Today, we continue the conversation we started yesterday about Anna Sale’s live Death, Sex & Money podcast series that aired last week.
In this segment, she welcomed to the microphone Miranda Marquit, contributor for the Student Loan Hero blog and co-host of podcast adulting.tv, where she wants to help people “get better at adulting” by covering a wide variety of topics related to handling your life like an adult.
Sale and Marquit talked a lot about how to be an adult with student loans. Though your student loans allowed you to go to college and positioned you for an adult life in the middle class, with a middle-class income, it can feel like they are working against your life goals. Marquit gave some advice on how to handle your loans so they don’t hold you back.
First, the primary life goals people strive for are often high in cost: a house, kids, retirement. Those are the goals that 56 percent of young adults are putting off because of their student loans. But there are ways to do it all.
However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead of giving blanket advice — because let’s face it, what’s best for someone else’s situation might not be what’s best for yours — Marquit suggested talking to a financial advisor.
Often with student loans, you feel you have to pay them off completely before you can start focusing on your life goals. Instead, you can take a close look at all your life goals and determine your priorities. It might make more sense to switch gears and focus on a goal other than paying off your student loans.
One of the first callers asked about which she should prioritize: student loans or retirement. While Marquit couldn’t answer one way or the other, she talked about how it ultimately comes down to comfort levels.
For example, if your student loan debt makes you uncomfortable — or at least more uncomfortable than going full steam ahead on saving for other things — then make a plan to pay that off. If you’re worried more about setting yourself up for retirement, then put your money into that.
That advice extends to other things as well, especially if you can manage your current student loan payments. If you have a lot of credit card debt that keeps you up at night, make it your goal to pay that off by paying extra when you can. If you want to buy a house someday and you’re not worried about your student loan payments, start regularly putting money aside for that. If you are hoping to have kids soon, start putting aside money to prepare for that.
Regardless of what your priorities are, it’s best to make a long-term plan, which is where a one-time meeting with a financial advisor would be really helpful. Just make sure you stick to the plan you work out.
One caller, a college professor, supported the idea that you need a long-term plan. He tells his students that “every decision you’re going to make from here on out in a way is going to reduce the number of choices you have.”
He emphasizes the need to think about where you want to be 10 years from now and make a plan, “not just from a career standpoint but from a life standpoint.” He sees new grads go full-force into their careers, “chasing that dream career,” and he worries that search will prevent them from obtaining their life goals as well.
It’s a common scenario: Students go to college to start a journey to their career of choice. Their entire college experience honed their focus on getting that job. Then, after college, they stay focused on that goal, often pushing aside other goals. The truth is that some people never achieve those career goals — and that’s okay. A good enough job, instead of the dream job, could be enough to allow you to achieve your life goals and live a happy and satisfying life.
The important thing is that you find a balance that works for you and your life goals — and you make a plan that accommodates those goals. This is where the financial planner Marquit recommended comes in.
If your student loan payments are too high, preventing you from saving toward life goals you want to prioritize, Marquit suggests looking into the various income-driven repayment plans. Under one of those plans, your payment will never be higher than 10 percent of your discretionary income. For some people, that means their student loan payments are reduced to zero dollars.
Whatever your goals are, there are options available to you. Stay focused, make a plan, and get some help if you need it. You’ll be on track to the future you want in no time.
Options are available to help
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