Student loan advice - the good and bad
Analysis paralysis… Ever tried googling a question related to your student loans? If so, you may have experienced this paralysis due to the overwhelming information and often conflicting opinions. The ever-changing landscape of the student loan space makes it difficult for borrowers to keep up. It often can lead to making poor decisions that can cost them considerably over the long term. Now more than ever, it is critical that borrowers seek counsel from credible sources.
This article will address some things that borrowers should consider about where to get advice on student loan repayment. As with anything else you find on the internet, do your homework as things can be deceiving. Our collective goal is to get the best possible advice so you can move forward confidently in your repayment journey.
Web sites pitching student loan advice
Google seems to be the default stop in our quest to find answers about everything in today’s world. The topic of student loans is no different. The trick is to decide where to go next, given that the big G will yield a long list of sites with information on the subject.
Some of us have been taught in school to lean only on credible sources for research papers, but we sometimes forget this when looking for a quick answer which can result in less than quality information.
The world of student loan information seems to be ever-changing. Many facts and opinions intermingled with potentially outdated site information can make it difficult for consumers to know what to trust.
Ask yourself, what is the site’s affiliation that you are reading?
- Do you see lots of ads for refinancing banks sprinkled around the article? It’s usually a clue that the information is a pitch for student loan refinancing offers. Without a detailed analysis of your loans, this isn’t necessarily in your best interest.
- Also consider the author and their qualifications. Many sites don’t post their credentials, so be sure to watch out for those anonymous sites and articles.
Student loan advice from colleagues, friends, and family?
The second most popular student loan planning advice comes from what we call “group think.” If it is suitable for my colleague, it should probably be okay for me?
Student loan repayment is highly individualized and is by no means a one-size-fits-all. Everyone has unique goals, family dynamics, loan balances, and even emotional attachment to their loans, which do not favor this group-think mentality. Be careful when just following what everyone else is doing, as it could cost you considerably down the line.
While having your best interest at heart, friends and family probably lack the specific and up-to-date student loan knowledge required to guide you properly. Federal student loans operate vastly different than any other type of loan. Tread carefully where you get student loan advice.
Student loan advice from financial professionals?
Fortunately, there are many professionals are eager to assist borrowers with their repayment options. Unfortunately, not all who consider themselves financial professionals are well qualified to do so.
The Student Loan Servicer
Many student loan borrowers turn to their loan servicer for advice which is understandable. Sometimes this can result in changes to repayment plans that may not be in your best interest.
Loan servicing representatives have a specific focus area: servicing your loans, not advising on repayment plans or strategies. They aren’t trained in the analysis of your personal financial situation. Their focus is limited to providing information on the different types of repayment programs and answering questions about the status of your loans.
Student Loan Consolidation Companies
Many student loan consolidation firms also charge fees and unfortunately offer poor advice because they lack personal financial advising expertise and qualifications. They also tend to push consolidations as the solution to every problem.
An excellent way to spot a consolidation-focused business is when they ask for your FSA login information. That is a major red flag. Never give out your login information to ANYONE.
Most people feel stressed and under pressure when seeking help on their student loans. Decisions made under stress almost never turn out well. Unfortunately, many stressed borrowers fall prey to these so-called “student loan experts.”
Don’t make your decisions on a professional-looking websites that make claims of quick and easy solutions. Here are some simple guidelines to follow before completing that form online or engaging a company to get student loan help.
- Look at the “About” section and see who is identified. If there aren’t any names and information about their qualifications, consider other options. Reputable firms are not afraid to share who is behind the company.
- Look at the list of services. If all you see are references to consolidations or private loans, this is probably what they are selling. Private loans and consolidations are not necessarily for everyone. A financial professional working in your best interest will help you thoroughly evaluate your options and explain why.
When seeking student loan counsel, make sure the professional asks you broader financial questions about other things about your situation other than just your student loans. Context is everything when it comes to student loans.
Student loans should be considered a significant piece of a borrower’s overall financial plan. Any advice provided should be given in the context of that individual borrower’s life situation, goals, and present financial situation.
Working with a CSLP® and financial professional is a great way to approach your student loans and finances. You’ll have more confidence that your financial professional understands the intricacies of student loan repayment and the implications of these recommendations on your big picture.