In 2016, the average student loan debt rose 6 percent to $37,172. About 44 million Americans have student debt, many of whom cannot afford their monthly payments.
You may already know that student loans accrue interest over time, so the sooner you pay off your debt, the less money you will pay in the long-run. However, if you do not have the income to make your payments, there are several options available to help you maintain financial stability. Let’s examine four strategies to help you stay current on your student loans and save money during repayment:
- Find out If You Qualify for Deferment
As TIME explains, students who have federal loans may be granted up to three years of deferment if they cannot find full-time employment. One primary advantage of deferment is that your subsidized loans will not accrue interest during the deferment period, though interest will continue to accrue on your Grad PLUS loans and federal Stafford loans.
- Find out If You Qualify for Forbearance
If you do not qualify for deferment, you may be eligible for forbearance if your monthly loan payments exceed 20 percent of your gross income each month. Unfortunately, interest will continue to accrue on all of your loans during forbearance.
- Find out If You Qualify for an Income-Based Repayment Plan
An income-based repayment plan (IBR), also called an income-driven repayment plan, will reduce your monthly loan payments if you meet the income qualifications. The most common IBR plans limit the student’s monthly payments to 10 percent of his or her disposable income.
To calculate your disposable income, find out the poverty line income – which is currently $17,000 – and multiply it by 150 percent. Divide the product by 12, and subtract that number from your monthly gross income. Multiply the difference by 10 percent, and you will have a good idea of what your monthly payments will be under the most popular IBR plan.
- Find out If You Qualify for Loan Forgiveness
If you work in a public service job, you may qualify for loan forgiveness after you have made 120 monthly payments on time. If you do not work in public service, you may qualify for forgiveness if you have made 240 on-time payments. Loan forgiveness wipes out your remaining loan balance no matter how much you owe.
Can I Discharge My Student Loans by Filing Bankruptcy?
Although it is very difficult to discharge student loans by filing bankruptcy, it may be possible if your loans “impose an undue hardship on you and your dependents.” A bankruptcy lawyer can evaluate your situation to determine if filing bankruptcy would be a smart decision.
If you would like to speak with a chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of Stuart M. Nachbar. Our law office holds an “AV Preeminent” rating from the Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service. Call 973-567-0954 today to schedule a consultation.