Under a new federal loan repayment plan based on a model developed by the Project, students with federal loans are guaranteed that their monthly student loan payments won’t exceed a certain percentage of their income (15% of discretionary income, which is classified as everything over 150% of the federal poverty level). This legislation, signed into law a year ago, takes effect in July 2009 and applies to all federal student loans, past or present.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly hope that this is true. I won’t tell you the exact dollar amount I spend on my student loans every month, but it is around 22% of my total monthly take-home pay, which is not entirely insignificant. Using some hazy math (good heavens I am bad at math) I estimate that this would bring my payment down by 43%.
I haven’t consolidated my loans. I have two, a personal one through my bank and whatever the normal one is, Stafford? I chose not to consolidate when I graduated because the interest rates were so high at the time. I looked up the current interest rates here and it looks like mine is 4.21% right now. I think when I got it it was around 7 or 8, but I know people who have them at 2 or 3, so I was holding out. Since they’re not consolidated, this means I have two payments each month and they’re pretty hefty. (See above, re: 22% of take-home pay). In comparison, I spend less money per month on my half of rent. Not a whole lot less, but less.
The other reason I haven’t consolidated (or called to lower my rates) is because I want to pay it off. It seems counterintuitive to me to continue attempting to lower your rates so you end up paying a piddly $90 a month on a loan worth tens of thousands of dollars. You’ll be paying it off until you’re 97 years old. Ew.
What’s the balance here?
I did get a letter once saying one of my loans lowered my monthly payment by about 20%. Since I could afford it and I wanted to pay it off, I adjusted this online so it was back up to where it was before. I’m thinking now that I should have left it, continued to pay the same amount I was before, and specified that the extra be applied to the principal instead of the interest. I’m kind of kicking myself for that now. Was adjusting it back up a stupid thing to do?
I really wish I understood this kind of stuff better. Are any of my readers financial whizzes who want to recommend to me a course of action? Does the “22% of monthly take-home pay” sound totally outrageous to you? I have a 401k and health/life insurance, but I do eventually want to be able to buy a house and right now it seems really daunting. Am I insane for wanting to pay off my loans quickly?
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