With an estimated $1.3 trillion in student loans outstanding, it’s safe to say student loan debt is a reality for millions of Americans. While this figure may sound daunting, experts say that greater financial literacy can help students and graduates better understand their loans and pay them back.
“The reality is, people out there are hungry for information. They want to understand the facts when it comes to paying back student loans and the best way to do it,” says the educator turned hip hop artist Dee-1, who celebrated paying off his student loans by writing the song “Sallie Mae Back.”
To help students get on the right track, Dee-1 has teamed up with Sallie Mae to educate students on financing college, paying back loans and managing finances. They are offering the following tips from the top of Dee-1’s paying back student loans playlist:
• Know who you owe and how much. Understand if your loan is from the federal government—about 93 percent of all loans are— or a private lender like Sallie Mae. If you are unsure, call your lender or check your credit report. Be responsible. Know your monthly payment amounts and due dates.
• Separate wants from needs. Managing your money means managing your lifestyle. Prioritize payments you must make every month, and make sure your student loan is one of them.
• Exceed your own expectations. Pay more than the minimum amount due each month. If you get a raise or tax refund, use part or all of it to increase your monthly loan payment. The faster you pay off your loan, the less you’ll spend in the long run.
• Confront reality. If you run into trouble, don’t hide from it, don’t be embarrassed by it, and don’t give up. Stay positive, focused, and look for solutions. Call your lender or touch base with your cosigner, if you have one.
• Get excited about your future! Be passionate about managing your money wisely and effectively. You can’t make your student loans disappear magically overnight, but you can make a plan for paying them back.
“The exhilaration Dee-1 expresses in paying off his student loans is contagious,” said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “We hope his excitement and his direct, doable tips help newly minted graduates get into the rhythm of repayment.”
For more information, visit SallieMae.com, a one-stop resource that includes monthly budget worksheets, loan repayment calculators, and information about payment options — including the company’s Graduated Repayment Period, which allows graduates in good standing to make 12 months of interest-only payments before transitioning into full principal and interest payments.
New tech tools also are making managing loans easier than ever. For example, Sallie Mae recently unveiled a new mobile app — available for Apple and Android — to help customers manage their accounts, access loan information, and make payments from smartphones.
Don’t let the prospect of paying back student loans overwhelm you. Financial literacy is a game changer and can position you to move up in the workforce on good financial footing.
Megan Whitworth is the former creative director of Texas Forest Country Living. Growing up in East Texas, Megan discovered her love of writing at the age of 11, writing song lyrics and poetry, which turned into essays and articles for publications around East Texas. She later added photography into the mix capturing Friday night football games, the latest fashion looks, and portraits of people around the nation. Megan enjoys karaoke, blogging, reading, and road trips. She resides in Lufkin with her husband, Ryan, and two cats, Felix and Lucy.
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