Ashley Williams is a 28-year-old financial analyst with a degree in accounting — a background that keeps her acutely aware of her own financial situation… and debt.
“I crunch my own debt numbers quite often, and the lack of progress on student loans is disheartening,” Williams says.
She graduated six years ago from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, with $46,000 in student loan debt. But, “thanks to capitalized interest and a year in forbearance,” she says, last year she still owed $51,500.
When a small raise in her salary threatened to increase her monthly payment by $100, she’d had enough.
“I already felt like I was paying too much per month because I had private loans that ranged from 8.5-9.5% that I felt like I was getting nowhere with,” she explains.
Like many students, Williams took out loans when she was 18 years old. Without a co-signer, she was bound by her underdeveloped credit score. She says it was decent for her age, but it still wasn’t good enough to secure a great interest rate.
In addition to the private loans, she was paying 6% interest on a consolidated federal loan.
With a few years of paying down debts and building credit under her belt, she was sure she could do better.
Williams finally decided to look into refinancing.
She was discouraged at first. Despite a credit score she says is over 800, one refinancing company denied her.
“It made me think that getting a refinanced loan was just a mirage that the banks claimed they were offering … I am happy to say I was proven wrong, and that is thanks to Credible,” Williams explains.
Credible is an independent student loan refinancing marketplace. Unlike a bank, which will give you just one offer — or none — the site shows you a range of personalized offers from a variety of lenders.
Depending on your situation, those offers could mean a lower monthly payment, a reduced interest rate and saving a ton of money over the life of your loan.
Through Credible, Williams was able to qualify for a refinanced loan that’s going to save her about $18,000 in interest.
“Refinancing knocked off at least five years in payments,” she reports.
Plus, “Credible helped me secure a 5.02% interest rate through [lender] Citizens Bank,” Williams adds — “drastically lower” than the 6%-9.5% she was previously paying on her loans!
And her monthly payment also has gone down, so it’s easier for her to make progress paying down her debt.
Williams’ case isn’t too unusual.
The average 2016 graduate with student loans will leave school with more than $37,000 in student loan debt, the Wall Street Journal reports.
As time goes by — and life happens — interest can turn that debt into a virtually unmanageable burden none of us prepared for.
Is Refinancing Student Loans Right for You?
Like Williams, you might be chained to an unwieldy interest rate you secured at a young age. But with time and responsible financial management, you could now qualify for a much better deal.
How do you know whether it’s the right move?
Refinancing will replace some — or all — of your existing debt with a new private loan. That means a new interest rate and repayment plan, so you have to decide whether it will be better than what you’re working with now.
Keep in mind that refinancing government loans with a private lender means giving up some borrower benefits, including access to income-driven repayment plans and the potential for loan forgiveness after 10, 20 or 25 years of payments.
But many borrowers decide that the savings they can realize through refinancing outweigh the value of those benefits.
The biggest questions to consider are:
1. Can you get a better interest rate?
Maybe your credit is stronger than it was when you were 18 years old. Maybe interest rates on student loans have gone down since you started school. Or maybe a new lender is simply able to offer you a better plan.
Whatever the reason, a reduced interest rate can mean saving thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
2. Will it reduce your monthly payment?
Many of us are paralyzed by outrageous monthly loan payments that compete with rent, groceries and other basic living expenses.
When you can’t afford everything, student loan payments often fall by the wayside, racking up interest as they go unpaid. Reducing what you owe each month can help you get out from under your debt by making steady payments.
Refinancing into a loan with a longer term could reduce your monthly payment, though you may increase your overall repayment total.
3. Will you save money over time?
Your unpaid loan balance racks up interest, so the longer you take to pay it off, the more you’ll pay in the end.
Refinancing could help you repay your loans faster by increasing your monthly payment and potentially reducing your interest rate. Every month shaved off the life of your loan is money saved!
In fact, Credible reports that the average user saves $13,928 over the life of their loans.
And it’s more than just numbers. It’s about what you can do with the money you’ll save over the next 10 or 20 years.
With such steep savings, Williams says she’ll be able to throw more money into retirement and “take a few more vacations” over the years.
Plus, she says she’ll, “enjoy the feeling of not being tied to an anchor [of debt].”
Click here to take Credible’s two-minute quiz and find a new rate to decide whether refinancing is right for you.
Your Turn: Would you consider refinancing your student loans?
Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to Credible for working with us to bring you this content. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).