University of South Carolina and UCLA researchers found that the more 25- to 31-year-olds owed in student loans, the greater their depressive symptoms. “We speculate that part of the reason [student] loans are so stressful is the fact that you cannot defer them; they follow you for the rest of your life until you pay them off,” says Katrina Walsemann, lead author of a report on the research.
Here are some steps for getting that debt under control:
1. Pay off high-interest-rate loans first.
This typically means focusing on private loans before government loans.
2. Check your repayment schedule.
Ten years is the standard period for federal loans, but you can extend the time line if the monthly payments are too much for you. (Of course, you’ll end up paying more interest if you stretch out repayment.)
3. Start paying immediately.
Start paying even before the six-month post-graduation grace period. Develop a routine and discipline for making payments.
4. Pay more than once a month if it’s allowed.
Check with your lender, but extra payments are generally permitted and will reduce your interest by reducing the principal more quickly.
5. Look into loan forgiveness.
Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, borrowers’ student-loan debt can be forgiven if they work in professions such as teaching, public-interest law or medicine, or the military. AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteers also can receive money to pay off student loans or have the debt partially canceled.
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