Dear Liz: I have $105,000 in medical school loans with an interest rate of 2.875%. I have another consolidated federal loan at 6%. I’m making $180,000 in the private sector and like my job.
Should I consolidate everything, try to get a public sector job, and apply for loan forgiveness after 10 years while paying as little as possible? Or should I accelerate my loan payments?
I would be able to pay almost the full amount after 10 years. I’m also trying to save for a house in a high-cost area. I have about $110,000 in savings and stocks.
Answer: Why would you upend your life to qualify for help you don’t need?
Loan forgiveness and federal income-based repayment programs are intended for those struggling to pay their education debt. These programs are available only for federal student loans, by the way.
The low interest rate on your medical school loans indicates that those are private student loans, which wouldn’t qualify for the relief programs or for a federal consolidation loan, for that matter.
So the question really is whether you should pay your loans off over time or try to retire them as quickly as possible.
A slower repayment schedule could allow you to buy a home sooner and save more for retirement, which are both worthy goals. Faster repayment could lower the overall cost of the debt and leave you less vulnerable to rate hikes, since the interest rates on private student loans are typically variable.
There’s no single right answer, but it’s a good question to discuss with a fee-only financial planner who can assess your entire financial situation and explain your options.