Student loan payments are back, and many people are struggling to find the money in their budget after the pandemic pause.
According to the Education Data Initiative, there is currently more than $1.7 trillion in U.S. student debt. In fact, the average balance is $37,718, a difficult number to tackle for most Americans.
“People just crumble because it seems so overwhelming,” says Shavon Roman.
Roman is a personal finance expert. She helps her clients plan for payments they can handle, even if it seems impossible at first. First things first, Roman says don’t hesitate. “Log in. Understand the payments, and if your payment is still not manageable, contact the student loan servicer and explain the situation.”
“To add one more thing just seems like it would take us out.”
Measurements have changed since the pandemic, so your payment options may not be as high as you expect. Still, it’s not a good idea to put your payments off. “Avoid deferring the loans if you can,” Roman says. “Because you’re going to use valuable time that we may need in the future.”
If your income drops, don’t forget you can call and negotiate a lower payment. “Don’t pause. Don’t freeze. You have to do something,” Roman urges. She says doing nothing won’t make the problem or the debt go away.
On the other hand, if you get a raise and want to pay more, that’s a good time to be strategic. “You want to target the loans that have the highest interest rates first,” Roman says.
Finally, if you’ve been chipping away at your student loan payments for years, there may be hope on the horizon. Roman says you may qualify for forgiveness and have no idea, so it’s a good idea to check in with the loan provider to see if things have changed.