We asked the BuzzFeed Community what they wanted to know about managing money while paying off student loan debt — and then talked to some experts from Navy Federal to get answers.
1. "Many people say a good way to save is 20% of your income goes into saving (or something like that). What percentages should we be looking at, in terms of how much of our income should go to saving and how much should go to paying off student loans?" —austinm4ef181abe
"How much to save depends on many factors, such as age, income, credit card debt, auto loans, and current amount saved for emergencies. You may consider refinancing your student loans to potentially reduce monthly payments and interest rates. The best option is to meet with a trusted financial advisor to help you develop a personalized financial plan that meets your specific needs."
—Carrie Foran-Sepulveda, Manager of Education Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union
2. "Is it better to pay off individual loans one at a time or to consolidate them all and pay back that way?" —zacb4e23871c
"It depends on what is most important to you. Refinancing will simplify your payments and can help you manage what you owe more easily. However, if you have very low rates on your loans, refinancing might not improve your rate, in which case you need to determine if the simplicity is worth the extra cost. Whatever you decide, the top priority should be to make the required payments on your loans each month and pay extra to principal when you can."
3. "How much more should I be putting toward them from the minimum payment to make a dent? Am I just paying off interest by making the minimum payment?" —emilyannek2
"If you want to make progress on your student loan principal, make sure you are making full principal and interest payments. If your payment type is 'interest only' or 'proactive payment,' you won’t be reducing principal even if you are paying what is invoiced. Call your servicer if you’re not sure what type of payment you are making. If you have extra money that you can put toward the principal of your loan, not only will you be able to pay off sooner, you’ll reduce the total interest you pay over the life of the loan."
4. "I have both private and federal student loans. Is consolidation ever a good idea, and when is it?" —katiec4a5eaa24b
"While both can be consolidated, federal loans offer unique income-based repayments and forgiveness that typically aren’t offered through private lenders. Make sure you are aware of the options you are currently using or may want to use in the future. If you determine that you don’t want to use those federal options, then the next step would be to apply for a private refinance and see if you qualify for a better interest rate or terms that work for you!"
5. "Is it better to pay off student loans as soon as possible or use the money to buy a home?" —mandya4f137566b
"The decision to postpone buying a home until you have paid off your student loans depends on whether you can afford both. If you earn enough that you could qualify for a mortgage despite your student loan debt, it’s an option as long as you are comfortable taking on more debt. If you don’t qualify for a loan because of your student loan debt, you may need to wait until you reduced the amount you owe. Depending on the types of student loans you have, you may be able to reduce your student loan payments by signing up for an income-based repayment plan or refinancing at a lower interest rate. These are both strategies that may allow you to qualify for a mortgage loan.
"Two significant factors are the down payment and your debt-to-income ratio. Remember that your debt-to-income ratio determines what you can qualify for in terms of getting a loan. A refinance can reduce your monthly payments either by extending your term or reducing your interest rate."
6. "Do student loans affect our credit? If I have a lot of student loans, will I be able to buy a house?" —Anabel Mieres, Facebook
"Yes, student loan debt is reported to the credit bureaus and will therefore impact your credit score. If you have a positive payment history on your student loans, that will help to build your credit history, but if you have missed payments or paid late, it may harm your credit.
"Lenders consider the amount of your monthly income that is devoted to paying debts such as credit cards, student loans, and auto loans when deciding whether you qualify for a mortgage. It is absolutely possible to qualify for a mortgage with student loans as long as your income can cover both."
7. "How will student loans affect me getting married? Will it matter if we file together?" —tater443e1d52f
"To see if you qualify for a student loan interest reduction on your taxes once you are married, please refer to the IRS website or seek assistance from your accountant. The student loan interest deduction depends on income and other factors."
8. "What is the best way to handle finances with couples that have radically different financial situations? For example, one partner is debt free with good credit and some savings, but the other still has lots of student loan debt. How do you navigate major life steps like marriage and home ownership in this scenario?" — Snailtrail1
"Much like the home-buying process, it's important to start talking about the situation as soon as possible. Both people need to make sure they share the same financial goals and objectives, including the timing of major purchases. If home ownership is a priority, the couple should meet with a trusted lender to find out where they currently stand in terms of budgets and buying power and how factors like credit scores, debts, and savings will impact them in the short- and long-term."
—Randy Hopper, senior vice president of Mortgage Lending at Navy Federal
9. "My partner has paid off his student loan debt, but I will be entering repayment in six months. We'd like to get married, but I'm nervous getting married will merge our incomes and IBR won't be an option for me." —Lauren J. Sharkey, Facebook
"Please visit the Federal Student Aid website to understand what payment options are available to you now and if you were to get married. Once you evaluate those options, consider applying for a private refinance and see if you qualify for a better interest rate or terms that help repayment work for you!"
Struggling with student loans? Navy Federal Credit Union has your back. As a member, you have access to a range of savings, checking, and loan options, plus access to a financial counselor.
Some responses have been lightly edited for length, clarity, or spelling.
Information provided by Navy Federal Financial Group.
All images courtesy of Getty.