A Student Loan Expert Takes Her Own Advice
BY ANNA HELHOSKI
When you spend your days dispensing advice about student loans, you learn a thing or two about navigating the system. In the 10 years it took me to repay $40,000 in federal student loans and interest, I never found any secret tricks. But I did find ways to make the system work. At times I made no payments, and I reduced payments at others. The only extra payment I made was the most satisfying one at the very end. My credit never took a ding, and I never used any Hail Mary tactics. I never boomeranged back home, no one left me money and no one I dated wanted to make payments for me. What I did do was use the system — a complex, frustrating system that I spend every day writing about — to stay on track. Here’s what I learned. GET READY BEFORE THE BILL ARRIVES When I got my bachelor’s from SUNY Purchase College in Purchase, New York, in 2010, the typical debt load among graduates was $25,250, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. I left school owing $23,156 at an interest rate of 6.8%, an interest rate that hasn’t been topped since. When I got my first bill, my salary as a local news reporter was not enough to afford $266 payments and still make rent. I called my servicer and switched to a graduated repayment plan, which gradually increases your payment amount over 10 years. Better repayment options are available now. The federal student aid Loan Simulator can show you what to expect with each.
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