Taking care of your student loans can seem insurmountable. They can be overcome. Here are our top 5 tips for facing your student loans head on.

1.    Know the extent of your debt.

A study in 2014 by Brookings Institute showed that half of all first-year college students thought they had less debt than they do. The same study found that 28% of students thought they didn’t have a federal student loan debt.

It seems simple but the facts are that most students just don’t know how far in debt they are. Enter your information into National Student Loan Data System’s website to find out how much you owe in federal loans. If you are a student that has private loans and you aren’t sure where from run a free credit report with annualcreditreport.com. They will show your lenders and you should give them a call and ask them for your account statement.

Knowing how much you owe and who you owe it to is a useful tool to avoid the defaulting on your loans, which seems to be an increasing problem.

2.    Don’t ignore other important financial goals.

Be sure that all your finances are in order. Keep in mind that for most people student loans aren’t the only monthly bill you get. It’s easy to see debt and want to attack it with the full extent of your checkbook, but make sure the rest of your finances are in order before paying extra monthly. One tip is to make sure you have an emergency fund in case of the unforeseeable unfortunate events.

3.    Look into lower payment options.

Many people can’t afford the standard payments of their student loans. If you fall into that category of people, then there is still hope for you. Consider federal programs that are designed for low-income borrowers. Income-driven repayment plans put you on a 20 or 25-year term and your monthly payments are based on your income. You can apply to one of these programs through the Federal Student Aid site or your servicer’s site.

4.    See if your employer has student loan assistance benefits.

In just this year the trend of student loan benefits is on the rise for employers. In 2015, only 4% of employers offered this benefit. Now with the demand for such a benefit growing more companies are looking into matching options or working with companies like, Ameritech Financial, to assist in lowering payments.

5.    Make a plan.

As you further your career you may be able to pay extra money each month into your loan. However, be sure if you’re making larger payments than asked that you explicitly tell your lender that you’d like to apply the extra money toy our principle amount. If you don’t they may put it as a credit for your next month’s payment. “Any extra money you pay, either every month or every now and then, will lower the amount of interest that you’ll pay over the life of the loan,” says Jennifer Wang, director of the Washington, D.C., office of TICAS.

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