DAVE RAMSEY

What you can do this year to work toward being student debt-free

Jan 22, 2023, 5:45 AM

(Pexels Photo)...

(Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

We often think of the new year as a fresh start, but one obstacle that’s still lingering in the background for so many is the burden of student loan debt. The good news is that you don’t have to carry that burden forever, and you don’t have to do it alone.

With 2023 officially upon us, now’s the perfect time to adjust your money mindset. Let’s review what happened with student loans in 2022, look ahead at what’s coming in 2023 and talk about what you can do this year to work toward being debt-free, regardless of what the government throws our way.

President Joe Biden first announced his student loan forgiveness plan in August 2022, offering to cancel up to $20K of student loan debt for millions of Americans. For those burdened by the weight of student loans — some whom have been paying them off for decades — this plan felt like a comforting sigh of relief after a difficult two years of the pandemic.

Others were concerned by this news, wondering how our country could afford to forgive loans considering our national debt that’s soared to over $31 trillion. In response, Republican leaders challenged Biden’s proposal with a lawsuit, which will go to the Supreme Court on February 28, 2023.

With all the controversial back-and-forth, this topic can feel confusing, disheartening and exhausting. But the truth is, no one knows exactly how this situation will resolve. What we do know is that you don’t have to wait on the government to get rid of your student loans. Yes, the student loan crisis in America is overwhelming — and at times, can even feel unfair — but there are action steps you can take right now to set yourself up for future financial success.

Here’s what we know for sure and what you can do to make real progress during the uncertainty:

  1. The student loan pause has been extended … again. Student loan payments were put on hold in March 2020 in an effort to provide financial relief during the pandemic. Repayment was supposed to begin again in September 2020, but the freeze has been extended multiple times by both former President Donald Trump and Biden.
  2. The extension has an end in sight. Although some people are starting to expect this pattern of extensions to continue, an actual deadline has officially emerged. Now, if Biden’s plan to forgive loans has not been enacted by June 30, 2023, loan payments will resume 60 days later (around September 2023). But keep in mind, this will still follow more than 40 months of interest-free relief for borrowers.
  3. Now’s the best time to get ahead on payments. One helpful part of this waiting period is the continued break from interest payments. And because you don’t have to make payments right now, it may feel tempting to delay paying off your student loans while lawmakers sort out their disagreements. But the reality is, now is the best time to make payments and keep your momentum going. Think about how much progress you can make on your balance while interest is out of the equation.
  4. You don’t have to depend on the government to bail you out of debt. It’s never wise to wait around on Washington to fix your finances. Instead, embrace the tortoise mentality and keep a slow but steady pace. If you’ll be disciplined and commit to the process, you can press on (right now with no interest!) toward your goal of paying off debt. I’ve seen thousands of people get there, and you can too.

When it comes to the student loan crisis, there are endless opinions to sort through. But no matter where you fall in the wide range of perspectives, you can be sure about one truth that remains the same: Politicians don’t give you the life you want. You do. And whether you’re months or years into paying off your student loans, don’t give up. Channel all your energy into getting rid of as much of that debt as you can while it’s interest-free. When September comes, you’ll be impressed by all the progress you’ve made.

And if you’re a current high school student watching this debate play out, let it be a caution to you. Avoid the long-term burden of student loan debt. There are countless ways to save money and win scholarships — it just takes some strategy and discipline right now to experience freedom on the other side of your degree. Check out this article for more tips on paying for school with zero debt!

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What you can do this year to work toward being student debt-free