How to tackle your student loans [Infographic]

Illustration of a house with dollar signs

The class of 2015 carries the most substantial amount of student debt, according to an article published by the Wall Street Journal. This particular class has an average loan cost just above $35,000.

Student loans help cover costs for higher education and are paid back over a period of time. Paying back loans can feel overwhelming, but knowing how to manage them can help alleviate stress and keep your finances in order. Borrowers should follow these tips to cope with what might initially seem like an overwhelming amount of debt:

An infographic depicting ways to overcome student loan debt

Prioritize payments
When borrowers decide when to make payments, it is crucial they understand which payments should be a top priority. Private loans may have fluctuating rates, which can be more difficult to deal with financially. Individuals should focus on paying off these debts first, then move on to other payments.

Borrowers should be familiar with all the loans they have accrued throughout their education, noted The Institute for College Access & Success. Knowing whether certain loans offer payment forgiveness and how much is owed can help navigate through the repayment process.

Paying the right loans off right away will help a borrower ultimately save more money in the future.

Understand federal loan options
In addition to private loans, some individuals may have also taken out federal loans to assist with college payments.
With federal loans, borrowers can decide on a payment plan that meets their financial situation. Individuals who currently cannot afford to pay off large chunks of their debt should choose a plan that allows them to pay off the loan in small amounts for a longer period of time. However, they will ultimately pay more in interest.

A Graduated Repayment Plan allows borrowers to make smaller payments now, then adjust payments annually to increase, according to Federal Student Aid. This is especially beneficial for those who expect their income to grow as they continue through their professional life.

If an individual is capable of repaying loans immediately, the Standard Plan allows the borrower to make higher payments for a shorter amount of time, noted Federal Student Aid. The benefit of this option is it will accrue the least amount of interest because loans will be paid off at a faster rate.

Consider consolidation
When borrowers take out more than one loan, they should explore options to consolidate debt. This simplifies payments and decreases the risk of missing payments and letting loans get out of control.

While consolidating student loans is convenient and can even sometimes lower interest rates, in some instances it might not be the best option, noted U.S. News & World Report. Sometimes individuals can wind up paying more, especially if interest rates are falling and wind up lower than the rate they secured when they decided to combine student loans. Borrowers should speak with a financial advisor to determine whether consolidating is the best option.

Paying back loans
Student loans can seem overwhelming, but with proper budgeting and saving, borrowers can better manage student debt. Setting aside money or signing up for automatic payments can help the borrower stay on track and routinely make payments. Incorporating student loans into financial plans is crucial.

In addition, borrowers should also consider paying a little extra each month if they happen to acquire more money. Paying a loan off faster will ultimately save an individual more money down the road.

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