It’s no secret student loan debt is skyrocketing in the U.S.
Students leaving college with student loan debt in 2016 hold an average debt of more than $37,000, the Wall Street Journal reports.
For many, especially first-generation college students, one of the trickiest things about paying down debt is just understanding it.
Knowing what you actually owe and to whom is the first step to getting out of debt.
You may have several federal loans with a variety of repayment plans and interest rates. If those didn’t cover your college expenses, you might also have private loan debt, and that’s another set of details to navigate.
Student loan refinancing could simplify your debt and even save you money.
What is Student Loan Refinancing?
Refinancing could help you pay off student loans faster and save money in the long run.
By combining multiple loans into one, you’ll replace your federal and private loans with a single private loan. Then you have just one lender, interest rate and monthly payment to worry about.
In addition to simplifying the repayment process, refinancing can also potentially reduce your interest rate and score you lower monthly payments.
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.
To decide whether refinancing is the best option for you, we’ve created an online tool to get all the information you need in one place.
Follow these steps in the tool below to organize your student loan debt and decide whether refinancing is right for you.
1. Your Starting Debt
Start by taking stock of your debt.
You may owe money on several different loans with different repayment details.
Also note your current monthly payment and interest rate, so you can compare them with later offers.
2. Find Your New Rate
You can get quotes for your new monthly payment and interest rate at Credible.com, a marketplace that lets you see personalized rates from multiple refinancing lenders.
Seeing your offers on Credible won’t affect your credit score or share your information with lenders before you’re ready to proceed with an offer.
Get ready to enter those numbers in the tool to see how they compare with your current repayment plans.
3. How Much Could You Save?
We’ll do the math for you!
We’ll figure out how much money you might save by refinancing your student loans instead of staying with your current repayment plan.
Positive numbers in the purple boxes at the bottom of the tool mean you could save money over time and/or lower your monthly payment by refinancing.
Should You Refinance Student Loans?
Now you have all the information you need in one place.
How do you use this to make a decision?
Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t include a formula for the exact right answer. But it does give you the numbers to answer the questions to help you decide.
What are your most important goals? They might be:
- Getting a lower monthly payment, because you’re struggling to keep up.
- Finding a lower interest rate, so you’ll pay less on top of the principle of your loan.
- Consolidating your debt, so it’s less complicated.
- Doing whatever you can to pay the debt down fast, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Refinancing may help you achieve all of these, or maybe only some of them. To decide whether it’s a good fit, you have to know what’s most important to you.
Your numbers might show you’ll make a higher monthly payment if you refinance, but pay less over time. This is a smart move — if you can afford to pay more each month.
You may find you could have a lower monthly payment, but you’ll have a longer repayment period and pay more over time. This doesn’t save you money in the long run, but it may be a smart solution if your current monthly payments are too high.
If you extend your repayment period in a government plan in order to lower your monthly payments, your total cost could increase even more, because you won’t get a reduced interest rate.
Ideally, it’ll be a win-win-win: You’ll get a reduced interest rate, lower monthly payment and pay less over the life of your loan.
Fill in your information in the tool below, and learn about your refinancing options at Credible.com.
Is Refinancing Right For You?
Student Loan Repayment Plan Worksheet
Your Starting Debt
What is your current monthly payment?
Example: $250 What is your current interest rate?
Example: 3.9% How many months will you spend repaying your loan?
Example: 120 months Here's how much you can expect to pay over the life of the loan:
Loan + Interest
YOU COULD SAVE
What is your quoted interest rate?
How many months will you spend repaying the new loan?
Here's how much you can expect to pay over the life of the new loan:
Loan + Interest By refinancing, you could save... Every Month Over Time
Your Turn: Are you considering student loan refinancing to save money and pay down your debt faster?
Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to Credible.com 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).