Budgeting Early Retirement Journey

Why Yes, This Is My $300,000 Student Loan Repayment Plan: REPAYE 2018

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. So the other day, I got an email from my student loan servicer. That’s better than a wedding invitation, said no one ever.

What the heck is REPAYE

What is it? REPAYE is one of four income-driven repayment plans offered by the federal government for federal student loans.

How much do I pay? With the REPAYE plan, your payment is generally 10% of your discretionary income. Your discretionary income is calculated as adjusted gross income minus 150 percent of the state poverty guideline for your family size. Additionally, payments can be estimated using their Repayment Estimator.

How long is the repayment period? It depends. The REPAYE plan’s repayment period is twenty (20) years if all loans you are repaying under the plan were received for your undergraduate degree. The REPAYE plan’s repayment period is  twenty-five (25) years if any loans you are repaying under the plan were received for a graduate or professional degree program.

What happens at the end of REPAYE if I still have a balance? Under any of the income-drive repayment plans, including REPAYE, any remaining loan balance is forgiven at the end of the repayment period.

What else do I need to know? As of now, the forgiven balance may be considered taxable income, however this single girl is curious to see how exactly the IRS plans to collect that tax bill on a population of “needy” people. Maybe income-driven tax repayment plans? 😊

For more information, go directly to the Federal Government’s Student Aid website.


What does that mean for the single girl

Take a look at the numbers. Here I openly share my $300,000 student loan balance and the income-based monthly payment calculated with the REPAYE program.

To pay or to REPAYE

The difference (Standard Repayment vs REPAYE):
Using standard repayment as the original: $3642
Using REPAYE amount as the new: $566
The percent difference is (3642- 566)/ 3642 * 100 = 84.5% decrease in monthly payment

Because I chose to contribute to a traditional 401k vs Roth 401k, I decrease my adjusted gross income and this helps keep my payments low since the REPAYE payments are income-based. This year (2018) will be the first year I attempt to contribute the maximum to my 401k.

Final thoughts

I know debt is sacrilege in the FIRE blogosphere, but each person’s journey is different. It makes more sense to me from a financial standpoint to carry this debt and apply for loan forgiveness after 25 years.  I hope and pray it pays off!  The most salient ramification is that if I were to take on a mortgage, my debt-to-income ratio would be quite high. Psychologically, carrying a mortgage and this loan is burdensome which plays a role in why I have gotten out of the housing market.

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  1. Ye gods! That loan figure is higher than any mortgage I've ever had! Did you go to Yale for a doctorate or something?!!! I know degrees in America cost so much more than here in the UK but have seen other loan balances and none that high. Maybe I shouldn't worry about DD2's projected £50k student loan.

    I can see why you wouldn't want to try and pay it off aggressively, it would take all your spare cash for many years.

  2. Funny… I actually never thought about it like that. Somehow student loans seemed more a fact of life (for me) than a mortgage. I don't have a Yale degree but one of my (three) degrees is from a fancy expensive school. The 3rd degree was just expensive. Ha, I'll trade with DD2!

    For some reason, I guess financial freedom was just not even on my radar. Student loans were just a fact of life. I used to scoff at people who would bargain shop for education, you go where you get in, I thought. Ha, who's laughing now!

  3. What recommendations would you have for parents of young children regarding college savings?

    We’ve got pretty healthy college savings accounts for both kids and I’d expect them to be close to $80K when the kids are ready for college. At this time we devote $250 a month to these accounts.

    We were lucky. Both of our parents helped pay for our college along the way. Mine did from inheritance money, my wife’s family used loans and paid them off within a couple years of her graduation. We both went to in state schools.

    I’ve always thought that based on my own experiences in college I would make sure my kids have a part-time job and keep housing expenses down. Do you have any recommendations?

    1. I personally never had any conversations with the people that raised me about how exactly college was going to be paid for. So, I think that would be a great place to start. Set expectations about how much you are willing to cover realistically and what their expected contribution is. That can also serve as an access point for future conversations about money. As a cautionary tale, talk realistically about how much they should expect to earn (quick BLS google search) in their first job and how much of that they want to spend on loans, if it comes to that. Pro tip to keep student housing expenses down – go to school locally and stay at home. Nothing I learned in the dorms was worth $10k/yr! Alternatively, shoot for an RA position if you must 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Stephen!

  4. It’s good to see that you are putting into retirement savings at the same time. There’s no way I’d wait until I’d paid off all of my $140k of debt before saving, especially not at my age. You have more time, but investing younger is always better! Keep up the fight.

    1. Thanks DD. Yeah, no immediate terms to pay off that debt anytime soon.

  5. Carlos says:

    Dave Ramsey! Maybe his approach can help you out.

    1. Haha… I think I might need to make a new update post. I do not plan to pay off this debt. It is not a priority for the foreseeable future.

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