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Congratulations! College graduation is a huge accomplishment! It marks the beginning of the next chapter of your life. As you prepare to enter the “real world” you will begin to face many changes in your social life, work life, and financial life that may seem scary and uncertain. For those who are graduating with a degree coupled with a mountain of debt, these uncertainties can create a major disadvantage and seem overwhelmingly daunting.

First, here are some sobering statistics. Student loan debt is the fastest-growing portion of total household debt in the US, has the highest 90+ day delinquency rate, and is currently over $1.5 Trillion – more than auto loans and credit card debt. Between 1989 and 2016, the cost of a four-year university doubled and continues to rise; in the same time frame, wages increased less than 10%. Borrowers spend nearly 1/5 of their salary (avg. $393/month) in servicing debt that many don’t expect to pay off until they reach their 40s. Many millennials have been forced to choose between repaying loans or saving for retirement, leaving a lasting financial impact on their futures. In fact, 41% of millennials surveyed by the National Association of Realtors said they want to get married but can’t because of student loan debt and more than 50% said their loans are forcing them to delay starting a family.

So, now that you’ve received that diploma and perfectly staged that Instagram cap throwing photo, it’s time to start getting serious about tackling that mound of student loan debt, no matter how large. Choosing the right repayment plan can help you avoid defaulting on your loans, a matter the government and lenders take very seriously and pursue aggressively. Make sure you contact your lender to learn which repayment options are available to you. To pick the most suitable plan, it’s important to create a budget for yourself – knowing how much discretionary income you have available each month will allow you to pick the option to pay down your loan balance the fastest and to avoid defaults in the future. Don’t forget to check with your employer as well. Several companies have started offering student-loan repayment assistance and many more have financial wellness programs available for employees.

Learning doesn’t stop after graduation. For those with loans, new skills in debt and money management are a major part of the first course after hanging the diploma. Creating and sticking to a budget will take time and effort, but putting in the hard work now to develop these habits will help set you on the right path to a secure financial future. Check out the Jacobi Media Center for more information about loans and getting started in the “real world.” It’s never too early to invest in your financial future and your Jacobi Team is here to guide you along your journey!