“You snooze, you lose applies in every aspect of eliminating student loan debt.” ~Attorney Kelly
by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq. Posted: March 9, 2017
We’ve all heard about, read about, or experienced it, crushing student debt. Student loan debt can be quite paralyzing, overwhelming and downright horrifying.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, with good budgeting and planning, this beast like most others can be tamed. Dealing proactively with student loan debt is a far better plan than dealing with the nasty consequences of doing nothing and facing wage garnishment. Wage garnishments are not pretty, believe me.
These are absolutely some of the best tips out there if you want to handle your student loan debt like a boss. Follow these, like a road map and find the light at the end of the dark student debt tunnel.
Get Over It, Get Your Paperwork Together and Pick Up the Phone
The experts say, there is a time to cry, a time to grieve, and then there is a time to pull yourself up by the boot strings and get over it. Getting over what grieves or worries you involves action. Ignoring this worrisome ‘ginormous’ problem won’t make it go away. Being proactive is what you do. It’s simple. Start by having your last tax return or your last W-2 ready, in hand, just in case. Then, call your student loan service provider or creditor. Find out your best options. Write them down. If you need time to make a decision, take the time to think things through.
Be upfront and honest. Transparency is the best policy. Tell your loan servicer or creditor your situation. This will help them explain to you, better, your different options for repayment. There are a lot of legit options to look into, like forbearance, deferment, and, in some special situations, even debt forgiveness.
Not asking about these things means living in fear. Fear, in this context, brings nothing but trouble. It’s easy to ask about the interest, the length of time to repay and things that may impact your budget. Oh yes – always draft a simple updated budget, an easy to create, yet amazing empowerment tool. This will help with your discussions, ideas and planning.
For most folks facing serious trouble, like unemployment, underemployment, long or short term disability, the best piece of advice I can offer is to look into an Income Based Repayment Plan (IBR). Oftentimes, an IBR results in a zero dollar or very small bottom line payment. An IBR is based on your current income and family size. Check this out. Save the deferments and forbearance plans, for real issues like an injury, death or serious problems. Use the IBR when you are facing underemployment or unemployment issues, long term.
Discovering Repayment Options Online is “easy-peasy”
With the number of tools out there to use, there is no better time than now to find out what your repayment amount will be. One helpful online tool that comes to mind is the Department of Education Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan Estimator. Use it.
Calculate different repayment plans. Find out what plans include debt forgiveness if you still owe a balance after paying on your loan for 10 to 25 years. It’s easy-peasy and actually, many of my clients, family and friends use this tool. It’s amazing. You can do this.
Frugal is the New ‘Thing’
OK, hundreds of thousands of people understand, the job market is tough. This is a fact. Moving right along, there are work-a-rounds to get through this. Try a legit side hustle, part-time gig or freelance work, like Uber, Summer Pizza Delivery, Coaching, Home Sitting, Garden Center or Nursery work. Try selling extra stuff, collectibles or homemade things on eBay, Etsy or at a flea market. Then, (this is the best part) you can usually save money, even big bucks, by decreasing spending.
Decreasing spending gets easier and easier the more you try it and the more you know. Create, rather than consume. Save, rather than spend. It’s fun and it’s better for our family, environment and our communities. Websites like the Frugal Girl or Minimalist Mom are good tools to help along the way.
My friend Andy Prescot writes a great blog called, The Art of Being Cheap. We learned how to reduce our mobile phone bill over $100 per month. We have saved well over $3600 the past three years, based on Andy’s good tips regarding an inexpensive, but excellent, mobile phone service plan and provider. Andy also has more good tips on fugal things like how buy a refrigerator, start an Uber business part-time or whether or not to take a 401(k) loan.
Many of these websites are excellent. The top 25 frugal bloggers for 2016 can be found, here.
Challenge yourself to do at least 3 new things this month to save money. My three favorites are find new mobile phone provider and plan, make home-made pizza (rather than go out to eat) and how to service and repair my car. It’s absolutely a blast and empowering. However, I’m warning you now, frugal is contagious. You’ll get hooked. Your friends will get hooked. Seriously, frugal is a thing.
Ask your Boss, Like a Boss
A growing trend in the last few years has been for employers to offer student loan repayment assistance to employees as a benefit. Unlike tuition reimbursement (which has been around for years), student loan repayment assistance is a relatively new idea, a concept that’s gaining a lot of traction these days.
Last year alone, according to a recent study, 3% of companies offered some type of assistance program to help employees pay down their student debt and one thing’s for sure, this number is growing and growing strong.
If you are looking for a new job or are a new hire, negotiate. Most workers don’t negotiate, yet employers report that they are willing to pay more. Use this to your advantage. Some employers are now offering student loan repayment as a benefit.
There are tons of articles designed to help with this. Daily Worth, US News and Thrive powered by ADP are all helpful websites. Find out what you need to know about this new perk. Work it to your advantage.
If a raise or bonus is in your future, ask your current employer or HR department about ways they can help you reduce your current student loan debt. Perhaps they can apply a new raise or bonus to your existing debt repayment plan.
Find Experienced Help or Seek a Vetted Lawyer, FREE!
There are a few different professionals can help. Financial advisers are available if they are certified and affiliated with a reputable bank. Oftentimes a certified public accountant (CPA) is full of free and helpful information. Towns and cities quite often offer free credit and financial counseling services. Check with your local library. Go online. Look into your local town or government website.
The Charlton Town Website, is here. On the clubs and organization page is a list of places you can go to get help. Quite often, places like the Lions Club, Food Banks, Veteran’s groups and Business Associations are networks of helping hands, ready to offer assistance if you ask.
Librarians are a treasure. The Charlton Public Library link is here. Ask your local librarian when or where there is a class on debt, financial management or student loan debt assistance. If they don’t know, they will find out for you. Quite often sofa.org has classes held at local libraries. Ask your librarian about this. Be persistent.
If your situation involves a little bit more than, “I hate my loan servicer and don’t know what to do about it,” an experienced student loan lawyer or debtor defense lawyer is probably your best bet. Here’s how…
- Lawyers can give you guidance regarding your legal rights and options.
- Lawyers can represent you in negotiating with your student loan creditor, services or debt collection agency.
- They can help you figure out the best way to work out delinquencies and defaults, or to apply for a discharge.
- They protect you from unfair debt collection practices or debt collector abuse.
- Lawyers manage credit disputes.
- Lawyers advocate and go to court for you, managing legal matters like student loan-related issues, collections lawsuits or cases involving schools or agencies for legal violations and causing harm.
- In Massachusetts, an experienced Massachusetts lawyer can sometimes get you money awards for violations of things like the FDCPA and Massachusetts law.
If you’re dealing with delinquency or default, considering filing for bankruptcy or applying for a disability discharge, a debtor defense/bankruptcy/student loan lawyer is the best way to fly.
Why a Lawyer, Why Not DIY?
Since every person is different, and every situation is different, whether or not you should contact a student loan lawyer really depends on your specific circumstances. In reality, you may or may not need a student loan lawyer.
There are really very few things that inherently require you to hire a lawyer. Even filing for bankruptcy or defending against a collections lawsuit can be done ‘pro se,’ (pronounced, “pro-say”) meaning without legal representation or Do It Yourself (DIY).
While hiring a student loan or bankruptcy lawyer may not be required, a lawyer may be incredibly useful, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not sure of your legal options, you’ve been sued, or you’re dealing with a complex legal issue.
In other words, debtor defense and student loan lawyers can take a difficult, seemingly hopeless or complex situation and make it easy for you by offering steps and solutions to give you back your life and your ability to move forward.
Some lawyers, like myself, are successful at getting clients extra cha-ching, based on the mistakes and bad behavior of some debt collectors and creditors.
The Final Word
Before hiring a lawyer, talk to your student loan creditor or servicer and exhaust your options. After using up all your options, get help immediately. Like I said earlier, yes there is a ray of hope. You can do this. Check out lawyer websites in your area. Pick up the phone. Call a lawyer. I suggest that you find at least three local lawyers and comparison shop. Ask each one of them if they offer a free consultation. Then, schedule appointments on your own time.
For the unemployed or underemployed, quite often legal aid lawyers in your local area offer free or reduced fee services. In Worcester County the legal aid website is called Community Legal Aid. Free is good. Free is frugal. Frugal is a new thing, remember?
Think of these tips as being your job. It’s your job to save money and work toward the positive things in life. In a sense, saving money and working toward the positive is powerful and self-soothing. Do this. Do it now. Regain control of your new life. Feel liberated and pleased with your own good efforts. Empowerment feels good. Empower yourself like a boss.
The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients. Call and schedule your first appointment. We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.
ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.
NOTICE: Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.
Copyright © 2015, 2016, 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.