BY KEVIN SAWYER – Student debt is the curse of nearly every American man and woman of the last two generations. According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 71% of American college graduates are carrying a student debt load. Last year, the average debt load for a graduating college student was $35,000. If you are going to law school or medical school, that debt can soar to over $100,000.
Here are some strategies that will enable you to save some cash and pay down your debt in less time than you may have thought was possible:
- Your lenders want their money back so they are, usually, more than willing to work with you. Put together a re-payment plan that fits how you are living now. Check out the Pay As You Earn and Income Based Repayment programs which will adjust your monthly payments according to your current revenue.
- Don’t forget to try and refinance your loan and make sure you take the tax deduction on the interest. Now that you are working and have a credit history, you may be able to finance at a lower interest rate. Deducting your interest payments can save you as much as $2,500 on your taxes. Your lenders should send you along a Form 1098-E to do this. Also, many lenders will cut some of your debt down if you offer let them make automatic withdrawals every month from a bank account.
- Put your credit cards to work for you for a change. Be careful and be smart and get a financial adviser if you need to. Go after a card like the US Bank Platinum Visa which offers zero percent interest. The cash you will save over the life of your debt will be enormous and it will all go right into your pocket. Also check our credit cards that offer points. Those can be turned into ready cash that can be applied directly to your debt. It’s getting the credit card company to help pay off your debt.
- We all know that times are tough out there but try and take a job where the company has a plan to help people pay off their student loans. Many companies will use this as a recruiting tool so stay sharp.
- Volunteer opportunities abound. You can help make the world a better place AND get them to help pay off your debt. Here are a few volunteer and relocation opportunities that will help you do just that:
- The Army National Guard offers a way to forgive $10,000 in student loans if you serve for a certain amount of time. And, don’t forget a lot of the other great perks you will get for being a veteran.
- Look for places to live that will pay off your debts but may not be on your radar exactly. For instance, Saskatchewan, Canada needs skilled college graduates and not only offers employment but will pay you up to $20,000 to use specifically to pay off student debt. Neighborhoods and towns all across the country offer such incentives also. Another for instance is Niagara Falls, New York. Live there for two years and get $6,984 chopped off your student loan debt.
- Buy a house in Detroit and $20,000 in student loan debt will go away. Kansas, too, needs skilled young people. Many Kansas communities will pay off student loan debt. Some communities will pay up to as much as $15,000.
- Each year you serve in the Peace Corps, 15% of your Perkins Loans go away. Teach For America will not only provide you with a salary but will pay up to $11,100 of your student debt. You don’t need any experience or even a teaching degree to do it.
- Work for AmeriCorps for a year and get a salary of $7,400 plus $4,725 erased from your student debt. The National Health Service Corp is in desperate need of qualified health care workers. Agree to work in an area of intense need and get as much as $50,000 to pay off student loans.
- Sponsor Change has many volunteer projects and you’re paid with student debt repayment money. The amount you can get depends on the project. VISTA volunteers can get $4,725 put toward student debt for every 1,700 hours worked. At an eight hour day, that’s only 212 days of service.
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