What is Altcoin Season? Why Does It Happen?

2021 has been a heady time for cryptocurrency. Led by Bitcoin, the whole sector has seen huge rises in prices and tremendous volatility along the way. There’s been a massive development of decentralized finance (DeFi) technology applications and cryptocurrency ecosystems that allow people to trade and lend their tokens without the support of a traditional financial institution.

With all this activity and volatility, some have wondered what it will mean for the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Will Bitcoin continue to dominate and soar? Will other coins rise up to take the top spot in the field? Insiders have already coined a phrase for the possibility of Bitcoin stalling out and other cryptocurrency products and token rising in value. It’s known as “altcoin season.”

Altcoins: What Are They?

Basically, altcoins are cryptocurrencies that aren’t Bitcoin or Ethereum. In fact, Bitcoin is so dominant in the field that even Ethereum is sometimes referred to as an altcoin.

Bitcoin is the big kahuna of cryptocurrency, the one that started it all, the one that’s traded the most every day, the one that’s gotten the most backing from mainstream financial institutions, and, of course, the one that’s worth the most ($885,497,080,149 as of December 17, 2021). Ethereum is similar: a long track record, a variety of projects and systems built on top of it, substantial trading volume, and a high overall value (worth $459,827,737,310 as of December 17, 2021).

Altcoins are just about everything else. Sometimes they’re tokens built on top of Ethereum for DeFi projects, sometimes they’re offered in an “initial coin offering” for use with a specific product, sometimes they’re spun up by developers because they think there’s something wrong or missing in the current crypto ecosystem. This could be variants or forks of mainstream coins (like Litecoin (LTC) or Bitcoin Cash), or a whole new type of coin with a specific usage (stablecoins like Tether or USDC), or tokens for use in a specific ecosystem, like XRP for use in Ripple.

When Does “Altcoin Season” Happen?

Altcoin season happens when there’s steady outperformance of tokens and coins that aren’t Bitcoin.

There’s no promise or guarantee that every runup in Bitcoin will turn into a downturn later or that altcoins will start outperforming the original crypto. In fact, it’s not uncommon for all cryptos to rise together, as excitement about the sector grows and new money goes into all sorts of coins looking for profits.

There are a number of theories for why altcoin season could potentially happen. One popular one is that Bitcoin investors will pocket their gains from a surging Bitcoin, maybe by selling some of it, and then move those gains into other cryptocurrencies.

They might do this for one of two reasons:

1.    To realize gains. This might happen if the value of Bitcoin owned by an investor has gone up relative to the dollar or other fiat currencies or cryptocurrencies, and they want to spend some of those gains on things that can’t be bought with crypto itself.

2.    Expectations of future growth change. After a large runup of Bitcoin, an investor’s projected future growth or value of an asset might change compared to the price of investing. So, with inflated Bitcoin values, it’s possible that altcoins could be a better investment going forward. And if enough investors and traders make that decision, they will be.

How Do You Know If It’s Altcoin Season?

You can’t determine altcoin season just by looking at the price of altcoins or Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency in isolation.

Looking at their “market cap”, or the total value of all the circulating tokens, can be a better indicator of what’s going on with investor valuation of cryptocurrencies. This is because price isn’t just determined by investor interest or disinterest, but also by the number of outstanding coins.

How Are Altcoins Doing Relative to Bitcoin?

To tell if we are in altcoin season, we have to look at two things. The first is Bitcoin’s “dominance” vis a vis the rest of the crypto market as well as the performance of altcoins relative to Bitcoin.

At the time of writing in December 2021, according to CoinMarketCap, Bitcoin’s dominance is 41% of the total market. Near the beginning of this year, it stood at 70%. Bitcoin’s highest dominance was 96% in late 2013, Bitcoin’s lowest dominance was early 2018, when it stood at around 33%. Its lowest this year is around 40%, which it hit in May of this year.

Bitcoin has fallen in value by almost 40%, giving a chance for altcoins to gain value in comparison. But we can also compare Bitcoin market value to that of altcoins:

•   Bitcoin’s market value has grown from $176 billion to $885 billion.

•   XRP, the cryptocurrency associated with Ripple, has had its market cap grow from $9 billion to just under $38 billion.

•   Cardano (ADA), whose token is called ADA, has grown from about $3 billion to $41 billion.

•   Litecoin, a Bitcoin alternative founded in 2011 and thus one of the oldest altcoins, has grown from around $3 billion to $10 billion.

•   Ethereum (ETH), the least alt of the altcoins, the most well established of all non-Bitcoin tokens, has grown from $29 billion to $459 billion.

Whether altcoin season is happening at all — and if so, whether it will continue — still remains to be seen.

The Takeaway

Altcoin season describes a time period when altcoins steadily outperform Bitcoin. There are a few ways to try to determine altcoin season, but it remains impossible to predict. Basically, you’ll know it when you’re in it.

Interested in crypto? With SoFi Invest®, you can trade cryptocurrency online from a selection of more than two dozen coins – from Bitcoin and Ethereum to altcoins like Chainlink, Dogecoin, Solana, Litecoin, Cardano, and Enjin Coin.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

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18 Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

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Most students have to borrow student loans to go to college. But very few know anything about them. That’s pretty scary considering you’re likely to take on several tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And making mistakes with that much money could cost you just as much. 

Take it from me. I borrowed six figures to get a doctorate to work in a notoriously low-paying field. And thanks to taking advantage of years of deferments, forbearances, and an income-based plan designed to help borrowers with high debt and low income, I now owe twice what I originally borrowed. 

Don’t make my mistakes. Instead, learn about the most common student loan borrowing and repayment errors. That way, you can avoid an overwhelming amount of student loans and get out of debt faster.

Student Loan Mistakes to Avoid

Most student loan borrowing and repayment mistakes deal with misunderstanding what you’re borrowing, how interest works, how to pay off debt quickly, and how to avoid default. Steer clear of these top mistakes to ensure you borrow smartly and don’t end up in over your head. 

Mistake 1: Applying for Aid at the Last Minute

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to qualifying for all financial aid of any kind. That includes federal grants and student loans as well as state grants and most institutional aid — the grants, scholarships, or loans offered by your school. 

The FAFSA opens for applications every Oct. 1, and you must complete it by June 30 before the academic year you need aid for. You must complete a new FAFSA every year you plan to enroll in school.

Many colleges and universities also require additional forms, such as the CSS profile (short for the College Scholarship Service profile), which dives even deeper into your family’s financial situation. So check with the financial aid office to find out what they are, and stay on top of deadlines. 

But note that states and colleges have limited grant resources. And those resources tend to go to the students who apply early. In other words, they’re first come, first served. So the earlier you get your applications in, the better.

And while the federal government is unlikely to run out of education loan funds, if you miss the FAFSA deadline, you’ll have to resort to private loans, which are costlier and feature less favorable repayment options.

Apply as early as possible to ensure you get as much grant and scholarship aid as you can qualify for. The more grants you can get, the fewer loans you’ll need to borrow.

Mistake 2: Borrowing Too Much

It’s possible to borrow every cent you need to finance your education anywhere you want to go to school. But it’s crucial to ask whether you should. Getting in over your head with student loan debt can have catastrophic consequences. I’m living proof.

I needed a doctorate for my original career plan of teaching college. But few college professors earn enough income to manage the types of monthly payments I had along with other living expenses. That’s how I ended up in the deferment-forbearance cycle.

And it’s not easy to get out of. 

Thanks to a loophole in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program I was counting on and how colleges operate, my teaching position doesn’t qualify me for forgiveness. Additionally, discharging student loans in bankruptcy is currently so difficult it’s nearly impossible. And settling federal student loans isn’t any easier. 

The first step to reducing overwhelming student loan debt is to exhaust every other means of paying for college, including scholarships, grants, and work-study. Search online for scholarship aid using a national scholarship database like Fastweb.

And never count on options like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Historically, the government’s made it nearly impossible to get. Do your homework to increase your chances of getting it and apply for it if you qualify. But don’t base your student loan repayment strategy on it.

Additionally, consider less expensive colleges. State schools tend to give most students the best value. It only matters where you go to college for a select few graduates, such as those looking to build connections with specific financial or law firms. 

Finally, do a cost-benefit analysis. I found out the hard way all degrees don’t pay off, so as much as you want to pursue your passion, it might not be worth it financially.

Search sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out how much you can reasonably expect to make in your chosen field and compare that to the cost of school. As a rule, don’t borrow more than you can expect to earn as your annual salary your first year out of school. That ensures you can pay it off in 10 years or less. 

Mistake 3: Not Understanding How Loan Forgiveness Works

Historically, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has been notoriously difficult to qualify for. The program was overhauled in the fall of 2021. But until then, only 2% of applicants who believed they qualified had their loans forgiven.

Much of that is likely due to bureaucratic mismanagement, hence the overhaul. However, the mismanagement led tens of thousands of borrowers into making payments under the wrong repayment programs. 

On Oct. 6, 2021, the government announced Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which allows previously nonqualifying payments to be counted toward loan forgiveness as long as those payments are certified before Oct. 31, 2022.

But moving forward, it’s crucial that borrowers are clear about the rules of loan forgiveness. You don’t want to find out after 10 years that your application is ineligible and you have to start all over.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, you must:

  • Have Federal Direct Loans. Private loans don’t qualify for forgiveness, nor do other types of federal loans, such as Perkins loans. If your federal loans aren’t direct loans, you can consolidate them into a direct loan to qualify. 
  • Work Full-Time for the Government or a Nonprofit. Payments only qualify while you’re employed full-time for an American federal, state, local, or tribal government or qualifying 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. That includes military service, Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps but excludes labor unions and partisan political organizations.
  • Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Program. No other repayment options qualify. But even if your income is so low your calculated payment under the plan is $0, being enrolled qualifies you. 
  • Make 120 Qualifying Payments. They don’t have to be consecutive, but they must qualify, meaning you have to make them under an income-based plan.
  • Submit the Forgiveness Certification Form Regularly. You must fill out and submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program certification form yearly and each time you switch employers. While not required, doing so ensures the payments you’re making qualify for forgiveness and allows you to make any changes you need to before you’ve made too many nonqualifying payments.

See all the rules at StudentAid.gov. 

Mistake 4: Taking Out the Wrong Type of Loan

There’s more than one type of student loan. But it’s generally best to exhaust your resources for federal aid before turning to alternatives. 

That said, while rare, some students may find the caps on how much you can borrow in federal direct loans don’t cover the total cost of attendance. 

Fortunately, graduate students and parents of undergrads can borrow PLUS loans up to the total cost of attendance. So there’s no need for many students to resort to other sources. If that’s not an option for you, students can sometimes borrow from their state government or the school they plan to attend. 

But the primary source of alternative loans for student borrowers is private student loans from banks or credit unions.

Federal student loans almost always win out over private student loans because of their lower fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options, borrower protections, and the potential for forgiveness.

But if you’re planning to borrow PLUS loans and definitely won’t qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, it’s worth it to find out whether you could get a better deal on a private loan if you have excellent credit. 

Mistake 5: Not Shopping Around for the Best Interest Rate & Terms

If you decide to borrow private student loans, always shop around for the best loan you can qualify for.

Private lenders compete for your business. So going with the first lender you find could mean leaving a better rate on the table.

Use a comparison site like Credible, which matches you with prequalified rates from up to eight lenders with only a soft inquiry on your credit report, which doesn’t affect your credit score. That way, you can compare all your student loan options in one place. 

But it’s not only interest rates that should matter to your bottom line. The best private student loan companies offer various borrower perks in addition to low rates.   

For example, most lenders reduce your interest rate when you enroll in autopay. And some reduce your rate even further with loyalty discounts for doing other business with them, such as opening bank accounts or taking out personal loans. 

Some lenders also offer perks for specific borrowers, such as special payment plans for medical and dental students during their residencies. And some even offer unique perks like free financial coaching or career planning services.  

Just remember to read all the fine print so you know exactly what loan terms you’re agreeing to before you sign. For example, it may lack options for deferment if you fall on hard times or a co-signer release option. Don’t be lured by a shiny interest rate on its own.  

Mistake 6: Not Understanding How Variable & Fixed Interest Rates Work

The rate is only one piece of the interest puzzle. How that rate works also affects how much accrues over time. 

For example, all federal student loans come with fixed interest rates set each year by law. That means the rate stays the same for the life of the loan, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the interest rate during the year you borrowed. 

But some private student loans have variable interest rates. These fluctuate with market conditions. Although the variable rates are generally the lowest offered rates, it’s because the borrower is assuming the risk that the rate won’t go up, which is likely if you take 10 or more years to repay your student loans.

If you already have a variable-rate private loan, look into refinancing to a fixed-rate loan while rates are low. 

And once you start making payments, contact the student loan company to find out if there are any ways to lower the interest rate, like signing up for an autopay discount.

Mistake 7: Not Understanding Interest Accrual & Capitalization

Another factor to consider is when the interest begins to accrue (accumulate). On subsidized federal loans, that doesn’t happen until after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Thus, whatever you borrowed is what you owe up until the day you’re no longer enrolled full time. 

But interest on unsubsidized federal and private loans starts the moment you get the money. So on graduation day, you owe a higher balance than you originally borrowed.

Worse, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance as though it were part of what you borrowed) once you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment. Since interest accrues according to the principal, that means you’ll then be earning interest on the interest.

Fortunately, you can reduce or even eliminate the burden interest can cause. Make small monthly interest payments while you’re still in school. That ensures none accrues and capitalizes on graduation. 

If you have to, take on a part-time job. As long as you keep it to part-time hours, it shouldn’t interfere with your studies, and a well-chosen college job comes with numerous benefits, like teaching you the money management skills you need to pay off those loans after college. 

Mistake 8: Co-Signing a Loan Without Understanding the Consequences

In some cases, a co-signer can help a student qualify for a loan or get a lower interest rate. 

But co-signing their loan comes with a great deal of risk. You’re taking on equal responsibility for the loan. That means if they make a late payment or miss one entirely, it could impact your credit score. And if they default on the loan, the loan company will come after you for the balance.

And it doesn’t matter how responsible or well-intentioned the borrower is. No one can predict the future, and they could fall on hard times. 

There are several programs designed to help people who have trouble paying back federal loans — if they enroll in them. But private lenders are especially hard to work with. Either way, there are risks associated with co-signing for a student loan. 

If you do agree to co-sign, ask them to look for a company with a co-signer release option, which absolves you of responsibility for the debt after the student makes a certain number of on-time monthly payments.

If not getting help means they can’t attend college, a parent PLUS loan gives you more control than co-signing a private loan. You can borrow up to the total cost of their attendance, but the loan will be in your name. 

If you want, you can still agree that they’re responsible for paying you back (though that agreement isn’t legally enforceable). Plus, if you experience financial hardship, you have access to federal repayment plans and borrower protections.

However, don’t sacrifice retirement savings or go into debt paying for your kids’ college. It could leave you unprepared, potentially placing a financial burden on them later.

Mistake 9: Putting Off Making a Repayment Plan

Many borrowers get lulled into thinking they can wait until after they graduate and their six-month grace period ends before they have to start worrying about their student loans. But you need to prepare your budget long before then.

A student loan payment could easily be $400 per month (maybe more). That’s a hefty chunk of anyone’s take-home pay. But recent grads won’t make as much as established professionals in any field. 

And if you don’t think about it for the first six months post-graduation, it’s easy to establish a post-college life that doesn’t leave room for it, such as upgrading your apartment or buying a new car.

Before you graduate, find out what your monthly payment will be. You can check your student loan balance by creating a student account at StudentAid.gov.

Then, build the rest of your post-college budget around your monthly student loan payment. That ensures you won’t take on more financial obligations than you can afford. Unfortunately, that may mean living that ramen-eating college lifestyle for the first couple of years after you graduate. 

Mistake 10: Choosing the Wrong Repayment Plan

The automatic student loan repayment schedule is 10 years of fixed payments, but it’s not the best option for all borrowers.

You don’t want to string out payments for decades unless it’s necessary. But income-driven repayment plans, which forgive any remaining balance after you make 240 to 300 (20 to 25 years) of qualifying payments, may be a saving grace for borrowers with high debt and low income. 

And for those entering public service fields, an income-driven repayment plan is the gateway to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which forgives any remaining balance in as few as 120 qualifying payments. 

But even if you stick to the standard 10-year plan, you still have options. 

For example, you can repay your loans on a graduated plan, which lets you make smaller payments at the beginning. Your payments then gradually rise every two years. This plan is ideal for those who must start in a lower-paying job but expect their income to increase substantially as they gain work experience.

Use the loan simulator at StudentAid.gov to see how much you can expect to repay under different repayment plans. It shows your monthly payments, total amount owed, and any potential balance you could have forgiven under an income-driven repayment plan as well as the date you can expect to have your loans paid off.

Use this information to weigh your options. Ask yourself: 

  • Is it better to pay off your loans as quickly as possible by sticking to the standard 10-year plan? Is that realistic at your current income? 
  • How big will your payments be 10 years down the line if you opt for graduated repayment? Are you likely to make enough money for that to be practical? 
  • Is it better to make your current situation more manageable through an income-driven or extended repayment plan? 

Lowering your monthly payment will have consequences since it means more interest will accrue. But the loan simulator can give you an accurate picture of what those consequences will look like. 

Mistake 11: Only Making the Minimum Payment

The longer you sit on debt, the more it costs you thanks to the interest. So if you have any wiggle room in your budget, put whatever money you can toward your student loans to pay them off as quickly as possible. 

Even small amounts can make a big difference.

For example, if you borrowed $40,000 in student loans at 6% interest, your monthly payment would be $444. But if you paid $500 a month instead — a difference of only $56 — you’d save $1,957 in interest and have them repaid a year sooner.

If you can, opt for a side gig or cut your expenses. Additionally, put any windfalls — like tax refunds, gifts, or inheritances — toward your loans.  

But this is key: When you make any extra payments toward your loans, ensure you indicate the company should apply it to the principal. The more you pay down the principal, the less interest accumulates.

Mistake 12: Refinancing Without Considering the Pros & Cons

Refinancing is a common strategy for lowering the cost of debt, whether it’s a mortgage refinance or a student loan. But while refinancing can score you a lower interest rate, interest rates aren’t the only consideration.

When you refinance a student loan, you can only do so through a private refinance lender. That means you lose access to all the benefits of federal student loans, including federal repayment plans, borrower protections, generous deferment and forbearance options, and federal loan forgiveness. 

It may still be worth it to you, depending on the rate you can get. But it’s crucial to weigh that against all you’d be giving up.

Even if the private interest rate is lower, the future is unpredictable, and you never know if you could need those federal benefits. And you’ll lose all access to federal loan forgiveness with a refinance.

On the other hand, if you have private student loans, there’s no reason not to refinance. 

Mistake 13: Postponing Payments Unnecessarily

Both federal and private student loans have multiple options for deferment and forbearance. These allow you to temporarily suspend payments for various reasons, including full-time enrollment in school, economic hardship, military deployment, and serving in AmeriCorps. 

Sometimes, deferment or forbearance makes sense, such as while you’re enrolled in school. But prolonged use of these options just increases your overall balance because interest keeps piling up. 

Interest accrues on all but subsidized federal loans during deferments. And it accrues on all loans during forbearance. Additionally, that interest is capitalized (added to the principal balance) at the end of the deferment or forbearance. 

Only use these options when absolutely necessary. And if possible, make interest payments during periods of deferment or forbearance to prevent its accrual. 

If you’re deferring or forbearing for economic hardship and anticipate the hardship will last longer than a month or two, apply for an income-driven plan instead. 

Depending on the severity of your situation, your monthly payments could be calculated as low as $0. And some plans don’t capitalize interest and even have interest subsidies, which means the government covers the interest on your loans for a specified period.  

Additionally, those $0 “payments” count toward potential student loan forgiveness. But only periods of economic hardship deferment count toward the forgiveness clock. No other form of deferment or forbearance qualifies. And there’s a cap on how long you can defer for economic hardship.

Plus, if your financial situation changes, you can always change your repayment plan. 

Mistake 14: Missing Payments

Missing payments can result in late fees. The student loan company tacks these onto your next month’s minimum payment. So if you had a hard time paying this month, it won’t be easier next month. 

Plus, when you make your next payment, your money covers fees and interest before going toward the principal. So multiple fees could mean paying your principal down slower. And interest accrues according to the principal balance, so the higher you keep that balance, the more interest you pay.

Worse, if you miss enough payments, it can result in a default of your loans, which comes with severe consequences, such as damaged credit or wage garnishment or seizure of your tax refunds, Social Security benefits, or property. 

There’s never a reason to miss a payment on a federal student loan if you’re facing financial hardship. Simply call the company and let them know. Depending on what you qualify for, you can choose from multiple options, including deferment, forbearance, or an income-driven repayment plan.

Private lenders are tougher to work with, as fewer repayment options are available. But many are still willing to work with you if you explain the situation. Most of the top lenders have limited programs for deferment or forbearance in times of economic hardship. 

Mistake 15: Keeping Your Assigned Payment Due Date

Student loan companies allow you to adjust your monthly due date. That can be helpful if you’re having trouble stretching your dollars from one paycheck to the next.

Plus, if your bills are anything like mine, most of them are due at the same time of month. Thus, if you get paid biweekly, adjusting your due date to a different time of the month can make things easier.  

If you want a different due date, contact the company handling your student loans and ask if you can adjust your due date to one more beneficial for you. You may even be able to change it through your online account.

Ensure you get confirmation of the new date in writing. That protects you if you get hit with any late fees in error. Additionally, ask when the new date takes effect. It could take a billing cycle or two, depending on the lender. 

Mistake 16: Falling for Student Loan Scams

Many borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters, and texts offering them relief from their student loans or warning them federal forgiveness programs will end soon if they don’t act now.

But the services these scam debt relief companies offer usually steal borrowers’ money or private information rather than grant any actual relief. 

Other student loan scams take fees for helping students apply for income-driven repayment plans or consolidate their loans. However, borrowers never have to pay to sign up for any federal repayment programs. They only need to contact the company in charge of their loan.

In general, if someone contacts you, avoid giving them any personal information. No matter who they claim to be, either tell them to send their request in writing or say you’ll call them back. Then verify their story by contacting your student loan company at their listed phone number or through their website.

Additionally, never pay an upfront fee for student loan services. The government doesn’t charge application fees for any of their loan programs. They also won’t claim an offer is only available for a limited time since all the terms are set by law every year and are available to all students.

For more red flags to watch for, check out the Department of Education’s tips on avoiding student loan scams. 

Mistake 17: Forgetting to Update Your Contact Information

You are responsible for making all your loan payments whether you received the bill or not. Additionally, the lender in charge of your loan can change, and you need to ensure you’re able to receive that information so you always know who to contact about paying and managing your loans.

Thus, it’s on borrowers to ensure the company in charge of their student loans has all their current contact information, including mailing address, email address, and phone number. That’s especially the case if you moved after you graduated or listed a parent’s address on your application forms.

Log into your student loan account to ensure your contact information is current. 

If you don’t know who services your student loans, check with your school’s financial aid office. For federal loans, you can always create an account on StudentAid.gov.

Then, each time you move, get a new email address or change your number, update that info with the company handling your student loans.

Mistake 18: Not Asking for Help

Paying off student loans can be overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with low income or a large amount of debt. Depending on your circumstance, it could feel like you’re drowning and may never escape.

Trust me, I know how it feels. And I’m hardly alone. A simple online search reveals dozens of stories of borrowers who’ve consistently paid on their loans yet owe more than ever thanks to the compounding effects of interest, which often feels like quicksand. 

But paying late or not at all only makes the situation worse. Damage to your credit report can make it difficult for you to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even get a job. And default can leave you subject to wage garnishment, steep collection penalties, and even lawsuits.  

But hope isn’t lost. There is help. Resources exist for borrowers who need an extra hand.

The first step is to reach out to the student loan company. See if there’s a payment plan that’s manageable for you. Even if there isn’t, let them know what payment you can afford, and go from there. 

If the company is uncooperative, contact the federal student loan ombudsman. 

Borrowers can also reach out to nonprofit student loan counselors, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. These organizations work with borrowers to help them figure out the best strategies for dealing with their loans and overall financial health. 

Alternatively, if you’ve reached the point of needing to settle your student loans or file for bankruptcy, seek an attorney who specializes in student loans. For private student loan help, try The National Association of Consumer Advocates. For federal student loans, search the American Bar Association.


Final Word

The United States is currently experiencing a student loan crisis because of how the debt has impacted American lives.

It’s affected borrowers’ ability to save for retirement and buy a home. It’s also impacted people’s ability to start a family or even choose a job for passion over a paycheck.

And it can do so for decades. Many millennials who’ve entered middle age continue to face debt repayment. And many feel college wasn’t worth it as a result.

But you don’t have to be one of these statistics. I write about student loans precisely to help others avoid my mistakes. Learn from this list so you can borrow wisely and avoid overwhelming student loan debt.  

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Sarah Graves, Ph.D. is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, education, and creative entrepreneurship. She’s also a college instructor of English and humanities. When not busy writing or teaching her students the proper use of a semicolon, you can find her hanging out with her awesome husband and adorable son watching way too many superhero movies.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What Is Fibonacci Retracement in Crypto Trading?

A retracement level is the price at which a stock or cryptocurrency tends to see a reversal in its trend. Fibonacci retracement is a popular tool in technical analysis that helps determine support and resistance levels on a price chart.

What Are Fibonacci Retracement Levels?

Fibonacci numbers are a series where each number equals the sum of the two previous numbers. The most basic series is: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377 etc.

When it comes to technical analysis, investors use Fibonacci Replacement Levels, expressed as percentages, to analyze how much of a previous move a price has retraced. The most important Fibonacci Retracement levels are: 23.6% 38.2%, 50% and 61.8%.

Some analysts refer to 61.8% as “the golden ratio,” since it equals the division of one number in the series by the number that follows it. For example: 8/13 = 0.6153, and 55/89 = 0.6179.

The other Retracement levels reflect other calculations: Dividing one number by the number three places to its right equals 23.6%. For example: 8/34 = 0.2352. Bitcoin traders often use 78.6%, which is the square root of 0.618,

Some prefer the 0.618 and 0.382 levels because these are the retracement levels analysts believe are most likely to generate a trend reversal. These levels are considered inflection points where fear and greed can alter price action. When an asset is trending upward but loses momentum, it’s possible that a pullback to the 0.618 price level could result in a bounce upward, for example.

How Does Fibonacci Retracement Work and What Does it Do?

There are several theories as to why the fibonacci retracement works. Some of these include:

•   Fibonacci price levels reflect the effects of extreme fear and greed in the market. To use this to their advantage, traders might buy when people are panicking and sell when others are getting greedy.

•   Fibonacci patterns are often observed in nature as well as in mathematics. For example: fruits and vegetables. If one would look at the center of a sunflower, spiral patterns could appear to curve left and right. Counting these spirals, the total often is a Fibonacci number. If one could divide the spirals into those pointed left and right, then two consecutive Fibonacci numbers could be obtained. Therefore, it’s thought that these patterns may be important in financial markets as well.

•   The law of numbers: If a greater percentage of people practice Fibonacci crypto trading, then the likelihood of its accuracy increases.

At its core, a Fibonacci retracement is a mathematical measurement of a particular pattern. When it comes to Fibonacci in crypto, traders try to apply these patterns to price action to predict future price movements.

Who Created Fibonacci Retracements?

While traders commonly use Fibonacci in crypto today, the number sequences pre-date the invention of cryptocurrency by many centuries. Fibonacci numbers are based on the key numbers studied by mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci (or Leonardo of Pisa) in the 13th century, although Indian mathematicians had identified them previously. He was a medieval Italian mathematician famous for his “Book of the Abacus”, the first European work on Indian and Arabian mathematics, which introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe.

Formula

In an uptrend or bullish market, the formulas for calculating Fibonacci retracement and extension levels are:

UR = High price – ((High price – Low price) * percentage) in an uptrend market; where UR is uptrend retracement.

UE = High price + ((High price – Low price) * percentage) in an uptrend market; where UE is an uptrend extension.

For example: A stock price range of $10 – $20, could depict a swing low to swing high.

Uptrend Retracement (UR) = $20 – (($20 – $10) * 0.618)) = $13.82 (utilizing 0.618 retracement)

Uptrend Extension (UE) = $20 + (($20 – $10) * 0.618)) = $26.18 (utilizing 0.618 retracement)

If a stock pulls back $13.82 could be a level that the stock bounces back to reach higher levels than its swing high price, e.g. $20. In an uptrend, the general idea is to take profits on a long trade at a Fibonacci price extension Level ~ $26.18.

What Does a Fibonacci Retracement do?

Markets don’t go straight up or down. There are pauses and corrections along the way. To buy stocks in an uptrend, one would look to get the best price possible.

Some traders use Fibonacci Retracement to determine how much a stock could pull back before continuing higher. Traders can use these retracement levels to find optimal prices at which to enter a trade.

A swing high happens when a security’s price reaches a peak before a decline. A swing high forms when the highest price reached is greater than a given number of highs around it.

Swing low is the opposite of swing high. It refers to the lowest price within a timeframe, usually fewer than 20 trading periods. A swing low occurs when a lowest price is lower than any other surrounding prices in a given period of time.

Support and Resistance

Support is the price level that acts as a floor, preventing the price from being pushed lower, while resistance is the high level that the price reaches over time. Analysts often illustrate these as horizontal lines on a graph.

A support or resistance level can also represent a pivot point, or point from which prices have a tendency to reverse if they bounce (in the case of support) or retreat (in the case of resistance) from that level.

Learn more: Support and Resistance: What Is It? How To Use It for Trading

Limitations of Fibonacci Retracement

Fibonacci retracements in crypto or other markets may be slightly predictive. But over relying on them can be counterproductive for reasons such as:

•   Fibonacci retracements, like any other indicators, could be used effectively only if investors understand it completely. It could end up being risky if not used properly.

•   There are no guarantees that prices will end up at that point, and retrace as the theory indicates.

•   Fibonacci retracement sequences are often close to each other, therefore it may be tough to accurately predict future price movements.

•   Using technical analysis tools like Fibonacci retracements can give investors tunnel vision, where they only see price action through this one indicator. Assuming that any single indicator is always correct can be problematic.

A Fibonacci retracement in crypto trading could wind up being even less predictive than in other financial markets due to the extreme volatility that cryptocurrencies often experience.

Fibonacci Retracements and Bitcoin

Fibonacci retracements can also be used for trading cryptos such as Bitcoin (BTC), similarly to how they’re used in stocks. In this case, one would use the levels 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8% and 78.6% to determine where the cryptocurrency price would reverse.

Crypto prices are very volatile, and leverage trading is common. Leverage is the use of borrowed funds to increase the trading position, beyond what would be available from the cash balance alone. Therefore, it can be important to have some reference as to when the price could reverse, to not incur major losses.

Using the Fibonacci Retracement Tool to Trade Cryptocurrencies

In order to get started with a Fibonacci Retracement Tool, a trader could find a completed trend for a crypto, say, Bitcoin, which could either be an uptrend or downtrend.

Below are some steps on how to use Fibonacci retracement tool:

1.    Determine the direction of the market. Is it an uptrend or downtrend?

2.    For an uptrend, determine the two most extreme points (bottom and top) on the Bitcoin price chart. Attach the Fibonacci retracement tool on the bottom and drag it to the right, all the way to the top.

3.    For a downtrend, the extreme points are top and bottom and the retracement tool could be dragged from the top to the bottom.

4.    For an uptrend or downtrend, one could monitor the potential support levels: 0.236, 0.382, 0.5 and 0.618.

Recommended: Crypto Technical Analysis: What It Is & How to Do One

Fibonacci Retracement Example for Bitcoin

In December 2017, Bitcoin fell from $13,112 to around $10,800, within a short timeframe. After that, it rallied up to $12k twice, but did not break above that level until 2021. That indicates a bearish pattern, as it couldn’t break above its previous high. In technical analysis it is called a double top.

On the Fibonacci tool, the $12k resistance point coincided with the 50% level of retracement. When the price could not reach this level, it started to fall again. In this scenario, traders using Fibonacci Retracement might consider this a good time to exit a long position or establish a short position. A short trade is based on the speculation that the price of Bitcoin is going to fall.

By February, 2018, the trade materialized as Bitcoin continued its downtrend falling all the way to $9,270. The short trade would have worked and traders could have realized a profit from using the crypto Fibonacci Retracement tool, although those who managed to HODL for years after that would have made even more.

FAQ

Does Fibonacci retracement work with crypto?

While the Fibonacci retracement tool is traditionally used for analyzing stocks or trading currencies in the forex market, some analysts believe it is also helpful in determining a crypto trading strategy.

How accurate is fibonacci retracement?

In crypto, Fibonacci retracement levels are often fairly accurate, although no indicator is perfect and they are best used in combination with other research. The accuracy levels increase with longer timeframes. For example, a 50% retracement on a weekly chart is a more important technical level than a 50% retracement on a five-minute chart.

What are the advantages of using fibonacci retracement?

Here are some benefits of using Fibonacci Retracement.

•   Trend prediction. With the correct setting and levels, it can often predict the price reversals of bitcoin at early levels, with a high probability.

•   Flexibility. Fibonacci Retracement works for assets of any market and any timeframe. One must note that longer time frames could result in a more accurate signal.

•   Fair assessment of market psychology. Fibonacci levels are built on both a mathematical algorithm and the psychology of the majority, which is a fair assessment of market sentiment.

The Takeaway

The Fibonacci Retracement tool can help identify hidden levels of support and resistance so that analysts can better time their trades. Analysts believe this tool is more effective when utilized with types of cryptocurrency that have higher market-capitalization, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, because they have more established trends over extended time frames.They consider it less effective on cryptocurrencies with a smaller market capitalization.

Whether you use Fibonacci Retracement or other methods to create your cryptocurrency trading strategy, a great way to get started is by opening a brokerage account on the SoFi Invest investment app. You can use it to trade more than a dozen different coins, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Cardano, and Dogecoin.

Photo credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN


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2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

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Source: sofi.com

Understanding Your Student Loan Promissory Note

Generally speaking, promissory notes are legally binding contracts that state the terms of a loan, such as the amount to be repaid, the interest rate that will be charged, and any other important terms and conditions of that particular loan.

A student loan promissory note is no different; you’ll be required to sign one, accepting the terms of your student loan(s) before the lender disburses your money.

If a student loan promissory note sounds super important, that’s because it is. You can think of it as your student loan contract. Like any legal contract, it’s important to know the nuances of what you’re signing. Here’s what you should know about student loan promissory notes and master promissory notes.

What Is a Student Loan Promissory Note?

A promissory note is your student loan contract. It details the terms and conditions of that loan, as well as any rights and responsibilities you have as a borrower. Both federal student loans — loans backed by the U.S. government — and private student loans require that you sign a promissory note.

With private student loans, borrowers will generally be required to sign a promissory note for each student loan they borrow, because each loan’s terms and conditions may be different. Federal student loan borrowers may have the option to sign just one master promissory note.

What Is a Master Promissory Note?

Borrowers with federal student loans may be able to sign just one master promissory note. If eligible, a master promissory note covers all federal loans borrowed for a period of 10 years. There are versions of the master promissory note for both students borrowing Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans and a version for borrowers who are using Direct PLUS Loans.

Whether you’ll be able to sign a master promissory note is determined by the school you attend and the types of federal loans you have. Some schools do not offer the option to have students sign a master promissory note that covers borrowing over multiple years.

So be certain to understand what your school allows, and whether you need to sign multiple promissory notes or one master promissory note. The financial aid office at your college should be able to guide you through the process.

What Should I Look for on My Student Loan Promissory Note?

Understanding the terms and conditions of a student loan promissory note is akin to understanding the terms of student loans. Here are some important items to consider on your loan, and note:

Loan type: First, it is important to know what type of loan you have. Federal loans will have different terms than private loans, which are loans accessed through an independent bank, credit union, or other lender.

Repayment options: Federal loans come with some options to help you manage your debt post-graduation, such as student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment. If you have federal loans and access to multiple repayment plans, take some time to understand the ins and outs of different plans.

Deferment options: Federal loans may also offer options for student loan deferment, which would allow you to suspend making payments during periods of economic hardship, immediately after you leave school, etc. Private loans may also offer some deferment options, but every lender is different, so you’ll need to check your note.

Interest rate: The interest rate is a percentage of the principal loan amount that the borrower is charged for borrowing money. Be certain to understand the interest rate on your student loans, and whether that rate is fixed or variable. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates.

Private student loans may offer variable rates. If the rate is variable, it is possible that it will increase in the future, which would also increase your monthly payments. Be especially wary of private loans that offer introductory rate offers that later expire — they could end up costing you quite a bit of money.

Additional costs: In addition to the loan’s interest rate, a student loan promissory note should include information on any additional costs, such as a loan fee (also known as an origination fee). Student loan fees will vary by lender, so be sure to check yours. Sometimes a loan fee is deducted directly from the amount that is disbursed.

Prepayment fees: Speaking of additional costs, one thing to check for is whether your student loan allows you to “pre-pay” loan payments. If you think there’s a chance you’ll want to pay your loan back faster than the stated terms, check to see whether prepayment is allowed, and if so, how additional payments are applied and whether there are any fees attached. Making prepayments on the principal value of the loan could help reduce the amount of money you owe in interest over the life of the loan.

Cosigner removal: With some loans, especially private loans, you may be required to have a cosigner. (That’s because private loans rely on your — or your cosigner’s — creditworthiness to determine the terms of your loan. Federal loans do not.) Upon graduation, some borrowers want to release their cosigner of the responsibility of having their name on the loan, so you may want to find out whether that’s a possibility.

Allocation of funds: Some loans may require that the money is spent only on designated expenses, such as books or tuition. If you’re looking to upgrade your apartment, you might not be allowed to do so using student loan funds. Make sure to check on any stipulations on how you can spend the money.

When Is the Promissory Note Signed?

In general, borrowers will need to sign the promissory note for their loans before receiving any funds. Students who are borrowing federal student loans are able to sign their master promissory note online by logging into their federal student loan account.

Private lenders may have their own policies for signing a promissory note, it’s helpful to check-in directly with the lender if you have any questions.

Understanding Your Options

If you haven’t picked up on it already, knowing how student loans work and understanding your student loan contract is the name of the game. Taking out a student loan can be a huge financial commitment and shouldn’t be done without careful consideration — which means knowing what’s on that promissory note.

Before going to sign your student loan promissory note, it’s also a good idea to spend some time thinking about your financial goals. A good place to start is by looking at how much you’ll take out in loans, total, and compare that to how much money you can expect to make after you graduate from school. Use a student loan calculator to get an idea of what your monthly payments could be given your total debt and the interest rate.

Rarely is it financially sound to take out more in loans than you absolutely need. It might seem like Monopoly money now, but this is all money that you’ll have to pay back, with interest. The repayment process can be painstaking, especially as a person early in their career or during a setback, like layoffs or a health issue. Taking out the bare minimum in student loans may mean working part-time in college, exploring more affordable college options, or continuing to apply for scholarships after you’re enrolled.

Once you’ve graduated, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans is a way for some graduates to lower the interest rates on their loans or lower their monthly payments. Refinancing is a process where your existing loans are consolidated and paid off with a new loan from a private lender.

Generally, the borrower has the option to keep the same repayment schedule or increase or decrease the amount of time left on their loan. (Increasing the duration of a loan may result in paying more interest over time, whereas decreasing the duration of a loan may result in higher monthly payments, but less interest paid overall.)

If you’re planning on using your federal loans’ flexible repayment plans or student loan forgiveness programs, refinancing with a private lender may not be the right choice for you as you will lose access to those federal benefits. However, some private lenders, like SoFi, offer protections to borrowers who lose their jobs or experience economic hardship. SoFi even provides career counseling to help their borrowers get back on track.

The Takeaway

A student loan promissory note is a contract between the borrower and the lender that details the loan’s terms and conditions and where the borrower promises to repay the loan. Federal student loan borrowers may be able to sign just one master promissory note, which will cover all federal loans for a period of up to 10 years. Private lenders generally require a promissory note for each individual loan.

Understanding the terms and conditions of your loan when signing of the promissory note can help you set your expectations for borrowing and ultimately repaying your student loans.

Whether you need help paying for school or help paying off the loans you already have, SoFi offers competitive interest rates and great member benefits as well.

See what you’re pre-qualified for in just a few minutes.


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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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REPAYE vs PAYE: What’s the Difference?

Struggling to make your student loan payments? Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) may ease the burden. The choice boils down to your degree of financial hardship, desired repayment term, and income trajectory.

Both adjust your monthly loan payments based on your income and family size.

PAYE vs REPAYE: An Overview

If your federal student loan payments under the standard 10-year repayment plan are high compared with your income, one of the four income-based repayment plans might be an option.

The PAYE and REPAYE plans generally enable eligible federal student loan borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10% of their monthly discretionary income. (Discretionary income is the difference between annual income and 150% of the poverty guideline for family size and state of residence.)

One main difference: While borrowers need to apply for both programs, the PAYE plan typically requires proof of financial hardship.

The pay as you earn repayment plans are available for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans; Grad PLUS loans; Direct Consolidation Loans that did not repay any Parent PLUS loans; FFEL loans if consolidated; and consolidated federal Perkins Loans.

Key Differences Between PAYE and REPAYE

Both plans extend the length of your loan beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan. Both require you to “recertify” your income and family size each year. Both cap your monthly loan payment at 10% of your discretionary income.

Both consider the same federal student loans eligible.

Both plans are designed to forgive any loan balance after 20 or 25 years, although if you’re also working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may qualify for forgiveness of any remaining loan balance after 10 years of qualifying payments.

So what are the differences?

PAYE

•   Requires proof of financial hardship.

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years.

•   Counts a spouse’s income unless you’re married and file separately.

•   You’re eligible if you took your first loan out on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and received at least one Direct Loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

REPAYE

•   Has a repayment period of 20 years if all loans being repaid under the plan were for undergraduate study.

•   Has a repayment term of 25 years if any loans being repaid under the plan were for graduate or professional study.

•   Always considers a spouse’s income.

•   Has no application restrictions based on when you took out your federal student loans.

There are also differences in the interest subsidy.

What Is the Interest Subsidy?

If your payments under PAYE or REPAYE are too small to cover the interest your loan accrues each month, the government will help in the form of an interest subsidy.

Under both plans, the federal government covers surplus interest charges on subsidized loans for the first three years.

With REPAYE, though, after three years, the government will pay 50% of the accruing interest on subsidized loans. Eligible unsubsidized loans receive a 50% interest subsidy at all times if your payment is too small to cover the interest.

Interest will capitalize under both plans if you fail to recertify income and family size or you leave the plan, and in the case of PAYE if you no longer can demonstrate a financial hardship.

Answers to Common Questions

How do I apply for a repayment plan?

You only need to submit one application for any income-driven repayment plan and will need to supply financial information. It will take about 10 minutes. The federal Student Aid Office also will recommend a repayment plan based on your input.

I want to apply for PAYE. How is financial hardship defined?

A general rule of thumb: If your debt exceeds your income, you likely demonstrate hardship under PAYE.

More specifically, your loan servicer will compare your monthly payment under the standard plan and PAYE. If you’d pay more under the standard plan, you have a financial hardship.

What if I’m in PAYE and no longer demonstrate hardship?

Your loan payments will stop being based on your income, and unpaid interest will be added to your loan.

What if I forget to recertify my income and family size for either plan?

Your loan payments will no longer be based on your income. They will revert to the amount you would pay under the 10-year standard repayment plan.

I’m married and have a moderate income I don’t expect to change much. What’s the better fit?

PAYE might fit best.

I’m single, I’ll probably earn much more in the coming years, and I can’t prove a financial hardship. Which plan of the two might fit me better?

REPAYE.

Does a Parent PLUS Loan qualify for either plan?

No.

Looking to lower your monthly
payments or reduce your term?
Check out SoFi student loan refinancing.

Income-Driven Repayment Alternatives

PAYE and REPAYE may lower your monthly student loan payments, and forgiveness of any balance after 20 or 25 years is a big perk. But these plans aren’t the only way to reduce the sting of loan payments.

You can also refinance your student loans — private and federal — with a private lender and potentially qualify for a lower interest rate.

Got graduate school or federal parent loan debt? Many borrowers refinance Grad PLUS Loans and Parent PLUS Loans, as those have historically offered less competitive rates.

The government Direct Consolidation Loan program combines federal student loans into a single federal loan, but the interest rate is the weighted average of the original loans’ rates rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percentage point, which means the borrower usually does not save any money. Lengthening the loan term can decrease the monthly payment, but that means you’ll spend more on total interest.

With PAYE or REPAYE, federal loan benefits and protections like deferment and public service-based loan forgiveness are in play and will not carry over with a refinanced private loan. But borrowers who qualify for a lower interest rate could see substantial savings over the life of the loan through refinancing.

The Takeaway

PAYE and REPAYE tie federal student loan payments to income and family size for 20 to 25 years. They differ in small ways, and each has its merits, but borrowers might want to consider refinancing student loans if they can get a better rate.

SoFi blazed the trail in student loan refinancing, offering flexible repayment plans and charging no origination fees.

Rates have been at historic lows. See what you qualify for in just two minutes.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL MAY 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Source: sofi.com

Dear Penny: Do I Tell My Mother-in-Law Her Retirement Plans Are Screwed?

Dear Penny,

My in-laws are hardworking folks who have never had much money, nor have they been good at managing it.

By his mid-20s, my partner was already in a caretaker role with them both with some light money management and my father-in-law’s extensive health issues. This care is part of what made me fall in love with him. He’s been able to hold firm boundaries through the years, allowing us to help when needed but still enjoy our warm relationship with them.

Several years ago, an elderly family member became ill. This family member was close to my in-laws a long time ago, but they’d lost touch as everyone aged. When this family member’s power of attorney attempted to defraud her, my in-laws stepped in to manage her finances and her medical care since she has no other living family.

It quickly became clear this task went beyond my in-laws’ abilities. While they didn’t want our help, my partner eventually had to intervene. This family member was about to be homeless, and my in-laws were essentially clueless. My partner was able to secure federal benefits for this family member that covered large portions of her care. This took a lot of the strain from my in-laws, and we thought all was well.

But we recently learned my in-laws took out a gigantic loan to cover some of this family member’s nursing expenses before she died last year. Not only is the loan huge, but the interest rate is terrible. My father-in-law told my partner they inherited a few thousand dollars from her, but they decided to keep it rather than apply it to the loan.

My father-in-law’s health continues to be poor, and my mother-in-law is beyond overwhelmed. My father-in-law has long been the manager of the family’s finances, but he’s terrible at it and my mother-in-law doesn’t like to intervene. It’s possible she’s not aware of the details of the loan. She’s close to retirement age, but this loan on top of their monthly expenses threatens her ability to retire completely.

With some assistance, I think they could manage the debt and even determine if any of this family member’s federal benefits will cover a portion of it. But is there any way to present this information in a way that they’ll accept? I’m tempted to use some direct language with them, like, “Without refinancing this loan you won’t be able to retire.” But my partner worries that will just add to my mother-in-law’s already paralyzing anxiety. 

What should they do first to manage this loan? Which financial services can we put them in touch with in the future so if they don’t want to come to us, great, they can go to this person?

-Loan, Loan Go Away

Dear Loan Go Away,

Your in-laws are adults who are allowed to make bad choices if they want. But unsolicited advice rarely goes well. Even when the motives are good, the person on the receiving end usually feels like they’re under attack. And if your mother-in-law already has severe anxiety, starting the advice by telling her that she may never be able to retire will make matters worse.


Your partner needs to take the lead here because these are his parents. He should try to make this a conversation instead of a lecture.

He should ask his parents if they’d be OK with sitting down to discuss a few financial matters. Tough conversations are best had when no one feels ambushed. Ideally, the three of them would have this discussion together.

Your partner should ask his parents some neutral questions. How big is the balance? How much is the interest rate? What are the monthly payments?

You say you’re not sure if your mother-in-law is aware of the details of the loan. But I wouldn’t assume your father-in-law is fully aware, either. Sometimes when people are overwhelmed by debt, they have no idea what they owe or what it’s costing them.

Once your partner gets the facts of the situation, then he can ask his parents how they’re feeling. Do they feel worried about whether they’ll be able to repay the loan? What about after his mother retires?

If your partner is worried that his parents can’t afford the loan, then he should say to them something to the effect of “I’m worried about whether you can afford these payments, but I think you have options. Could we discuss them?”

The point is to keep the message judgment-free. Telling your in-laws that they’ve made poor money management decisions will only put them on the defensive. But I’d urge your partner not to shy away from this discussion out of concern for his mother’s anxiety.

If your in-laws are willing to discuss their options, your partner could suggest they meet with a financial counselor. Unlike financial planners and financial advisers, who typically work with wealthier clients, financial counselors help lower- and middle-income clients with basic money management. They often work with clients struggling with debt.

You can search the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education’s website for a financial counselor in your state. Many charge on a sliding scale. If your in-laws are open to the idea, your partner could offer to pay the fees.

Bringing in a third party may be beneficial here. A professional isn’t going to have an emotional stake in this game. Plus, sometimes people are more willing to listen to guidance when it isn’t coming from family.

Ultimately, though, managing this loan is up to your in-laws, not you and your partner. Respect their boundaries, even if you don’t agree with their decisions.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected] or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Is a Ledger Wallet? An Overview

Ledger is a brand of crypto hardware wallets. They are among the most trusted in the industry and were responsible for bringing the first hardware wallets to market.

In the years since Ledger’s debut, many other wallet makers have hit the scene. But the Ledger name is still synonymous with secure crypto hardware wallets. The company derives its name from blockchain technology. Understanding the question “what is a crypto ledger” sheds light on why the company chose this name.

What Is a Crypto Ledger?

The term “crypto ledger,” or simply ledger, refers to the public ledger of transactions recorded on the blockchain. These transactions are recorded in the form of Bitcoin addresses. Whenever someone makes a transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain or any other blockchain, the transaction is recorded in the blockchain ledger along with the relevant information. This includes the time the transaction occurred, the amount sent, the sender and recipient’s addresses, and the current number of network confirmations.

A new blockchain begins with something called a “genesis block.” This is a manufactured block to start things off because no transactions have occurred yet. From that point on, transactions are grouped into additional “blocks,” with each block being added to the one that came before it. Subsequent blocks form a “chain,” giving rise to the term blockchain. A blockchain is, therefore, a public ledger of transactions.

Ledger, the company, is a leader in the cryptocurrency hardware wallet space. In 2014, they released the first such wallet to the general public.

Recommended: Cryptocurrency 101: A Beginner’s Guide

How Does a Ledger Wallet Work?

First, a brief answer to the question “what is a cryptocurrency wallet”: Wallets are where people send and receive crypto. Hot wallets hold private keys online while cold wallets (such as hardware wallets) hold keys offline. Hot storage vs. cold storage in crypto is an important distinction to make.

Ledger wallets are designed for newer users. Getting started is rather easy. The wallets require a separate application, also made by Ledger, to work. This app, called Ledger Live, lets users interact with their hardware wallet on a desktop or laptop computer.

The display of a Ledger crypto wallet has two parts: the small screen on the device itself and the Ledger Live app on a computer or mobile device. Most users’ actions take place in the app, although pushing one or both small buttons on the device itself is required to confirm some actions, like sending transactions.

The buttons are also used to navigate between the different cryptocurrency wallets. Each wallet is referred to as its own app within Ledger Live. For each crypto they want to manage, users have to install the appropriate app first.

What Are the Different Types of Ledger Wallets in Crypto?

Ledger makes two different wallet types:

1.    Ledger Nano S

2.    Ledger Nano X

Ledger Nano S

The Nano S has become known as one of the most popular and best-selling crypto hardware wallets to date. That said, it only has enough memory for about three apps at a time. That means users who want to work with more than three cryptocurrencies will have to repeatedly uninstall and reinstall new apps.

For example, say someone holds Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum. If they also want to use Dogecoin, they will have to uninstall the Litecoin app and install the Dogecoin app. Any Litecoin balance will still be held on the wallet, but to access it and send transactions, the Litecoin app will need to be reinstalled, which would require uninstalling an existing app.

Apps for different cryptocurrencies take different amounts of memory, so the potential number of installed apps may be higher than three. While limited currencies can be managed at one time, the list of Ledger-supported crypto is 1,800 coins long.

Ledger Nano X

The Nano X is the newer, upgraded version of the Nano S. Both wallets work with the Ledger Live app, and function in generally the same manner. However, the Nano X has a few extra features and allows for the storage of many more crypto apps at once.

While the Nano S supports only 3-7 apps at a time, the Nano X supports up to 100. Ledger Nano X users can connect to the app via mobile devices as well, thanks to the Nano X’s Bluetooth compatibility.

The Nano X can also run off of battery power and connect to a mobile device via Bluetooth. All of these extra features and upgraded functionality help explain why someone might choose the more expensive Ledger Nano X over the Nano S.

Why Consider Getting a Ledger Wallet?

The biggest reason to consider getting a Ledger wallet is for the additional security. Holding crypto in a hardware wallet results in greater security for two main reasons:

1.    Coins can be held offline in cold storage.

2.    Private keys are held by the individual.

Holding coins in cold storage means the private keys aren’t connected to the internet, so there’s no way for hackers to access them. While a hardware wallet generally has to be connected to an internet-connected device to send transactions, when not doing so the wallet will be completely offline.

Holding the private keys yourself means there’s no need to trust a third-party like an exchange. If an exchange gets hacked, and there’s no insurance policy, then users could be left empty-handed. This might be why those who hold large sums of crypto choose to make the investment in a hardware wallet like those made by Ledger.

Let’s take a closer look at how hardware wallets, and wallets made by Ledger specifically, come with increased security for long-term storage of cryptocurrency.

Ledger Hardware Wallet Security

Ledger wallets come with the following security features:

1.    24-word backup recovery seed phrase

2.    PIN

3.    Certified Secure Element (CC EAL 5+) hardware

When setting up a new wallet, users have to create a PIN that will be used to access the wallet. A seed phrase is also provided.

This 24-word string can be used to restore the balances held on a wallet. It’s best to keep that phrase somewhere safe and never store it digitally. Anyone with access to the seed phrase can steal the private keys, and therefore the coins, from your wallet. The seed phrase and PIN come standard with most hardware wallets.

Ledger uses something called Secure Element chips. Chips like these are also used to protect credit cards, SIM cards and passports. Ledger wallets are certified as being secure by an independent third-party.

There are different degrees of Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL), and Ledger has achieved the level EAL 5+. There are only two levels higher than EAL 5. According to Ledger , they are the only company that makes hardware wallets that have earned this level of security certification.

The Takeaway

A Ledger wallet for digital currencies can be used to hold crypto in a more secure manner. Cold storage is considered to be the ultimate in blockchain security measures.

While hardware wallets like those made by Ledger come with increased security for crypto, they also require greater user responsibility. Using a hardware wallet means you hold the private keys to your crypto, rather than them being held on an exchange. If you make a mistake like losing your PIN and backup seed phrase, the crypto held on that wallet will be gone forever. There’s nothing that Ledger or anyone else will be able to do to help.

That’s why investors holding a small amount of crypto might not need a crypto wallet like Ledger. For some people, a trusted third-party custodian like an exchange might be the best option.

Interested in investing in crypto? With SoFi Invest®, you can trade cryptocurrency online from a collection of more than two dozen coins including Bitcoin, Chainlink, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Solana, Litecoin, Cardano, and Enjin Coin.

Find out how to get started with SoFi Invest.

Photo credit: iStock/Free Life Design


SoFi Invest®
The information provided is not meant to provide investment or financial advice. Investment decisions should be based on an individual’s specific financial needs, goals and risk profile. SoFi can’t guarantee future financial performance. Advisory services offered through SoFi Wealth, LLC. SoFi Securities, LLC, member FINRA / SIPC . SoFi Invest refers to the three investment and trading platforms operated by Social Finance, Inc. and its affiliates (described below). Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of the platforms below.
1) Automated Investing—The Automated Investing platform is owned by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (“Sofi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC, an affiliated SEC registered broker dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, (“Sofi Securities).

2) Active Investing—The Active Investing platform is owned by SoFi Securities LLC. Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.

3) Cryptocurrency is offered by SoFi Digital Assets, LLC, a FinCEN registered Money Service Business.

For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above, including state licensure of Sofi Digital Assets, LLC, please visit www.sofi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform. Information related to lending products contained herein should not be construed as an offer or pre-qualification for any loan product offered by SoFi Lending Corp and/or its affiliates.
Crypto: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t endorsed or guaranteed by any government, are volatile, and involve a high degree of risk. Consumer protection and securities laws don’t regulate cryptocurrencies to the same degree as traditional brokerage and investment products. Research and knowledge are essential prerequisites before engaging with any cryptocurrency. US regulators, including FINRA , the SEC , and the CFPB , have issued public advisories concerning digital asset risk. Cryptocurrency purchases should not be made with funds drawn from financial products including student loans, personal loans, mortgage refinancing, savings, retirement funds or traditional investments. Limitations apply to trading certain crypto assets and may not be available to residents of all states.
Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Source: sofi.com

Still Owe on a Student Loan? 5 Things You Need to Know for 2022

Young woman considering student loans for college savings
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

The last year has been quite a season of change in the student loan industry, including the fourth extension to freeze student loan payments.

Both servicers and borrowers alike experienced its effects in 2021, ranging from FAFSA application changes to student loan servicers dropping out of the business to an overhaul of the public student loan forgiveness program.

With all the changes made regarding student loans, it can be difficult for borrowers to keep up with everything they need to know.

That’s what we’re here for. We’ve rounded up things you need to know about student loans in 2022.

1. Payments Ramp Up Again in May

Young woman upset about student loan debt
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Student loan payments are scheduled to begin again on May 1, 2022.

In late December, President Joe Biden extended the student loan payment pause through April 2022. That was helpful for many borrowers who might have struggled to find consistent work and pay off debt during the ongoing pandemic.

The automatic student loan forbearance program was part of the CARES Act, the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in March 2020.

With the omicron variant raging at the end of 2021, the extension will allow borrowers more time to regroup as they try to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.

According to a survey by the Student Debt Crisis Center conducted before the latest pause extension, 89% of fully-employed student loan borrowers said they were not financially secure enough to resume payments in February. Now they have an additional 90 days.

With the extension, borrowers might want to take advantage of The Penny Hoarder’s advice on how to be prepared to tackle that student loan debt payoff.

2. Changes in the Student Loan Servicing Industry

Prime member shopping on Amazon
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock.com

The last year was eventful for the student loan servicing industry. Around 15 million borrowers were affected when student loan servicers like FedLoan, Granite State, and Navient decided to pull out of the servicing business.

The timing could certainly have been better. With the ongoing payment pause, adding servicing changes only complicates what would already be a difficult situation for both servicers and borrowers when payments resume in May.

The logistics involved in transferring millions of borrowers’ accounts to new servicers will put the industry to the test.

If you don’t know who your new servicer is, log in to studentaid.gov and look for the “my servicers” section. If you’re not sure how to log in, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Graduate thinking about student loans and savings
Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

In the past, the federal forgiveness program has been plagued by poor communication and conflicting information from both servicers and the U.S. Department of Education.

That said, the DOE announced late in 2021 that 550,000 borrowers will see “accelerated forgiveness” as part of a loan forgiveness overhaul.

That meant automatic student loan forgiveness for tens of thousands.

This is (crosses fingers) great news for borrowers who work in the public sector, are veterans or have qualifying disabilities. Prompted by the pandemic, the DOE promised to make “transformational changes” to the program that would bring those hundreds of thousands of borrowers closer to forgiveness.

Will the DOE actually follow through? Stay tuned in 2022 and the years to come.

4. Changes to the FAFSA Application Form

Woman w Paperwork
Sponner / Shutterstock.com

The FAFSA (short for Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form is notoriously difficult, confusing and lengthy. So it was good news for potential borrowers when in 2021 the Federal Student Aid Office announced upcoming changes to the form.

For 2022, however, those changes appear to be mostly cosmetic.

The only significant changes will be that having a drug conviction or failing to register with the Selective Service System will no longer affect a potential borrower’s ability to apply for financial aid — even though those questions will still remain on the form in 2022.

The FAFSA form for the 2022-2023 school year is currently available with a deadline to apply for federal aid by June 30, 2023. State FAFSA deadlines vary by state.

If you need help getting through the lengthy form, check out The Penny Hoarder’s step-by-step guide to how to fill out FAFSA.

5. Retirees Will Continue to Deal With Student Loan Debt

Concerned senior man thinking about taxes and retirement
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Student loans aren’t just for traditional college-age kids anymore. At the end of 2020, borrowers age 50 or older held about 22% of the nation’s $1.6 trillion student debt burden, the AARP reports.

That’s a surprising number that only points to the ongoing, rising costs of public education over the last few decades. That money may be owed from their own schooling or helping their children with their college educations.

With that, retirement may seem out of reach for someone in their 50s or 60s still dealing with a load of student loan debt. But there are options, including:

  • Avoid refinancing federal student loans.
  • Lower federal payments with income-driven repayment.
  • Choose income-contingent repayment for Parent PLUS loans.
  • Pay off as much of your private loans as you can.
  • Look into Student Loan Forgiveness if you have a disability.
  • Have a tough conversation with your kids, asking them to contribute more.

Find out more on all of these options about coping when you’re retiring with student loans debt.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com