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Fixed or Variable: Which Student Loan Rates Do You Want?

August 23, 2017

College graduates have essentially proven themselves to be a smart bunch. You made a good decision for your future, did the hard work and now you have a degree to show for it. Sure, you had to take on some student loan debt in the process, but as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and investing in yourself is always smart.

Now you’ve nabbed a good job and you’re on your way to becoming the best version of yourself, complete with the career of your dreams. You’re grabbing life by the horns and adulting like a pro, building your resume, networking and paying down your student loans as you go. You didn’t get to this position in life by making poor decisions, so it’s only natural that you’re interested in refinancing your student loans as a way to save money, get ahead and knock out that five-year plan in just three.

Before you pull the trigger, however, you might want to stay your hand and take a moment to consider whether fixed- or variable-rate loans are more likely to deliver the best advantages. It’s tempting to follow the knee-jerk reaction that fixed-rate loans are safer (because quantities are known), but this might not actually serve your best interest, so to speak. Here’s what you need to know about fixed versus variable rates before you refinance your student loans.

Fixed Rate Pros and Cons

The difference between fixed- and variable-rate loans is pretty rudimentary. The former is characterized by a locked-in interest rate that remains the same throughout the life of the loan, regardless of market fluctuations. The latter starts out at an agreed-upon rate, which may change as the market changes, fluctuating in response to market interest rates and altering your payments in the process.

Is one better than another? That depends. Let’s look at the pros and cons of fixed rates first. The major benefit is that you always know what your payment is going to be – it’s predictable. A fixed rate is static, so your interest today will be the same as the day you pay off your loan. This can help you to plan your monthly and annual budget and bring you peace of mind.

Of course, peace of mind can cost you. The biggest downside to fixed-rate loans is that they are almost sure to have higher interest rates than their variable counterparts, at least initially, and this has to do with risks. Banks are betting that rate variances will work out in their favor in the long run, showing greater returns (and ultimately costing you more). Avoiding such risk will mean paying more up front to lock in a fixed rate. However, if your current plan involves a long term for repayment, say 20 years, this is probably your best option.

Variable Rate Pros and Cons

As you’ve probably guessed, the major downside to choosing a variable-rate loan is the potential for interest rates to increase and bump up your monthly payments. The upside is that rates could also remain low or even go down, saving you what you might have been stuck paying with a fixed-rate loan.

In other words, it’s a bit of a gamble. It can be a calculated risk, though. At the moment, the market is on the rise, with the prime increasing to 4.25% in June. Will it go down again? Eventually, but probably not before further increases, since the economy is currently on an upswing. If you’re on track to pay off debt early and the market is trending down, variable rates make sense. In the current economic climate, it’s probably better to proceed with caution.

Which is Right for You?

Choosing the right loan for you depends not only on current economic conditions, but also on your particular circumstances. Some personal considerations could include:

  • Current loans
  • Income
  • Debt-to-income ratio
  • Your personality

If you have yet to refinance or consolidate, you’re probably juggling at least a few student loan payments, some of which may be fixed while others are variable. Since July of 2006, all federal student loans feature fixed interest rates, although the set rates have fluctuated from year to year and from one loan type to another, so that different loans have different rates. You might also have some private student loans with either fixed or variable rates.

There’s a lot to be said for consolidating all of your loans to lock in a single, fixed rate, and when you do so with a favorable lender like Education Loan Finance, you can consolidate all your loans (whereas only federal loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan through the government, and there may be restrictions based on loan type and eligibility). On the other hand, you might prefer a variable rate that is lower than fixed options, especially if your income allows you to make larger payments, pay down debt before rates go up, and take advantage of less accruing interest in the meantime. A low debt-to-income ratio could net you even better rates and improve your odds of speedy repayment.

Naturally, your personality also plays a role. Are you a risk-taker or do you hyperventilate at the thought that loan rates, while low now, could increase next month or next year? If you play it safe, will you be kicking yourself over the money you could have saved with variable rates? In Hamlet, Polonius famously uttered the oft-quoted line, “To thine own self be true.” You have to know yourself if you want to make a decision about refinancing that you can reasonably live with.

Whether you end up choosing fixed rates or variable when you refinance, you need to understand both options so you can make an informed decision that confers the greatest benefits. To a degree, it might depend on the offers you receive, but assuming both options are on the table, you’ll want to consider the terms, research the forecast for interest rates, and perform a realistic appraisal of yourself and what you can manage. Then you can weigh all the pros and cons to select the terms that will have you refinancing your student loans like a boss.

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2019-01-17
Marriage and Student Loan Debt

Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t stop talking about their ex? If you’ve had this experience, you can likely relate it to discussing your student loan debt in your relationship. Talking about finances is a necessary evil in a marriage. It can be difficult to discuss finances in a marriage because many people handle finances different based on their personal experiences and how their parents handled them. You might be great at adulting, but if your parents were never open about managing money, you’re probably unsure of how to bring it up. You might even be unsure as to where to start when it comes to managing finances together. Student loans are a big part of many couples’ financial reality. Figuring out how marriage will affect your student loans is an important part of managing your money together.  Here are some main points that we think you should know about marriage and student loan debt.  

Honesty

The fastest way to create a rift and cause problems in your relationship is to hide information about your finances. According to CreditCards.com, 6% of Americans in a relationship have hidden credit cards or checking/savings accounts from their partner. That total adds up to about 7 million, for perspective, that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.  It’s not uncommon especially in younger people ages 18-29 to withhold some financial information. It’s when a partner begins to lie about large purchases that a partner should become concerned.   People might think that love solves everything, but it’s better to be on the same page and realistic about the situation. If you are mature enough to get married and really want to work together to succeed, you need to face your finances.  As a couple, you need to get over any fears about assessing the financial situation and air everything out. It doesn’t have to be painful but it needs to be an honest outlook. For some couples, this can seem really overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be.  

Get Tips on How to Talk Finances With Your Partner

 

Get a Plan

Have a conversation about how to best review everything. Discuss each of your finances and then surmise a plan to tackle them. Now in some cases, it may not be this simple depending on your income level, occupation, and level of debt. You may want to meet with a financial counselor first and go over everything together, or sit down as a couple at home and discuss the basics before moving any further. It’s totally up to you both, as a team.   Don’t be shy or embarrassed by your financial situation as a couple. There are people who make a living on making sure couples are financially confident and ready to tackle financial goals together. Don’t overlook this benefit of consulting with an outside source about finances—especially if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. If you can’t afford an outside counselor check online, you may be surprised at the educational resources available for free. When it comes to self-learning about finances just be careful how you select your resources. As the old saying goes not everything you see online is true!  

Loan Responsibility

When the person you’ve chosen to marry has student loan debt you can face some challenges. If you haven’t co-signed for a spouse and it’s just their name on the loan, this won’t be something that shows up on your credit report. Beware that even if you did not co-sign your partner’s loan there are instances when you might be responsible for paying the loan. Student loans aren’t that different from other types of loans.   For example, if someone passes away, the rest of their loan will likely be forgiven and the spouse would not have to continue making those payments. There are some cases where death will not discharge the remaining debt and the loan company may contact the estate for payment. If your spouse ever lost their income and went into default, the loan companies will look for someone to pay. If your spouse doesn’t have an income, your wages could be garnished. It’s a pretty extreme scenario, but it also happens and is something you should be aware of.   If you are choosing to marry someone with student loan debt, it’s important to talk about this. You’ll want to have a plan set up for each of these scenarios. Though they are extreme if you have savings and you pay down your debt responsibly you shouldn’t have any problems.  

Repayment Plan Adjustments

IBR and other types of repayment plans are often used when paying back student loans. We would caution against using these programs. In some cases, your monthly student loan payment may not be covering the interest accrued that month and therefore your balance will continue to increase.   Repayment plans can be based on your household income and family size. When you get married your income and family size may change. If your spouse makes a considerable amount of money, your minimum payments could go up even with your family size going up. If your spouse makes less than you or is not working, your loan payment could go down. It all depends on the details of your financial situation and your loan servicer, but it’s worth noting that this is a possibility.  

Refinancing

Fairly often we receive request to refinance couple’s student debt together. Many see this as creating a lot less hassle for themselves by creating only one bill.  That’s not always possible, and many experts suggest keeping your loans separate in case your relationship status or financial situation changes in the future. You are not always able to refinance together, either.  Whether or not you can refinance your student loan with your spouse will depend on the loan type and servicer you have. If you’re looking into refinancing, talk to each other about goals. Do you want a lower payment so you can save for a house or do you want to pay loans off sooner so you can live abroad or go to grad school? Again, it’s up to the two of you, but you can’t be on the same page if you don’t talk about it.  

Don’t stress.

Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal for people to get stressed out talking about money, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter how much money you make, you will have to work together as a team to set priorities. This isn’t a blame game. Just talking about finances doesn’t mean that you’re secretly harboring any resentment or grudges. No one is being attacked and no questions are stupid. You both have to agree to create an open dialogue where you both feel good about discussing money and plans. Know that sometimes there are compromises, or one of you might change your personal plans to advance the other. That’s what it means to be a team.  

Tips for Finding the Perfect Lender to Refinance Your Student Loans

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Employer participation in student loan debt assistance
2019-01-02
Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act H.R. 795

Nothing could be better than working for a top company that helps you pay off your student loans, right? Well, a bill was introduced by legislators on 2/1/2017 that is trying to make this a reality. This bill was introduced as the Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act. In addition to the introduction of this Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also released a private letter ruling. What could these events mean for companies and employees who carry student loan debt?  

Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act

First, this bill would amend the tax code by giving tax breaks to employers that provide educational assistance to employees. Educational assistance can be in the form of contributions to student loans through either a payment to the employee or lender. Specifically, this act would allow employers to offer a tax-free student loan benefit in addition to a salary to its employees.  

IRS Private Letter Ruling

  Recently, there was a private letter ruling released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you want to review the contents of the private letter ruling, it can be found here. The ruling allows employers to use 401(k) plans to help employees pay down their student loan debt. It is done by taking the employer 401(k) match to pay down student loans.   Any employee who is eligible for a 401(k) plan would be eligible for this plan. The ruling states that the plan is a voluntary program that employees must elect to enroll. Employees who choose to participate in this plan would be eligible for non-elective contributions made by the employer to their student loan debt. These contributions would be equal to what would have been contributed to a 401(k) plan had the employee opted out of the program.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employers?

When managing a business, it is imperative that you stay on top of recent news. Part of staying on top of things includes understanding what challenges your employees face. Both these aspects of operating a business and understanding the needs of your employees, however, can fall hand in hand. When it comes to student loan debt assistance, it can be a huge positive for any business. Not only does student loan debt assistance help employees achieve their financial goals, but it also brings many benefits to a firm.   Offering a student loan debt assistance program does not typically cost a company extra. The employer contributions to student loans are what a company would have typically made as a 401(k) contribution. Therefore the costs of providing 401(k) contributions and student loan debt assistance are equal. Another positive that comes from offering a program like this is that it helps with finding top talent, recruiting, and retaining all-stars. With older generations of employees retiring in record numbers and the workforce shifting to younger millennials, it’s important to take some time to examine the benefits of providing student loan debt assistance.   As many millennials have student loans and report that paying them down is a priority over saving for retirement, companies should begin thinking about reevaluating their benefits package to attract millennials. Finding ways to help this generation pay off student loans could be a big boost to a company’s recruiting strategy. Offering student loan payment assistance could put a company on the cutting edge as far as millennial professionals are concerned.  

Click to Learn More About ELFI for Business

  According to a benefits report by OneDigital, nearly 80 percent of employees surveyed by American Student Assistance felt that an employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefit would be a deciding factor in accepting a job. This could be a huge differentiator for an employer aiming to recruit the best employees.   The American Student Assistance survey also showed that 86 percent of employees would feel compelled to stay with an employer for at least five years in exchange for student loan repayment assistance. Considering how much companies spend on turnover (recruiting, training, and onboarding new employees), this could mean huge potential savings on talent management costs for employers.  

What Does Student Loan Debt Assistance Mean for Employees?

Some companies already offer student loan assistance, but these funds are usually taxed. This type of assistance isn’t as attractive as pre-tax funds because taxes reduce the impact of payments on student loans. Tax-free repayment funds from an employer could be more effective in helping graduates pay down their student loans faster. Employees would avoid incurring taxes associated with this type of assistance.   Many Millennials also face the question of, “Should I save for retirement or pay down debt first?” Student loan debt assistance could be a solution that addresses both concerns. Young employees would have the ability to make substantial payments towards their student loan debt. With these large payments, they will be able to cut down their repayment time. That means young employees would have the ability to start saving for retirement earlier in their career instead of trying to pay down their debt.  

Looking to the Future of Employment and Student Loan Debt

  With the recent Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act and IRS Private Letter Ruling, it seems student loan debt has become a problem for employees. Since employees are having difficulties with paying down student loan debt, it is time for employers to take action. Not only will employers benefit from offering student loan debt assistance programs, but it will most likely be at little or no cost to them.   If this act becomes a law, experts think that companies will immediately begin to rethink their benefits package and consider student loan debt assistance as a way to attract the best employees. Though it may not be easy for millennials to land a position with one of these companies, they will certainly have another factor to decide in student loan debt assistance when choosing their employer.   Interested in starting a conversation regarding your student loans? Give us a call: 1-844-601-ELFI.  

5 Benefits Millennials Look For in Employers

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the web sites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
Daughter with parents
2018-12-27
Cosigners and Cosigner Release – What You Need to Know

As more millennials are stepping into experienced job roles and making more money than we were a few years ago, cosigner release is becoming a popular topic. You may have seen a letter in the mail from your student loan servicer or heard from others that they were able to release a parent or relative from cosigner duties. But what does this mean?  

What are the responsibilities of a cosigner?

A common misconception about cosigning a loan is that you’ll be the sole responsible party for the loan. Being a cosigner means that you and the student taking out the student loan are jointly responsible for paying the balance of the loan. In the event that the borrower is not able to pay, the cosigner becomes the focus of repayment efforts by the loan holder or servicer. If the borrower is unable to make payments because of a disability, the loans might be forgiven. There are some special cases like this where the cosigner won’t have to pay, but in general, being a cosigner is a long-term commitment that can’t be eliminated except through payoff, release, or extenuating circumstances.  

How does cosigning affect credit?

Before asking a friend or family member to take on the responsibilities of a cosigner it’s important to understand how that will affect their credit. Since a cosigner and borrower share the responsibility of a loan, it appears on both of their credit reports. If loan payments are made on time and the borrower is in good standing, then the cosigner will also benefit from the good credit. If the loan has late payments or does into delinquency, this will negatively affect the cosigner’s credit. In addition to affecting the credit score of the cosigner, they may become limited as to the amount of credit available to them. Before asking someone to be a cosigner verify they are not looking to have any large amounts of credit like a mortgage, credit card, or car loan.  

When do I not need a cosigner?

Students do not need cosigners to qualify for Federal loans like a Stafford or Direct Loan, but it can improve the chances of being approved. It’s very common for students who apply for private loans to add a cosigner to get the amount that they need and a typically qualify for a much better rate than they could get on their own.  

What is cosigner release?

Cosigner release is when the person who cosigned on a loan for you is taken off of the agreement and no longer considered partially responsible for the loan. This makes the borrower solely responsible for the remaining amount of the loan. Some student loan refinancing lenders don’t offer cosigner release.   When student loans are granted, they are provided based on your cosigner’s credit and the borrower’s credit.  In traditional cosigner releases the terms of the loan would remain the same as when the borrower took out the loan with the cosigner on it. The only difference with the cosigner release is the cosigner is being removed. When they allow you to release your cosigner depends on the company, if it is offered at all.   Most companies that offer cosigner release allow you to do so, once you’ve made two consecutive years of payments on time. Others may have longer terms for on-time payments before they allow you to apply for release. If you haven’t been making the full payment, that might eliminate your eligibility to release your cosigner. The release also has to be initiated by the borrower and can’t be requested through the servicer by the cosigner.   Not all companies offer cosigner releases. As we mentioned earlier some since loans are originated to include that cosigner, just removing them can be tough. That’s why many companies don’t offer cosigner releases but don’t stress. If you choose to refinance a loan with a cosigner but then decide You’d like to remove that cosigner, there are other options available to you.  

Will refinancing my student loan release my cosigner?

People often ask, "What if I just refinance my loan without the cosigner on it. Is it the same as a cosigner release?" Refinancing student loans is not the same thing as getting a cosigner release.  Before we go into greater detail it’s important to understand that very few loans are refinanced with a cosigner.   If you are in a position to refinance and qualify, then you don’t need a cosigner to make the new loan possible. There are some exceptions, but during refinancing, you’d be able to check with the servicer to see what terms you could get on your own and then go from there. Most companies that refinance student loan debt will allow you to add a cosigner if you do not qualify on your own, but the cosigner will need to submit some information. If you choose to set up a new refinanced loan without the cosigner, it releases them from the obligation of the former loan.   You may be asking “Is there another way that a cosigner can be removed from a loan without utilizing a cosigner release?” well the answer is yes. Aside from utilizing a cosigner release or refinancing the loan without the cosigner, the borrower or cosigner can pay off the debt. Once the debt is paid off both parties are no longer responsible for the debt.   Before you ask someone to cosign on a loan, consider these things and be sure that they are okay with the responsibility. Make sure that you as a borrower have an understanding and a plan for paying back that debt. If you don’t think that you can pay back the debt or are uncertain of how you will pay off the debt you should not involve a cosigner.   Most students ask their parents to cosign, but frequently have another relative help them by cosigning to get a loan. Know that cosigner release might be possible later, but don’t count on it, and check with the financial institution that holds your loans about cosigner release. You might be able to let mom or dad off the hook by refinancing or paying the debt down in full.  

Click For the Difference Between Parent PLUS Loans & Cosigning Education Loans