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I’m Screwing Myself Out of Retirement With My Wells Fargo Private Student Loans

By on June 1, 2017

Question:

Dear Steve,

I took out both federal and private student loans to pay for college, and was approved by Wells Fargo for more than I can pay back in reasonable increments each month with my current salary (roughly $565/month).

The federal loan payments I have each month are quite manageable, but the private loan payments through Wells Fargo are at a much higher interest rate, and also make up the bulk of my loan balance, currently at over $47k with interest rates hovering around 8%.

I attempted to consolidate the Wells Fargo loans to lower my monthly payment and hopefully reduce the interest rate as well, but do not have access to a co-signer and my debt-to-income ratio is too high (mainly because of my student loans), so I haven’t had the option to consolidate.

I make a decent salary at approximately $41k per year and hope to see an increase in the next year or so, but with living expenses at a bare minimum I am still living paycheck-to-paycheck in order to do the responsible thing and follow through on my loan payments.

Although I try to be as financially responsible as I can, I am now in my early thirties and am unable to put any money towards savings for retirement or emergencies. I have heard of graduates abandoning their private loan payments, and I am starting to feel that may be my only option if I want to save for my future.

In fact, I read your article on the Huffington Post about this very topic, but am so scared of the repercussions that I just continue to make my payments and regret my willingness to sign my life away to loans. I’m curious to find out if you think the risk would be worth the reward? What would you recommend to a person in my situation? Thanks so much in advance for the help!

Paige

Answer:

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Dear Paige,

I can completely empathize with your situation and plight. As you’ve painfully learned, just because a lender will give you a loan it does not mean you can afford it.

Your worry about the future and the inability to save for retirement is a logical concern. Each day you can’t stash away money now is a bit hit on your retirement later.

As an example. If you invested $300 a month starting now and didn’t retire for 40 years you’d have about $1,897,223 in retirement. That doesn’t even include the additional benefit of employer matching or tax benefits.

So the real question now is how much pain you are willing to deal with in the short run to deal with the private student loans versus how much you will throw away by not doing something.

I think you might have read my article Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Paying Your Unaffordable Private Student Loan. In that article the discussion is about the pain you will have to face when you default on your student loans and the options it gives you.

Look, I’m not suggesting the defaulting is either easy or doesn’t have consequences. It’s a frightening strategy that is not for the ill advised or faint of heart. If you did decide to investigate this path I would strongly urge you to talk to a competent debt coach like Damon Day to evaluate your entire situation and provide a plan based on your specific situation and goals. You need someone you can bounce these ideas off of and have regular conversations.

However, the idea of a strategic default of your private student loans is not entirely without merit. It does carry risks and will damage your credit from the defaulted payments.

The best strategy would be if Wells Fargo worked with you to create a repayment plan that allowed you to meet your obligations and begin to build an emergency savings account and save for retirement.

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Alternatively, if you won the lottery and could pay off your student loans at once, that would be a lucky option as well.

Given that both a reasonable Wells Fargo payment and lottery win are not likely then you have to think carefully about the advice I’ve given you here.

Sometimes in the face of no good solution you just have to choose from the least objectionable and stick to it.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

3 Comments

  1. Paige

    June 1, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Question asked.

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