How to Become a Plumber in 2022

Licensed master plumbers have the highest earning potential. The top 10% of plumbers can earn ,920 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And on the high end, earning potential for master plumbers nearly reached 0,000 for the top 10%.
How Much School Do Plumbers Need?

How to Become a Plumber in 4 Steps

Potential education topics at a vocational school might include plumbing theory, water distribution, blueprint reading, draining and venting, pipe cutting and soldering and even electrical basics.
If you are currently a high school student interested in becoming a plumber, take all the math courses you can. In addition, choose classes like physics and shop to help you build an effective knowledge and skills base.
Becoming a plumber is all about licensure, so college is not a requirement. However, plumbers typically need to have their high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) to start an apprenticeship. A diploma or GED is also important if you plan to take any plumbing courses at a community college (more on that below).

1. Get Your High School Diploma or GED

To be considered a journeyman plumber, you will need to pass your state’s licensing exam. In general, you will need to renew this license every three to five years and take continuing education courses to maintain your licensed status.
A plumber’s skill set is varied. As a plumber, you will need the technical knowledge to diagnose plumbing problems and make repairs. You will also need to be proficient in using a wide variety of tools, including saws, hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and torches. Remaining in top physical condition is crucial, as you will frequently do heavy lifting and perform tasks that require stamina, often in very hot or cold environments.
Most states require you to operate as a journeyman plumber for a set number of years (between two and five) before you can seek licensure as a master plumber. To earn your license, you’ll need to pass a written and practical exam.

2. Become an Apprentice

Upon completing your apprenticeship, you can apply to become a licensed journeyman plumber. Once you reach this status, you will be able to work unsupervised on commercial and residential projects.
Becoming a plumber does not require the college career path. Instead, you will complete high school and find work as an apprentice. After a few years, you can get licensed as a journeyman plumber and then a master plumber.
We’ve found the answers to the most commonly asked questions about becoming a plumber, including how long it takes until you’re repairing leaky sinks on your own.
To earn a plumbing license, you must first complete a four- to five-year apprenticeship and then pass the journeyman exam; an apprenticeship includes classroom instruction but no formal school program. Some plumbers choose to attend a year or two of plumbing trade school before their apprenticeship.
A plumbing apprenticeship program includes on-the-job training and some classroom instruction, but many plumbers choose to attend a vocational school as a first step. Plumbing trade schools may offer special certification or even a two-year associate degree.

3. Become a Journeyman Plumber

In general, you can find a plumbing apprenticeship program through trade unions, community colleges, trade schools and even private businesses. You might need to pass an exam or interview with a licensed plumber.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Plumber?
How Much Money Do Plumbers Make?

4. Become a Master Plumber

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Depending on your state, you may be able to earn special endorsements and certifications. For example, in the Lone Star State, in addition to your Texas plumbing license, you can obtain endorsements for medical gas piping installation, multipurpose residential fire protection sprinkler installation and water supply protection installation and repair.
Scroll on to learn how to become a plumber — and what you can expect out of the career.

Wondering how to become a plumber? Our guide covers the education, apprenticeship and licensing requirements on your journey to getting certified as a licensed plumber — and offers a peek into the day-to-day, job outlook and typical salary.

Optional: Go to a Trade School

Earning a special degree or certification can give you a leg-up when applying for competitive apprenticeships.
In high school, math will be crucial to your role as a plumber. Each day, plumbers use concepts from algebra and geometry, and they’re regularly calculating using various units of measure.
At the journey level, you can work for a plumbing company or start your own business.

How Much Do Plumbers Make?

Plumbers can work on both residential and commercial projects. The day-to-day duties might include remodeling bathrooms and kitchens, replacing and repairing water and drain lines, installing new water heaters, installing new faucets, installing new toilets and installing water filtration systems.
In 2021, the median pay for plumbers was ,880, but the top 10% earned ,920.
As a master plumber, you’ll reach peak earning potential and can even run your own plumbing business.

What Do Plumbers Do?

If you want to work in a supervisory capacity or be able to employ additional plumbers for your business, you will need to become a licensed master plumber.

Necessary Skills

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Plumbing apprenticeships generally last four to five years, during which time you’ll receive roughly 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in the plumbing trade, plus technical instruction. During this time, you’ll learn about local plumbing codes and regulations, how to read blueprints and OSHA safety regulations.Advanced education may cover topics like plumbing fixtures and drainage systems. Unlike pursuing a college degree, however, plumbing apprenticeships are paid.

Challenges

The median pay for plumbers last year was ,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though the labor is tough, hours can be long and the work can be dangerous, becoming a licensed plumber may be well worth it if you have the necessary skills and dedication.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Becoming a Plumber

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Becoming a licensed plumber takes at least four to five years, as this is the general length of an apprenticeship. Some aspiring plumbers choose a year or two of vocational school before their apprenticeship. After completing an apprenticeship, you can earn your journeyman and then master plumber license.
As an apprentice plumber, you won’t be able to tackle projects yourself. Instead, you will shadow a journeyman plumber or a master plumber, depending on the program.
License laws and types vary by state. Determine the state that you wish to operate in as a plumber, and research those specific guidelines. The steps below offer a more general look at how to become a plumber.
Plumbers need to be able to cut and solder pipes, diagnose and troubleshoot issues with plumbing systems and interpret (or even draw) blueprints. If you run your own plumbing company, you will also need to handle advertising, scheduling, taxes and billing — or hire someone to do that for you.
An apprenticeship offers on-the-job experience and classroom education. Programs vary by state and organization in terms of structure, length and application process.
Skilled plumbers fulfill a crucial need in society, and demand for plumbers continues to grow. Though the manual labor is often grueling, a career in plumbing can be quite lucrative — and doesn’t require expensive schooling and massive student loan debt.

Once you have your diploma or GED, the next step to becoming a licensed plumbing contractor is either attending plumbing school or completing an apprenticeship. Plumbing school is typically optional (but we’ve got more details below); many plumbing hopefuls skip straight to an apprenticeship. <!–

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While the BLS targets 5% job growth through 2030, the increase in home renovation projects due to the ongoing pandemic may create even more plumbing jobs in the years ahead.

What Is Inflation (Definition) – Causes & Effects of Rate on Prices & Interest

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People have always grumbled that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. But these days, that complaint is truer than ever. No matter where you go — the gas station, the grocery store, the movies — prices are higher than they were just a month or two ago.

What we’re seeing is the return of a familiar economic foe: inflation. Many Americans alive today have never seen price increases like these before. For the past three decades, inflation has never been above 4% per year. But as of March 2022, it’s at 8.5%, a level not seen since 1981.

Modest inflation, like what we had up through 2020, is normal and even healthy for an economy. But the rate of inflation we’re seeing now is neither normal nor healthy. It does more than just raise the cost of living. It can have a serious impact on the economy as a whole. 

Recent inflation-related news:


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  • In March 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 8.5%. 
  • Prices for gasoline have increased nearly 50% over the past year.
  • Retail giant Amazon has added a 5% fuel and inflation surcharge for sellers.
  • The Federal Reserve is planning a series of interest rate hikes to cool the overheated economy.

What Is Inflation?

Inflation is more than just rising prices. Prices of specific things we buy, from a gallon of milk to a year of college tuition, rise and fall all the time. These price increases affect individual consumers’ lives, but they don’t have a big impact on the entire economy.

Inflation is a general increase in the prices of goods and services across the board. It drives up prices for everything you buy, from a haircut to a gallon of gas. Or, to put it another way, the purchasing power of every dollar in your pocket declines.

Most of the time, inflation doesn’t disrupt people’s lives too much, because prices rise for labor as well. If your household spending increases by 5% but your paycheck increases by 5% at the same time, you’re no worse off than before.

But when prices rise sharply, wages can’t always keep up. That makes it harder for consumers to make ends meet. It also drives them to change their spending behaviors in ways that often make the problem worse.


Causes of Inflation

Inflation depends on the twin forces of supply and demand. Supply is the amount of a particular good or service that’s available. Demand is the amount of that particular good or service that people want to buy. More demand drives prices up, while more supply drives them down. 

To see why, suppose you have 10 loaves of bread to sell. You have 10 buyers who want bread and are willing to pay $1 per loaf. So you can sell all 10 loaves at $1 each.

But if 10 more buyers suddenly enter the market, they will have to compete for your bread. To make sure they get some, they might be willing to pay as much as $2 per loaf. The higher demand has pushed the price up.

By contrast, if another seller shows up with 10 loaves of bread, the two of you will be competing for buyers. To sell your bread, you might have to lower the price to as little as $0.50 per loaf. The higher supply has pushed prices down.

Inflation results from demand outstripping supply. Economists often describe this as “too much money chasing too few goods.” There are several ways this kind of imbalance can happen.

Cost-Push Inflation

Cost-push inflation happens when it costs more to produce goods. To go back to the bread example, cost-push inflation might happen because a wheat shortage makes flour more expensive. It costs you more to make each loaf of bread, so you can’t afford to bake as much.

As a result, you bring only five loaves to the market. But there are still 10 customers who want to buy bread, so they must pay more to get their share. The higher cost of production drives down the supply and thus drives up the price.

In the real world, cost-push inflation can result from higher costs for anything that goes into making a product. This includes:

  • Raw Materials. The wheat that went into your bread is an example. Higher-cost wheat means higher-cost flour, which means higher-cost bread.
  • Transportation. In today’s global economy, materials and finished goods move around a lot. Transporting products requires fuel, which usually comes from oil. So whenever oil prices go up, the price of other goods rises as well. 
  • Labor. Another factor in production cost is labor. When schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents had to stop working to care for their children. That created a worker shortage that drove prices up.

Demand-Pull Inflation

The opposite of cost-push inflation is demand-pull inflation. It occurs when consumers want to buy more than the market can supply, driving prices up.

Typically, demand-pull inflation results from economic growth. Rising wages and lower levels of unemployment put more money in people’s pockets, and people who have more money want to spend more. If the booming economy hasn’t produced enough goods and services to match this new demand, prices rise.

Other causes of demand-pull inflation include: 

  • Increased Money Supply. Another way people can end up with more money in their pockets is because the government has put more money in circulation. Governments often do this to stimulate a weak economy or to pay off past debts. But as the money supply increases, the purchasing power of each dollar shrinks. 
  • Rapid Population Growth. When the population grows rapidly, the demand for goods and services grows also. If the economy doesn’t produce more to compensate, prices rise. In Europe during the 1500s and 1600s, prices soared as the population grew so fast that agriculture couldn’t keep up with the new demand.
  • Panic Buying. Early in the COVID pandemic, consumers started buying extra groceries to fill their pantries in preparation for a lockdown. This led to shortages of many staple products, like milk and toilet paper. As a result, prices for those goods went up.
  • Pent-Up Demand. This occurs when people return to spending after a period of going without. This often happens in the wake of a recession. It also occurred as pandemic restrictions eased and people returned to enjoying movies, travel, and restaurant meals.

Built-In Inflation

When consumers expect prices to be higher in the future, they often respond by spending more now. If the purchasing power of their savings is only going to fall, it makes more sense to take that money out of the bank and use it on a major purchase, like a new car or a large appliance.

In this way, expectations of high inflation can themselves lead to inflation. This type of inflation is called built-in inflation because it builds on itself. 

When workers expect the cost of living to rise, they demand higher wages. But then they have more to spend, so they spend more, driving prices up. This, in turn, reinforces the belief that  prices will keep rising, leading to still higher wage demands. This cycle of rising wages and prices is called a wage-price spiral.


Effects of Inflation

Inflation does more than just drive up the cost of living. It changes the economy in a variety of ways — some harmful, others helpful. The effects of inflation include:

  • Higher Wages. As prices rise with inflation, wages typically rise as well. This can create a wage-price spiral that drives inflation still higher.
  • Higher Interest Rates. When the dollar is declining in value, banks often respond by raising interest rates on loans. The Federal Reserve also typically raises interest rates to cool the economy and rein in inflation, as discussed below.
  • Cheaper Debt. Inflation is good for debtors because they can pay off their debts with cheaper dollars. This is most useful for loans with a fixed interest rate, such as fixed-rate mortgages and student loans.
  • More Consumption. Inflation encourages consumers to spend money because they know it will be worth less later. All this spending keeps the economy humming, but it can also drive prices even higher.
  • Lower Savings Rates. Just as inflation encourages spending, it discourages saving. Higher interest rates can counter this effect, but they often don’t rise enough to make a difference.
  • Less Valuable Benefits. High inflation is worse for people on a fixed income. They face higher prices without higher wages to make up for them. Benefits such as Social Security change each year to adjust for inflation, but higher benefits next year don’t help when prices are rising right now.
  • More Valuable Tangible Assets. Inflation reduces the purchasing power of the dollars you have in the bank. Tangible assets like real estate, however, gain in dollar value as prices rise.

Measuring Inflation

The most common measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determines the CPI based on the cost of an imaginary basket of goods and services. BLS workers painstakingly check prices on all these items each month and record how each price changes.

To calculate the annual rate of inflation, the BLS looks at how much all prices in its basket have changed since a year earlier. Then it “weights” the value of each item based on how much of it people buy. The weighted average of all items becomes the CPI.

The BLS then uses the CPI to calculate the annual rate of inflation. It divides this month’s CPI by the CPI from a year ago, then multiplies the result by 100. This shows how the purchasing power of a dollar has changed over the last year. The result is reported monthly.

Other measures of inflation include:

  • Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE). This inflation measure is published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Like the CPI, it’s a measure of consumer costs, but it’s adjusted to account for changes in the products people buy. The Federal Reserve uses the PCE to guide its monetary policy, as discussed below. 
  • Producer Price Index (PPI). The PPI measures inflation from the seller’s perspective, not the buyer’s. It’s calculated by dividing the price sellers currently get for a basket of goods and services by its price in a base year, then multiplying the result by 100.

Historical Examples of Inflation

A little bit of inflation is normal. But sometimes inflation spirals out of control, with prices rising more than 50% per month. This is called hyperinflation, and it can be devastating for an economy.

Hyperinflation has occurred at various times and places throughout history. During the U.S. Civil War, both sides experienced soaring inflation. Other examples include Germany in the 1920s, Greece and Hungary after World War II, Yugoslavia and Peru in the 1990s, and Venezuela today. In most cases, the main cause was the government printing money to pay for debt. 

The last time the U.S. had prolonged, high rates of inflation was in the 1970s and early 1980s. The inflation rate was nowhere near hyperinflation levels, but it spiked above 10% twice. Eventually, the Fed hiked interest rates to double-digit levels to get it under control.

Although high inflation can be destructive, zero inflation isn’t a good thing, either. At that point, an economy is at risk of the opposite problem, deflation. 

When prices and wages fall across the board, consumers spend less. Sales of products and services fall, so companies cut back staff or go out of business. As a result, jobs are lost and spending drops still more, worsening the problem. The Great Depression was an example.


The Federal Reserve, or Fed, is the U.S. central bank — or more accurately, banks. It’s a group of 12 banks spread across the country under the control of a central board of governors. Its job is to keep the economy on track, reining in inflation while trying to avoid recessions. 

The Fed maintains this balance through monetary policy, or controlling the availability of money.

Its main tool for doing this is interest rates. When the economy is weak, the Fed lowers the federal funds rate. This makes it easier for people to borrow and spend. 

When the problem is inflation, it does the opposite, raising interest rates. This makes it more costly to borrow and more worthwhile to save. As a result, consumers spend less, slowing down the wage-price spiral.

The Fed has other tools for fighting inflation as well. One option is to change reserve requirements for banks, requiring them to hold more cash. That gives them less to lend out, which in turn reduces the amount consumers and businesses have to spend.

Finally, the Fed can reduce the money supply directly. The main way it does this is to increase the interest rate paid on government bonds. That encourages more people to buy bonds, which temporarily takes their money out of circulation and puts it in the hands of the government.


Inflation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you keep seeing stories about inflation in the news, you may have some other questions about how it works. For instance, you may wonder:

What Is Hyperinflation?

Hyperinflation is more than just high inflation. It’s a wage-price spiral gone mad, sending prices soaring out of control. As noted above, the usual definition of hyperinflation is an inflation rate of at least 50% per month — more than 12,000% per year. However, some economists use the term to refer to an inflation rate of 1,000% or more per year.

What Is Disinflation?

Disinflation is a fall in the rate of inflation. This is what the Federal Reserve and other central banks try to achieve through their monetary policy, such as raising interest rates.

Disinflation is not the same as deflation, or falling prices. During a period of disinflation, prices are continuing to rise, but the rate at which they rise is slowing down.

What Is Transitory Inflation?

When the first signs of a post-COVID-19 inflation spike appeared, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell described it as “transitory.” By this, he meant that the rise in prices would be short-lived and would not do permanent damage to the economy. 

However, in November 2021, Powell declared it was “time to retire that word.” Based on the growth in prices, he had concluded that inflation was more of a long-term trend. The Federal Reserve responded by planning to fight inflation harder, buying more bonds and plotting out a series of interest rate hikes.

What Is Core Inflation?

Measuring inflation can be tricky because prices for some products fluctuate more than others. Food and energy prices, in particular, can shift a lot from month to month. Including these products in the CPI can lead to sharp, but temporary, spikes or dips in the inflation rate.

To adjust for this, the CPI and PCE have a separate “core” version that doesn’t include food or energy prices. This core inflation measure is more useful for predicting long-term trends. The  main versions of the CPI and PCE, known as the “headline” versions, give a more accurate picture of how prices are changing right now.

What Is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

As noted above, the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is the main measure of inflation in the United States. The BLS calculates it based on how much prices have risen for an imaginary basket of goods and services that many Americans buy.


Final Word

A little inflation in an economy is normal. It can even be a good thing, because it’s a sign that consumers are spending and businesses are earning. The Fed generally considers an annual inflation rate of 2% to be healthy.

However, higher inflation can cause serious problems for an economy. It’s bad for savers whose nest eggs, including retirement savings, shrink in value. It’s even worse for seniors and others on fixed incomes whose purchasing power has fallen. And it often requires strong measures from the central bank to correct it — measures that risk driving the economy into a recession.

If you’re concerned about the effects of inflation, there are several ways to protect yourself. You can adjust your household budget, putting more dollars into the categories where prices are rising fastest. You can stock up on household basics now, before the purchasing power of your dollars falls too much. 

Finally, you can choose investments that do well during periods of inflation. Stock-based mutual funds and real estate investment trusts are both good choices. Just be careful with inflation hedges like gold and cryptocurrency, which carry risks of their own.

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GME is so 2021. Fine art is forever. And its 5-year returns are a heck of a lot better than this week’s meme stock. Invest in something real. Invest with Masterworks.

Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Dear Penny: Is Using Retirement Money So My Daughter Can Graduate a Mistake?

Dear Penny,
A big advantage of Parent PLUS loans is that you can qualify for something called income-contingent repayment. Basically, your payment is capped at 20% of your disposable income. You’re planning to retire soon, so I’m assuming your income will drop soon as well. That means you could qualify for an extremely low payment once your daughter graduates.
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She is a good kid with some special problems that she overcomes daily. I want her to have this degree and a chance in life. She worked very hard to overcome all of the physical and mental challenges in her life, BUT expenses are starting to affect my retirement. Any advice?
Sometimes I get antsy when parents talk about spending retirement money on their child’s education. But we’re talking about one year of college, not four. I think you’d deeply regret not giving your daughter the financial support she needs to make it through this final year.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
Contact the financial aid office for your daughter’s school if you haven’t already done so. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, bases financial aid on income from two years earlier. For example, aid for the 2022-23 school year will be based on 2020 income. But some schools offer a process called professional judgment where administrators can adjust FAFSA information based on major life changes, like a parent’s retirement, on a case-by-case basis.
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Your daughter has no doubt overcome her challenges thanks to her own grit, but also because of your love and support as a parent. You’re making a sacrifice to pay for her last year of school because you believe in her. Once she graduates, paying off any debt you’ve incurred will be another challenge you’ll need to conquer together.
-J.
Keep in mind, a Parent PLUS loan is only an option if your daughter is considered a dependent student. For example, if she’s 24 or older or she has dependent children of her own, unfortunately, you wouldn’t be eligible.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
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Dear J.,
With private student loans — whether you take them out in your name or co-sign for your daughter — you’re at the mercy of your lender if you’re struggling with payments. So I’d vote in favor of a Parent PLUS loan, even if you find a private loan with a lower interest rate.
If you can’t get a Parent PLUS loan, I’d suggest splitting taking half from your retirement funds and a private loan for the other half. Neither is an ideal option, but sometimes life forces us to choose between less-than-perfect options.
What makes me nervous about using retirement money is that virtually everyone’s investments have taken a hit in recent months. You want to limit your withdrawals as much as possible right now so that your money can recover. But at least since you’re 67, you won’t pay an early withdrawal penalty.
Now let’s address your daughter’s role. I don’t know if she currently has a job. If she is able to work some to help defray costs without jeopardizing her studies, that should be on the table.
My daughter is in her last year of college. I don’t have any more money to pay for it. So for her last year, should I take from retirement monies or get a loan? 
If financial aid can’t make up the shortfall, a Parent PLUS loan is a good solution. A Parent PLUS loan is a federal student loan that you, as the parent, are responsible for repaying.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

But I want her to focus on her studies so that she can actually complete her final year of coursework in a year. Stretching out the timeline further could pose a greater risk to your retirement. So I wouldn’t ask your daughter to get a job if she’s not already working or work more hours if she has a job.

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By taking half from your retirement and half as a loan, you can minimize the damage to your nest egg while taking less debt into retirement. If you’re able to work just a bit longer to pay some of these expenses in cash, even better.

American Women Quarters Program

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

While a handful of women have appeared on coins and special-edition bills throughout the years – Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and Helen Keller, for example – the number of women featured on U.S. currency is about to be significantly expanded.

Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new quarter designs each year featuring historically prominent women. Here are the women being honored in 2022.

Maya Angelou

Celebrated author and poet Maya Angelou is most well-known for her autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The book was named as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 best and most influential non-fiction books.

A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Angelou also worked with Dr. Martin Luther King as a coordinator for his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was also the first African-American woman to read an original poem at a presidential inauguration.

Dr. Sally Ride

The first American woman in space, astronaut Dr. Sally Ride inspired generations of girls to pursue careers in science and technology. Ride flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 and 1984.

In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded her a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom. After her death, it was revealed that Ride was a lesbian, making her the first LGBTQ person to appear on a US quarter.

Wilma Mankiller

As the Principal Chief of the Cherokee, Wilma Mankiller is the first woman ever elected chief of a major Native American tribe. She oversaw the growth of the Cherokee nation from 68,000 members to 170,000.

Ms. Magazine named Wilma Woman of the year in 1987, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Nina Otero-Warren

One of the few Hispanic suffragists in history, Nina Otero-Warren helped publish suffragist literature in Spanish, encouraging Hispanic women to vote. She also served as chairman for the Board of Health in New Mexico, was a board member for the American Red Cross and was the Inspector of Indian Schools for Santa Fe County, overseeing the schools for Native American children.

Anna May Wong

As the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood, Anna May Wong paved the way for countless other Asian actors. She acted in Broadway plays and both American and European films. Anna was also a fashion icon and was once named the world’s best-dressed woman.

She appeared in movies and plays with acting legends like Laurence Olivier, Douglas Fairbanks and Marlene Dietrich. Though Hollywood remained a hostile environment for people of color during her time, Wong stood up against Chinese stereotypes and advocated for fairer portrayals.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins. More from Zina Kumok

Source: mint.intuit.com

25 Must-Follow Tips When Moving To a Different State

This moving checklist will make crossing state lines a breeze.

Moving is always annoying but much easier when you’re moving just a few blocks away. But moving out of state? That’s a whole different ballgame. There are many details and things to check off your list before hopping on a plane to your new city.

It can get overwhelming quickly, from professional movers and having a job lined up to making new friends and leaving family members behind.

These 25 must-follow tips for moving out of state will help with the heavy lifting that comes with moving out of state.

What to consider before moving to another state?

Moving out of state is scary, but if you’re armed with a good checklist, everything can seem a little more approachable. Sure, there are a lot of details to take care of before moving, but the most important thing you should focus on is finding the right city for you.

1. Finding your next city

Make a shortlist of your dream cities and book a long weekend at each, if possible. Forgo a hotel room in favor of living like a local and research neighborhoods before you go. Book an Airbnb listing in the one that fits your lifestyle the most.

Gather intel from friends, make a list of your favorite things to do (think movie theaters, preferred stores, etc.) and check your social network to see if you know anyone in the area. Do groceries and take public transportation to get a true feel of your potential everyday life.

2. Visit a few places before deciding on your new state

Go to several cities.

Go to several cities.

After a few visits to your top 3 cities out of state, think about what’s important to you. Do you want to ditch your car in favor of public transportation? How’s the dining scene in these cities? Is the job market in your career path of choice thriving there? How are the local schools? Are you moving alone, or are you moving in with your partner? Can you afford to live in this prospective city with your current salary?

This is when pro/con lists come in handy. Be sure to sit down and think it through before deciding on your new state.

3. Compare the cost of living before moving out of state

When picking a new city to live in, you have to consider more than moving expenses. Whether you’re relocating for a new job or moving while keeping your current one, you need to consider the new cost of living expenses. Is rent more expensive in the new city? Do you have nature or a local park nearby? What about groceries and transportation?

The cost of living in Washington, D.C., versus Charlotte, NC, is very different, for example. In Florida, the state has no income tax. Make sure that wherever you’re relocating to, you compare both your budget and current salary to the new city’s cost of living differences so you can adjust accordingly and save money where you can.

4. Set a moving budget

So, you’ve picked your new city. Now, it’s time to start thinking about your moving budget. You’ll need to decide whether you’ll hire professional movers and a long-distance moving company to handle your move. Or, if you’ll just get your friends to help you load a moving truck, and you’ll unload it on your own once you arrive at your new address.

You’ll also need to consider deposits for your new apartment, plane tickets, security deposits for utility companies, any new food and house items you’ll need and possibly a storage unit if you have to stay in temporary housing for a bit.

A spreadsheet outlining every money detail will help keep you within budget.

5. Find an apartment in your new city

apartment hunting

apartment hunting

Pick your dream neighborhood and start researching apartments. It’s always good to secure housing before moving out of state. Hunting long-distance for an apartment is challenging, so seeing it in person or sending a friend will make the easiest move.

Read reviews, set up tours for various apartments and always confirm that an apartment is legitimate before wiring any money. Ask for move-in specials and current amenities like an in-unit washer and dryer or stainless appliances.

Bring a blank check and any required documents for the application so you can apply on the spot if you love it. This may include:

  • State-ID or driver’s license
  • Proof of income (latest paystub)
  • At least one reference from a previous landlord
  • Employment details
  • Co-signer information, if needed
  • Unfrozen credit for the landlord to run it for application

Check with your job to see if they reimburse employees for relocation expenses or have any moving services available. Also, check your lease terms and let your landlord know with enough time that you’re leaving your current apartment soon. Make sure to schedule a walkthrough date to get your security deposit back.

6. Update your work about your move

In this pandemic era, working remotely is the new normal. If your job allows you to work remotely and you’re staying, for now, update HR with your new address. This will help your company remain updated with payroll and update your healthcare information.

Follow up with them to make sure they have all they need before your move date. Inquire if, due to your relocation, you now have access to any remote working stipend.

7. Find a new job, if needed

Maybe you’re ready for a whole new life? A new state, new job. Start applying to new jobs as soon as you can since landlords in a new city may require a certain income before renting you a place.

Head to job boards online for opportunities in your chosen city and start sharing that you’re looking for a new opportunity with your network. If you can, schedule upcoming job interviews via Zoom or by phone before you move.

8. Go over your belongings and make donation piles

Don

Don

Things are getting real, and it’s time to see how much stuff you really have. You can start calculating how many boxes you need or if you’re hiring movers or just a moving truck.

Go over your furniture, clothes and even kitchen utensils and start donating and selling piles. Start listing items on social media and put every cent you make toward moving costs.

Leave only what you need in the last 30 days, including medical records and important documents like birth certificates and what’s making a move out of state in the apartment. Everything else needs to go to make sure that you only pay the moving company precisely for what you want to keep.

9. Pick a move-in date and start packing

The moving out of state timeline starts getting faster once you pick an apartment and your job situation is all settled. Check your lease and choose a move date. Pick up boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap, and start streamlining all your belongings.

Spend your weekends patching up holes in your current apartment, repainting any walls, confirming your move-in date with your new landlord and picking up your keys.

10. Book the moving company

After purging your belongings, you’ll have a better idea of the number of boxes and furniture you need to hire movers for. Research moving companies that specialize in out-of-state moves. This is an excellent time to ask for recommendations on social media for moving companies.

Get a few quotes to compare them, confirm that there are no add-ons or surprise charges with the quote, how they go about hiring professionals and vetting them and, of course, read reviews.

Once you pick a reputable moving company, confirm the delivery address of your new house, ask about day-of protocol so you’re ready for the movers and ask for an estimate of when they will deliver your belongings. Some moving companies allow you to track your belongings for peace of mind.

11. Schedule a going away party

Send an invite to all of your friends and family before you move out of state. If you can, ask a close friend to take on planning details for the party so you can focus on your long-distance move. Book a venue or go down to your favorite restaurant (that you will miss very much!) and have a casual night with everyone you know.

12. Make travel arrangements

Decide if you

Decide if you

Now that you have a date for moving out of state, you have to decide how to get there. If you hire movers, you have the choice of hopping on a plane or driving there.

This is the time to book your plane ticket if that’s the best choice. Make sure that you plan which bags you’re taking with you and that they all meet the weight requirements. Have a small pet? Don’t forget to buy them a ticket, too.

If you’re driving, make sure to budget for gas and have your route planned out. Making long-distance moves via car is more exhausting, but you do get to bring a few more of your things with you, see new things on the way and go at your own pace. Be sure to pack a first aid kit for the road, just in case.

This is a good option if you have temporary housing and will have stuff in a storage unit for a while at first.

13. Arrange cleaners at your old place

Schedule cleaners for the day after the movers come by and double-check that you covered every nail hole, there are no stains on the carpet and you packed up all of your things.

Once the cleaners leave the place sparkling clean, let your landlord know the apartment is ready for a walkthrough. Return the keys and finalize how you’ll receive your security deposit before you head out of state.

14. Clean and sell your car

If you don

If you don

If you chose a place with stellar public transportation, you’re probably thinking of leaving your car behind. You don’t have to sell it until a week before you move to make sure that you get all of your errands done.

Start the process early by looking at online vendors like Carmax, Carvana and Blue Book to see how much you’ll get for your car. Get it clean and in tip-top shape, so it sells for the maximum amount possible. Schedule a pick-up at your apartment for convenience and sell it to the best offer.

15. Time to move

Almost there! You’ve prepared, and the moment is here. It’s time to move. You’re more prepared than most for your move out of state. You’ve said your goodbyes, you’re checked into your flight and the movers have your couch.

16. Update your pet’s microchip and registration

Before getting too settled into your new place, update your pet’s microchip and registration in the new state. If they were to go missing, they would have an old address and make it hard to find you. Check if this new place has additional requirements beyond rabies shot and registration with the county.

It’s also an excellent time to find a 24-hour vet that’s close by for any emergencies while you unpack in the short term.

17. Get a new driver’s license and registration

Keep all documents up to date.

Keep all documents up to date.

Most states have a 30-day grace period for new residents to update their driver’s license and vehicle registration. Along with your pet’s registration, add this one to the top of your to-do list once you land in your new apartment. Visit the local DMV to get a new license and registration for your car.

Check if you need specific documents like a birth certificate or social security card. If you can’t find either (and who can blame you mid-move), you can go to the local social security administration branch and ask for a new one.

18. Register to vote in your new state

Don’t forget about doing your part for your country. Switch your voter registration as soon as you have your new address to allow time to update. Check where your voting precinct is, so you’re ready for election day. You can easily switch your voter registration online or at your local library.

Start reading about issues in your new state and get familiar with your representatives. Now that you have a new home, you have new things to fight for and worry about, no matter your political leaning.

19. Connect your utilities

Once you sign your lease, cancel your utilities at your current place and start calling local utility companies to create accounts for electricity, gas and internet access in your new apartment. Depending on your internet provider, you can just transfer service.

Get ready to set up an account and pay deposit fees. You should start this process at least two weeks before your move since utility companies often move slowly.

Check with your landlord to see if your lease includes any utilities, like water or trash.

20. Reach out to friends for local connections

Making new friends is hard! But if you reach out to your network and social media to share your news about moving out of state, be sure to ask if they can connect you with any pals in your new state, either via email or group text.

Schedule friend dates for your first month after your move to get to know your new neighborhood.

21. Change your mailing address

Mail slot

Mail slot

About a week before you move out of state, begin forwarding your mail with the U.S. Postal Service. Get ahead of any lost mail by changing your address in your streaming accounts, Amazon.com account and any magazine subscriptions you already get.

You don’t want to have a random package go to your old apartment because you didn’t forward mail after moving out of state.

22. Transfer your gym membership

If you’re lucky, your gym will have various locations around the country, and you can just transfer your membership. Let your gym, meal planning service and anything else within your routine know that you’re moving out of state. Make sure to cancel and get confirmation of any services that don’t transfer to your new place.

23. Find new doctors in your area

Don’t let your moving out of state keep you from your medical and dental routine. Ask colleagues in your new place if they have any recommendations for dentists, general practitioners and any other doctor you may need.

Your health insurance may also have a helpful directory of in-network providers so you can start finding your favorites.

24. Update the bank of your new location

It’s important to update your financial institutions that you’re moving out of state and are now residents of your new state. This isn’t just your primary bank. You need to update every financial institution, including your financial advisor, accountant, any investments and those that hold any retirement accounts.

25. Get settled in your new state

Settle in with new friends.

Settle in with new friends.

There’s no greater feeling than the one of relief when you have unpacked every box in your new apartment. Start a good routine for the first month of exploring a new restaurant, coffee shop or neighborhood near you. Getting to know your new town and making friend dates will help you feel settled in no time.

Ready to move to another state?

The moving process is stressful, with unexpected expenses, finding the right moving company and launching yourself into a new life. This moving out of state checklist will make your relocation a lot easier.

The weeks ahead will be uncomfortable as you settle into your new job and new neighborhood after the long-distance move. But slowly, you’ll meet new friends and find yourself as a regular in the corner coffee shop.

Source: rent.com

What is the FIRE Movement + How to Make It A Reality

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

In a world with stagnating wages and an increasing cost of living, many people are looking for a way out of the rat race. That’s why radical investment strategies and risky business ventures are so popular.

Believe it or not, there actually is a reliable way to achieve financial independence – but it’s far from a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is an increasingly popular strategy to break free from the daily grind and build your ideal future. Here’s what you need to know about how it works.

What is the FIRE Movement?

The FIRE movement encourages consumers to save and invest aggressively while they’re young in order to retire decades earlier than normal. There is no specific FIRE timeline; that depends on your particular goals and financial situation. Many people who work toward FIRE try to retire in their 30s and 40s.

The FIRE movement isn’t always about retiring early, however. Some people may reach their FIRE goal and keep working, because they enjoy what they do or because they’re not sure about the next steps to take. For them, FIRE provides the peace of mind that comes with not relying entirely on your job to make ends meet.

Some people choose to work toward FIRE so they can take a sabbatical, switch careers or become digital nomads. Others want to reach FIRE so every extra penny they earn can become a legacy they leave behind.

Types of FIRE

There is no one way to reach FIRE. In fact, there are many schools of thought. Here are the most common types of FIRE and how they stack up:

Fat FIRE 

People who don’t want to worry about budget limitations when they retire may opt for Fat FIRE, where your investments greatly exceed your annual cost of living. Fat FIRE may be appropriate for those who don’t believe in penny pinching and want to enjoy the luxuries that life has to offer. 

Barista FI

Because health insurance is one of the biggest expenses for those without access to an employer plan, some FIRE devotees will retire from their regular job and work at a company that provides health insurance to part-time employees – like Starbucks. This is known as Barista FI.

Coast FI 

Coast FI is a financial independence movement where the goal is to have enough invested that you can afford to stop making retirement contributions. Once you reach Coast FI, you can either keep making contributions in order to retire early or focus your resources on other goals like starting a business, contributing to a child’s college education, traveling abroad and more.

Slow FI

The Slow FI movement believes in reaching financial independence, but not at the crushing pace of traditional FIRE. Slow FI is a more conservative path, avoiding the huge sacrifices that come with traditional FIRE strategies. 

How to Retire Early

Lower your expenses

If you’re trying to retire early, one of the most important things to do is lower your expenses. This will free up more money to invest and save. Track your expenses with a budget and find a balance between saving for FIRE and continuing to enjoy your life.

Increase your income

While lowering your expenses is key to achieving FIRE, increasing your income is another crucial aspect. There’s a limit to how much you can save by being frugal, but there’s no limit to how much you can earn.

Increasing your income can include asking for a raise, switching industries, starting a side hustle and more. 

Understand your numbers

One of the main reasons that people fail to meet their FIRE goals is that they don’t properly identify how much they’re saving, how much they’re spending and how much they’ll need to retire early. 

Start by tracking your expenses to get an average of how much you typically spend a month. It’s important to be realistic – not optimistic – when you calculate your average expenses. To get a baseline estimate of how much you need to save, use one of the many FIRE calculators. 

You’ll have to input how much you spend annually, how much you save annually, when you hope to retire and how much you currently have saved. The calculator should show if you’re on track to meet your goals or way off course.

Talk to a financial planner 

Deciding to retire early is one of the biggest financial decisions you can make. And before you take that leap, you should talk to a third party to ensure you’ve thought of everything.

A financial planner can point out potential problems with your plan, like whether you can afford huge health insurance premiums or annual property tax increases. They can also recommend the best types of investment accounts to open and how to lower your tax liability.

Create automatic savings

Saving money is hard, but saving money to retire early is even harder. You can make it easier on yourself by automating your savings.

If you have a 401(k), you can increase your contributions by talking to your HR or payroll department. The money will automatically come out of your paycheck. If you receive a raise, then your 401(k) contributions will also automatically increase. 

If you invest in an IRA, then you’ll have to set up automatic contributions through the investment company. Determine how much you can afford to save automatically every month. 

Find inspiration 

When working toward FIRE, it can be hard to find like-minded people around you. That’s why it helps to get inspiration from outside sources like FIRE blogs, podcasts and forums. Some popular resources include the Choose FI Podcast, the Mad Fientist blog and the 1500 Days to Freedom blog.

Some of these communities even have local meetups, where you can spend time with real people who share your financial priorities and dreams for the future.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins. More from Zina Kumok

Sources

Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a popular strategy to build your ideal future. Here’s what you need to know.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Get Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Private school teachers can also qualify for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation.
You meet the additional requirements, depending on whether you’re new to the profession and what grade level you teach.
The takeaway: You’d better enjoy teaching, because you’re going to have to do it for a while if you want to get your student loans wiped out.

Similar to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness has quite a few hoops to jump through. But the good news is that the public service program does not restrict teachers to a specific school or subject matter.
The maximum ,500 award is only awarded to “highly qualified” teachers in special education or secondary mathematics or science. You can receive up to ,000 for other subject areas.
The standard repayment term for federal student loans is 10 years. If you have difficulty making payments, you have four main options within an income driven repayment plan (IDRP) for lowering them that take your income and expenses into account:

Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

This loan forgiveness program should be an obvious, easy choice, with the word “teacher” in the title. But there are some rigid requirements.

1. Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF)

The Perkins Loan Program ended on Sept. 30, 2017, so if you’re a recent graduate, this forgiveness may not be of much help. But if you have outstanding federal Perkins loans, you can still qualify for cancellation.

Which Loans Are Eligible?

You’ve attained your bachelor’s degree. Submit a completed Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program application. The head of the school(s) where you completed your service will have to complete the certification section, and you’ll need to submit separate applications for each loan servicer.

Pro Tip
The program was created in 2007 by former president George W. Bush to help public service workers, like teachers, get out of student loan debt. But the guidelines were so strict and confusing, few people actually qualified for forgiveness.

Contact your college’s financial aid or alumni office to find out about its forgiveness program options. For state and local programs, check out this directory from the American Federation of Teachers.

Who’s Eligible for Teacher Loan Forgiveness?

To qualify, you must either teach at a low-income school or teach one of the following subjects:
You have not had certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary or provisional basis.
As a teacher, your employer matters, but the options are much more plentiful than the restrictive Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. Qualifying employers include federal, state, local or tribal government organizations and not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt.

How Much Can You Get?

You don’t have to teach all five years at the same school, but you’ll need verification from every school you taught at to reach the five-year minimum. You apply for teacher loan forgiveness after you’ve completed the teaching requirement.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

  1. Don’t know which loans you have? Log onto www.studentloans.gov: In the loan information list’s left-hand column, it will identify the type of loan. Or you can call the Department of Education and ask.
  2. Start your AmeriCorps application here.
  3. After completing your AmeriCorps term of service, you are eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which can be used to repay qualified federal student loans that includes Direct, Perkins Loans, Federal Consolidated Loans and others listed here.
  4. They say that teaching is a calling. It’s just not typically a calling to money.

If you’re thinking about stacking the Teacher Loan Forgiveness with other forgiveness programs, you’ll be waiting a while. That’s because the forgiveness programs count your service sequentially, not simultaneously.

How to Apply

To apply, contact the school where you obtained the Perkins Loan to learn its specific rules.
And while there are a number of programs specifically designed to help teachers pay off student loans, a word of warning to anyone looking for a quick and easy fix. All of the teacher loan forgiveness programs require you to stick to a strict repayment schedule during a qualifying period when you must remain in the teaching profession.

2. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

We cover each of these repayment plans in more detail in this article, but know that these plans aren’t actually forgiveness programs. They’re repayment programs with a forgiveness option at the end. You’ll need to resubmit your income and family size every year to determine eligibility — and the forgiven portion is subject to federal taxes.
Although the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation is specifically designed for teachers, it’s also specifically for Perkins loans.
This award is subject to federal tax in the year each payment is made, making it taxable income.
Even with federally held student loan forbearance extended until Sept. 1, 2022, you shouldn’t ignore your student loan debt. In fact, this could be an opportune time to explore your possibilities before the freeze ends on interest and payments.

Which Loans Are Eligible?

  • Payments on all Direct loans enrolled in Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR).
  • Payments made on all Direct loans that were not in PAYE and IBR are temporarily eligible to count toward forgiveness.
  • Perkins and Federal Family Education Loans (also known as FFEL) can qualify if they are consolidated, but previous payments may count though a limited PSLF waiver.

Who’s Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Privacy Policy
To qualify for Teacher Loan Forgiveness, you need to have one of the following loans:

How to Apply

You don’t need to be a math teacher to realize that the ,000-plus average amount of student loans to get a bachelor’s degree would be tough to pay off on a teacher’s starting salary of ,163.

3. Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation

If you are employed as a full-time teacher at a low-income school (you can find the list of eligible schools here) for five complete and consecutive academic years, you’re eligible for the program if at least one of those years was after the 1997-98 school year.
Let’s take a look at the different options for student loan forgiveness. They vary based on the types of loans you have, the amount that’s eligible for forgiveness, the school where you work and even the subject you teach.
Although ,000 to ,500 can put a dent in a debt, if your loans reach into the upper five digits (or six digits) — or you don’t meet the requirements of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program — you do have other options.
AmeriCorps programs place teachers in high-need urban and rural areas across the U.S. The positions are limited-term contracts but come with a full salary and other benefits.

  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Foreign Languages
  • Special Education
  • Subject area that is facing a shortage of qualified teachers in your state

School librarians, guidance counselors, and other administrative staff are not considered teachers for the purposes of this loan forgiveness program. 

How to Apply

The highly qualified requirements are as follows:

4. AmeriCorps

That means you can use both the teacher loan forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness to wipe out federal loans, for instance, but not for the same period of teaching service. So after working five years to qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness, you’ll need to tack on another 120 monthly payments to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Considering a recent study found that 55% of teachers say they plan to leave the profession earlier than they originally planned — and teaching in low-income districts can be extra challenging — you might be better off applying for just the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program if you’re looking to have a large amount of debt forgiven.
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But if you owe a smaller amount, help from the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program could help put a dent in your debt.

How to Apply

The availability of teacher loan forgiveness programs at the state and local level depends on where you live. If you’re struggling with student debt, you might be able to find a sympathetic ear at your alma mater or state agency.

5. State- and School- Forgiveness Programs

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
You can use your award to repay defaulted federal student loans, as long as it qualifies.

How to Apply

That’s 15 years total — so if you graduate from college at 22, you’ll need to commit to teaching until you’re at least 37 years old. And there’s no guarantee you’ll receive forgiveness.

6. Income Driven Repayment Plans

This one isn’t specific to teachers, but it’s certainly applicable here.
If you are eligible, up to 100% of your loan may be canceled in increments for years of teaching service.

  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
  • Pay as You Earn (PAYE)
  • Revised Pay as You Earn (RPAYE)

In 2021, the Department of Education announced an overhaul of the PSLF program, allowing previously non-qualifying payments to be counted toward forgiveness, and in some cases wiping out student loan balances.

An overview of a teacher teaching elementary school students.
Getty Images

Can You Stack Forgiveness Programs? Sort of.

If you’re employed by a government or non-profit, you’re eligible to qualify for loan forgiveness after 120 payments — that’s 10 years for you non-math teachers. You’ll need verification for each year of qualification.
You must have a full-time job in the public sector, and you’ll need 120 qualifying, non-consecutive loan payments (that’s 10 years worth).
You’ve received full state certification as a teacher.
Almost every state has at least one type of student loan forgiveness program that’s designed for those in public service fields.
Ready to stop worrying about money?
If you’re in default on a loan, you are not eligible for forgiveness unless you have made satisfactory repayment arrangements with the holder of the defaulted loan. <!–

–>


Login to the Federal Student Aid site and use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness tool to determine whether you, your loan and your employer qualify, as well as to fill out the form.

Guide to Grad PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS loans are federal student loans for graduate and professional students. Although Grad PLUS loans have higher interest rates and fees than some other types of federal student loans, they also have a major benefit — virtually no borrowing limits. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance of your school, minus any other financial aid you’ve already received.

Read on for more on how Grad PLUS loans work, including their eligibility requirements, interest rates and repayment options.

What Are Grad PLUS Loans?

If you’re planning to attend a graduate or professional program, a Grad PLUS loan could help cover costs. Issued by the Department of Education, Grad PLUS loans are student loans designed for graduate and professional students.

PLUS loans are not the only federal loans available to you as a graduate student — you can also borrow Direct unsubsidized loans. Direct unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, but they come with borrowing limits.

If you’ve hit your limit and need additional funding, a Grad PLUS loan could cover the gap. As mentioned above, you can borrow up to the full cost of attendance of your program, minus any other financial aid you’ve already gotten. This flexibility can be helpful for students who are attending pricey programs.

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

What Can Grad PLUS Loans Be Used for?

Grad PLUS loans can be used for tuition, fees and other education-related expenses. These expenses include,

•   Housing

•   Food

•   Textbooks

•   Computers and other supplies

•   Study abroad expenses

•   Transportation

•   Childcare costs

A Grad PLUS loan will first be disbursed to your financial aid office, which will apply the funds toward tuition, fees, room and board, and any other school charges. The financial aid office will then send any remaining funds to you.

Recommended: What Can You Use Student Loans For?

Who Is Eligible for Grad PLUS Loans?

To be eligible for a Grad PLUS loan, you must be a graduate or professional student enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. What’s more, your program must lead to a graduate or professional degree or certificate.

You’ll also need to meet the eligibility requirements for federal financial aid (more on this below), as well as submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).

Typical Grad PLUS Loan Requirements

Besides being enrolled in an eligible graduate or professional program, you need to meet a few other requirements to take out a Grad PLUS loan:

Meet the Requirements for Federal Student Aid

Since Grad PLUS loans are part of the federal student aid program, you must be eligible for federal aid to borrow one. Here are some of the criteria you need to meet:

•   Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a valid Social Security number (with some exceptions)

•   Have a high school diploma, General Educational Development (GED) certificate or other recognized equivalent

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress while in school

•   Not already be in default on a federal student loan or owe money on a federal grant

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen or have an intellectual disability or criminal conviction, additional requirements might apply.

Submit the FAFSA

You’ll need to submit the FAFSA before you can borrow a Grad PLUS loan. After applying to grad school, you can submit this form, free of charge, on the Federal Student Aid website, with the myStudentAid mobile app or via the mail. Since the FAFSA only applies to a single academic year, you’ll need to submit it every year you’re in school and want to receive financial aid.

Complete the Grad PLUS Loan Application

Along with submitting the FAFSA, you’ll also need to fill out a separate application for the Grad PLUS loan. You can find and submit this application on the Federal Student Aid website, though some schools have separate processes. Your financial aid office can advise you on the steps you need to take.

If your application is approved, you’ll need to agree to the terms of the loan by signing a Master Promissory Note. If you haven’t borrowed a Grad PLUS loan before, you’ll also be required to complete student loan entrance counseling.

Not Have Adverse Credit History (or Apply With an Endorser)

While you don’t need outstanding credit to qualify for a Grad PLUS loan, you can’t have adverse credit. According to the Department of Education, you have adverse credit if one of the following applies to you:

•   You have accounts with a total balance greater than $2,085 that are 90 or more days delinquent

•   You’ve experienced a default, bankruptcy, repossession, foreclosure, wage garnishment or tax lien in the past five years

•   You’ve had a charge-off or write-off of a federal student loan in the past five years

If you have adverse credit, you have two options:

•   Appeal the decision due to extenuating circumstances. For example, you could provide documentation showing that you paid off a delinquent debt on your credit report.

•   Apply with an endorser who does not have adverse credit. Your endorser will be responsible for repaying the loan if you fall behind on payments.

Grad PLUS Loans Interest Rates

Grad PLUS loans come with fixed interest rates that will remain the same over the life of your loan. They also have a disbursement fee, which is a percentage of your loan amount that gets deducted from your loan.

Congress sets rates and fees on federal student loans periodically. These are the current Grad PLUS loan interest rates and fees:

Interest Rate (for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2021 and before July 1, 2022) Disbursement Fee (for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2021, and before Oct. 1, 2022)
6.28% 4.228%

Repaying Your Grad PLUS Loans

Grad PLUS loans are eligible for a variety of federal repayment plans:

•   Standard repayment plan, which involves fixed monthly payments over 10 years.

•   Income-driven repayment, specifically Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Income-Based Repayment or Income-Contingent Repayment. These plans adjust your monthly student loan payments to a percentage of your discretionary income while extending your loan terms to 20 or 25 years. If you’ve made on-time payments but still have a balance at the end of your term, it may be forgiven. The amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS.

•   Extended repayment, which extends your repayment term to 25 years and lets you pay a fixed or graduated amount.

•   Graduated repayment, which lowers your student loan payments in the beginning and increases them every two years. You’ll pay off your loan over 10 years, and your final payments won’t be more than three times greater than your initial payments.

Grad PLUS loans are also eligible for certain federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Other Options to Pay for Grad School

Grad PLUS loans aren’t the only way to pay for graduate school. Here are some alternative options:

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

You can borrow up to $20,500 per year in Direct Unsubsidized loans as a graduate student with an aggregate loan limit of $138,500, including any loans you borrowed as an undergraduate.

Here are the interest rate and disbursement fee for graduate students:

Interest Rate (for loans disbursed on or after July 1, 2021 and before July 1, 2022) Disbursement Fee (for loans disbursed on or after Oct. 1, 2020, and before Oct. 1, 2022)
5.28% 1.057%

Grants and Scholarships

Besides student loans, you can also pursue grants and scholarships for graduate school. You can find grants and scholarships from a variety of sources, including the Department of Education, your state, your school or a private organization. By earning grants and scholarships, you might not need to borrow as much in student loans.

Private Student Loans

You can also explore your options for private graduate student loans from banks, online lenders or credit unions. Some lenders offer interest rates that start lower than Graduate PLUS loan interest rates and don’t charge an origination fee.

Although private student loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans or programs, some lenders offer flexible repayment options or deferment if you need to pause payments. But, because private student loans aren’t required to offer the same borrower benefits as federal student loans, they are generally borrowed as a last resort option after all other sources of financing have been exhausted.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for ways to pay for graduate school, a Grad PLUS loan could help. You can use this flexible loan to cover your school’s cost of attendance, as well as choose from a variety of federal repayment plans when it comes time to pay it back.

A Grad PLUS loan, however, might not be your most affordable borrowing option. Depending on your credit and other factors, it may be possible to find a private student loan with an even lower interest rate than a Grad PLUS loan.

SoFi offers private student loans with competitive rates, no fees and flexible repayment terms. Learn more about SoFi’s no-fee private student loans.

FAQ

What kind of loan is Grad PLUS?

The Grad PLUS loan is a federal graduate student loan issued by the Department of Education. It is designed specifically for graduate and professional students.

Is there a max on Grad PLUS loans?

There is virtually no limit on the amount you can borrow with a Grad PLUS loan. You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid you’ve already received.

Can Grad PLUS loans be used for living expenses?

Yes, you can use Grad PLUS loans to cover your living expenses while at school. You must use your loan on education-related expenses, which can include housing, food, supplies, transportation and other costs related to attending school.


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The Best Student Loans of May 2022

College costs are overwhelming for a lot of families. So students turn to student loans to cover them. Most students, following expert recommendations, start with federal student loans, but those aren’t always enough to cover costs.

When federal student loans don’t cut it, you can turn to private student loan lenders to fill in the gap.

Unlike federal student loans, private student loans offer a variety of options for interest rates, loan amounts and terms that could make picking one daunting. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best student loans available to make it easier for you to compare and vet your options.

Federal student loans have been in the news a lot lately as the U.S. Education Department has

Keep reading below the table for more details on every lender, plus all the information you need to find the college funding plan that’s right for you and your family.

Interest rates accurate as of late April 2022 and subject to change. Variable rates listed are margins added to a base rate such as LIBOR or SOFR, which could add around 0.30% to 1%.

Best Student Loans at a Glance

Lender Variable APR with Autopay Fixed APR with Autopay Loans for
Credible 0.94% – 11.98% 3.02% – 14.08% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Earnest Starting at 0.94% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad and grad
College Ave 0.94% – 11.98% 3.24% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Sallie Mae 1.13% – 11.23% 3.50% – 12.60% Undergrad, grad and career training
SoFi 1.05% – 11.78% 3.47% –11.16% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Ascent .47% – 11.31% 4.36% – 12.75% Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp
LendKey Starting at 1.57% Starting at 3.99% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
Citizens Bank n/a 3.48% – 10.78% Undergrad and grad, refinancing
PNC Bank Starting at 1.09% Starting at 2.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Purefy 1.74% – 7.24% 2.43% – 7.94% Refinancing
Sparrow 0.99% – 11.98% 2.99% – 12.99% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Student Loan Authority n/a 2.99% – 4.61% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Chicago Student Loans n/a 7.53% – 8.85% Undergrad (juniors and seniors)
Funding U n/a 7.49% – 12.99% Undergrad
Discover 1.79% – 11.09% 3.99% – 11.59% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing
Splash Financial 1.74 – 8.27% 1.99% – 8.27% Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Credible

Best for Comparing Loan Rates

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compares rates from top lenders
  • See multiple offers without hard credit check
  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%

Through Credible’s loan marketplace, you can fill out an application to see pre-qualified rates for multiple lenders in one place. Select options that work for you, like deferred or interest-only payments while you’re in school, fixed or variable rates, and loan terms that fit your plan. Once you choose a loan offer, you can finish your application and sign your loan agreement with the lender directly.

Credible

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.02% – 14.08%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Earnest

Best for Flexible Repayment Options

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • 9-month grace period
  • Skip one payment/year
  • Pay monthly or every two weeks

Earnest offers an easy-to-use, modern platform to find loans for undergrad, grad school and professional degrees with a nine-month grace period before beginning repayment after school. Loans come with an option to defer one payment every 12 months with no extra fees or interest. Apply online, and get an offer within 72 hours.

Earnest

Variable APR

Starting at 0.94%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

College Ave

Best for Affordable In-School Repayment

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Variable APR as low as 0.94%
  • Parent and cosigned loans available
  • 4 repayment options

College Ave is a mainstay in student loans and refinancing. Apply for loans to cover undergrad, grad and professional degrees, and career training programs. The online application is quick and easy, and borrowers tout the company’s customer service, so you’ll be on top of your loan from application to repayment. Choose how you repay while you’re in school to save money and fit your budget.

College Ave

Variable APR

0.94% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

3.24% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Sallie Mae

Best for College Financial Planning

2 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Faster applications for returning borrower
  • Scholarships available
  • Credit cards and banking options

Sallie Mae is a private lender and platform for financial products for students. The business no longer originates or services federal loans, as it’s most known for. Apply for private student loans, credit cards and savings accounts designed for students. With Multi-Year Advantage, returning borrowers have fast applications and high approval rates to make it easier to get your money each year.

Sallie Mae

Variable APR

1.13% – 11.23%

Fixed APR

3.50% – 12.60%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training

SoFI

Best for SoFi Banking Clients

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No fees
  • Unemployment protection
  • Earn rewards to repay loans faster Summary

SoFi is well known for student loan refinancing, and it offers other types of loans including in-school student loans with no hidden fees. As a SoFi member, you get access to perks, including subscriptions to products like Grammarly, Evernote and Coursera, to support your education. With unemployment protection, you get forbearance on loans for up to three-month increments if you lose your job.

SoFi

Variable APR

1.05% – 11.78%

Fixed APR

3.47% –11.16%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Ascent

Best for Graduated Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Graduated repayment available
  • Hardship repayment options
  • Bootcamp loans available

Ascent offers student loans and scholarships for your full academic career. Apply online with no application fees to see your prequalified rates without a hard credit check. Use loans to pay for everything from a traditional undergrad or grad program to career training and even career-boosting bootcamps.

Ascent

Variable APR

1.47% – 11.31%

Fixed APR

4.36% – 12.75%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad, career training and bootcamp

LendKey

Best for Loan Reconnaissance

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Work with community banks and CUs
  • Student loans and refinancing options
  • Rates as low as 1.57%

LendKey is a student loan servicer and a platform for finding the best student loan and refinancing options from partner community banks and credit unions. LendKey’s platform streamlines the process, so you get the benefit of working with a community-oriented institution without the headache of multiple application processes.

LendKey

Variable APR

Starting at 1.57%

Fixed APR

Starting at 3.99%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

Citizens Bank

Best for Citizens Bank Customers

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Loyalty discounts
  • Cosigner release option
  • Multi-Year Approval

Citizens Bank is an established financial institution with more than 40 years of experience providing student loans and other financial services. With multi year approval, you can get approved for new loans year after year with a faster application and no hard credit check. Citizens Bank customers can get an interest rate discount up to 0.25 percentage points.

Citizens Banks

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

3.48% – 10.78%

Loans for

Undergrad and grad, refinancing

PNC

Best for Undergraduate Loans

2.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Established traditional bank
  • Cosigner release option
  • Student loans and refinancing options

PNC Bank is one of the largest banks in the United States, with nearly 200 years of experience in financial services. Student loans and refinancing are among its vast services. The PNC Solution Loan is designed specifically for undergraduates, to bridge the gap when federal student loans don’t cover all your expenses. It also offers graduate and professional loans.

PNC Bank

Variable APR

Starting at 1.09%

Fixed APR

Starting at 2.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Purefy

Best for Refinancing Student Loans

3 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Student and parent loan refinancing
  • Compare multiple lenders
  • No hard credit check

Purefy is for anyone out of school, repaying student loans and looking for ways to save money. Use the platform to compare student loan refinancing options from multiple lenders side-by-side. The platform is free to use, and you can see prequalified rates in minutes. You can refinance private or federal loans through its partner lenders.

Purefy

Variable APR

1.74% – 7.24%

Fixed APR

2.43% – 7.94%

Loans for

Refinancing

Sparrow

Best for Easy Student Loan Repayment

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • App to automate loan repayment
  • Manage private and federal loans

Sparrow is a platform for student loans, refinancing and repayment in one place. You can fill out a single application to see prequalified offers from multiple partner lenders for private loans or refinancing. Then use the app to manage and automate repayment of your private and federal student loans in one place.

Sparrow

Variable APR

0.99% – 11.98%

Fixed APR

2.99% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Best for Income-Driven Repayment

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Income-based repayment available
  • Fixed interest rates
  • Less-than-halftime students eligible

RISLA is a nonprofit organization offering student loans and refinancing for borrowers all over the U.S. Its loans have more borrower protections than most private student loans: You have income-driven repayment options, a fixed interest rate and two repayment terms to choose from (10 or 15 years). Limited loan forgiveness is even available for students who complete internships.

Rhode Island Student Loan Authority

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

2.99% – 4.61%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Chicago Student Loans

Best for Equitable Lending

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Merit-based approval and interest rates
  • No cosigner needed
  • Income-based repayment options

Chicago Student Loans by A.M. Money works with limited schools around the Midwest, but if your school is eligible, this is a great option for equitable lending. Approval and interest rates are determined based on your academic achievement, not your credit or income. And income-based repayment plans are available if you can’t afford your monthly payment.

Chicago Student Loans

Variable APR

n/a

Fix APR

7.53% – 8.85%

Loans for

Undergrad (juniors and seniors)

Funding U

Best for Merit-Based Lending

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Approval by GPA and non-credit factors
  • No cosigner needed
  • More than 1,000 eligible schools

Funding U makes undergraduate loans based on a student’s GPA, not their family’s credit history. It uses a credit check to set interest rates, but also factors in your GPA and year in school — the rate goes down as you progress nearer to graduation! Funding U works with more than 1,460 nonprofit colleges and universities.

Funding U

Variable APR

n/a

Fixed APR

7.49% – 12.99%

Loans for

Undergrad

Discover

Best for Rewards for Good Grades

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • No origination or late fees
  • Cash reward for good grades
  • Variable APR as low as 1.79%

In addition to its full suite of financial services, Discover offers student loans for undergrads, grad students and professional degrees with no origination or late fees. You’ll get rewarded for good grades: Get a 1% cash reward for each new loan if you have a GPA of at least 3.0 for the term(s) the loan covers.

Discover

Variable APR

1.79% – 11.09%

Fixed APR

3.99% – 11.59%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Splash Financial

Best for Refinancing Undergrad and Med School Loans

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features

  • Compare offers from multiple lenders
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties
  • Exclusive interest rates from partner lenders

Splash Financial lets you compare in-school student loans and student loan refinancing (and personal loans) from multiple lenders with a simple and quick online application. In addition to its search function, Splash partners with its lenders to offer exclusive interest rates — with fixed rates as low as 1.99% — to help you get the best deal possible.

Splash Financial

Variable APR

1.74 – 8.27%

Fixed APR

1.99% – 8.27%

Loans for

Undergrad, grad and career training, refinancing

Types of Student Loans

The first thing you need to know before applying for any student loans is the difference between federal and private student loans. These two types of loans are treated differently and offer significantly different options for repayment and forgiveness down the line, so know what you’re signing up for before you borrow.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are backed by the U.S. government and make up the vast majority of student loans borrowed every year in the country.

Application: You apply for federal loans along with other types of federal student aid for college through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form you fill out every year to demonstrate your family’s financial situation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) approves basic undergraduate loans and grants based on financial need, not creditworthiness, so students can apply for federal financial aid without a cosigner.

Types of loans: The government makes four types of student loans: Direct Subsidized, Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS for parents or graduate students, and Federal Perkins Loans for students with exceptional financial need. It also awards grants and work study awards based on financial need. PLUS loans are granted based on creditworthiness, but might still be easier to get than some private loans.

Interest rates: Federal student loan interest rates are standard and not based on a borrower’s credit history. Congress sets them each year for loans disbursed that year, and you keep that rate for the life of your loan. For example, the interest rate for 2021 was 3.73% for Direct undergraduate loans, 5.28% for graduate student loans and 6.28% for PLUS loans.

Repayment plans: The required repayment for federal student loans starts six months after leaving school (or going less than half time), and the standard repayment plan splits monthly payments evenly over 10 years. Subsidized loans don’t accrue interest while you’re in school, while unsubsidized loans do.

Federal student loans are originated and serviced by private institutions, but they’re backed by a guarantee from the federal government, so ED sets repayment terms. You can opt into a graduated payment plan or income-driven repayment, both which would extend your time to repay and could give you a more affordable monthly payment (as little as $0).

Only federal loans are eligible for forgiveness under programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and for national forbearance periods like we’ve seen during the pandemic. The pause on loan payback has been extended six times since the start of the pandemic.

Refinancing options: Even though you receive one lump payment (if you get a refund) each semester, you might have multiple student loans to your name. You can combine them with a Direct Consolidation Loan, a student loan consolidation option creates one balance and one monthly payment, and sets the interest rate at the average of all the loans. This isn’t a money-saving step, but could make repayment simpler.

You can also refinance federal student loans using a private refinancing option, which could save you money if you have strong credit and can keep up with payments. This would pay off your federal loan balances and replace them with a private loan. It removes the repayment and forgiveness options that come with federal loans.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are consumer loans made by private banks, credit unions and financial institutions. They’re treated differently from other types of private loans, but don’t come with as much flexibility as federal loans.

Application: You apply for private student loans directly with the lender or servicer providing the loan. Lenders approve loans based on creditworthiness, just like other credit products, so you have to have a strong credit history or apply with a creditworthy cosigner to be approved. Most (but not all) lenders include an option to release the cosigner after a few years of steady payments.

Types of loans: Private student loan lenders typically offer student loans for undergraduate students, graduate students and professional degrees. Some also offer loans for career training or alternative education like bootcamps. The loans all offer the same basic terms, but interest rates and loan amounts usually vary based on the degree covered.

Interest rates: Private student loan interest rates are set based on creditworthiness and can range from less than 1% to 12% or more depending on the prime rate. Fixed rates are set when you take out a loan and stay the same for the life of the loan, while variable interest rates fluctuate up and down when the Fed adjusts the prime rate.

Repayment plans: Private lenders don’t offer the same amount of protection in repayment as the federal government, but they usually offer a variety of repayment options so you can choose a plan that helps you save money without being overwhelmed by payments. You usually get to choose whether to pay off interest and/or principal while in school, or defer all payments until six months or more after school.

Many private lenders offer forbearance options of a few months at a time, so you can pause payments due to financial hardship without defaulting on your loan. They don’t, however, offer income-driven repayment, so your monthly payment is unaffected by your ability to pay it.

Private student loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness under federal plans, but you might be able to discharge them in bankruptcy under limited circumstances.

Refinancing options: If your financial situation improves, you can apply to refinance your student loans with the same or a different private lender. This pays off your existing loans and replaces them with a new loan with better terms, like a lower interest rate or lower monthly payments.

Should You Take out a Federal or Private Student Loan?

Nearly every expert will tell you to use private student loans as your last resort to pay for school. First exhaust free funding, like grants, scholarships and work study. Then take on federal student loans. Then, if your costs aren’t covered, take out private student loans to fill the gap.

That’s because private loans are the riskiest of all those options.

Federal student loans may be subsidized to save on interest, and they come with flexible repayment plans that offer relief when your income is low. And they’re eligible for forgiveness for student loan borrowers who qualify. Most private loans don’t have those options.

However, private student loans could come with significantly lower interest rates than federal student loans if you have good credit. Federal loans come with standard rates between 3% and 7% and don’t reward good credit (or punish bad credit).

After exhausting free funding, the most ideal route is to borrow a subsidized federal loan — which won’t accrue interest while you’re in school — then consider refinancing once the repayment period starts, you’ve built a strong credit history and feel confident in your ability to make monthly payments for the term of the new loan.

Even most private student loan lenders encourage borrowers to look into federal funding before taking out a private loan while you’re in school. They’re generally designed to fill gaps for students who aren’t eligible for enough in federal student loans to cover their costs to attend college.

Student Loan Costs to Consider

When you evaluate private student loan offers, you’ll probably focus on the interest rate, because that has a significant impact on the long-term cost of the loan. But there are other costs to consider.

Before accepting any loan offer or signing the agreement, make sure you know how much you’ll pay (if anything) in these common costs:

  • APR: Annual percentage rate is commonly called the interest rate (though they’re a little different). It’s usually the most prominently advertised feature of student loans. Student loan interest rates tend to fall between 3% and 11% and can be fixed or variable — the latter means they’ll change with the prime rate. A higher credit score can get you a lower interest rate and vice versa.
  • Origination fee: Some lenders charge a fee to receive your loan, though that’s less common with student loans than other types of loans. Origination fees are usually around 2% or 3% of the loan amount. They come out of the amount disbursed to the school, so you likely won’t notice them unless you’re very particular about math.
  • Late fee: Most loan agreements come with a fee for late payments, usually a percentage of the payment due. Many student loan lenders are doing away with late fees and building in options for flexible repayment, so shop around to compare your options!

What Is a Cosigner?

A cosigner is someone who shares the responsibility of a loan with the borrower. If you — the borrower — can’t qualify for a loan on your own because of bad credit or no credit, you could apply with a cosigner with good credit to qualify.

You receive the funds, but you both bear responsibility for repaying the loan, and repayment or default impacts both credit scores.

Cosigners are common for private student loans, because many people entering college are young and have almost no credit history. You can cosign with a parent, guardian or other creditworthy person, who basically guarantees the loan in case you don’t repay.

Student loans often come with an option for cosigner release, so the cosigner doesn’t have to stay tied to the loan for years after the student’s left school and gone off on their own. Cosigners can usually be released after around 12 to 36 months of on-time payments, with proof of the borrower’s income.

Who Can Take out a Private Student Loan?

Any student can usually apply for a student loan from a private lender, but creditworthiness determines whether you’ll be approved.

Lenders generally have basic requirements for student loans, as well, including:

  • You must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting institution.
  • You must be the age of majority in your state (usually 18 or 19).
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or resident.

Some lenders make exceptions for these, though. For example, Ascent offers a Bootcamp Loan, which wouldn’t come with the enrollment requirement. Some lenders also make loans for international students who aren’t U.S. residents.

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Follow these steps to apply for a private student loan.

  • Weigh your options. Before turning to private loans, fill out a FAFSA to see your options for federal financial aid. This doesn’t commit you to taking out a federal loan, and it has no affect on your credit score; it just gives you all the information you need to make a decision. If federal aid won’t cover your costs, look into private loans.
  • Find a cosigner. If you don’t have strong credit, get a cosigner on board before you apply. Use a site like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to check your credit score and history for free to see where you stand.
  • Get pre-qualified. Lenders let you fill out a little information about yourself — usually all online — and run a soft credit check to give you an idea of the interest rate and loan terms you could qualify for. That lets you compare offers before submitting to a hard credit inquiry that impacts your score. Marketplaces like Credible and LendKey let you see and compare several pre-qualified offers with one application.
  • Choose a lender. Choose the loan offer that looks like the best fit for you, and finish your application with the lender. You can usually do this part all online, too. The lender will run a hard credit check and might need more information from you, like proof of income. You could get a decision as soon as the same day or after a few days, depending on the lender’s process.
  • Accept your loan. Once approved, you can review and sign your loan agreement — remember to note any fees! — and accept your funds. Lenders send student loan funds directly to your school to pay for tuition and fees, and the school will send you a refund for any extra amount.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Student Loans

We’ve rounded up the answers to some of the most common questions about where to get the best private student loans.

What Type of Loan is the Best Value to Students?

Which student loan options are best for you depends on your family’s financial situation. Private student loans can be an optimal option financially, because of potentially low interest rates and short repayment terms. But they’re only available to students with good credit or creditworthy cosigners. Federal student loans are available based on financial need and come with a host of repayment and forgiveness options that could protect low-income borrowers in the long run.

What Type of Student Loan Has the Lowest Interest Rate?

Private student loans can have interest rates as low as 1% but might be as high as 12% or more, depending on your credit. Federal loan rates are set by Congress for all borrowers and fall around 3% to 5% for undergraduate loans. If you (or your cosigner) have good credit, a private student loan could get you the lowest interest rate.

What is the Biggest Student Loan You Can Get?

The size of your student loan depends on what kind of loan you take out. For private student loans, it’s determined by your credit and the term of the loan you want. Some private lenders set caps on student loan amounts, and some will lend up to your full cost of attendance. For federal loans, your loan amount is determined based on your cost of attendance and expected family contribution. If you demonstrate financial need, your federal loan might go beyond tuition, and you could receive a refund to help cover living expenses. Undergrads can borrow a max of between $5,500 and $12,500 each academic year, and grad students can borrow up to $20,500. 

Contributor Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® who has written about work and money for publications including Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, Insider, NextAdvisor and Inc. Magazine.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com