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Coronavirus and Student Loan Debt: What You Need to Know


About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area, that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual financial planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals. 


Student loan reached $1.48 trillion in America by the end of 2019, with approximately 45 million borrowers across the United States.Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have experienced financial instability. This means that for 45 million Americans, paying down student loan debt may be harder than ever before.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, was signed into law on March 27, 2020. While this stimulus package provides a wide array of assistance for families and businesses, it also made some important changes to assist federal student loan borrowers. 

In response to these changes, we’ve provided the answers to a few important questions regarding student loan debt during the current pandemic. 

Question #1: Are Interest & Payments Suspended on All Student Loans?

The suspension of payments applies only to student loans that are held by the federal government. However, your FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) lender or school may suspend interest and payments voluntarily, but they are not required to do so. 

In regards to your federal student loans, your servicer will suspend all interest and payments through September 30, 2020.2 

The benefits authorized by the CARES Act do not apply to private student loans that are owned by banks, credit unions, schools or other private entities. If you are trying to suspend payments to these institutions, you will need to contact them and find out what your options are. 

Question #2: Should I Apply to Suspend My Payments or Interest?

Until September 30, 2020, there will be no interest accrued or payments due for federal student loans.2 No action is required on your part, as these payments will be stopped automatically.  

Question #3: What Should I Do if I’m Behind on Payments?

On March 25, 2020, the Department of Education announced that it would not be withholding federal tax refunds, Social Security payments or garnishing wages from those who have defaulted on their federal student loan payments.3 Additionally, private collection agencies contracted by the government will put a pause on attempting to contact defaulted borrowers. 

Any defaulted federal student loan will not collect interest until September 30, 2020.3

As you navigate a “new normal” through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely you’re experiencing a certain level of financial stress. Continuing to make regular payments to your federal student loans can be beneficial in the long-run, but it’s important to know your options have changed. If you’re unsure whether to stop payments or not, get in touch with your financial advisor first. Together, you can make a game plan moving forward. 

Dream Financial Planning Process ™

Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a business, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals is their 30s an 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. If you're looking for guidance on: Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments we can help. 

Complimentary Consultation

With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.

Monthly Newsletter

On the first Thursday of every month I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to help you manage your Finances. In the May Newsletter I discuss what you should do with your 401k.  I also include two downloadable PDFs.  One is a checklist that outlines the primary issues you should consider when reviewing your taxes.  The 2nd checklist outlines what you should do if you lose your job in these difficult times.

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  1. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/hhdc_2019q2.pdf
  2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748
  3. https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus#defaulted-loan-questions

Disclaimer: Dream Financial Planning, LLC does not warrant that this information will be free from error. None of the information provided on this website is intended as investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as an endorsement of any company, security, fund, or other securities or non-securities offering. The information should not be relied upon for purposes of transacting securities or other investments. Your use of the information is at your sole risk. Under no circumstances shall Dream Financial Planning, LLC be liable for any direct, indirect, special or consequential damages that result from the use of, or the inability to use, the materials in this site, even if Dream Financial Planning, LLC or a Dream Financial Planning, LLC authorized representative has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Please consult with your own advisor before making any changes to your Financial Plan, Investments, or Insurance coverage.


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