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All those midnight study sessions, sacrifices made and classes that you were sure would be responsible for your undoing are all finally behind you now.  Diploma in hand, job offer on your mind and the future at your doorstep, you’re ready to begin this new chapter in your life.  Only thing keeping you awake at night are those pesky student loans.  Your priority is to get them paid off so that you can begin saving for a home and hopefully, what will be the money you’ll use to put your own children through college someday.  A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder has a few ideas for making your student loans a thing of the past.  “First”, he recommends, “it’s important you keep detailed records – that means cancelled checks, the Excel spreadsheet you created to keep you on track, people you’ve spoken to over the years and any other paperwork”.

After you’ve got your mind and paperwork organized, it’s important to really spend some time understanding the details of your loan.  For instance, is it a federal loan or a personal loan?  Also, Barnes, who is also an attorney, says to keep your eyes open for new laws.  Currently, Congress is considering an option that would allow certain loans to be eligible for bankruptcy.  That’s a bit into the future; however, it’s important to stay current.

If you’re struggling to maintain the monthly payments, the founder suggests you contact your lender.  There are payment options available, one of which is a graduated payment plan that allows your payments to stay in proportion to your income.  It’s always good to know you have options, but if you’re not taking advantage of them, you may be causing yourself a lot of sleepless nights.  Can’t cover any payments right now?  You may qualify for deferment.  Check with your lender.

Not being able to make your payments because you’re not earning what you expected is one thing; not being able to make your payments because you’re living beyond your means – whether it’s a new boat, new car or an apartment that’s too pricey – is another thing, says Barnes.  “Those luxury items will soon feel like major burdens if you’ve not acted responsibly in your decision making process”.  Before you buy anything after college, commit to paying those loans off first.  You’ll enjoy your material possessions a lot more if you do.

Finally, if you keep hitting brick walls, no matter what you’re doing (and what you’re not doing), ask for help!  Your local bank might be able to help with a consolidation loan (again, depending on your current loan type) and there are many assistance agencies available to help you help yourself as you begin life as an adult.  The point is to not allow your debt to overwhelm you.  With persistence and a commitment to yourself and your lender, you can put those student loans, complete with a “Paid in Full” stamp, into your past.

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