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10 Creative Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt

10 Creative Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt

For decades, people have been told to go to college because doing so would give them the best shot at a great career. Some college graduates are not as fortunate. Subsequently, they are forced to take jobs that don’t even require a college degree. We all know that those jobs make paying student loans very difficult! Well, fear not, you will find a solution in these 10 creative ways to pay off your student loan debt.

1. Income Based Repayment Plans

While this option has been becoming increasingly popular over the last few years, some college graduates and dropouts still don’t know about income based repayment plans. The Department of Education created these programs to help people manage their student loan debt by reducing their monthly payments.

Monthly payments are determined by your annual income of the previous year. For some people, their monthly payment could be $20 or even $5 dollars a month.

Others may not be required to pay anything. If they have an income that is at or below the poverty line, their monthly payments will be marked as paid (even though they are not paying anything). Depending on your repayment plan, the remainder of your loan can be forgiven within 20 or 25 years.

Program participants are required to submit their annual income every year for the purpose of recalculating the monthly payment and continuity.

The Wall Street Journal has found that only 40% of people with student loans are paying them back. A lot of people think that they are hopeless and tend to let their loans go into default. The income based repayment plan is a great way for people to manage their student loans more responsibly.

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    2. Kansas Rural Opportunity Zones

    The state of Kansas is working hard to discourage population decline. The Rural Opportunity Zone program encourages Americans to move to rural Kansas to experience the lower cost of living and high quality of life. The zones are made up of 77 counties that have been authorized to offer student loan payments.

    In order to be eligible for the income tax waivers, individuals must meet the following requirements:

    – Have a college degree (either undergraduate or postgraduate)
    – Have an outstanding student loan balance
    – Have established residency in a rural opportunity zone after July 1, 2011 and on or after the date on which the county opts in the student loan program

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    Despite living in uncertain times, Americans are still hopeful in fulfilling the American Dream. Kansas has enabled Americans to realize their dream by not only offering free land but also student loan assistance. Some people have been a victim of misfortune. The state of Kansas is giving them a second chance.

    KS Rural Opportunity Zones graphic

      3. New York Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Program

      The state of New York has been looking for ways to stimulate their agriculture sector. In return, the state is providing loan forgiveness to people who have obtained a college degree from a New York college and agree to operate a farm on a full-time basis for five years.

      Working in the agriculture sector is quite a noble path, as it is one of the cornerstones of our economy, A lot of new farming operations either break even or don’t make enough to scale their operation.

      The state of New York recognizes that their agricultural sector can only be successful if their farmers are given sufficient support. Their loan forgiveness program gives farmers a chance to start off with a clean slate.

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        4. National Health Service Repayment Program

        Shouldn’t the people who bring wellness into our lives be given a break? The government thinks so. The National Health Service Corps (a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services program) is giving primary care medical, dental, and mental health clinicians up to $50,000 to repay their student loans in exchange for a two year commitment to work at a NHSC site that helps underprivileged communities.

        After the initial service commitment, corps members can continue working to receive additional loan repayment assistance.

        Healthcare grads typically have more student loan debt than other grads (excluding law and most STEM majors); yet are likely to secure a high paying career. This program is another option that can offer healthcare grads to have at least half (if not more) of their student loan debt paid in exchange for serving underprivileged communities.

        Which may be ideal for people who came from such communities and desire to give back in service.

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          5. Be Zerobound

          Zerobound is a program that provides an innovative option to reduce student loan debt for graduates who are dedicated to volunteering. Zerobound brings together volunteers, organizations, and sponsors together on one platform to connect and support each other.

          They work with all graduates, ranging from those who are seriously struggling with their debt to those who just need a bit of help.

          This is a great program for students who have spare time to contribute to a cause that resonates with their passion. In return, they are able to receive some financial relief from their student loan debt.

          Zero-Bound-Logo1

            6. Move to Niagara Falls Program

            The city of Niagara Falls, New York has experienced a significant population decline, due mostly to the relocation of several industrial corporations. While it remains a tourist attraction for Americans and Canadians, the city is looking for other ways to boost their economy to avoid losing their “city” status.

            They are hoping that by enticing people to move there; it will bring in talent that will positively influence the labor force, which could keep them there longer than the two year requirement.

            New residents who live there for two years will get a total of $7,000 to pay off their student loans. In order to qualify for the reimbursement, the applicant must have attained a two or four year degree from an accredited school and rent a home or apartment in a designated area.

            This program presents a great opportunity for people who don’t have a lot of student loan debt and any major life commitments.

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              7. Health Professions Faculty Program

              Faculty working at a health professions college or university can receive up to $40,000 toward the repayment of their student loans if they come from a disadvantaged background. In return, they must serve on the faculty for two years.

              In order to be eligible for the program, individuals must meet the following requirements:

              – Be a U.S. citizen (either born or naturalized), U.S. National, or Permanent Resident
              – Have a degree or be currently enrolled in an approved graduate training program within certain health disciplines
              – Have an employment commitment for a full-time or part-time faculty position for a minimum of two years, beginning on or before July 31, 2015
              – Be from a disadvantaged background, based on economic or environmental factors

              While healthcare grads often have more student loan debt than other graduates, they are very likely to secure a career in that field. This program is another option that can offer healthcare grads to have at least half (if not more) of their student loan debt paid in exchange for serving on the faculty for two years.

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                8. Perkins Loan Cancellation Program

                Perkins Loans are low interest federal loans that are reserved for students in exceptional financial need. Perkins Loan recipients may cancel a portion of their loan (or even the entire loan in some cases) if they are employed in certain occupations. The current list of accepted occupations for this program are listed as the following:

                – Teachers
                – Corps members (Peace Corps, Americorps, or Action Corps)
                – Law enforcement officers
                – Social workers
                – Head Start workers
                – Professional providers of early intervention services
                – Healthcare technicians

                There is no application that is required to be considered for this program. If you are interested. you need to contact the school that processed your loan.

                As mentioned earlier, the Wall Street Journal has found that only 40% of people with student loans are paying them back. So, this program is a great way for public service employees to reduce a good chunk of their student loan debt.

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                  9. USDA Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program

                  Do you love animals? Have you ever thought about being an animal doctor? Well, this benefit might convince you to be a veterinarian. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program will pay up to $25,000 per year for people who agree to serve three years in designated areas that have shortages of veterinarians.

                  In our culture, we have learned to consider our pets as part of our family. Therefore, it requires that they be entitled to the same level of healthcare as humans. In return, the USDA are giving qualified veterinarians up to $75,000 in tuition reimbursements for dedicating three years in underserved areas.

                  USDA-fields

                    10. U.S. Office of Personal Management Program

                    One thing that you don’t have to worry about as a government employee is the lack of benefits. The U.S. Office of Personal Management makes every employee eligible to have their loans paid by their employer.

                    Government agencies will make payments to the loan holder for up to $10,000 for an employee in an calendar year and $60,000 as the total maximum.

                    Commonly, people equate a government career to a high paying salary. This is simply not true. However, their abundance of benefits including student loan repayment makes having such a career worthwhile.

                    usopm

                      Featured photo credit: Unhappy Man Mask Sad Face Sitting Depressed via pixabay.com

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                      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                      Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

                      In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

                      5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

                      Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

                      1. Be Clear About the Objectives

                      Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

                      It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

                      Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

                      2. Keep Them Realistic

                      It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

                      It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

                      3. Account for Inflation

                      Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

                      Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

                      For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

                      4. Short Term vs Long Term

                      Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

                      As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

                      More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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                      5. To Each to His Own

                      The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

                      It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

                      By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

                      11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

                      Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

                      • Ensuring healthy savings
                      • Making smart investments

                      You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

                      Ensuring Healthy Savings

                      Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

                      This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

                      1. Track Expenses

                      The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

                      Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

                      2. Pay Yourself First

                      Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

                      Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

                      The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

                      Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

                      3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

                      Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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                      Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

                      At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

                      Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

                      You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

                      4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

                      Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

                      If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

                      Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

                      All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

                      5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

                      In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

                      Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

                      Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

                      If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

                      If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

                      So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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                      6. Talk About It

                      Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

                      Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

                      7. Maintain a Journal

                      For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

                      So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

                      Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

                      When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

                      At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

                      Making Smart Investments

                      Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

                      8. Consult a Financial Advisor

                      Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

                      Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

                      9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

                      Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

                      Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

                      Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

                      It is here where that classification will help.

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                      So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

                      10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

                      Einstein once remarked about compounding,

                      Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

                      So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

                      Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

                      11. Measure, Measure, Measure

                      All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

                      If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

                      If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

                      Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

                      The Bottom Line

                      This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

                      As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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