Saving for School: How to Deal with Student Debt

Education is hugely important. It provides us with the tools we need to thrive in life, arming us with knowledge and creativity. However, the higher levels of education come at a cost and one that should be planned for well in advance.

University fees are on the rise and often students leave full-time education with huge debts hanging over them. Despite the size of the figures involved, these student debts are manageable if you follow these tips.

how to deal with student debt - student loan image

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Plan while you can

Depending on where you went to university and what type of loan you took out, it’s quite likely that you have some form of grace period before you have to start paying it off. In the UK, this is based on your salary, while in the US it could be a fixed length of time. In either case, make use of this period of time to plan your student debt repayment.

Come up with a budget and personal repayment plan that looks at your income, outgoings and student loan contributions. By planning ahead you can manage your debt better once the repayments begin.

Don’t panic

One of the impacts of student debt that is less talked about is the mental burden that it creates. Just hearing the words, “you owe $20,000” for example can deter a lot of talented teenagers from attending higher education.

The important thing is to not panic when thinking about your student debt. No matter how much your course costs, you can manage your finances if you have a clear head and a clear plan. Education is the bedrock of society, so do not let money worries stop you from pursuing your dream.

Debt is not necessarily damaging

Although living with debt is not ideal, student debt is not the same as owing thousands to a loan shark. Paying off your loan doesn’t mean that you have to live off sawdust and hay for the next twenty years either, in fact you can still make the major purchases that you’ve always dreamed of.

Many organisations now view student debt in a more forgiving light than they used to and are willing to offer a number of financing options. Doctor loans, for example, are available to recently graduated medical students to help them purchase a home and other graduate professions are granted similar benefits.

Help yourself while helping others

If you’re based in the US, it is worth looking into volunteer programmes that offer “student loan forgiveness.” Although you’ll still have to pay off some of your debt, a portion may be written off or deferred. By signing up to a volunteer scheme like this, you get to help others while helping yourself to a debt-free future.

Live within your means

A good tip for anyone, but particularly recently graduated students, is to live within your means. After leaving student life behind, it may be tempting to suddenly start living a more extravagant lifestyle, making the most of your real-world paycheck. However, make sure you don’t overdo it.

Financial Benefits of a University Degree

Student debt levels are projected to rise to £25,000 for those starting university this year, research suggests.
So is going to University a ‘good’ investment in pure financial terms?

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics Labour Force Survey reveal that over the last decade university graduates have earned on average £12,000 a year more than those without a degree.

Average salaries for graduates aged 22-64 stood at £30,000, compared with £18,000 for non-graduates.

Interestingly the gap between graduate and non-graduate salaries takes time to show itself – earnings for 22-year-olds were around £15,000 regardless of whether they had a degree or not.

Non-graduate earnings increased every year until the age of 30 before leveling off and peaking at £19,400 at age 34.
Graduates saw their salaries increase faster and over a longer period – leveling off at age 35 and peaking at £34,500 age 51.

ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins explained: ‘We see a big difference based on age, with graduates’ earnings not peaking until they are in their early 50s. After this age, average wages decreased, as the higher earners leave the labour market earlier.
‘The statistics also reveal that gender differences are present in both graduate and non-graduate salaries. While male graduates could expect to earn 20 per cent more than their female peers, men without a degree made 23 per cent more than their female counterparts.

Let’s simplify things by taking a look at 2 career paths.

Enters the workforce at 22 and retires at 64
Earns an average of £30,000 over those 42 years for a total of £1.26m. Take off the £25,000 student debt to finish with £1,235,000

Non Graduate
Enters the workforce at 18 retires at 64
Earn an average of £18,000 over 46 years for a total of £828,000

Which shows on average a graduate will earn on average an additional £407,000 over their working lives.

Of course there are a number of other factors, such as vocation, academic ability and the availability of funds up front for study. These figures are also averages, there are some very notable exceptions who dropped out of university and did very well financially, for instance, Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson.

Money management – attitudes start at home

In the wake of the economic situation, Credit agency Equifax believes that it is more important than ever that future generations are taught financial skills. This belief is reinforced by the findings of recent research* conducted by Equifax amongst parents, where 35% said they don’t think their children have a good understanding of the value of money and 94% believe financial education should be part of the national curriculum.

“Young people now live in a world where debt is a fact of life and research has found that student debt has topped £5,000 for each year of study” says Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director for Equifax. “This makes it absolutely imperative that, as early as possible, young people understand how best to manage their finances. It is therefore very encouraging to see the work of My Money Week, which aims to help schools teach children more about managing money in a way that is practical and relevant to them.”

More than a third of parents who responded to the recent Equifax research on finances amongst young people, believe that their children have a good understanding of the value of money. But almost the same number think this is not the case. When it comes to children’s understanding of money management, 73% of parents said they felt their own parents’ attitude to money and finances had influenced how they now manage their finances.

“Clearly the right attitude about money management starts at home” continued Neil Munroe. “But we believe the school curriculum can play a very important role in preparing young people for the challenges of the 21st century. And that includes being in control of their finances and managing debts more effectively than the generation before them.”