What to do if you can't pay back your student loans

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Having trouble making your monthly payments?

Student loan debt can be overwhelming, especially if your financial circumstances make it difficult to keep up with payments. Whether you've recently graduated or have been struggling with repayment for a while, there are steps you can take to manage the situation and avoid default. Here's what to do if you find you can’t make your student loan payments.

Tips for getting your loan back on track

First things first, if you do find yourself in this situation, don’t panic (I know, easier said than done). But seriously, your mental health is important, so take a deep breath and remind yourself that you're not alone and you have options. There are resources out there that can help get your account in better standing. (Okay, back to the tips.)

Log in to your account. Start by making sure you have all your loan details on hand. Whatever steps you take next you’ll need things like your account number, payment schedule, and more. Got a Sallie Mae® loan? Log in here.

Reach out to your cosigner. If you have one, talk to your cosigner so they’re aware of the situation. You share 100% of the responsibility for the loan so they need to be kept in the loop. Best case scenario, you figure out a solution together.

Make a small payment. Even if it doesn’t cover the minimum, something is better than nothing. (Keep in mind this may catch you up faster but will not change your loan status).

Ask about a bi-monthly payment method. Do your research to see if this option is available with your lender. For some borrowers, splitting one monthly payment into two smaller monthly payments makes it more manageable. 

Explore income-driven repayment plans. If you have federal loans, look into programs that will adjust your monthly payment based on your income and family size. Just remember that as your income increases, so will your monthly payment.

Consider deferment or forbearance. These are options that can temporarily reduce or postpone your monthly payments. Keep in mind interest may still accrue (grow) even if everything else is on hold. 

Look into loan forgiveness programs. If you’ve got federal loans, don’t let these opportunities pass you by. But be sure to read up on each program—each has different rules and regulations about who can apply.

Explore refinancing and consolidation options. Refinancing could be an option if you have a steady income and good credit. On the plus side, it can lower your interest rate and monthly payments, but it may also extend the life of your loan (which means you might be paying more overall). Consolidation can bundle up and simplify payments—which might make them more manageable—but you could end up with a higher interest rate.

Adjust your budget. Do what you can to cut expenses and see where you can save. Consider prioritizing your student loan until you have a handle on your payments. Don’t have a budget? Start here

Talk to a financial counselor. It can’t hurt to talk to someone who’s qualified and works with money for a living. And shop around, because many organizations offer free or low-cost advice.

Don’t ignore the problem

Ignoring your student loan debt won’t make it disappear. In fact, it will make the situation worse and may lead to things like late fees, penalties, and damage to your credit score. Face the issue head-on and take the necessary steps to figure it out—your future self will thank you.

Life happens, but you got this!

Tackling student loan debt isn’t easy—especially if you’re having trouble making your monthly payments. But by being proactive, exploring your options, and reaching out for help as needed, you can take control of your loan and change the outcome.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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