Consider These Programs to Help You Repay Your Student Loans

Check to see if you qualify for one of the income-driven repayment plans or a loan forgiveness program.

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A particularly disturbing trend is the number of older adults who continue to be dogged by student loans. At the end of 2020, roughly 8.5 million Americans who were at least 50 years old owed about $349 billion in federal student loans, up 37% from the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Federal Student Aid. Worse, that debt lingers past their working years.

"Every year, thousands of seniors are carrying student loan debt into retirement, and a lot of that is unnecessary," says Martin Lynch, compliance manager and director of education for the nonprofit Cambridge Credit Counseling in Agawam, Mass., which provides free counseling on student loans.

If you're struggling to repay federal student loans, ask your loan servicer if you're eligible for one of four income-driven repayment plans. Payments are set as a percentage of your discretionary income, which is based on a comparison of your income and family size to the federal poverty guideline. The remaining balance may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. If you work for a state, municipality or nonprofit, you could qualify for forgiveness of your remaining balance after making 120 qualifying payments. Studentaid.gov (opens in new tab) has more information about loan forgiveness program (opens in new tab).

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Although you could consolidate federal student loans with a private lender to get a lower rate, doing so will make you ineligible for federal loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment programs.

Senior Retirement Editor, Kiplinger.com

Jackie Stewart is the senior retirement editor for Kiplinger.com and the senior editor for Kiplinger's Retirement Report.