I have to get something off my chest: I find it very annoying to hear millennials complain about their student loan debt. And that’s coming from a millennial who is in the midst of paying off her own student loan debt a year and a half after graduating from a private, four-year university.
In my experience, the people who complain the most about their student loan debts are the ones that aren’t proactively doing anything about their situation. They’re the ones that didn’t do their due diligence to see how much they would owe after graduation, were shocked by the staggering number (the average student loan debt is up to $37,172), and blindly accepted the monthly payment that was presented to them while bemoaning their horrible situation.
I know from personal experience that the federal government can feel like a nightmare to work with (every semester was good for at least two solid arguments with my Dad while we filled out my FAFSA applications together), and that when you don’t have a good understanding of the whole process and the impact it has on your future, the whole student loan debt situation can seem extremely bleak.
What you have to keep in mind, however, is that complaining about your student loan debt isn’t going to do anything to reduce that debt. You have to take it upon yourself to take serious, proactive steps toward paying it off, and resist the urge to chime in the next time you hear your friends complaining about their own student loan debt issues.
Instead, try to assess where the real problem lies.
Problem: I don’t know how much I owe yet, because I’m too afraid to look.
When you’re ignoring your loan balances and interest rates, you’re losing out on the opportunity to explore your cost-savings options. How can you save money if you don’t even know what you owe? Work with your creditor to figure out what that amount is. Once you determine it, you can begin to look at different options to repay your student loan debt.
Here a few to explore:
- Standard Repayment Plan – Payments are one fixed amount each month for up to 10 years.
- Graduated Income Plan – Payments are lower at first and then gradually increase every two years for up to 10 years.
- Extended Repayment Plan – Payments are fixed or graduated for up to 25 years.
- Pay-As-You-Earn Plan – Payments are 10% of your discretionary income (the money you have left after you pay your important bills).
- The Income-Driven Plan – Payments are 10-15% of your discretionary income.
You can read more about those here, and contact your own student loan debtor to learn more about the options they offer.
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Problem: My grace period is ending and I don’t have a full-time job lined up yet.
Your grace period is meant to buy you time to get financially settled and to select your repayment plan.
No matter how hard you worked in college, it might take a while to find a full-time job after graduation. With the looming deadline of an ending grace period hanging over your head, it’s easy to complain about the job market and attribute your lack of success finding a full-time job to the current state of the economy.
Give yourself a little extra push in your job search — the best strategy for finding a full-time job is treating the job search as a full-time job of its own. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is polished and professional, embrace your personal brand, and push yourself to attend networking events. It may also be beneficial for you to align yourself with a mentor that can offer you career advice and set you up with some of their connections.
You’d be amazed how much less of a chore the job searching process becomes when you’re treating it like a full-time job. Take control of the search, and you’ll land a job in no time, leaving you more confident about attacking those student loans.
Problem: I don’t want to have this debt hanging over me for the next 10-25 years.
That’s great! Instead of complaining about your “debt sentence,” start targeting your payments to pay your student debt loan off faster. If you take control of your finances and limit the spending of your discretionary income, it’ll be easy to find extra money in your paycheck to put toward your student loans.
Always remember that if you’re not doing anything proactive to improve your situation, your complaints will seem irrelevant and annoying to other millennials.
The next time you find yourself complaining to your friends about how overwhelmed you are by your student loan debt, remember that we’re all in this together and that there are unlimited resources out there designed to make your life easier.
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