Plan Your Debt
Avoid financial hardship by planning out how much debt you will have to repay after graduation. Clear goals will help. Consider your plans after graduation. Do they include:
- travel and/or job relocation?
- marriage and children?
- internships or volunteering?
- buying a house?
Each of these choices presents different financial challenges that may require more savings and minimal debt. You will need savings for non-salaried internships that offer valuable experience; money for relocation expenses to maximize your employment opportunities; for a house down payment; planning a wedding; or having children.
Consider your potential earnings
An excellent resource for comparing your career choice and the average starting salary is the Occupational Outlook Handbook at the U.S. Department of Labor website. The handbook is updated annually and lists all careers alphabetically. It includes potential earnings based on education level, job growth in the field as well as basics of what to expect when you start work.
The rule of thumb is to borrow no more than half of your starting salary. The average undergraduate loan debt is nearly $20,000, which means making $40,000 to start. Is that realistic for you? Another way to look at it is try to keep your debt burden to 10-15 percent of your income. Use the Student Loan Advisor calculator at http://www.finaid.org/calculators/ to determine what loan amounts to borrow, using:
- Your estimated starting salary
- 10-year standard repayment plan
- a 15 percent debt-to-income ratio