Jean Provance’s refrigerator is decorated with the usual- magnets from her travels, family photos, and other memorabilia. But it also has a stack of Post-it notes stuck to it. The note at the top of the stack is labeled “70” and each subsequent note counts down to “0”. This, Jean explains, is her “student loan countdown”. Each month, she celebrates making her payment by peeling off the top note, revealing the next. Right now, her loan repayment will take 17 years less than it would have with her previous lender. Jean had a friendly, warm voice when she kindly shared her story with us.
A native New Jerseyan, Jean received her graduate degree from NYU. She saved money by commuting back and forth from New Jersey to attend classes, but she still graduated with $104,000 in debt from her graduate program alone. To make matters worse, she graduated in the midst of the recession in 2008 and attended over 40 job interviews before landing a position. She is now a social worker who works primarily with children and families- and she wouldn’t trade her job for the world!
Jean has a passion for this full-time job, but after graduation, she struggled with her student loan payments. She held a mix of both federal and private student loans. She had multiple payments to make each month with variable interest rates that were constantly shifting. Every time she made a payment, Jean felt as if she wasn’t even making progress in her repayment journey, because of the high interest. “The balance just wasn’t going down”, she expressed, as she thought back on that frustrating time.
Making a Change
Student loans did not stop Jean from starting a family. After two maternity leaves, Jean called her loan providers to learn that she still had another 22 years left until her loan would be paid off. She had already been making full payments for nine years and built up excellent credit. It just didn’t add up. At that moment, she thought, “I cannot be paying off student loans until I’m in my fifties. There has to be a better way.”
Jean decided, the better way was refinancing her student loans. She spent her second maternity leave researching and assessing her student loan refinancing options. She chose a lender on LendKey’s platform because they offered her the lowest fixed interest rate, at 3.5% and were able to save her 17 years on the loan term! Today, Jean is halfway through paying off her loans and saving thousands of dollars in interest.
Although the payment is higher than it was before, Jean says that it’s totally worth it because of how much less she’ll be paying over time and how much quicker she’ll be debt-free. Additionally, Jean consolidated her payments and only deals with one payment per month now.
Life After Refinancing
Jean says, “I can relax. I feel better and healthier” now that she is closer to meeting her financial goals. Refinancing her student loans has alleviated so much financial stress, she says.
She is also able to finally move forward financially and think about other long-term goals. For example, she feels better able to contribute to education funds for her children, ages 5 and 2. She wants to provide them with opportunities and help them avoid the student loan debt that she and today’s graduates are saddled with.
She is even able to think about retirement for the first time. “Retirement is now a thought in my head,” Jean marveled. Burdened with student loan debt, she assumed that she would never stop working. It just didn’t seem possible to save for retirement when she had 22 years on her loan term.
Planning for the Future
Shorter-term, Jean wants to be able to work fewer hours and have weekends off to spend with her children. With the money she’s saving, she thinks it could be a possibility in the near future. The family recently took a 12-day trip to Disney, and Jean is excited to plan more family vacations. Refinancing her student loans has allowed Jean to create unforgettable memories with her family now and into the future.
When it comes to advice for other graduates looking to refinance, Jean emphasizes that “you can’t just focus on the monthly payment”. Instead, she advises others to plan long-term. Even if the monthly payment is higher, paying more upfront could save you years of payments and thousands in interest. She also recommends maintaining good credit and watching interest rates. Choosing a fixed interest rate, Jean’s interest rate and payments remain consistent over time. Building good credit helped her to secure a low interest rate.
Are You Next?
Overall, Jean saved 17 years and thousands of dollars by refinancing her student loans. If you find yourself struggling to make payments or feel that you can qualify for a lower interest rate, check out our student loan refinancing page or our blog for more information.