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The first few years after college can be a challenge for anyone—especially when it comes to financial independence. Between finding a job and a place to live, paying down student loans, and maybe even starting a family, the financial decisions you make today can impact the rest of your life.

But don’t decide to move in with your parents just yet. By establishing smart financial habits in your 20s and 30s, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle both today and in the future.

1. Finding a Job

The first step toward financial independence for anyone is finding a source of income. Your salary will determine what you can afford in all other aspects of your life, including where you can live and what kind of lifestyle you can support.

  • Be a creative job seeker, and don’t limit yourself to traditional job-search methods. Expand your network, be active on LinkedIn and professional in your use of other social media, and attend industry events.
  • Recognize that you may not get your dream job right out of college. You may have to pay your dues with one or more entry-level positions before getting to the position you’ve always imagined for yourself. And that’s OK – as long as you’re building a resume that supports your chosen career path, you’re on the right track.
  • It’s important to know your worth and position yourself as a competitive job seeker in your industry. What are your peers making? What’s the average salary in your industry and region? Do your research to educate yourself so that you can intelligently campaign for fair compensation when it comes time to negotiate your salary.

Answers to career-related questions impact your financial future and your budget. Make sure your financial plans evolve to include planning for career development – because your salary and livelihood is a major driver of your financial well-being. For example:

  • As you gain experience, you’ll define your career goals to become more specific and learn about new career opportunities. Will you need certification, additional training, or education?
  • Will finding your next position require relocating to a different job market, or can you stay where you are and move up?

2. Making a Budget

Once you have a steady source of income, you can create a budget to make sure you don’t overspend. Consider using a free budget worksheet on sites such as Quicken or Mint to make the process quick and easy on your journey to financial independence.

  • Calculate how much you spend on set monthly expenses, including rent, car payments, insurance, student loan payments, and utilities.
  • Look through your recent bank statements to estimate how much you spend on other expenses such as groceries, transportation, clothing, dining out, etc.
  • Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly net income to determine your monthly spendable income. This is how much money you have to spend on extras each month. Don’t go over this number unless you want to start dealing with the cycle of debt.
  • Are you spending more than you make? Then it’s time to rethink your expenses. Where can you cut back? Should you take on a roommate? A second job? Be realistic about your finances and do what you can to avoid relying on credit cards to pay your bills.

With time, the definition of your household may change. You may find you have added income, but you could also have additional expenses and other considerations. Every time you experience a significant change in your household, your job, your location, and your living situation is a time to re-evaluate your budget and financial goals.

3. Choosing Where to Live

Housing costs are generally among the most costly monthly expenses. Each of the decisions below will significantly impact your bottom line.

  • Are you willing to relocate for work? While some people are set on living in one particular city, others are more open-minded when it comes to their job search. And, as you work longer and decide what you want to do, the best opportunities may be elsewhere. You’ll need to decide whether to open up your search to other cities to increase your options both in terms of pay and position.
  • How much does it cost to live in the city of your choice — and can you afford it? Some cities are notoriously expensive for renters, and it may be difficult to pay the high costs of rent on an entry-level salary. Do a little research and use comparison calculators to weigh the benefits and costs of living in various places.
  • Will you live alone or with roommates? Obviously, flying solo can come at a high price, but living with roommates has its own set of challenges.
  • Do you want to rent or buy? Buying can be a wise investment, but not all young adults are qualified to purchase a home. If it’s something you’d like to do in the near future, start by building your credit and familiarizing yourself with the real estate landscape in your area.
  • As you live on your own (or with roommates or a significant other), you’ll learn more about what sort of environment leads to a better quality of life for you. As life events unfold, you may find that a significant other’s job prospects and career opportunities may begin to factor into your location of residence. Other life changes (divorce, changes to a family member’s health, etc.) can also impact who lives with you and where you decide to live – and this will impact your bottom line.

4. Managing Student Loan Debt

The average student graduates with more than $29,000 in student loan debt. While you may be able to defer your payments while in school or residency, eventually you will have to start tackling those payments. After housing, this is often one of a graduate’s most significant monthly expenses.

  • Your post-graduate student loan bill shouldn’t be a surprise. Know how much you’ll owe – and have an idea of how you’ll pay for it – before you even start college.
  • Learn more about the federal loan repayment plans for which you are eligible and what your private loan payments and interest rates are at this time. Check your private loan statements or your lender’s website for this information.
  • Explore student loan refinancing. For most people, student loan repayment stays around for a while – but it doesn’t have to keep the same form. Once you’ve been out working and living in the “real world” for a while, your situation may change, and refinancing your student loans can help you take advantage of some positive changes to your situation. If you’re making the smart financial decisions we at U-fi know you can, your credit worthiness, credit score, and income have all been taking an upward turn. Consider whether refinancing your federal and private student loans can make your interest rate and monthly payments lower. With U‑fi, there are no application or origination fees and you could end up saving yourself thousands of dollars over the life of your loan – or ridding yourself of student loan debt sooner than expected.

5. Planning for the Future

While at times it may be difficult to imagine life beyond your next paycheck, it’s critical to think about your future financial independence.

  • Family planning – Do you have plans to get married, start or expand your family? It’s a good idea to start saving for those milestones early on. If you haven’t found the right person, but you know it’s a priority for you to buy a home, find a partner, or start a family, there’s no reason to wait to prepare financially. Why not make it easier on yourself later by planning now for the future you know you want?
  • Retirement savings – Speaking of planning now for the future you want: for millennials, the age of 65 may seem like it’s a long way off but it’s getting closer every day. Starting as soon as you have the option to save toward your retirement has a huge positive impact on your ability to save enough for retirement. But what do you do each time you get a raise or bonus? Do you increase your contribution toward retirement and diversify the types of accounts you invest in – or do you find new ways to spend the additional money? You can guess what we recommend.
  • Insurance – You’ve enjoyed the benefits of your parents’ insurance policy for most of your life, but being an adult means buying your own health, car, and home or renters insurance. When you first start out, you won’t own as much of value to insure, but as you continue to work, you’ll acquire a nicer car, a bigger home, better furnishings, and simply more stuff. Plus, the larger income you’re making will be harder to replace should something happen that prevents you working to pay your bills. Insurance is something that you’ll need to continue to evaluate as your assets, income, and dependents change.

Complete financial independence after college may seem intimidating at first, but it’s also exciting. Embrace the challenges, but reach out for help when you need it. As you may have noticed, financial literacy is an ever-changing learning process because life is full of constant change. It’s always good to reevaluate your goals, your situation, and your budget on a regular basis to make sure you’re on the right track.

One thing you can count on? U-fi is always here with resources to help you be a smart financial consumer. Explore smart student loan refinance options with U-fi and get started today.

If you’re reading this, you probably have at least one credit card already. Credit cards can be a helpful tool when used appropriately, including helping you establish credit and build your credit score. However, you can also damage your credit score if you develop bad habits with your credit cards. Here are some tips to help you avoid going down the wrong path so you can better manage your finances. You can also check out our Credit Card Tips sheet for additional information.

Looking for a New Credit Card?

If you’re in the market for a credit card, there are some important factors to keep in mind. First, do you already have a credit card? If so, why do you need an additional card? Typically, one is all you really need. If you open several new accounts within a short period of time, your credit score could be damaged. You could be perceived as a higher credit risk because you increased your capacity to take on more debt. This might ultimately be hard to repay.

If you’re looking for your first credit card, be sure to compare different offers and find the card that will work best for you. Here are some things to look for in a credit card:

  • Find a card with the lowest interest rate
  • Avoid outrageous fees (make sure you read all the fine print to understand what fees can be charged)
  • Be cautious of low introductory interest rates that can increase greatly after their initial low interest period

Managing Your Existing Credit Cards

Once you have a credit card, it’s best to have a solid game plan in advance. Sticking to your strategy ensures you won’t get in trouble financially and find yourself with an impossibly high balance.

Credit Card Goals

Here are four goals that will help you stay in control of your credit cards:

  1. Try to pay your balance in full each month. Think of your credit card as an extension of your bank account. That way, you won’t be tempted to charge more than you can afford. Just remember not to charge more than you could pay if you had used your debit card.
  2. If you can’t pay your balance in full, try not to carry much of a balance from month to month. Make a goal to pay more than the minimum monthly payment due. This will help you pay down your balance as quickly as possible. Keep in mind the balance you are carrying is also charged interest, which can make that original purchase more expensive.
  3. Don’t be late with any of your payments. Make sure you know your monthly payment due date. Even if you plan to pay the balance in full, it’s important to make that payment on time. You may want to set a reminder for yourself so you won’t miss that date. If you’re late by even one day, your credit card company may charge a higher interest rate and late fees. Additionally, being late on a payment may lower your credit score.
  4. Avoid impulse purchases and cash advances. Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you’re obligated to use it. Although it may be tempting to buy something expensive on credit, it’s better to take your time and save for that purchase. Remember that using your credit card to buy something expensive this month means paying for it over several months. And, you’ll end up paying a lot more than that original purchase price with the added interest charges. Finally, don’t use your credit card for cash advances at the ATM. You could be charged a fee, and may also pay a higher rate of interest on that transaction.

Use Credit Responsibly

Remember, credit cards can be a helpful financial tool when used responsibly. Do you currently have a balance with a high interest rate? Are you looking for a smart way to pay off that debt? A personal loan is a solution worth exploring to pay off your high rate credit card balances. You can find more information about personal loan solutions, as well as additional tools and resources at U-fi.com.

Does your January credit card statement have you feeling blue? Find out how personal loans could provide credit relief.

It Happens to the Best of Us

The holidays have come and gone. You may be feeling a bit relieved that all the seasonal hustle and bustle is over. Sure, it may be a bit cold outside. Sure, work is back in full swing. But, things are looking good with your New Year’s resolutions. You’re feeling optimistic and energized.

Then, you receive your January credit card bill. Whoa, the new balance is much higher than you expected. As you go down the list of purchases on your statement you ask yourself, “Did I really spend that much?” You also notice the available credit on your credit card is pretty low. There are some big purchases coming up in your future. You were planning on using your credit card to pay for them. Now, you no longer have enough available credit to pay for everything as planned.

With average credit card APRs over 16%, and many exceeding 20%, you know if you don’t pay your balance in full you’ll be hit with a hefty finance charge, which will be added to your outstanding credit card balance. And even worse, if you’re late making the minimum payment that’s due, you could be hit with a penalty APR, which can be as high as 29.99%.

Personal Loans Could Provide Credit Relief

This is where personal loans could provide credit relief. Unlike a credit card, which is a revolving line of credit, a personal loan is an unsecured loan that doesn’t require any collateral, such as a car or house. Personal loans come with a specific repayment period, usually between 1 and 7 years. Fixed interest rates are more common than variable interest rates, and some lenders will offer you a choice.

The main reason people take out personal loans is to pay off existing debt, such as high interest rate credit cards or loans. Other common reasons include making major purchases, for home improvement projects, for special occasions like weddings, to take a vacation, and to pay off medical bills.

Personal loans can range from as little as $1,000 to as high as $100,000. APRs vary widely among lenders and are based on the borrower’s (or co-signer’s) credit history, annual income, repayment term selected, and type of interest rate chosen. Some personal loans even come with money saving automatic payment discounts and loyalty discounts.

Tip: Some lenders charge upfront fees, which add to the total cost of the loan, so be sure to take that into account before choosing a lender.

A really nice feature for personal loans is how quick and easy the process can be. If you submit a completed loan application, you can receive a decision in a matter of minutes, and if approved, receive funds in your bank account as soon as the next business day, provided your application has no typos or errors.

Now that the holidays are over, you may be suffering from the post-holiday credit card blues. If so, check out a personal loan for credit relief from U-fi’s partner. It just may be what the doctor ordered.

If you have student loan debt, you have most likely heard the terms “student loan consolidation” and “student loan refinancing”. Although they sound similar and are often used interchangeably, they are actually two different programs. Therefore, understanding these programs and their key differences can help you make better student loan repayment decisions.

Student Loan Consolidation

Student loan consolidation lets you combine one or more eligible federal student loans into one new Direct Consolidation Loan. As a result, the U.S. Department of Education becomes the new lender. As the administrator of the program, they use companies such as Nelnet to originate and service the loans.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is offered by private (non-federal) lenders to allow student loan borrowers to refinance one or more federal and/or private student loans into a new private student loan. Consequently, the lender of the new private student loan will be a bank, credit union, or other financial institution. Either the lender themselves or entities like Firstmark Services, a division of Nelnet, handles origination and servicing.

Which is Better?

Both programs offer many benefits. These benefits include simplifying your monthly student loan payments, locking in a fixed interest rate, and lowering your monthly payments. However, there may be some drawbacks as well. For example, if you extend your repayment term, you could increase the total cost of your loans. Therefore, you may forfeit current and potential future federal student loan benefits. Also, any incentives attached to your current loans, such as interest rate reductions for automatic payments, are lost.

Comparing Options

The table below provides a side-by-side comparison of several important features of student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing.

Student Loan ConsolidationStudent Loan Refinancing*
LenderU.S. Department of EducationBanks, Credit Unions, and Financial Institutions
Credit Check RequiredNoYes
Upfront FeesNoneMost lenders do not charge any upfront fees
Interest Rate TypeFixedFixed and variable rate options are offered by most lenders
Interest RateWeighted average interest rate of the loans being consolidated, rounded up to nearest one-eighth of 1%Varies. Factors may include the borrower’s and/or cosigner’s credit history; repayment term; interest rate type; highest level of education; and current market conditions
Repayment PlansStandard, Graduated, Extended, and various Income-Driven Repayment plansStandard Repayment
Repayment Term10 to 30 years depending on the amount being consolidated5 to 20 years
Allowable LoansMost federal student loans are eligible. Private loans are not eligibleFederal and private student loans are allowed by most lenders
Interest Rate ReductionRate reduction for automatic paymentsRate reduction for automatic payments. Some lenders offer an additional rate reduction to existing customers with a qualifying account
Ability to consolidate or refinance multiple timesGenerally no, unless additional federal loans are includedYes
Loss of Federal BenefitsSome benefits may be lostYes, including potentially qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness on federal loans
When can you consolidate or refinanceAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollmentAfter graduation, leaving school, or dropping below half-time enrollment. Some lenders allow refinancing while in school

* Features represent those of the largest and/or most common private student loan refinancing programs. A specific lender’s features may differ, so be sure to read the program details carefully.

Choose the Right Option for You

While there are similarities between student loan consolidation and student loan refinancing, they are different programs with unique features. Firstly, if you are interested in consolidating or refinancing your current student loans,determine what you want to accomplish. Your goal may be to lower your monthly payments, lock in a low fixed interest rate, and/or lower your overall cost of repaying your loans. Next, compare the federal government’s Direct Consolidation Loan program to U-fi and other private lender programs once your goal has been set. Then, decide if consolidation or refinancing is right for you based on your financial goals and circumstances.

Want to reduce your monthly payments? Learn how to make it happen with U-fi.

Winter break is often a favorite time of year for college students. It’s a chance to go home, visit family and friends, enjoy home-cooked meals, and maybe do a little holiday shopping. Unfortunately, working off that extra helping of pumpkin pie may be easier than off your holiday spending.

5 Holiday Spending Tips

As you prepare to enjoy the holidays, these tips can help you avoid spending traps. Here’s how you can ring in the New Year without a mountain of debt and  holiday spending regret.

  1. Don’t use student loans to pay for a holiday trip or gifts.

    Using a student loan to finance a trip over the holiday break or a shopping spree might be tempting. But remember, your student loan is intended for educational expenses. Plus, you really don’t want to take on student loan debt for a short term benefit that you’ll be paying back for 10-plus years with interest.

  2. Avoid paying for everything with a credit card.

    Much like using a student loan, you’re better off to simply pay with cash and avoid using a credit card for holiday expenses. Credit cards will typically have high interest rates, especially if you carry a balance. If you can’t pay cash for your holiday purchases, it’s probably not worth the cost.

  3. Don’t feel obligated to buy gifts for all your friends and family.

    If you’re a student, your friends and family understand that you’re on a tight budget and may not have the resources to buy gifts for everyone. Simply spending some time with friends and family will likely be more meaningful than any gift you could purchase at the mall. Find ways to do small but meaningful things that will be appreciated.

  4. Don’t forget to set a budget or spending limit.

    It’s important to know in advance what you can reasonably afford to spend. It’s a good idea to set a budget for yourself and cap your spending at a certain dollar amount. That will help keep you on track and also let you plan better for the people on your gift list, and possibly help you cut back on the number of people on your list. Some families draw names for gifts or find other creative ways to help family members keep their expenses down and enjoy their time together.

  5. Avoid paying for gift wrapping or expensive gift bags and cards.

    It’s convenient to drop your gifts off and have someone else wrap them. However, there’s a cost for convenience and it simply might not be worth paying for. Buying wrapping paper after the holidays is a great way to save money and plan ahead for the next year. Plus, if you plan and don’t make all your gift purchases at once, you won’t be bogged down wrapping a lot of gifts at the last minute. Often, a card and a gift bag may actually cost more than the gift you’re giving.

With a little discipline and planning, you can set yourself up for a fun-filled holiday season without incurring the stress of spending too much or putting yourself into debt. Remember to enjoy the holidays and the time spent with friends and family. Many times, the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost anything at all.

You’re in college and on your own, but you may still experience the occasional financial pitfall. Below are money mistakes many students make, and some tips on how to avoid them.

Financial Pitfall #1: Spending all your living expense money early in the semester.

You’ve probably set aside spending money for personal expenses if you live off campus. Or, you may have financial aid funds to use for room, board, or other educational expenses. That money needs to last through the entire semester, but many students spend it within the first few months. How can you avoid spending your money too early? Use these financial management tips and this budget worksheet to help develop a monthly spending plan.

Financial Pitfall #2: Not taking advantage of part-time employment opportunities.

Most schools offer part-time employment options for students through Federal Work-Study, and by posting on- and off-campus jobs. You might worry that a job will conflict with academic work, but studies show that students who work between 15 and 20 hours while in school are generally more confident and successful. Having a job helps bring in money regularly throughout the semester and can help build your resume. Your college financial aid office awards Federal Work-Study and generally posts related job opportunities. Work-Study is based on financial need and requires a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) . Other part-time jobs may be posted by the Career Office, Student Affairs, or other places on campus. Check your school website for more information.

Financial Pitfall #3: Accumulating credit card debt.

You’ve probably already received credit card offers in the mail. You may also notice giveaways and travel rewards that make the offers sound appealing. Be careful – as a new credit card holder, your interest rates will be high, and credit card offers tend to have many fees attached. Be sure to read the fine print and note that the initial low interest rate offered may expire in just a few months. You can quickly accumulate credit card balances that can swell out of control, especially if you’re only making minimum payments. Here’s an overview of credit card pros and cons, along with additional information about other matters to consider.

Financial Pitfall #4: Taking out student loans without understanding them.

Student loans are so common that students often see them as just another type of financial aid. There is an important difference; student loans must be paid back. While student loans can be a useful way to pay for your education, keep your borrowing to a minimum. Know what your monthly loan payment will be when you get out of school. Understand what you can realistically afford to borrow. It is also important to know the types of loans, the terms of those loans, and the options available. To get a general idea of what your monthly loan payment may be when you finish school, Federal Student Aid provides an easy-to-use repayment calculator.

The earlier you can learn the basics about managing your finances, the better off you’ll be in the long run. These simple steps should help you build the foundation you need for a successful financial future.

With the numerous private student loan repayment options available, selecting the right one can seem a bit overwhelming. However, with a little bit of knowledge, you can make a more educated decision. In Part I of this article, we covered repayment plan options. Now, we’ll review interest rate types and repayment terms to find the best student loan option for you.

Interest Rate Type

Borrowers taking out private student loans or refinancing their current student loans have a few interest rate options.

  • Variable: Variable rate loans have an interest rate that can fluctuate over time as the rate index, such as the Prime Rate or LIBOR, goes up or down. Variable rate loans typically come with lower starting interest rates than comparable fixed rate loans. However, they come with greater risk, since rates may rise in the future. Most variable rate loans have a cap that places a limit on how high the rate can rise.
  • Fixed: With a fixed rate loan, once the rate is set, it does not change for the entire repayment period. Fixed rate loans normally have higher starting rates than variable rate loans. This is because the lender takes on the risk of interest rates fluctuating over time.
  • Hybrid: Another less popular option is a hybrid rate loan. With a hybrid rate loan, the interest rate is usually fixed for a period of time. It then switches to a variable rate for the remainder of the loan period.

Tip: If you intend to pay off your loans in a short period of time, consider a variable rate loan. If you plan to take longer to pay off your loans or prefer stable, predictable payments, a fixed-rate loan may be the best choice. When deciding which type of rate to choose, use the lender’s loan repayment calculator to estimate the savings between a variable rate and a fixed rate loan. Also decide whether the estimated savings is worth the additional risk of a variable rate loan.

Repayment Term

Another important item that determines the interest rate you will be charged is the repayment term you select. Most lenders offer private student loans and refinance loans with repayment terms between 5 and 15 years. Some lenders offer repayment terms as long as 20 years.

When determining interest rates on private student loans, remember that the shorter the repayment term, the lower the interest rate. This is because the lender takes on additional risk by allowing you to repay your loan over a longer term.

Tip: Your monthly payment amount is determined by several factors. These include the principal balance of the loan when you start making payments, the interest rate, and the repayment term. Shorter repayment terms come with lower interest rates, but higher monthly payments. Choose a repayment term with a monthly payment you can afford, especially when you are first starting out.

Choosing Your Best Option

Choosing the repayment option that best fits your current and future needs can be a bit tricky. But, with a little planning and thought, you can zero in on the loan terms that are best for you. If you find your financial situation changes down the road, and your current repayment terms no longer meet your needs, you may be able to work with your lender to modify your repayment terms. If that isn’t an option, then you can look at refinancing your student loans and replace them with a new loan that is a better fit.

Tip: Most private student loans do not have any pre-payment penalties or fees. If down the road you can afford to pay more than the minimum each month, you can pay down your loan faster without being charged any pre-payment fees. This reduces your overall cost of borrowing in the end.

Understanding the nuances of private student loans can make a big difference when deciding which one is right for you. Making the right choices when taking out student loans can have a strong impact on positioning yourself for a bright financial future.

If you borrowed student loans to help pay for college, you may not be required to make any payments until after you graduate or drop below half-time enrollment. That sounds like a pretty good deal; no payments and no worries while you focus on your studies. But remember, if you take out a federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, a federal Direct PLUS Loan, or a private loan, interest accumulates during those months (or years) you’re in school and not making any payments. Here are some ways you can save on your student loans while you’re still in school.

Accruing Interest

Interest that accrues on your student loan will typically be capitalized when you begin repayment. That means any accrued interest during those months you are not making payments is added to the original principal amount of your loan. For instance, if you borrowed a $15,000 student loan with an interest rate of 6% as a freshman and made no payments for the four years you were in school, plus your grace period, 51 months would have passed. In this scenario, when you begin your repayment period, you would actually have a balance of $18,825 when you start repaying your loan 51 months later. That’s because $3,825 in interest (also known as capitalized interest) would have accrued during those 51 months and was added to your original loan amount.

In-School Payments Can Help

Now, let’s say you have a part-time job while you’re in school, working 15-20 hours a week to help with some of your expenses. If you could simply pay around $75 a month toward that $15,000 student loan, you could actually pay all the accruing interest (remember, that’s $3,825 total that would have been added to your loan when your first scheduled monthly payment is due). If you’re able to pay $75 towards your student loan’s accruing interest, the total cost you could ultimately save over the life of a 10-year repayment period would be nearly $1,300.

Example

Paying Interest While In School (No Capitalized Interest)Fully Deferred Payments While In School – No Payments (Capitalized Interest)
Original Loan Amount$15,000$15,000
Interest Accrued During In School and Grace Period (51 months)$3,825$3,825
Interest Paid During In-School and Grace Period$3,825$0
Loan Amount When Entering Repayment$15,000$18,825
Number of Months of Repayment120120
Monthly Payment$166.53$209
Total Interest Paid on Loan (including any payments during in school and grace period)$8,808.60$10,080
Total Paid on Student Loan (original loan amount plus interest)$23,808.60$25,080

As you can see from this example, making interest payments while you’re in school and during your grace period can help you save on your student loans down the road. Plus, making payments during your in-school and grace period also gets you in the habit of making payments on your student loan and better prepares you for successful repayment. Remember, this is just an example of borrowing one loan during your freshman year of college. Imagine what the capitalized interest could look like if you borrow each year of college, or what your savings would be by making continued interest payments while you’re in school. You can learn more ways to save on your student loans and get additional helpful information by visiting our student loan resources.

Taking out private student loans or refinancing current student loans is a popular option for students. When considering loans or loan refinance, many borrowers initially focus on either the interest rate of the loan or how much their monthly payments will be. This makes sense because they determine how much a borrower pays back over the life of a loan. However, the interest rate and expected monthly payments are determined by several factors. These factors include credit history, current financial situation, future earnings potential, lender costs and desired profit margin, and selected loan repayment options.

Let’s take a look at the repayment options available. Knowing your options can help you when deciding to take out a student loan or to refinance your existing loans.

Repayment Plans

When it comes to private student loans and student loan refinancing, lenders may offer more than one repayment plan. Below are the most common plans you will encounter:

Standard

Standard repayment is far and away the most common repayment plan for private student loans. In Standard repayment, your monthly payments are a set amount. That means you pay off your loan in equal installments over the remaining term of the loan.

Interest Only

With an Interest Only repayment plan, you begin making interest-only payments over a short period of time. Later, you revert to Standard repayment. With interest-only plans, you pay more in interest than with a Standard repayment plan.  Also, your monthly payments are higher than a Standard repayment plan when your loan reverts to full principal and interest payments.

Partial

With a Partial repayment plan, your initial payment amount is set for a period of time. It then reverts to Standard repayment for the remainder of the loan term. The total cost of a Partial repayment plan will also be higher than with a Standard repayment plan.

Deferred

Deferred repayment is when you start making payments at a specified time in the future. Most lenders let you defer payments while you are in school and for six months after you leave school. Deferred repayment is the most costly, since interest accrues while you are deferring your payments. That interest is then added to the principal balance of your loan before you enter your repayment period.

Graduated

While not very common for private student loans, Graduated repayment starts with lower monthly payments that increase over time. With Graduated repayment, you pay more for the loan than with Standard repayment. This is because interest accrues on a higher principal balance over a longer term.

Tip: When lenders offer a choice of repayment plans, they generally charge lower interest rates for Standard and Interest Only repayment. They charge a higher interest rate for Deferred repayment to compensate for the added risk. Choosing to make full principal and interest payments under a Standard repayment plan is the least costly repayment plan available. If you cannot afford to make full principal and interest payments, consider paying at least some amount each month. Whether you make interest-only payments or partial payments, it reduces your overall cost of borrowing.

By exploring your repayment plan options or considering loan refinance, you can find the best option for your financial situation. Whether you choose  In Part II of Choosing Your Private Student Loan Repayment Options, we’ll discuss interest rates and repayment terms. These also affect your total amount paid.

When it comes to student loans, you’ve likely heard the terms consolidation or refinance. You may have thought they mean the same thing. While they’re similar, they are actually two different options for combining your student loans.

Student Loan Consolidation

Direct Loan consolidation is a program offered by the Federal government. This program allows you to combine all of your federal student loans into a single loan. The interest rate for your consolidation loan is a weighted average of all the loans you are consolidating. It is not based on credit, like student loan refinancing. You can also switch your variable interest rate loans to fixed interest rates to avoid paying more interest if variable rates rise. Typically, student loan consolidation doesn’t save you money, but it simplifies your payments into a single monthly payment. You also get to keep your federal student loan benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is a program offered by private lenders. This program combines your federal and private student loans into a new loan with a new term and interest rate. The interest rate of the loan is based on creditworthiness, unlike student loan consolidation. With student loan refinancing, you can pick a term that fits your financial needs and may save you money. However, extending the term of any loan to lower monthly payments means paying more interest in the end. Many lenders offer borrower benefits with student loan refinancing, such as interest rate reductions for auto-debit payments and cosigner release. Keep in mind, if you refinance federal student loans, you no longer have the federal benefits associated with those loans. Find out if student loan refinancing is for you by asking yourself these 6 questions.

Student loan consolidation or refinance can simplify your student loans into one monthly payment. Just remember there are additional unique benefits to both options. Weigh the benefits of each program to decide the right option for your situation. As with any loan, make sure you fully understand all the terms and conditions.