Written by: Megan Lanier
I am crippled. Not in the sense that I have a physical impairment, but rather a financial burden that looms over me and my husband day every day. That aliment is student loans. We are just one of the 40 million Americans inflicted with this weakness that was supposed to be our saving grace.
To be honest, this was somewhat self-inflicted. While I was one of the lucky few who was able to escape college and graduate school debt-free, my husband was not so fortunate. He (and now we) carries around an absurd amount of debt which makes me sick to my stomach to even think of the number, let alone share it with others. Although we make substantial payments each month, the total only seems to rise.
Knowing that we must not be the only ones stuck in one of those zero progress clichés, I started thinking: what are other millennials doing about this issue? We are a young, inventive and curious generation that will not be stopped a little issue like paying back over $1.2 trillion in our lifetime…right?
While most repayment plans are put on a 10-year track to debt freedom, the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to repay his or her student loans. That is also taking into account that the average loan amount is about $30,000. Gulp. Sadly, that amount is far less than the figure my husband and I are dealing with.
So, enough with the facts and figures. What are millennials actually doing about this “crisis”? Here are some creative ways our generation has tackled this mounting societal problem.
- Be a Volunteer. While the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is widely known now, it is not a feasible option for everyone. A couple of innovative millennials have crafted a way for the service-minded to receive the benefit of loan repayment assistance. Two organizations with a similar concept in mind, reward volunteers for participating in volunteer projects that receive funding from sponsors. Zerobound and SponsorChange have different funding models, but the same idea to make the burden of loans a little easier for those who give back. In a sense, volunteer work is crowdfunded by companies, friends, family, etc. to pay down student loan debt.
- Debt Realization. The first step to tackling debt is knowing exactly how much you have to pay off – and the time it will take you to do so based on your monthly payments. The federal student loan calculator is a marvelous tool. One millennial had the help of her boyfriend to finally come to terms with her student loan debt issue. By implementing some creative solutions to cut back expenses and make additional income, she has paid off $90,000 in debt. She discovered some unique ideas for earning extra income which made those monthly payments a little easier.
- Earn Rewards. Almost every credit card nowadays offers rewards for cash back, airline miles or hotel points. Another company has taken a similar approach by offering the benefit of student loan repayment. SmarterBucks allows users to sign up for a free account and shop the online marketplace featuring popular brands and earn up to 10% back paid to the student loan carrier of your choice. Additionally, family and friends can sign up for a “Gifter” account and their rewards will be contributed to repayment as well.
Although the issue of student loan debt can be frightening, it is reassuring to know that others have tackled the problem and are now thriving, debt-free individuals. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you (and me!) make further progress on repayment and break free from student loan debt.