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Money medicine: Student loan lessons from the flu

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Vaccine

This past week I’ve had excruciating headaches, terrible chills, and an awful fever. My week with the flu has taught me a very valuable lesson: don’t procrastinate on the flu shot. Sure it sucks to pay the $25 and get a needle shoved in your arm, but it definitely beats the alternative.

Nothing is more frustrating than suffering consequences of a completely avoidable situation.  Had I dealt with a tiny inconvenience, I never would have gotten sick.  It is worse because I alone am to blame for my predicament.

What does this have to do with student loans?

As a law student there are many things you can be doing to “vaccinate” yourself from future misery.  A few small steps will leave you much better off in the future.

Keep borrowing in check – Student loans make affording a baller apartment close to campus a reality… but it is also a mistake.  You can live like a lawyer during law school, or after, but not both.

Management of your student debt HAS to happen. They only question is when will you get around to it.

Stick to federal loans – Not all law students become lawyers with six figure jobs.  Federal programs like income-driven repayment plans allow borrowers to make payments based upon what they make rather than what they owe.  Avoiding private student loans provides students with an insurance policy against unemployment or under employment.

Track down all of your debt – Most law students have some debt from their undergrad studies.  The small loan you took out freshman year may have grown during undergrad and law school.  Figure out who you owe, how much, and what interest rate you are paying.  If you can knock out some high interest debt using your income from a summer position, it will be a huge win.

Learn about the repayment plans and forgiveness programs – These programs are the reason that federal loans are the preferred method of borrowing.  If you take the time to learn about public service loan forgiveness or the various federal repayment options, you can hit the ground running after graduation.

It might be unpleasant to deal with this stuff now, but this is only a tiny prick in the arm. You do not want to be an attorney with a full-blown student loan flu.

Between the compounding nature of interest and the fact that most student loan issues cannot be retroactively fixed, there is huge value to doing things right the first time.

Management of your student debt HAS to happen. They only question is when will you get around to it. Don’t put yourself in a position where you wish you would have been smarter when you had the chance. Trust me— it sucks.