(WHTM) — This month, after three and a half years, those who have student loans are once again having to make monthly payments. For many, that means big changes.
In March of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic student loan payments were halted providing relief to 44 million borrowers. But now, after several extensions, that pause is over.
“This is definitely going to have an impact on your budget. So you may have to make some tough choices especially when it comes to discretionary spending,” Billy Hensley, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education said.
His organization’s new survey shows 49% of borrowers are worried this will negatively impact their financial lives.
Changes will need to be made.
“25% of U.S. adults may need to cut spending at some level in their budgets. We know this will be felt at home and more broadly in the economy,” Hensley said.
Most people kept up with some payments during the pause but 30% didn’t make any.
So starting up again will be a big adjustment. For some, that means cutting $500 to $1,000 from their monthly budgets.
But there is still help out there.
There are other repayment relief programs for people who have been paying a long time, public servants, and veterans.
You just have to do your homework and be careful.
“Please pay attention to scams as well. This topic getting a lot of attention right now, so protect your information. If something is too good to be true, it is,” Hensley said.
Keep this in mind. There is no fee to apply for federal relief, and paying a fee will not improve your odds or speed up the process.
As for those getting ready for college, this is a good time to take a close look at whether you need to get a loan.
Hensley says to think of it as an investment in yourself and look at what you’ll be getting in return.
“The cost of the degree versus the earning potential, and navigate especially those early earning years when you make less money and those payments begin and what that means. I’ve always viewed it as investment in self. But you have to explore the long-term benefit of education,” he said.
There are also things you should be doing now to decrease these loans before they even start.
“Be sure to fill out the FAFSA. It’s actually released in December this year which is a little later than usual. Educate yourself on the difference between scholarships and grants and loans. Those are different things and understand the implications of that, and borrow the right amount. Don’t over borrow, borrow what’s needed for college, what’s needed for tuition and expenses,” Hensley said.
For more information about student loans, check out studentaid.gov.
There you’ll find a calculator and simulator. You just put in your information, and you’ll be able to see the most beneficial payment plan for your circumstance.