There is so much information on the web about student loans. Some of this information is worth taking with a grain of salt – or ignoring altogether.
Here are eight student loan myths to look out for:
Myth #1: You don’t need to worry about your student loans while you’re in school
The biggest mistake you can make is to blindly take out student loans without considering your major or future career – or without finding ways to minimize your debt while in school.
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If you live like a professional while you’re in school, you could end up living like a student when you’re a professional. If you use student loans to support a high standard of living, you may not be able to afford your standard of living after you graduate. Be smart and think about your debt while you’re taking it on.
Myth #2: If you file for bankruptcy, your loans will be discharged
While it is possible to have your student loans discharged in bankruptcy, it is very difficult. To do this, you have to show that there is “undue hardship” and that the undue hardship is likely to continue through the remainder of the term of the loans (for example, if you become disabled and can no longer work).
The definition of “undue hardship” varies from court to court but, in general, it is very difficult to prove. This means that if you file for bankruptcy, in all likelihood your student debt will stay with you.
Myth #3: Student loan refinancing is always beneficial
Student loan refinancing is the hot new thing right now. While it may make sense for private loans, be careful with your Federal loans. When you refinance your Federal student loans, you convert them into private student loans. This means the income repayment plans and forgiveness options that are available for Federal loans disappears.
Additionally, your student loans will not be forgiven upon death (unless these terms are specifically in your private loan terms); you will need to get life insurance to cover your loans so you don’t pass them on if something happens to you.
Which brings us right to:
Myth #4: You don’t need to worry about life insurance
This may not even be on your radar, but the truth is that if you have private student loans, you need to have life insurance to cover your debt. Generally, if you die before you repay private student loans, they will not be forgiven upon your death (read one grieving parents’ story here).
Say your parents cosign your loans and you die before they’re repaid; your parents will have to start paying your loans when you die. If you have life insurance, this can help them cover the debt. This is a big distinction from Federal loans, which are forgiven upon your death.
Myth #5: Income repayment plans won’t affect your credit
If you have a lot of student loan debt and you don’t make a lot of money, you may find yourself on one of the income repayment plans. If this happens, make sure you are at least making payments that cover the interest on your student loans. If you don’t, your debt may actually increase over time.
The higher your debt, the higher your debt-to-income ratio. The higher this ratio gets, the harder it will be to take out a large loan like a mortgage.
Myth #6: If you have several student loans, you should consolidate them
You shouldn’t think of student loan consolidation as a tool to take several loans and combine them into one for the sole purpose of making monthly payments easier. Instead, you should think of consolidation as a tool to lower your interest rate – if it makes sense. If you think about consolidation in the former way, you may find yourself paying more than you otherwise would have.
The servicer will use the weighted average of your loans and round up. This could leave you paying more over time. You should also be careful with consolidating your student loans because you may lose some of the beneficial terms if you consolidate.
Related: Find out how much you could save by refinancing your student loans
Myth #7: Income repayment plans are your best options
Income repayment plans offer relief if you cannot afford to pay the standard monthly payment on the ten-year plan. This is helpful if you are in a pinch and cannot afford your payments. However, many people use it as a way to free up money to support their lifestyle and push their student loan responsibility into the future.
Income repayment plans should be used only if you need their help and only until you’re able to pay the standard amount.
Myth #8: You’ll never pay off your student loans
I hear my friends with student loans say that their debt is so big they’ll never pay it off. With no hope, they stop trying. They defer their loans, or make the smallest payments possible, while spending more in other areas of their life. This doesn’t have to be you though!
If you believe you can pay off your student loans, then you will find a way. Confidence, commitment, and motivation are all you need to get started. Don’t be fooled into thinking you cannot repay your debt. There is opportunity everywhere (read David’s story for proof).