NEW YORK (WABC) -- The federal student loan repayment freeze ended in September after a three-year pandemic pause which means payments will be due beginning in October.
Parents and students shouldn't panic - 7 On Your Side has some smart strategies for working those payments back into your budget.
With the exception of recent graduates who threw up their caps in the last six to nine months and are still job hunting, students with loans outside of that grace period will start accruing interest.
"Whether you graduated a year ago or three years ago, whatever student loans you have, they are no long suspended and you are now accruing interest as of September 1 and your payments are due in October," said Alloy Wealth Management Founder and CEO Mark Henry.
Henry is advising his clients worried about loan repayment to contact the service provider ASAP and expect long wait times.
Clients should also find out monthly payments along with the due date and enroll in autopay to avoid late fees and penalties.
"At least let's get the minimum payment made on time so we don't mess up our credit rating, we haven't had to pay these in a long time, let's get on a payment plan where it is automatically withdrawn," Henry said.
Henry says the next step is to get on a spending plan, track spending, and make cuts.
"For a lot of Americans, this is going to be hard, inflation is very high and things are tough, so it may mean we have to get a part-time job to help do this, but we don't want make the problem worse by getting behind," Henry said.
See if you can refinance for a lower rate.
"For some people their employment has changed and they may make more money, but other people may make less, and there might be a program you don't know about," Henry said.
And see if you can get what Henry says is essentially free money.
Last December the SECURE 2.0 Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden to help those making student loan payments. It allows employers to match that amount into a retirement savings plan.
"They did something really cool, so an employer, if your company allows it, if you're making student loan repayments, they can match that by putting money in your 401 in the amount of what you paid on your student loans," Henry said.
And watch out for anyone contacting you and offering grants, total forgiveness or cancellation, they want to charge you a fee upfront, and beware of calls that pressure you to act immediately on limited-time offer.
Don't fall for it -- a lot of help with loans is free.
Click here to learn more on the SAVE plan.
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