Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to stock up wisely, emergency or not. Also in the news: Some rental owners could get an extra tax break this year, how to unlock the debtor’s prison of student loans, and the most important money move that women aren’t making.

How to Stock Up Wisely, Emergency or Not
No panic shopping.

Some Rental Owners Could Get an Extra Tax Break This Year
The new QBI.

Unlock the Debtor’s Prison of Student Loans
Looking for relief.

This is the most important money move that women aren’t making
It’s time to invest.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to manage student loan debt without making it worse. Also in the news: How to get credit when you have none, why it may be time to stop itemizing your tax deductions, and the state most burdened by credit card debt.

How to Manage Student Loan Debt Without Making It Worse
Don’t let interest get out of hand.

How to Get Credit When You Have None
Starting from scratch.

It May Be Time to Stop Itemizing Your Tax Deductions
The standard deduction could be enough.

This state is the most burdened by credit-card debt
Is it yours?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 tax tips for military members and veterans. Also in the news: How to save $500, how Black Friday prices stack up, and what student loan debt does to people.

5 Tax Tips for Military Members and Veterans
Tracking your expenses.

How to Save $500
Every bit helps.

How Do Black Friday Prices Stack Up?
Real savings or holiday hype?

What student loan debt does to people
It’s not pretty.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Millennial enthusiasm for stocks is at a record high. Also in the news: How to choose a financial advisor, why flood insurance comes with a waiting period, and how to survive college without surprise debt.

Millennial Enthusiasm for Stocks at Record High, Index Shows
Millennials play the market.

How to Choose a Financial Advisor
Making the wise choice.

Flood Insurance Comes With a Waiting Period
Don’t wait until the last minute.

How to graduate college without surprise debt
A most unpleasant surprise.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to buy (and skip) in September. Also in the news: How to choose an airline credit card, how to help parents pay off college debt, and why the average American saves less than 5%.

What to Buy (and Skip) in September
Need a new mattress?

How to Choose an Airline Credit Card
Maximizing your miles.

Ask Brianna: How Do I Help My Parents Pay Off College Debt?
Contributing to the costs.

Average American saves less than 5%. How do you stack up?
How much do you save?

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Cutting through credit score confusion after the Experian fine. Also in the news: Eat out without biting into your budget, the female faces of student loan debt, and why it’s harder than ever to apply for financial aid.

Cutting Through Credit Score Confusion After Experian Fine
Making sense of it.

Eat Out Without Biting Into Your Budget
It’s all about strategy.

Female Faces of Student Loan Debt
A Women’s History Month feature.

It’s Harder Than Ever to Apply for Student Aid
Finding ways to make the process easier.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Financial-PlanningToday’s top story: How life insurance companies learn all of your secrets. Also in the news: How to avoid overwhelming student loan debt, questions parents should answer before paying for a wedding, and financial tips to ease the transition from military to civilian life.

How Life Insurance Companies Learn Your Best-Kept Secrets
It’s all in the data.

8 College Planning Tips to Avoid Overwhelming Student Loan Debt
Starting off on the right foot.

Paying for a Wedding: 5 Questions Parents Should Answer Now
Forget about any fancy purchases for a while.

8 Financial Tips To Ease The Transition From Military To Civilian Life
Coping with big changes.

How not to drown in student loan debt

DrowningI recently talked to yet another recent grad who owes six figures for an undergraduate degree. The ease with which young people can drown themselves in debt makes me furious.

And a lot of young people are having trouble paying this debt. The exact number of struggling borrowers is a bit of a mystery, as I wrote in this week’s Reuters’ column, “Confusing data flummoxes fixing of student loan defaults.” But it’s safe to say a sizable portion of borrowers is having trouble paying down their education debt.

A college education, or at least some post-graduate education, will be a virtual necessity if you want to remain in the middle class in the 21st century. But believing that any investment in any education will pay off is naïve. The thing is, the colleges know better, or at least their financial aid staffs should. But their vested interest in selling educations typically means they don’t step in or even offer warnings as their teenage and twenty-something students pile on ridiculous amounts of debt.

Here’s what I wish every college student and every parent knew:

1. You should stick to federal student loans. These loans have fixed rates, tons of consumer protections and most importantly, limits on how much you can borrow. You typically can only borrow $5,500 for your freshmen year. You typically can’t borrow more than $31,000 for an undergraduate education. That makes it virtually impossible to take on too much debt as long as you get the degree. Can’t afford the education you want with just federal loans? Then you need to look for cheaper schools.

2. Steer clear of private student loans. Honestly, these loans should have warning stickers plastered all over them, like cigarette packs. The rates are typically variable, there are few options if you can’t afford the payments and you can borrow far more than you could ever repay. They should only be considered if the total amount you’ll borrow in both federal and private loans is no more than you expect to make your first year out of school.

3. Mom and Dad should not risk their retirement. Federal parent PLUS loans have some of the advantages of federal student loans. The rates are fixed and there are some repayment options (parents can choose extended, graduated or income-contingent payments, but not income-based or “Pay as You Earn,” the most helpful payment plans for overburdened debtors). But unlike federal student loans, there aren’t reasonable limits on what you can borrow. Parents’ ability to repay isn’t taken into account, and they can borrow up to the full amount of their child’s education. That’s a recipe for disaster. Parents should consider borrowing for college only if they’re able to comfortably repay the debt AND continue saving adequately for their own retirements.

4. You should get through school as fast as possible. If Mom and Dad are paying the bill in cash, then you can afford to party, pack your schedule with electives and switch majors 10 times. If your future self is paying the bill via loans, then you need to get your act together. Get help—find a mentor or advisor who cares about you enough to set you on the right path. The place to look is among your school’s best teachers. Ask around, because these teachers get talked about; take their classes; ask for their help.


How many borrowers struggle to pay student loan debt?

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWe know about how much outstanding student loan debt there is ($1.2 trillion, per the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). We have numbers about how many borrowers default on their federal student loans (the two-year default rate is 10%, which means one out of 10 of borrowers who entered repayment in 2010-11 let 270 days pass without a payment, while the three-year default rate is 14.7%).

What we don’t know is how many borrowers struggle to repay their loans, falling behind and potentially trashing their credit, without actually defaulting. The U.S. Department of Education, which provides the default numbers, doesn’t provide statistics on delinquency. A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York used credit bureau records to put the “effective” delinquency rate at 31% at the end of 2012. The Fed researchers tried to figure out and subtract from the equation the loans that don’t have to be paid because the borrowers are in school, in grace periods or in approved suspension with forbearance or deferrals. They determined that of the rest–those borrowers who were supposed to be in repayment–nearly one in three was 90 days or more late with their payments.

Which is shocking, but it doesn’t quite match up with other studies and published statistics, student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz pointed out in my Reuters column, “Confusing data flummoxes fixing of student loan defaults.”  A sampling of those other statistics:

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas in 2013 determined that 9.7% of student loan accounts at the end of 2012 were past due, but the delinquency rate was 23% once loans that appeared to be in forbearance, deferment or for students still in school were eliminated. Notice that this study looked at accounts (individual loans), of which the typical borrower has more than one. If one out of four loans (roughly) were delinquent, the proportion of delinquent borrowers would be expected to be smaller (perhaps much smaller).
  • Over a five-year period, the Institution for Education Policy (IHEP) concluded that 26% of borrowers were delinquent at some point and that another 15% had delinquencies that led to default. IHEP analyzed repayment data for nearly 1.8 million borrowers provided by five student loan guarantee agencies in 2011. Note, again, that what’s being measured is different from the New York Fed study. If one out of four borrowers had trouble paying their debt in a five year period, you’d expect the percentage in any single year to be substantially smaller.
  • A previous report by the New York Fed researchers found the total volume of delinquent student loan debt in the third quarter of 2011 was 21%, yet figures published by the leading student loan company Sallie Mae suggest a much smaller pool of troubled loans. The company’s most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that 85.9% of its federal student loans in repayment were current, with just 7.5% 90 days or more late. The delinquency rate for the company’s traditional private loans was 2.9%. Private loans overall comprise about 15% of outstanding student loan volume.

So, the statistics so far measure different things–borrowers vs. accounts vs. volumes of student loan debt–using different sources (data from credit bureaus vs. data from lenders vs. data from one albeit very large lender) and coming to different conclusions.

Why does it matter? Well, if most borrowers are figuring out ways to pay their debt down over time, then the available solutions for dealing with student loan debt are probably adequate for most. If a huge proportion are struggling, on the other hand, then it may be time to roll out additional help.

Because student loan debt isn’t just a problem for those unwise enough to pile on too much of it. Struggling borrowers with lousy credit are hampered in every area of their economic life and could even have trouble getting the jobs that might help them pay their debt (because many employers check credit as a condition of employment). A big chunk of borrowers who can’t buy homes or cars or get decent jobs could be a real drag on the economy.