After graduation, many students do not realize the total amount of student loan payments they will be responsible for every month. Several smaller loan payments can add up to a substantial amount of money each month. While the interest rates for student loans are great, and the education received as a result of the loans is worth the inconvenience of loan payments, many students will still need to research ways to make their student loan payments more manageable.
Fortunately, there are several worthwhile options for borrowers who find that they need some help in adjusting their student loan payments to fit their income. One such option is student loan consolidation, which is simply combining all of your student loans into one lender, and therefore making one monthly payment.
Should You Consolidate?
If you find that you are having trouble meeting all of your payment obligations every month, you may want to consider consolidating all of your student loans into one monthly payment. The payment is usually smaller under consolidation, which is beneficial if you want to reduce the percentage of your income that is used to pay your student loans. Another reason to consolidate, especially if you have an adjustable interest rate loan, is that you can often lock in an interest rate under consolidation. You will want to be very careful, however, not to mix private and federal student loans together when you decide to consolidate; because when you do so, you will lose all of the tax benefits available to you with your federal loans (such as the tax deduction for interest paid).
Another factor to consider with student loan consolidation is that by reducing your payments and lengthening the term of your loan repayment, you will be adding to the total amount of money you will be repaying; so be sure to pay any extra amount on your payment that you can, if possible.
Beginning the Consolidation Process
Once you have decided to begin the consolidation process, the most logical option is to contact one of your current lenders. Most of the lenders for federal student loans will be happy to buy out the loans from your other lenders and consolidate them for you. Be sure that you ask about the difference between private and federal student loans; because many lenders treat them very differently during consolidation. You may also need to specify that you are interested in locking in the lowest interest rate possible for the life of the loan. If you are a married borrower and your spouse also has student loans, the lender may suggest that the two of you consolidate all of your loans together, for one lower monthly payment. Be extremely wary of this option: by combining all of your loans into one, you are taking joint responsibility for the debt. This means if one of you dies, the other spouse continues to be responsible for the loan; it also means that, in cases of divorce, you must go through the process of attempting to divide the debt.
There are many companies that will help walk you through the process of student loan consolidation; however, make sure that you are well-informed of the actual process before you sign on with any one lender. Student loan debt does not have to severely affect your finances, and consolidation is a great method of managing this type of debt. As long as you have researched all of the options of consolidation, and you have also well-researched your lender options, you can go through the process of student loan consolidation assured that you are making a very wise financial decision.