Student loans can help your child pay for their education goals, but the debt can sometimes be hard to manage as your child pursues life after graduation. While you may not have been able to cover the entire college tuition bill at enrollment, here is some advice on helping your child pay off their student loans.
Make Payments While Still in School
Typically, student loans do not require repayment until after college graduation. However, both you and your child can still make loan payments before then. Even if you can contribute $50 a month toward the loan for the four years your child is in school, if you start freshman year, it will add up to $2,400 of repaid debt by graduation.
Richard Sabo initially wanted his daughter to pay for her own schooling so that she would take it more seriously. Sabo's father had paid for his college, warning him that if he didn't graduate, he would have to join the Marines. "I didn't take it serious since it wasn't my money being spent," said Sabo. "I feel I would have been more disciplined if it was my money." He never graduated and joined the Marines in 1984.
Although Sabo didn't pay upfront for his daughter's college education — she used student loans — he did help her repay them.
"I told her that I would pay the interest on the loans while she was in school so they didn't get bigger," said Sabo, who runs an independent financial planning firm in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. "After college, I did help her pay off some of the principal since she had done a good job and got an education."
Try to Match Your Child's Payment
Another piece of useful advice for paying off student loans may be to motivate your child to put more toward their loan by offering to match their payment dollar for dollar. Once loans are in repayment, you might also encourage your child to pay more than the minimum amount due to pay off the loan faster. While not every parent will be able to help in this way, contribute what you can, and your child will feel like they are not facing their student loan debt alone.
Help with the Essentials
If you don't have the money to put toward your child's student loan, you can still help ease their financial burdens. Buying your child groceries, inviting them over for dinner regularly or even allowing them to live with you rent-free while they tackle their loans can be a huge help. Make it clear that you will continue helping as long as your child has or is looking for a job. The goal isn't to give your child a free ride through life, but instead give them the boost they need to be financially independent.
Forgo Gifts and Pay Toward Loans
While your child might have other items on their wish list, a payment toward their student loans for a birthday or holiday may be more helpful. Ask other family members if they are willing to do the same, which can help give your child extra funds to pay off their debt faster.
Help Them Make Career Connections
Landing the right job is difficult for many recent graduates because they often don't have the contacts necessary to find stable careers in their chosen field. They don't know the insider that will get their résumé past the slush pile. One key piece of advice on paying off student loans can be to connect your child with professionals that can offer them a job to help build their early career. This allows them to earn an income that they can use to pay toward their loans.
As a parent, it is not always your responsibility to help your child repay student loans, but it can be a boon. "I would tell parents if they can, at least pay the interest while their child is in school," said Sabo. That way "the loan balances don't grow until the child can pay on them."