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Understanding Student Loan Payments

February 22, 2019

There are many options when it comes to paying student loans, and just as many questions! Questions like what these terms and situations can mean for a borrower. If you have questions about your student loans or want to learn more about how you can manage your repayment, check out these tips on understanding student loan payments.

 

What is a student loan servicer?

 

Your student loan servicer is the company collects your payments. According to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they typically handle most administrative task associated with your loan. Servicers do things like, answer customer service questions and enforce regulations provided by your lender related to your loan. You pay them for your loan and they give you options for repayment and deferment. It’s likely you’ll take out a student loan with one company and end up getting a different servicer. Your servicers can change too if your loan is transferred.  If you choose to consolidate or refinance with a company that gives you lower payments, better interest, or quicker payoff you’ll probably receive a different servicer.

 

When should you start making payments?

 

Start making loan payments whenever you can. Most student loans allow a period of non-payment while you are in school, known as a grace period.  On average most student loan lenders require payments to be made when the borrower is at less than half-time status for six months. You don’t have to wait until six months after graduating to make payments, though! If you can make payments while in school, you will save on interest and cut the time it takes you to pay off your student loans.

 

What’s a student loan grace period?

 

The grace period is typically a 6 month period that occurs after graduating, dropping below half-time enrollment status, or leaving school. During the grace period, you are not required to make payments on your student loans. Grace periods will vary based on the student loan lender that you have. Know what your grace period is so you aren’t caught off guard with late payments.

 

Can I pay extra on my student loans?

 

Yes! There are no prepayment penalties for federal or private student loans. Prepayment penalties are fees charged for reducing your loan balance or paying the entire loan off early. Many other types of debt like mortgages can have a prepayment penalty. Prepayment penalties were created to limit early payment of a debt, but no need to worry about that with your student loans. Instead, pay attention to how additional payments are applied to your loan.

 

If you make payments online some loan servicers allow you either pay extra on the principal or apply the additional toward interest on the next payment. Basically, if you choose to pay over the minimum depending on who your lender is, you may need to specify the amount that is a prepayment. Prepayments on your loans go towards the principal balance.  You should aim to make prepayments sometimes referred to as overpayments because it lowers the total amount of the loan. When the principal balance decreases it reduces the amount of interest you’ll pay in the long term. The next monthly payment will usually remain the same. Since you’re not applying additional money toward your next payment if you choose this option.

 

Check Out This Prepayment Calculator

 

Not all loan servicers will direct prepayments towards the principal of your loan unless specified by the borrower. Some lenders will count the prepayment as a payment towards your next monthly payment.  That can make it seem like your extra payments are hardly affecting your balances at all.

 

Instead, try to direct additional payments toward one loan’s principal. For example, if you have several loans through the same servicer, but one is $1,000, you can pay that off within a year. If you pay an extra $100 per month on that one $1,000 loan principal- it will be gone faster! If you’re not allocating prepayments strategically, you won’t see this same kind of progress.

 

What if I can’t pay my student loans?

 

There are limited options available when you can’t pay student loans. Weigh your options carefully. When making student loan decisions make sure you’re not adding stress to your future. First, contact your servicer immediately. You’ll have more flexibility if you stay on top of repayment before you start making late payments or missing payments. Avoid missing or late payments at all costs! Not only will late or missed payments damage your credit they put you at risk for extra fees. In addition to damaging your credit, risking additional fees, you could lose benefits available to only those who pay on time.

 

Repayment Options (Not a Long Term Solution)

Look at repayment options. If you can’t pay with the plan you’re currently on there may be a better repayment option. If you are able to select another repayment option that lowers your payment you will want to consider doing so temporarily.  Doing this quickly will avoid you being late on future payments. It’s important to note that repayment plans are not a long-term solution to paying back student loan debt. We wouldn’t recommend for the long term because in more income contingent repayment plans the monthly payment isn’t covering the interest that is accruing during that period. Therefore, you can make a payment every month but the overall loan balance remains the same or could even increase!

 

Consolidating Student Loans

If you’re in good standing on your loans, but want to reduce your payments student loan consolidation might be a good idea. Consolidation can make it easier for you to manage paying all of your loans, open you up to other repayment options, and reduce fees. It’s not a sure thing, but it doesn’t hurt to investigate this option and see if it is right for you.

 

Deferment or Forbearance: Use with caution!

The last options to consider are deferment or forbearance. If you can avoid these options like changing repayment or consolidating, do it! Usually, borrowers have to be in financial hardship to qualify for deferment or forbearance. That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook because you’re in a tough financial spot. Depending on the loan you have, your interest might be added to the principal balance. This is really not ideal because it means your balances will grow. When you start paying again, your balances will be higher than where they are today. This is called capitalized interest—it equates to paying “interest on interest” and can get out of control fast if you use deferment or forbearance for longer-term hardship.

 

Most people don’t qualify for loan forgiveness because they are having a hard time paying their loans, but be aware that is possible. If you have developed a disability that precludes you from using your education or went to a school that has since shut down you might be eligible for forgiveness. Don’t count on this as an option, and don’t delay if you can’t pay your loans. Start investigating what’s available to you as soon as possible.

 

What are income-based repayment options for student loans?

 

Private loans may have options available that will lower your payments if you have a lower income, but the standard income-driven repayment plans apply to federal loans. Your monthly loan payment is calculated on your income. Your income is based on some stipulations and it may be taken into account things like your family size.

 

Income-Based Repayment

The standard income-based repayment plan adjusts your payment if your loan payments are more than 10% of your discretionary income. Based on when you took out your loans, there may be other benefits or stipulations to meet in order to qualify. Regardless, you’ll have to calculate your loan payments based on your income and family size through your servicer.

 

Income-Contingent Repayment

This type of repayment limits payments to 20% of discretionary income. The income will be based on income and family size. It is the only option available to Parent PLUS loan borrowers and requires PLUS borrowers to consolidate their loans to qualify.

 

Pay As You Earn and Revised Pay As You Earn

There are limits on which form of this repayment plan you can qualify for. These qualifications are based on when you took out your loans. On the Pay, As You Earn plan you’ll have payments that correlate to 10% of discretionary income. The payment will be based on how much money you’re making and limiting the term of the loan to 20–25 years depending on whether you were a graduate or undergraduate borrower.

 

Learn More About Parent Loan Refinancing

 

 

How does refinancing change my student loan payments and payback?

 

Refinancing opens you up to lots of different options. Some qualifications to refinance include illustrating a responsible credit history. People often look into refinancing when interest rates are high, they have a steady income and good credit. Refinancing could help borrowers qualify for lower interest rates. Sometimes people refinance in order to get new loan terms and pay off their loans sooner. Shortening the loan terms on your loan can help you to pay less interest over the life of the loan. Borrowers will refinance to a longer term that allows them to continue the loan payments for a similar or longer period of time.

 

9 Signs It’s Time to Refinance Student Loan Debt

 

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2019-03-11
Medical Match Day Finance Tips

Congratulations you’ve worked hard been through multiple interviews and finally, your hard work has paid off! You’ve been matched and you’re getting ready for residency. It’s so exciting to jump into residency and see what having this career will really be like. You’ll have the ability to learn from experienced professionals in your field of interest. Getting yourself prepared for your residency can feel stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are some financial tips to help you get settled and make good choices for your future.  

Set Up Loan Payments

Once you are done with school, you should start paying on student loans. Residency can take several years to complete. It’s likely that your residency isn’t paying you what a full-time position in your career will so all the medical school debt that’s accumulated, can be difficult to sort through. If you find yourself with a large amount of federal
student loan debt, look into income-based repayment plans. We would recommend this as a temporary solution until you’ve completed your residency program.  This will assure that you’re making student loan payments towards your medical school debt, but that those payments are not impossible to complete. You may eventually qualify for public loan forgiveness on your federal student loans. If you qualify to get on an IBR plan in residency after completing the program you may only have a few years remaining.     If you also have private student loans there is no need to worry. Most private student loan lenders will work with you to offer some type of payment plan. You may want to consider refinancing your medical student loan debt. In order to qualify for student loan refinancing, you may need to add a cosigner due to income you’ll be making in your residency. Regardless of which route you chose, in the first few months after graduation, you’ll want to have your payment plan set up. Don’t let this task fall off your radar—in-school deferment ends shortly after graduation for most kinds of medical school debt.  

How to Reduce Medical School Debt

   

Make a Budget

The average income for first-year medical residents is about $55,000, according to a recent report. That money may not go very far with your loan payments and other living expenses. It’s crucial to set your budget and stick to it. Many medical professionals suggest living with roommates, carpooling, using public transit, and setting a budget to keep other spending at a minimum.    

Look Into Your Benefits

If you’re starting off pretty frugal until you get accustomed to your new budget, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about saving for the future. When it comes to saving for retirement, the sooner the better. Employer matches and retirement programs should be on your list of things to do early in your residency. Take advantage of match money for retirement if your employer offers it. Match money from your employer is free money! Don’t miss out on that opportunity, and check out the rest of your benefits while you’re at it. There are usually several perks and programs you can look into that might help make your transition to residency more comfortable.  

Set Up Housing

Speaking of housing arrangements, there is conflicting advice on whether or not it makes sense to buy a home vs. renting while in residency. Since most residents spend long hours working and don’t have time for household maintenance or upkeep, buying a home can be a difficult choice. Plus knowing that you might not choose to live in the same place long term cause many experts to advise renting. Look at your unique situation and make sure you’re weighing all of these factors when you decide what to do for housing.   As far as finding somewhere to live, location will probably be top of your list. After working long hours and several days in a row, having a long commute is the last thing you want. If the area near your work is not cost-effective, look for ways to get connected with a good roommate or two. Research the area before you relocate and stick to your budget for housing costs so that you don’t end up being rent-poor or house-poor.  

Practice Self-Care and Routine

Residency can be engrossing. You’re so involved in your work role and in living the life of a busy resident, that it’s not uncommon to let self-care fall by the wayside. Remember, you can’t care for others if you haven’t cared for yourself. Make sure you’re doing what you can to stick to healthy habits, even if there are days you’re low on sleep or not making the best food choices. Getting rest on your time off, enjoying your hobbies even in small doses, and exercising or meal planning can help make sure you’re cared for even with a busy schedule.   Enjoy your new life adventure!  

Ways to Save on Student Loan Debt During Residency

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.  
2019-03-08
Student Loan Refinancing: How To Avoid Predatory Lending

No one wants to get scammed, but it can be hard to feel confident about whether you’re working with a reputable source or not. In an era when we have access to so many different options and there are countless financial entities available at our fingertips, there are definitely some things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up getting a raw deal.  It’s not uncommon if you’re interested in student loan refinancing, or have been approached by a company to want to see if they’re legit before you move forward. Here are some tips on how to avoid being a victim of predatory lending.  

Check your sources.

It’s not uncommon to find random financing offers around the internet. Maybe you read about it on Reddit, saw a social media post, or even direct mail. Companies regularly send postcards and mailers to try to get your attention. The marketing material can look pretty convincing, too! Don’t let a slick landing page or a nice mailer fool you. You generally want to find suggestions from sources you trust, like a financial expert, or trusted online sources. A good resource would be the Better Business Bureau. You can see online complaints, information about the company, and all provided by an unbiased source. A second site that provides unbiased online reviews is Trustpilot. Websites with unbiased reviews and legitimate accreditation or backing can be an ideal source to verify credibility.  

Never trust dishonest marketing.

It may sound extreme, but we’ve heard of examples where someone was approached by an entity that attempted to look like the government. These scare tactics are used frequently enough by scammy companies for one reason - they work. These companies use this scare tactic because when you think the government is trying to get in touch and you’re in trouble, you answer! These options work similarly to the IRS scams that are always happening with the IRS calling your phone, but in reality, the IRS doesn’t actually call anyone. If the company tried to look like a government program and later you find out they’re not, drop them. A legitimate company won’t send fake notices or use a misleading URL in order to get your business.  

Listen to the old adage.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There’s a reason that this simple advice is so often passed down. Really amazing offers are rare. If something sounds like there’s no way they could offer you such incredible terms or that great of a deal, there is likely fine print that’s missing. Fact check the offer and look for comparable data. Your alarm bells should go off if you’re looking at a company whose reputation is dubious. This especially proves true if they’re claiming to get you unheard of service or savings.  

Requirements to Refinance Student Loans

 

What do I owe you?

There are lots of scams across all kinds of industries. One of the most common is when a person tries to get you to pay something up front with the promise of services to come. Lending is no different. If you have to pay a fee or anything before you can see the offer, chances are that this is a scam. Companies often will offer to facilitate student loan discharge for someone with a permanent disability. The process of applying for student loan discharge if you have a qualifying disability is free. Any company offering to do it for a hefty up-front fee is scamming you!  

Avoid anyone who is too aggressive.

Sometimes a company will aggressively pursue potential borrowers and push them to select a consolidation option that’s not in the borrower’s best financial interest. They might be a legitimate company but will leave out crucial details in order to sign you up. A good general rule of thumb is to be aware of the interest rate and terms. Understand how a lower payment can extend the life of your loans, thus increasing the overall amount due. Always get all the details, so you know the financial implications of your decision.  

Give it a gut check.

Sometimes your intuition is your best tool. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to hit pause until you can find more information. Be wary of any company that’s asking for too much personal information before you are sure that they’re legit. Keep an eye out for things that just don’t seem right, like misspellings or a digital presence that seems fishy. You should never be faulted or made to feel bad for giving yourself time to look into the details and read everything over. If you feel like you’re being hurried through or your questions aren’t being answered stop and take a breather to do a gut check. All of your concerns should be addressed with ample information so that you feel confident about the process and decision. If that’s not what you’re experiencing, you should back away.  

Use your village.

There are lots of reputable companies out there, and it’s pretty easy to find them by reading unbiased reviews. Do your research and continue learning more about how their process will help you. Use resources available to you to vet companies before you reach out. If you utilize the resources available to you, you’ll be less likely to encounter an unreputable company on the prowl.

You should never be badgered or threatened.

No reputable company is going to make threats against you or repeatedly harass you to sign up. As a consumer, you have certain protections and any company that violates these should be investigated. If you’re facing this treatment from any lender, would like to see more information on various types of financial products and your rights, visit the FDIC website.    

Check Out Our Guide to Student Loan Refinancing

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.
2019-03-04
What Credit Score is Considered “Good”? What to know about Credit Scores

This guest post was provided by Debt MD ®, a free service that connects consumers with the professional help they need to become debt-free. Debt MD aims to make the path to financial freedom as quick, simple, and stress-free as possible. A good credit score is becoming more important. A good credit score illustrates to lenders that you are a responsible borrower. There are three major credit bureaus that report on your credit history and determine your credit score.  The higher your credit score, the more you’ve established yourself as a responsible borrower. The higher your credit score the more likely it will be to receive favorable interest rates and loan terms.   Did you know credit scores can be requested from other organizations outside of the financial industry? Credit scores not only illustrate responsibility as a borrower but provide a snapshot of how you handle finances. When you want to establish services like a phone, utilities, insurance, or even rent an apartment, providers look at your credit score. This allows them to choose whether they should allow you to obtain their service or not. Even employers are now looking at credit reports prior to hiring someone.  

Who Determines a Credit Score? 

What’s a three-digit number that can either make or break your financial deal? Yes, you got it right, it’s your credit score! There are several different types of credit scores generated using your credit report. So, in simplicity, you determine your credit score, since you control how you utilize your credit and finances.   A credit report is just that a report on your credit history. It includes details regarding credit card payments, loan payments, and the status of each. Your Credit Score is then calculated using your credit report. Most commonly used is the FICO® score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation.  

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

  The FICO® Score is the most widely used credit scoring model. In fact, according to Fair Isaac Corporation FICO® Scores are used in 90% of United States credit lending decisions. FICO® Scores are calculated using five main parts of your credit report. The FICO® Score utilizes amounts owed, new credit, length of credit history, payment, history, and credit mix to calculate your personal score.  Each category represents a percentage as illustrated on the chart below, to create your full FICO® Score.  

What’s a Good Credit Score?

  We now know what a credit score is, what attributes to it, and the main type of credit score used throughout the lending industry, but what is a “good” credit score? Generally, FICO® Scores range from 300 to 850.   Here is a look at the FICO® Score ranges and their equivalent rating.  

Credit Score Range: Rating

300 to 579: Very Poor 580 to 669: Fair 670 to 739: Good 740 to 799: Very Good 800 to 850: Exceptional   It is important to note that a “good” credit score cut-off will vary depending on the type of financial institution that you are dealing with. For instance, if you are applying for a mortgage loan, to qualify your score typically must fall between 700 and 759. To qualify for an auto loan your score would ideally be above 740, and to get the best rewards credit card you typically should have a score of 720. If you’re looking to refinance student loan debt you’ll likely be required to have a 650 credit score or higher.   It’s important to recognize that lenders do not solely base their decision on credit scores. In addition to your credit score, lenders may look at your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, assets, and liabilities to determine if you’re a good risk or not. The higher your credit score the better, as it illustrates your reliability as a borrower hence presenting a lower risk to the organization. When a person has a higher credit score they likely will be presented better borrowing options due to their credit history.  

How To Find Your Credit Score?

Checking your annual credit report regularly is one of the most important habits to develop. This is especially true if you want to improve your credit score. By verifying your credit record, you’ll be able to check for errors and discrepancies and dispute them when applicable.   Checking your credit reports will also help you to recognize signs of identity theft, which is becoming more prevalent. You can get your credit report at no cost once every 12 months from each of the three widely recognized credit bureaus (Equifax ®, Experian ® and TransUnion ®) from AnnualCreditReport.com.  

7 Money Mistakes to Avoid

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites 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.