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Student Loans - The Best Way to Repay Student Loans

As a recent college graduate, nothing will teach you more about responsibility and money management than repaying student loans. Proactively managing your loans will save you money and build up your credit history. The best way to repay student loans is to make regular payments for a better interest rate, explore options for repayment plans, use tax breaks available, consolidate loans, and defer loan payments (if need be) to avoid a strike on your credit record.Make Regular PaymentsPay regularly and on time. If you make 48 consecutive on-time payments, most private lenders will knock two percentage points off your interest rate. Plus, if you direct your bank to transfer payments electronically from your checking account, many lenders will trim a quarter of a point off your rate.Explore Repayment PlansAsk about alternate forms of repayment. If you have difficulty meeting your payments, ask about alternate repayment plans. Assuming your salary will go up over time, you can arrange a graduated repayment plan. You begin with a low monthly payment that slowly rises over a period of 12 to 30 years, depending on the size of the loan.If your income fluctuates because you're self-employed, you can also set up an income-sensitive or income-contingent repayment plan. As your income rises and falls, so does the amount you owe. Under the income-contingency plan available through the Department of Education for direct-loan borrowers, any balance remaining after 25 years is forgiven, although the amount forgiven will be taxed as income. One caveat: Alternate repayment plans will cost you more in interest because you'll pay back your loan over a longer period of time.Use Tax BreaksTake advantage of tax breaks. The federal government offers relief for taxpayers with student loans. Presuming your income makes you eligible, you may deduct the interest you pay up to a maximum of $2,500 a year. The income limits to qualify for a full or partial deduction are less than $65,000 annually for singles, and less than $130,000 for couples filing jointly.Consolidate LoansKeep in mind that if you have more than one loan, you can consolidate them. That means a new interest rate is applied to your outstanding principal. The rate will be equal to the weighted average of all your loans but will not exceed 8.25 percent. During the course of your repayment, lenders may offer discounts, especially if you have a record of timely repayments.Defer Loan Payments (in times of hardship)If, by consolidating, you lengthen the term of your repayment this can substantially increase the total interest you will pay. And, if you've exhausted your options and can't get relief, you may be able to suspend your payments temporarily. If you lose or quit your job, or return to school, you can ask your lender to temporarily defer your loan payments. If you get a deferment for a subsidized Stafford loan, the government will actually pay the interest that comes due during your suspended payment period. If you can't get a deferment, you can still hold off on payments for up to a year by asking for forbearance. The interest will continue to accrue, but you avoid defaulting and getting a nasty strike on your credit record.

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