Smart Ways to Manage Your Student Loans

You could consolidate or refinance to lower your payments, but some options will increase your overall costs or eliminate federal loan safeguards.

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Blair Green Thielemier graduated in 2011 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with a doctorate of pharmacy and $65,000 in federal student loans. She diligently paid more than her required payments every month, but after four years her balance still stood at $35,000–primarily because a large portion of her payments went toward interest. Thielemier, 31, wanted to pay off her loans faster, so she decided to refinance with CommonBond, a private lender, which offered to reduce her 6.3% fixed rate to a roughly 2% variable rate. With more of her payments going toward principal, she was able to pay off the balance in less than two years.

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Kaitlin Pitsker
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Pitsker joined Kiplinger in the summer of 2012. Previously, she interned at the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and with Chronogram magazine in Kingston, N.Y. She holds a BS in magazine journalism from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.