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3 Financial Issues

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Hi friends!

First, I just want to apologize for the fewer blog posts as of late. I’ve typically been really good about posting a minimum of 2 per Monday (sometimes 3) plus one more on Thursday or Friday. But the past couple weeks it’s been tough to find the time for even one post! It’s not that I don’t have anything to talk about. Trust me – I could talk PLENTY about our finances/budget/etc. It’s just that there’s never enough time! Now that the semester is really going strong it’s like a balancing act to keep everything together. I love my jobs (both of them) and am so thankful for them, but they require a lot of time and between work and dealing with my father’s health issues….well, saying I feel a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Regarding the latter, we’re hoping to have his move to Texas (closer to family) complete-ish in the next couple weeks. I say “ish” because there will still be lots left at his house in Utah that my siblings and I will have to deal with in the coming months. But as much as we want to get the house on the market ASAP, we’re thankful to be in a financial position where we have the flexibility to let it sit a couple months until we have the proper time to deal with it all. Regarding this – anyone have experience with selling a (still furnished, in need of some repair) home out-of-state? I’m hoping we can hire an estate planner person to go sell the remaining stuff and subcontract out any needed repair work. We’ll also have to hire a lawn company and perhaps a cleaning service to keep it looking nice while it’s vacant and on the market. Any tips or suggestions in this regard?

That aside, I really had planned for the purpose of this post to be about 3 financial issues I’ve dealt with this month.

  1. Comcast:  In my last budget post I mentioned that I’d been dealing with some cable/internet provider issues. Our bill has typically been around $110-ish, but then I received a bill in August for $150!! I’d called and thought everything was resolved…until I got a new September bill also for $150! No way, Comcast! Not today! You’ve messed with the wrong person! Generally when these issues pop up it’s 100% worth it to go into the store (the local branches have infinitely better customer service than the call center people). But I logistically couldn’t make it happen between work and childcare schedules. So I called and basically geared up for a fight (though, to be clear, I always try to remain respectful when in these types of situations. It’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar!) I did have to ask for a manager, but I explained the situation – basically, last month they said they’d given me a credit and all was resolved, but in fact the current month bill shows that my payment was considered a partial payment. Meaning, there was no credit ever given to my account. So it showed I still owed the remaining balance. I’ve found that it helps when you tell the manager exactly what will make you happy. I mean, be reasonable. But it’s not okay to scream and yell and pitch a fit. No one wins in that scenario. Instead, have some idea of a compromise or solution that will fix the problem and be mutually beneficial for both parties. I already had in mind my solution:  just give me a credit that will take my bill down to $110 (the normal monthly payment). I’m already in a new promo rate so I don’t want to change that, but I refuse to pay the full $150 bill when I’d been told my account had been credited, all was resolved, yada yada yada. So make my bill $110, and we’ll be good. The manager had me hold for a minute and did one better. Gave me a credit so my current month’s bill is $97.02. Even better than what I’d asked for. Next month should be back to the regular rate (about $110ish). This time, I got the manager’s name and took notes of the call so I have them for reference just-in-case. But I’m hopeful that this situation is now fully resolved.
  2. Phone service: A couple months ago we switched phone providers to get a (slightly) better rate and get a free upgrade to newer phones. After canceling we received a GIANT ($250) phone bill from our old provider. But part of the deal with our switch is that our new provider would reimburse us the cancellation fee to buy us out of the contract. Rather than send us a check, they just take it off our our bill. So last month we had a huge bill to pay (to our old provider), but I was hoping it would even out this month when we got our new provider’s bill, showing the $250 credit. Turns out all is good in that area. This month we’ll have a much lower bill (but to remind you so it’s not a surprise with my next budget post – I’d fudged my August budget a bit. I paid the full $250 for the old phone network last month, but I cheated a little and split it half-way in this month. So I’ll still be reporting charges this month in my budget update at the end of the month. But really that was money that was paid for awhile ago). In October, things in this regard will be all smoothed over and we’ll be comfortably paying our new bill.
  3. Navient. Y’all. I can’t even. I cannot. Remember my “best day ever” post where I said my Navient issue was resolved? Ha! Nope! It seriously makes me so angry just thinking about it so I’m going to keep this brief for the sake of my blood pressure and psychological wellbeing. Long story short – issue is NOT resolved. They still have my loan (which was just transferred from another loan servicer, ACS) categorized as unsubsidized. They claim its a valid unsubsidized loan. Many, many hours (literal hours) of my life have been spent talking to all kinds of people – Navient’s customer service, Navient’s escalation department, the loan guarantor, national student loan database services, and on and on and on. We’ve reached a point where I’ve had to contact a loan mediation service (it’s free for me – part of the federal government, I guess). But they don’t move quickly. My last call to them was Friday and they said I wouldn’t hear back for 7-10 business days. So, yeah. In the meantime, I’m being charged interest out the wazoo for this student loan that is supposed to be subsidized (and, therefore, unpaid interest is supposed to be forgiven). So its going to totally mess up my debt totals when I do my next debt update (hopefully coming this Thursday! I’ve been holding off hoping that I’d get this issue resolved so I could report accurate debt totals, but no dice). I swear this issue has taken years off my life due to the stress and headache of it all. I know on my last post many people suggested reaching out to a class action lawsuit attorney (since Navient has so many pending lawsuits against them for wrongfully charging extra interest, etc.). I’m hoping the mediation can help us come to a resolution. I’m just so strapped for time I don’t even know what to do. It’s a huge burden in my life and just makes me wish I could write a check and be debt-free today. It’s just so wrong and it feels like there’s no ramification. No way to hold them accountable. I feel a little bit defeated at this point. But I’m keeping the course with the mediation route and hoping for some success at the other end. I’ll keep you updated.

So that’s the update on my 3 financial issues. As per usual, this was way lengthier than I’d originally intended. heh. Guess I had a little time after all. I’ll try to get a debt update post put together for you guys for later this week (Thursday or Friday). Thanks for your support along the way!!!


What an (EXPENSIVE) headache!

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Argh! ((shakes fist at Navient))

I hate beating a dead horse, but here we go…..

Navient just sucks so bad. SOooooo soooo bad!

The latest way they’re trying to screw me over…

I recently mentioned that one of my ACS loans has now migrated to Navient. Only, somehow, in the migration it has switched from being categorized as a subsidized loan to an UNSUBSIDIZED loan. This is a big deal because I’m on income-based repayment and, under IBR, unpaid interest is forgiven on subsidized loans. But unsubsidized loans continue to accrue interest. Right now my minimum loan payments are really low – they don’t even cover the interest! So I’ve been strategically targeting only a couple of my loans and paying minimums on all the rest, with the knowledge that unpaid interest is forgiven and I will just live with paying interest (no reduction to principal balance) until my current target loans are paid in full and I move onto the next loan.

Well, after discovering Navient’s egregious error I gave them a call. Only, they say that their paperwork states that the loan has ALWAYS been unsubsidized. I explain that there’s no way! I carefully track my loans every month and you can clearly see that they HAVE to be subsidized because the balance has always stayed EXACTLY (to the penny) the same! That’s because I’m not even paying enough to cover interest and all unpaid interest is forgiven. Period.

They acknowledge that, yes, they can see how unpaid interest has been forgiven. But their paperwork says the loan is supposed to be unsubsidized. Their hands are tied and there’s nothing they can do. I will need to get the original master promissory note to show that the loan is subsidized. In the meantime, my loan has somehow accumulated OVER THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS in interest!? In only a few days!!!!

Well, of course, getting access to the master promissory note includes several more hoop-jumping exercises not even worth going into here. Just note that it’s been a frustrating experience and I still have not even managed to get ahold of it (though I should hopefully have it this week!)

So let this be yet another in my long string of warnings about the potential pit-falls of student loan debt. And another cautionary tale of why you should be very vigilant about careful monitoring of your student loan account(s) on a monthly basis to make sure you catch these types of errors when they happen to you (notice I said WHEN, not if!)

In the meantime, why not add another task to my mile-long To Do list. I just love it when someone else’s incompetence creates more work for ME to do (can you just hear my sarcasm?)

Hope your Mondays are off to a better start!


Over the Hump!

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In spite of some setbacks personally  and professionally, things are still progressing nicely in terms of our debt payments. And I’m happy to announce that as of this month, we are officially over the half-way mark with paying off our car loan debt! Wahoo!!!!

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We still have a way to go (over twelve thousand dollars!!!), but remember when things were tight and we stayed in a holding pattern for what felt like forever (literally 5 months where we were in the fifteen thousand dollar range)? We’re finally making good progress and it feels GREAT to get to see the car debt thermometer every time I walk into the kitchen! Yay!!!

And in other financial news, I spoke with the business office in my department and had my paycheck corrected to be paid over 9 months instead of 12.  There were a lot of comments from teachers who said they much preferred a 12-month cycle of pay if it was possible. So, initially I was thinking maybe I’d keep it as-is.

But then others pointed out that (1) we’re very used to dealing with irregular income; we’ve been living this way for years! And (2) my car loan is accruing interest NOW! It’d be better for me to get this money up front and try to pay off our debt ASAP (the goal is still to be consumer debt-free before 2016), rather than to get a lesser paycheck every month in exchange for having summer pay. Also, don’t forget that hubs still draws an income and he’s been the main income-earner in our home for years, so if I don’t get paid over summer and we have to rely on his income for those months, we’ll still survive just fine. It would certainly mean lower savings and/or debt payments during that time, but it wouldn’t cause us to go into debt or not have enough money to survive. Additionally, I have one more piece of good news to report….

I (finally) spoke with the department head and officially received permission to continue working my part-time job (adjunct teaching online)!!! YAY!!!!! So I’ll still get paid, at least from my part-time job, and possibly from my full-time job if there are teaching needs next summer. (Side note for those who’ve asked: now that I’ve received official permission, I plan to continue teaching my part-time job as long as possible. I know I won’t be able to continue forever, especially as my job duties and responsibilities increase with my full-time job. But for now I’m planning to continue at least a year – meaning Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Summer 2016. From that point I’ll reassess to determine if I feel I can continue teaching part-time. I routinely teach 2 classes, but one is much more grading-intensive than the other. So it may be that I ask to drop 1 class but keep the other one for as long as I’m allowed.)

Taking all these factors into consideration, I think we’ll be just fine with the 9-month pay cycle, even if it means I’m double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring and we have to be a little more careful/cautious with budgeting for summer months.

With some of the bummer things I’ve shared lately, I’m really happy to be able to report some good news!

Have you hit any big milestones with debt repayment lately? Share a piece of good news from your life!


Financial Priority List

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One of my new favorite things to do since signing my first full-time employment contract is to run numbers over and over again to determine our new debt-free date. 🙂

As a side-note, I ran across an old notebook from last summer (August 2014) where I’d written projected debt-free dates and was slightly heartbroken to see I’d originally hoped to have my car loan paid in full by January 2015. Crusher! Still about 15 grand to go on that one (latest debt update here). But I’ll be hitting it hard once the paychecks start rolling in.

Regarding pay, however, things are still a bit up in the air.

A reader who works in HR commented a couple weeks ago to say that I probably need to receive official permission from my new job to continue working at my online teaching job. I really hadn’t thought anything of it because I know lots of professors who adjunct teach at a community college on the side of their full-time professor gig. But as this is my first full time position and I absolutely do not want ANYTHING to jeopardize it in any way, I called HR to be safe. At first I got a casual response, “I don’t see why that would be an issue but I’ve never had the question before. I’ll check with someone else and call you back.”

So I go the rest of the day thinking I’m A-Okay until I get the call. Even though my part-time job can be completed at nights and on weekends, will not interfere in any way with my new position, and is only adjunct teaching (no additional responsibilities, etc.), the employee handbook has a little section stating that any employment for any other university or college MUST be approved by the department head AND college dean. Ouch.

I’m still hopeful about the situation. I really don’t think it will be a big deal given the parameters of my online teaching job (specifically that it can be completed any time so it won’t cause any impairment to my new day job, and it’s a simple adjunct position). BUT the bottom line is I have to ask for official permission to continue working for the online job and, if I’m told no, there goes my hopes of making serious progress on debt repayment.

Let’s step back a sec and talk numbers without actually talking numbers. Just follow me.

My new full-time job pays about 50% more than my current part-time online teaching job.

BUT

After running the numbers of all the deductions to be taken out from each paycheck, which are substantial (including: health, dental, vision, retirement, money for a flexible spending account for childcare expenses, taxes, etc. etc. etc.) I’m only going to actually be netting an extra couple hundred bucks a month. Soooo, practically the same monthly pay for my full-time job as what I make at my part-time job.

Of course, my money will stretch a lot further at my new full-time job because, unlike the part-time job, I won’t have to deduct funds monthly to pay my own taxes and health insurance. I’ll be paying for (part of) childcare with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be paying for health care with pre-tax dollars to save some money there. I’ll be saving money toward retirement where previously I’ve saved nearly nothing. And so on.

But when you just look at the bottom line…. being able to keep my part-time job effectively doubles my take-home salary. So obviously I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that.

Cross your fingers for me. I meet with the department head the week of the 20th (exact date TBD) so I’m hoping to bring it up in our meeting and have it be no big deal.

In the meantime I have a just-for-fun list of financial priorities along with some projected dates.

Financial Priority List

  • September 2015 – Add $4,000 to Emergency Fund. With hubs’ no-income month of May and the fact that much of my paycheck was sucked up into an overdue tax bill, we basically lived on our EF for the month of June. We do have a little left (just under a thousand), but I’d like to beef it up to the $5,000 mark. If we put some aside in August and some in September, we’ll hit that goal. It’s tough to put so much toward savings instead of debt but I feel really strongly that we need to have a solid EF, if for nothing more than my own psychological well-being.
  • December 2015 – Pay off remaining car loan (approx. $15,000). This is still a bit of an aggressive goal, but as long as I’m able to keep both my jobs I think there’s a really good chance we can still pay off our car before the calendar year is over. I CAN NOT WAIT until this loan is paid because it will signify reaching the consumer debt-free mark – a huge milestone in my mind.

And here’s where things get controversial….

After the car is paid off, I definitely want to start paying more toward my student loans. But instead of diving full-force into paying off these loans with the gazelle intensity that I’ve tried to have for all of our other consumer-related debts, I want to split my priorities a bit. I still feel very strongly about paying off these loans as quickly as possible (especially the unsubsidized loans; and I plan to continue doing balance transfers to save some interest where possible, too). That being said, however, there’s something else I feel really strongly about too.

Home ownership.

No, we aren’t looking at places today. No, we don’t even know what the next year may bring (examples: (1) my dad’s scary health issues, and (2) I’ve still been in talks with the out-of-state university where I did my not-an-interview earlier this year). But all that being said, once the consumer debts are paid in full I think it will be important to start saving more aggressively for an eventual down payment. At this point I don’t know specifics (no idea the amount per month we’ll save versus the amount put toward student loans every month), and I really do want to stress that I want my student loans gone ASAP! I hate dealing with them every month. I hate the amount of interest they cost me. I hate their drama. I hate that they’re this huge, scary, black hole of debt on my credit report. So in no way am I suggesting that I’ll only pay minimums or drastically reduce debt payments. No way!

Look. It’s never been a secret that I really want to put down roots somewhere. I said it in my very first “Meet Ashley” post that I wrote when I interviewed to be one of the bloggers here. It’s important to me. The American dream and all that jazz. And the older my kids get, the more I want it.

I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this as time moves on. But for now, we’ll just say that I’ve got these two concrete goals (restock EF by September, and consumer debt-free by December), and then we’ll have to do some reassessing at that point. Either way, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty kick-butt year in terms of debt repayment. Full throttle ahead!

 


Summer Book Club Review: Complete Guide To Money

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It’s time for our first summer book club review!

Did you read Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money with me?

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If not, no worries! I’ll be announcing the next book club read at the end of the post! And read my review anyway – maybe you’ll get something from it even without reading the whole book.

Let’s get started….

My general thoughts are that the book basically rehashes a lot of his other books that I’ve read (I’ve read Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership). Even so, his writing is fun and engaging. He’s definitely a charismatic speaker and it comes through in his books, too. There are a lot of repeat stories that I’ve heard before on the radio (and/or read in previous books), but there are certainly some new ones too. Also, he’s pretty honest and open about the fact that the book covers all the same stuff he talks about on a regular basis. So you go into it almost expecting a bit of a review (at least that’s the case if you’re a regular Ramsey reader or radio show listener).

One of the things I enjoy is that Ramsey includes “We Did It” stories throughout the book as a motivating tool to read about real life people who applied his principles to reach their financial goals. I also like that he pulls in Twitter and Facebook posts as an added connection to readers.

Here are some quotations (some are direct quotes some are paraphrased) of things that jumped out at me as I read through the book:

  • If you start at age 16 and never have a car payment, but instead invest the difference, you’d retire a multi-millionaire just by avoiding car payments. Why not teach THAT in school?
  • Debt is a product. It’s the most successfully marketed product in all of history.
  • Dave’s grandma always said: “There’s a great place to go when you’re broke….. To Work!” (<<<my personal favorite quote from the book!)
  • Most families going through Financial Peace University program are debt free except their house in 18 months!!!
  • How would it feel to have absolutely no debt hanging over you?
  • How much of your income is currently going out in the form of payments every month (e.g., credit cards, home equity loan, mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc.)? What could you do if you actually got to keep that money?

While reading the book I also jotted down a couple of my own personal stories that related to things Dave mentioned in his book.

  • When I was a kid (not even 18 yet), I got a membership to Columbia House. They send you a bunch of free DVDs, but then start mailing you random DVDs every couple weeks which they bill you for in-full until you send notice to cancel your membership. I’d gotten caught up in the program and hadn’t canceled in time and owed money that I never paid and, eventually, it went on my credit. Again…we’re talking about something from nearly 15 years ago. The debt was small (under a hundred dollars), but it stayed on my credit forever – well past the 7 year mark – because creditors can do an account inquiry, which counts as account activity. Eventually I just paid the debt off so it would go away, but I was shocked to find out that the whole “it drops off your credit in 7 years” myth is NOT always the case. Columbia House showed me that by hanging around probably 12 years or so.
  • Ramsey talks a lot about how debt collectors have all kinds of terrible techniques to get you to pay THEM before any of your other bills. After my grandfather’s death, my maternal grandmother (who now lives in assisted living funded for by my mother) didn’t have a lot of income. She got behind on her bills and had credit card debt collectors calling her relentlessly. They convinced her to pay her credit card bill before her own mortgage and utility payments (which my mom was forced to step in and cover to keep the lights on). Obviously you shouldn’t be taking on debt you can’t afford to pay back. But you should also make sure you have a roof over your head and food in your fridge (and electricity to power the fridge) before paying back scummy credit card companies! No debt is the way to go!
  • Ramsey talked a lot about the power of marketing on buying decisions. I saw this come to light the most when I was planning our wedding 5 years ago. I swear, everything is marked up 10x just because its associated with a wedding. An identical product intended for a birthday party (instead of wedding) is so much cheaper! There’s something about weddings, specifically, that make people feel obligated to spend. I remember joking with friends at the time…. “if you truly love each other, you’ll order the specialty cocktail napkins with your personalized monogram! If you don’t upgrade but opt to stick with the regular napkins, you’re surely destined for divorce!!!” No, no one literally said those words to me. But that’s certainly how it felt!!!

Overall, I’d give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It never drew me in to where I just couldn’t put the book down. But its a quick and engaging read and has lots of helpful info, even if much of it is review.

What did you think?

What would you do with your extra money if you didn’t have any debts to pay?

And….drumroll please……..

Our next summer book club selection is:

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Your Money or Your Live:  9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence.

So pick it up from your local library. This will be our selection for the month of July. If you have another (financially-oriented) book you’d like to read, leave a comment with your opinion and I’ll select another one for August!

 


Lackluster June 2015 Debt Update

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So remember how we had a no-income month of May with hubs’ business?

That really hurt us in terms of our ability to make big debt payments. I even said at the beginning of the month that we were going to cut out some of the debt payments all together (like the car payment and balance transfer loan, which don’t have minimum payments currently due), and pay minimums on everything else.

Well, its one thing to say something and another to actually do it.

And although we really didn’t have the funds to do so (I had to tap into EF funds), I made some payments toward all of our debts for my own psychological satisfaction. That being said, it’s not like I was able to do an awesome job on debt payments this month. In fact, I believe this is our lowest debt payment since I started blogging here (back in March 2014).

And there’s one thing thats certain in regard to debt eradication. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. There is no “stationary” option available.

So, unfortunately, I also have to tell you that our debt actually increased this month (not due to new debts, but due to accruing interest on the existing debt).

However, the additional debt has been totally puzzling to me. It’s all from my student loans and, although I have a lot of student loan debt, every single month my debt has been going down. This month I actually made a larger student loan debt payment than normal and my debt somehow went up.

I called Navient to ask about what happened.

How is it that every single month I pay (X) and my debt decreases. This month I paid (X+$67) and my debt somehow increased? It doesn’t make sense that I paid more and somehow my overall balance has gone up?

The person I spoke with had no idea. She took down some information, said she’d file a report, and someone would get back to me. That was two weeks ago and still no news.

I called back another time to try to figure it out.

This time, I was told that even though I’m on income based repayment where unpaid interest is forgiven on my subsidized loans, apparently the unpaid interest is only forgiven on a quarterly basis? Meaning, the interest continues to accrue and is only forgiven once every three months.

This makes no sense to me. Navient is a little bit trickier, but it’s clear as day from looking at all my debt updates (you can go through the archives for yourself), that my ACS loans (which are all subsidized) have had the same balance – to the penny – ever since I applied for income-based-repayment (last August). But my minimum payment doesn’t even cover the interest, so it’s clear that the unpaid interest has been forgiven every month, not just once a quarter. Otherwise, my balance would have continued to rise every month as I make my minimum payments.

My IBR status hasn’t lapsed, supposedly this policy isn’t new (in regard to only forgiving interest once per quarter), and there’s absolutely no logical reason I can think of that explains it.

But with BOTH of my student loan carriers this month (Navient and ACS), my balances have gone up.

Can anyone explain this to me? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

It’s absolutely maddening! It’s such a helpless feeling to know I owe this money, but to feel like somehow I’m getting screwed over – only no one believes me and no one seems to think anything is amiss.

To sum up…

  • I’ve made the same payment every.single.month. My balance has always decreased.
  • This month I made the same payment PLUS an extra $67 payment.  And somehow my balance increased.

Part of me still thinks maybe this is a new policy (only forgiving interest quarterly) and the representative I spoke with simply didn’t know or realize it. Otherwise, how do you explain that BOTH of my loan service providers had the same issue in the same month?

It really makes me want to knock out my car loan debt ASAP so I can start to kill these student loans. They absolutely need to die.

Now that I’ve gone on my rampage, let me show you the actual debt numbers.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
License Fees-2.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
Navient - Federal Student Loan$39088.25%$116June$4687
ACS Student Loans$214117.24%$77May$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666676.55%$307June$63254
PenFed Car Loan$146422.49%$100June$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$53370% (through April 2016)$100June$5937
Medical Bills$60860%$25June$9000
Totals$118,051 (Last month = 117,815)$725Starting Debt = $145,472

I can’t beat myself up about it too much. Next month will be better. Onward.

Seriously though – anyone else on IBR have this issue where unpaid interest was not forgiven this month? Is it a new policy to only forgive interest once per quarter? Why have I never experienced this before?


More Student Loan Drama

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Wow! If ever there was a cautionary tale for staying out of student loan debt, this is it!

First, former blogger Adam explained his issues with his loan service provider, Great Lakes.

Next, I talked about my ongoing issues with my service provider, Navient (formerly Sallie Mae).

Now I’ve got a new grievance to add to the list – directly with the central hub of government-backed student loans:  studentloans.gov

For new readers, my student loans are currently on Income Based Repayment (IBR). I talked a little about the decision here.

Well for any old school borrowers, you’ll know that to access any documents through studentloans.gov (such as filing for IBR, or filling out the required annual paperwork to keep IBR), you used to need a PIN that was assigned by them. Apparently as of March 1st, they have done away with the PIN system. Instead, you now get to pick your own login ID and password.

Seems easy enough, right?

No. Just no.

I created my new ID and password and verified the information by answering security questions about myself. According to FSAid.ed.gov everything is good. Now I can go back to studentloans.gov to actually fill out my IBR paperwork. Right?

WRONG!

Studentloans.gov keeps saying my account is currently locked. I go back to FSAid.ed.gov and unlock my account (by going through the same steps of verifying my account information by answering security questions, etc.) and go back to studentloans.gov. Account Locked.

I literally do this back-and-forth for about 45 minutes, thinking surely I’m making a mistake somehow.

No.

It’s past business hours at this point, so I send an email to the help department explaining the problem. The next day I get a reply saying:

“You can no longer use your PIN, you have to create a new FSA ID and password.”

Yes, geniuses. I know this. I did this. Your site won’t let me in! GRRRR!!!!

I let it go for a few days but came back to it today. Same endless loop of verifying my information on the FSA ID website, only to go to the studentloans.gov website and be told my account is locked.

I call the FSA ID number.

It rings. And rings. And rings. Then *click*

Disconnected.

I try again. And again. And again. Five times in total. Every time ends with being disconnected before even speaking with a human being.

So then I call the number listed on the studentloans.gov website. They actually answer but basically say there’s nothing they can do, that they only help with issues once you’re already logged in. For login issues, I have to call the FSA ID people. And I’m given the same number I’d already tried. I explained that no one answers. I’ve called several times and keep being disconnected.

And I kind of get a “tough shit” reply. There’s nothing they can do. The woman assumes that their system is overwhelmed by call volume and simply disconnects after a period of time. Keep trying, she says.

SOOOOOOOO, I have no option but to keep trying. THANK GOODNESS I didn’t put this off until last minute (my IBR doesn’t actually expire until August). If I’d waited until last minute and was unable to log in and get my IBR paperwork submitted, then when my current IBR expires my minimum payments would skyrocket – nearly a thousand a month (instead of the $350ish current minimum).

So for anyone else in the same boat that will need to reapply for IBR or anything else related to student loans (deferment, forbearance, etc.), BE SURE TO START EARLY!

But if you have the option….just avoid student loans all together.

Work for free as an intern somewhere in exchange for paid college tuition. Work nights and weekends as a waiter to cover your tuition. Go to community college so its more affordable for the first couple years. Stay in-state so you don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. Get a job on campus in exchange for reduced tuition. WHATEVER IT TAKES – STAY AWAY FROM STUDENT LOANS!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s your little public service announcement and another student loan cautionary tale.

Have a great day! ; )

Any student loan cautionary tales of your own? Leave me a comment!