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How Long Does It Take to Pay Off Student Loans?

If you’re burdened by student loan debt, you’re not alone. People in our country have dug themselves into $1.48 trillion of debt for college.1 And many of them wonder how long it will take to pay off their student loans.

Sending in an average monthly payment of $393 is annoying at best, and totally defeating at worst.2 It makes you feel like you just can’t get ahead. There’s no doubt student loans are stealing your security and your future—which is ironic, because continuing your education was supposed to make all your dreams come true, right?

But as stressful as your student loans may be, I want you to know there is a way out. You don’t have to end up among the one in 10 Americans who can’t pay their student loans.3 You can totally pay off your debt faster and avoid being another sad statistic!

How Long Does It Really Take to Pay Off Student Loans?

A typical student loan is structured to take 10 years to pay off. But research has shown it actually takes 21 years, on average.4 So, when you’re just out of college and expecting to be out of debt by the time you’re 32, the reality is that Sallie Mae could follow you well into your 40s! The good news is, if you’re motivated, you can beat those odds.

What Factors Affect How Long Repayment Takes?

  • How much you borrowed in the first place: This is the biggest factor in determining how fast you can pay off student loans. A person who takes out $20,000 for an accounting degree versus someone who borrowed $100,000 for a law degree should, in theory, get out of debt sooner because they have less to pay off.
  • Your repayment schedule: Many student loans are on a schedule to pay back within 10–20 years. They also typically begin with a grace period to give you six months or so to find a job after you graduate. How soon after you graduated did you begin paying back your loan? And how many years are left to pay off the balance?
  • How much extra you pay on top of the minimum payment: When you assign extra dollars toward the principal balance, you’ll get that student loan paid off even faster!

The last factor is the one you can control starting today. You’ll just need to get intense about cutting back your lifestyle and making money like crazy. Adding more income isn’t rocket science, but it’ll take sacrifice and effort.

How to Pay Off Student Loans Fast

You can pay off your debt faster than ever before. The methods below are tried and true, and I’ve seen them work for thousands of people. Here are three ways to repay your student loans:

  1. Sell stuff.

This one’s easy! Most of us have way too much stuff—clothes, video games, DVDs, purses, maybe even an extra piece of furniture we don’t need. Pro tip: Baby stuff sells like hot cakes! Throw some of that stuff you don’t use anymore on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

Set up an online photo album and include the price of each item. You can make pretty good money just by selling your unwanted junk. Then, put all of that money toward getting out of debt.

  1. Take a second job.

I know what you’re thinking: Doing one job is hard enough—whether that job is in an office or taking care of the kids at home. So how am I supposed to take a second one without losing my mind?

Just know that this is a season. It’s temporary. It’ll be uncomfortable for a little while, but the goal is to make as much money as you can as quickly as possible.

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How many pizzas would you have to deliver to pay double on your student loan payment this month? What about housesitting, driving for Uber or Lyft, babysitting, teaching English online, mowing yards, or selling stuff on eBay or Etsy? You’re only limited by your imagination here. And remember, when you’re trying to get out of debt, nothing is “beneath” you.

  1. Get intense.

If you don’t want to be in debt forever, you’ve got to get serious about paying off your student loans. You need to attack that debt like your life depends on it! It’ll require short-term sacrifice, for sure, but your life will feel so much less stressful in the long run! If you get intense and passionate about getting out of debt, everything else will take care of itself. (The debt snowball works! Here’s why.)

Staying Motivated While Paying Off Student Loans

The real question I want you to be asking is, “How long does it take to pay off student loan debt when you’re motivated?” The answer is yours to write.

If you keep doing the same things you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting the same results you’ve been getting. It’s easy to sit back and tell yourself, “I’ll get out of debt later, but not right now.” Then, when later actually gets here, you’ll tell yourself the same thing.

Because the reality is we’ve been lied to for years by the student loan industry, and it’s time to hear the truth! The student loan crisis is impacting you, your friends, your kids and our economy. And the best way to fight back is to get mad and stop giving them your hard-earned money!

There’s no better time than right now. The sooner you begin, the greater the impact becoming debt-free will have on your life in the long run.

If you're ready to commit to getting out of debt, our new course will help you get started. In The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Student Loan Debt, you'll learn our proven plan to help you pay off your student loans faster than before! And remember, your past doesn't have to dictate your future, and when you don't have student loans weighing you down, you're free to live the life you want.

Guide to Getting Rid of Your Student Loans

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Rachel Cruze

About the author

Rachel Cruze

Rachel Cruze is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, financial expert, and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. Rachel writes and speaks on personal finances, budgeting, investing and money trends. As a co-host of The Ramsey Show, America’s second-largest talk radio show, Rachel reaches millions of weekly listeners with her personal finance advice. She has appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News and has been featured in publications such as Time, Real Simple and Women’s Health magazines. Through her shows, books, syndicated columns and speaking events, Rachel shares fun, practical ways to take control of your money and create a life you love. Learn More.

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