The COVID crisis effects on student loans continues. This pandemic has highlighted a complete lack of communication between the Department of Education and the loan servicers. You may have noticed that your federal student loans were automatically placed into forbearance last week.
My loans are held with FedLoan and they automatically placed my account into an emergency forbearance in 2017 while I was living in an evacuation zone due to a California wildfire. During this wildfire, FedLoan automatically placed my loans into forbearance without my consent. Undoing the automatic forbearance was not possible during this event. I contacted them and asked that I opt out of any future emergency forbearance and they confirmed that my loans would never again enter forbearance without my request.
Fast forward to 2020. I contact FedLoan by email to confirm that my loans would not enter forbearance on March 27th. No reply. Last week, I noted all of my loans were in forbearance.
It is not clear if any outstanding interest will be capitalized when a borrower exits emergency forbearance due to COVID. I have contacted FedLoan requesting clarification, but have received no response. This entire system to handle direct student loans is beyond broken and needs a reboot.
The last two weeks have brought many changes to student loans. I have delayed publishing any information regarding these changes because the details of a policy was yet to be defined. COVID-19 has interrupted our lives and the dental profession has many unanswered questions regarding how we will move forward during and after this crisis. Many readers are aware that student loans held by the government have had their interest rates temporarily reduced to zero and there is an option to enter emergency forbearance for 60 days.
Readers should be aware that exiting forbearance is one of the eight events that trigger capitalization of outstanding interest.
However, it appears that outstanding interest will not be capitalized when a borrower exits emergency forbearance during COVID-19 (according to FedLoan). FedLoan has changed its stance regarding outstanding interest and is now stating that any outstanding interest prior to March 13th, 2020 “may” be capitalized at the expiration of forbearance. You can learn more here: FedLoan has provided some clarification and outstanding interest will not be capitalized if the borrower enters and then exits emergency forbearance. You can learn more here: https://myfedloan.org/borrowers/covid
Borrowers who have seen a reduction in income and are pursuing PSLF or taxable forgiveness may want to consider requesting that their IDR payment be re-calculated instead of entering forbearance.
You should contact your servicer and request more information before taking any action.
Current students and new graduates, due to the current circumstances, the student loan course I created is now free for the rest of the year: https://embrasurespace.com/product/understanding-managing-and-repaying-student-loans-for-dentists/
This discrepancy highlights how important it is to contact your servicer prior to taking any action.
Deciding to become an orthodontist is an expensive commitment. We have already learned about Mike Meru (the first orthodontist to be highlighted for his outrageous student loan burden by the Wall Street Journal). Some interesting conclusions have been drawn from Mike’s student loans and Business Insider does a good job of explaining why dentists, doctors, and lawyers are no longer that rich in comparison to their tech or business counterparts. You can read the Business Insider article here.
Recently, another orthodontist called Dave Ramsey to talk about the cost of his education. You can watch the video by clicking on this link or clicking play below.
Dave Ramsey doesn’t offer good advice here. While he offers reasonable advice for most Americans, his reluctance to use one of the income-driven repayment plans to optimize this student’s cashflow is unfortunate. An orthodontist with a seven-figure student loan balance would benefit from Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE). Ignoring that REPAYE exists, and the benefit that the interest subsidy will have for this borrower is negligent.
This borrower is not necessarily doomed because orthodontists have excellent earning potential if they acquire or build a great practice. A reasonable strategy for this borrower would be to:
- Do not consolidate student loans (assuming all loans are direct).
- Enter REPAYE and take advantage of the interest subsidy.
- Spouse improves her income by pursuing a more lucrative position.
- Begin associating at multiple practices part-time, creating a flexible full-time schedule
- After 12-24 months of working full-time and building cash reserves, start searching for an ortho practice to acquire.
- After acquiring the practice, analyze cash flow and decide if it makes financial sense to begin paying down the student loan balance or if the most appropriate strategy is to pursue taxable forgiveness after 25 years.
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A lot of questions surround the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program since 99% of first-time applicants were denied forgiveness in late 2017 and early 2018. Since then, the program has been temporarily expanded and still has problems. You can learn more on NPR here.
The rules about who qualifies and what loans qualify for tax-free forgiveness after ten years of on-time payments are specific, and if you are working for an organization that allows you to pursue PSLF as a dentist, you should be very familiar with the nuances of the program. This week Travis Hornsby at Student Loan Planner, interviewed a married couple who successfully saw a large portion of their loans forgiven under the PSLF program. The episode is worth listening to if PSLF is an option for you. You can find the episode below:
While the program is far from perfect, and borrowers are still confused about its requirements, some people are receiving forgiveness – proof that the program is real and will likely work if you follow the rules.
Many students will be matriculating from dental schools and residencies over the next 2 months, and student loans will be on their minds. Developing a strategy to repay (or at least manage) your loans early is extremely important. If you want to calculated what your monthly payment will be under PAYE or REPAYE, follow the steps outlined in the post.