Ah student loans, the millennial’s persistent foe.
This may sound trite, but make no mistake, student loans are no joke. The problem is especially so if one goes to graduate school, where the greater number of years of borrowing and the much higher tuition costs make getting an education one of the most expensive things someone can acquire in the US.
We too fell into this position with my wife attending medical school and neither of our families being in the position to pay for our schooling out of pocket. All together, we have approximately $340,000 of student loan debt.
So what has helped us tackle this formidable foe? Well, we got a student loan consultant.
Take note, as of this writing, I have no affiliation with any loan consultant, so this post is completely out of the goodness of my heart.
However, that said, we started out just fine by ourselves plodding along to figure out how to satisfy the loans. We first consolidated a bunch, to make it more manageable.
Then, while my wife was in residency, we had to go on an income-based repayment plan, because otherwise we’d be in default. Our interest alone was over $1,800 a month! Fortunately, her training was also with a government hospital, so she was also racking up months towards PSLF.
However, once my wife finished her training and got a Real JobTM, we were facing an uncertain future: either continue the path to PSLF or refinance, to lower the interest rate, and aggressively pay the loans off over several years.
We went back and forth about what the right thing was to do. And finally, we decided to get a student loan consultant to help us.
Why a consultant?
Well, there’s strength in having advisers. And at the end of the day, no matter how many blogs I had read on the topic, none were truly customized to our situation.
Furthermore, this gave us access to an expert in the student loan field. He has done analyses for hundreds of people, and knew far more about the student loan programs than we did.
So, what’d he say?
First he sent us a questionnaire to fill out, detailing our loans and our finances, as well as our dreams and expenses.
Basically he recommended to us to stay the course, more or less. We were on the PSLF track, but on a different payment plan. He then recommended we switch to a different payment plan (For the record, we were on IBR and switched to REPAYE).
Now, for PSLF, it doesn’t matter what plan you’re on, a month is a month is a month. So it’s in your interest to jostle your plan around to find the one that gives you the smallest monthly payment.
As a result of this change, our monthly payment dropped from over $3,600 to $1,305. Admittedly, this also included another income update to FedLoan as a result of the change. We had originally allowed the income certification to lapse and didn’t renew it since we thought we made too much money to make a difference.
In the end, he’s saving us close to $2,300 EVERY MONTH.
And what were his fees? Around $450. Once.
Indeed my friend.
So the next time you’re in a bind and want some assistance, I’d strongly consider you looking into a fee-based consultant or adviser. A one-time fee or charge is well worth it to tune-up whatever aspect of your finances that need attention.
Have you used an advisor? What was the outcome? Were they worth the money?