Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: New lawyers frustrated, depressed by student loan debt. Also in the news: A new episode of the SmartMoney podcast on lower mortgage rates and moving during a pandemic, how to take a high-interest loan and skip the debt cycle, and why you’ve got more time to pay off federal student loans.

New Lawyers Frustrated, Depressed by Student Loan Debt
Student loan debt is affecting every aspect of their lives.

Smart Money Podcast: Lower Mortgage Rates, and Moving During a Pandemic
Rents are dropping.

How to Take a High-Interest Loan and Skip the Debt Cycle
Consider your bank as an option.

You’ve Got More Time to Pay Off Your Federal Student Loans
You now have until Dec. 31st.

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.