take Advantage of Low Interest Rates

During this time, many student loan refinancing companies are offering low interest rates. If you’re locked into an unfavorable rate, this would be a great time to consider refinancing student loans to save on interest costs.

 

This is an especially great option for borrowers with private loans, as these types of loans aren’t currently receiving any type of federal forbearance benefit. For a personalized look at how refinancing could improve your financial health, check out the ELFI Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.*

 

So, should you keep paying federal student loans during the CARES Act suspensions? The answer depends on your unique goals. Whether you choose to pay your federal loans, take care of other expenses, or refinance your student loans, this is a great opportunity to eliminate some additional debt before the September 30 deadline. Happy saving!

 
 

*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.