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5 Crucial Steps To Paying Off Your Student Loans Before Your 30s

5 Crucial Steps To Paying Off Your Student Loans Before Your 30s

Student loan debt is a national problem. As of January 2016, total US student loan debt was over $1.2 trillion, and market analysts have warned about how this expanding student loan debt has become a bubble. That bubble bursting could have serious consequences for the US economy, as banks and the government could be crushed under a pile of insolvent student loans.

But the reality is that the student loan debt problem will not be fixed easily, whether at the societal or the individual level. But there are a few things which any student can do to ensure that he is debt free in his 30s. Here are five steps which can make the difference between a manageable debt and a crushing one.

1. Spend less

Let us start with one fact: by and large, people go to college because they want money. College should be viewed as an investment where you spend money on tuition now to make more money later – and despite the concerns over debt, college is still a good investment.

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But the first step to make money is to not spend it. You are in debt. And the reality is that when you are in debt, there are sacrifices which you have to make in order to get out of debt. It may mean delaying a marriage, getting a worse car, or not eating out, but things like that will help to lessen debt over time.

I won’t deny that this is one tough step. But there is no easy way to getting out of student debt.

2. Don’t look for the easy way out

There are thousands if not millions of young adults just searching for an easy way to wipe out their student loan debt and start clean. And that sort of environment attracts scammers looking to prey on the fears and hopes of the desperate.

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Honest student debt relief organizations will never demand money up front, but the simplest rule you can follow is that if a group’s offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. This example from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should serve as an example of some of the things a scammer will do.

There is no easy way out of student debt, and looking for one will get you in trouble. Acknowledging that you are in trouble is the first step to getting out of it.

3. Get a government job

Everyone knows that the military is an option for many individuals to get into college for free. But you don’t have to face bullets in order to qualify for government loan forgiveness programs.

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Most government jobs, and especially teachers, can be qualified for a loan forgiveness program where a set amount is forgiven every year. This can be as much as $10,000 per year for government employees in forgiveness. If you are unwilling to commit to years of government service, then a short-term option is to take a stint in AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps.

It should be noted that these programs have a catch. Most loan forgiveness programs will require you to make 120 payments on time before the loans are forgiven. And some students will struggle when they realize that loan forgiveness programs do not apply to personal finance, such as car loans you may have taken out..

4. Pay off private loans first

The vast majority of student loans come from the government. A 2014 estimate showed that out of the $1.2 trillion in student debt, just $150 billion of those loans are private.

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But private loans are much more dangerous, and should thus seek first priority. The aforementioned loan forgiveness programs do not apply to private loans. And perhaps most importantly of all, private student loans generally have a higher interest rate compared to federal loans.

As a matter of fact, the higher interest rate thing should be noted in and of itself. It may seem obvious, but there are too many people who don’t prioritize paying off the loan with the highest interest rate. This does not just apply to student loan debt: while paying off student loan debt is important, don’t do it if you’ve got credit card debt that will strangle your credit faster.

5. Don’t consolidate your loans.

In order to make paying student loans easier, some people opt for loan consolidation. Loan consolidation combines all of your small loans into one big loan. The government can track your payments based off your income, and the result is an easier to pay off loan which you can just handle month after month.

Except not really. Terms for long consolidation will generally assume that your time for repayment will last longer than if you had not consolidated your loans, which means that more interest will accrue and the loans becomes more expensive over the long term. If you want your loans paid off sooner, then track your loans yourself, and pay off as much as you can every month.

Featured photo credit: Francisco Osario via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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