If you recently graduated or left school, you probably have a fair amount on your plate. From starting a new job to doing taxes, signing an apartment lease, and, now, preparing to pay back your student loans. In other words: adulting is serious business. Your loan servicer is here to help you get organized and start off the student loan part of your financial journey on the right foot. That’s why we put together a list of 10 things to do before you make your first student loan payment.
1. Know what you owe. The sooner you know your loan balance the sooner you can plan how to pay it off. Don’t know where to find your loan balance? Visit StudentAid.gov/login to check your federal student loans. If you have private loans — likely ones your parents might have cosigned for — you can check your credit report to find out who your lender is. Whatever you do: don’t put off getting this information. The worst thing you can do is pretend it doesn’t exist.
2. Make sure your servicer knows how to contact you. If you recently graduated and perhaps moved into a new place, your servicer may not have your new address, phone number or email address, meaning you could miss out on important information about your loans. What’s the best way to update your contact information with your servicer? That’s in number three!
3. Manage your loans online. Create your online account on your servicer’s website. This will allow you to update your contact information, view your loan balances, payment information, receive important updates about your account, and more. Your servicer may have a mobile app or mobile site so that you can manage your loans and make payments anytime, anywhere, from any device.
4. Sign up to receive email communications. You do your banking online, you order a ride through a mobile app, you tweet the pizza emoji for delivery…why would you have paper statements mailed to you? Sign up for email permissions when you create your online account.
5. Use Auto Pay and save money. You may qualify for an interest rate deduction when you sign up to have your monthly payments automatically deducted from your bank account. Plus, you never have to worry about missing a payment (and making on time payments will likely have a positive impact on your credit score!).
6. Pick the repayment plan that helps you meet your goals. When you start out, your student loans are automatically placed in a standard 10-year repayment plan. If you can manage your monthly payments with a standard plan, it’s wise to continue with it. Sticking with this plan means your loans will be paid off in 10 years. However, if you need a lower monthly payment starting off, federal student loans have a wide range of repayment plan options including ones based on your income.
7. Make it a priority to pay your loans on time. Student loans, just like any other type of credit, may help improve your credit score, particularly when you make your payments on time. However, missing a payment may have the opposite effect. Stay in control of your loans by reaching out to your loan servicer if you’re worried about being able to make your payments.
8. Consider paying a little extra each month. Want to be done with your student loans even sooner? When you pay extra on your loans each month, you’re lowering the principal balance of your loan at a faster rate which will help you to save money in interest over the lifetime of the loan.
9. Use forbearance only as a last resort. Postponing payments should be used only during times of significant financial difficulty. Unpaid interest will continue to accrue while you’re not making payments. If you’re steadily contributing to an emergency savings, that can help you avoid using forbearance should an unanticipated event arise.
10. Reach out for help at the first sign of financial difficulty. If you’re like many young adults just starting out in your career and paying bills, a lower student loan payment might help. Before you miss a payment, contact your loan servicer who can help you find available repayment options.
If you’re looking for even more resources to help you be successful in your student loan repayment, check out our Path to Success financial learning videos created in partnership with EverFi.
Ready to start paying back your student loans today or just want to know how much to anticipate paying each month? The repayment estimator from Federal Student Aid is a great tool to compare federal student loan payment plans. Our student loan repayment calculator is an easy way to estimate how much you can save by paying a little extra each month.
…And before you know it, you’ll be #PaidInFull!
Nikki Lavoie is a national spokeswoman for Navient, a student loan servicer helping 12 million customers successfully repay their student loans.