The student loan forbearance program, also referred to as the student loan payment pause, was implemented in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was designed to provide relief to millions of student loan borrowers who were facing financial challenges during the pandemic. Borrowers were granted an automatic suspension of their monthly payments, and interest on those payments were temporarily set to 0%. At the time of its inception, the program was only intended to last a few months, but as the pandemic persisted and economic hardships continued, it was extended multiple times over the last 3.5 years.
Well, you’re probably well-aware now that the program has officially come to an end as of August 31, 2023. As of earlier this month on September 1, interest resumed, and payments will become due beginning on October 1. Regardless of how long the forbearance lasted; the sting of financial responsibility remains.
We understand that the end of the student loan forbearance program may be challenging and causing stress and uncertainty for you. It provided much-needed relief for borrowers during a difficult time, so it’s absolutely understandable that the end of this relief can bring about feelings of anxiety and concern.
As the program has now come to an end, it’s essential to prepare for the resumption of student loan payments while maintaining financial stability. Follow along as I guide you in creating a plan that helps you to afford your student loan payments, avoid stress, remain calm, and ensure financial stability going forward.
Assess Your Financial Situation
First and foremost, it’s absolutely crucial that you familiarize yourself with the terms, changes, and interest rates that will apply to your student loan repayment. If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to contact your student loan servicer if you have questions about the repayment terms, interest rates, and due dates. Knowing this information will allow you to estimate your future monthly payments and plan and budget accordingly.
Maintain a Healthy Budget
Next, you’ll want to take a close look at your financial situation. Create a budget (if you haven’t already) to understand and evaluate your current income, expenses, and savings. A well-planned budget is a powerful tool that’s aimed to ensure your financial stability during this transition period. When you fully understand your financial situation, you’ll be able to come up with a realistic payment plan that you’re comfortable with and aligns with your budget.
Start by listing all your income sources and tracking your essential expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, transportation, insurance, and any other necessary bills.
Identify discretionary spending and identify areas where you can cut back to allocate more funds towards your student loan payments.
Prioritize your savings and consider building an emergency fund. This will help you get a handle on unexpected expenses and financial setbacks without feeling the urge or need to turn to credit cards or other loans as a last resort. Having an emergency savings account provides you with a safety net that could prove to be very helpful in trying times like these.
Be realistic and flexible when it comes to your budget. Budgets are not static; they require ongoing flexibility and adjustments as your financial situation changes. Be open and willing to adapt to those changes and reevaluate your budget as needed.
Remember, your budget is a tool that is meant to empower you, not restrict you. A flexible budget will help you maintain financial control and adapt to the ever-changing nature of life. By staying in tune with your budget and having regular budget check-ins, you can make informed financial decisions and continue progressing towards your goals.
Create a Payment Plan
A well-thought-out payment plan can make a significant difference in managing student loan payments. Explore all your repayment options:
Repayment Plans: Are you able to stick to a standard repayment plan that’s offered by your loan provider? Are you eligible for a graduate repayment plan that starts off with lower payments and gradually increases every two years? Do you have the ability to get on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that can adjust your monthly payment based on your income and family size?
Prioritize Higher Interest Rate Loans: Have multiple student loans? Prioritize paying off the loans with higher interest rates first. By tackling high interest loans early, you’ll save money on interest payments over the loan’s lifetime. Have any private student loans? Explore the possibility of refinancing or consolidating your loans. This could potentially lower your interest rates and create a more manageable payment structure.
Be Realistic with Your Payment Plan Goals: Set realistic goals for your payment plan. Consider how much you can reasonably afford to pay each month without compromising your other financial commitments. Establish achievable milestones to track your progress and celebrate your achievements along the way.
Explore Loan Forgiveness and Assistance Programs: Depending on your profession and circumstances, you may qualify for loan forgiveness (again) or assistance programs. Research options like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or state-specific programs that can help you manage the burden of debt.
Whatever you decide, make sure you dedicate ample time and effort to researching and finding what works best for you and your own personal situation.
Avoid Stress and Uncertainty
This transition period can be anxiety-inducing. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Try following these tips to help you avoid stress:
Communication: Communication is key. Reach out to GOLD if you’re facing financial challenges that may impact your financial situation. Our team is here to help and may be able to offer guidance or alternative options.
Practice Mindfulness and Self-Care: Not everything has to be stressful. Take some time to do things that are just for you. Engage in activities that reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, yoga, hobbies, or even just spending quality time with friends and family to promote your overall well-being.
Connect with Supportive Communities: Join online forums or groups where you can connect with people going through similar experiences. Sharing experiences and tips can provide a sense of camaraderie and emotional support.
Practice Gratitude: Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by focusing on all the positives in your life. Gratitude can shift your mindset and help you cope with stress more effectively.
Conquer Your Payments with GOLD
As we bid farewell to the student loan forbearance program, it's time to embrace this phase of financial responsibility. By proactively planning, seeking support, and maintaining a positive outlook, you can navigate the resumption of student loan repayments with confidence.
Remember that GOLD is here to support you not only through this transition, but also throughout your entire journey to financial success. All of us at GOLD are here to work with you to help you achieve your long-term goals and work toward maintaining a strong, secure financial future. If you need personalized assistance or have questions, please give our experienced lending team a call at: 484-223-4216. Together, we can help you achieve your goals and secure a brighter financial future.