Welcome to The pAuDcast! In today’s show, Chris Cox Au.D., and Riley Bass Au.D., sit down with a very special guest – Chris Mertens, an attorney with specialities including student loan resolution and debt relief. Chris shares some tips for managing your student loans!
Did you miss our series on Transitioning from Student to Provider? Catch up on what you missed by visiting our special series page.
Listen to the Episode Below
Read the transcript:
CHRIS COX: Oh I kinda don’t.
RILEY BASS: I’m a little broke because I just had to pay a student loan payment and things aren’t going so well for my bank account right now.
CHRIS COX: I feel you there. I don’t have a dollar, I already used it for the Lunchable.
RILEY BASS: Lunchable. I was going to say ice cream but I did see you eating a Lunchable at your desk earlier.
CHRIS COX: For breakfast. So Delicious. Anyway so your broke, you know what? I’m broke, too.
RILEY BASS: That’s why eat Lunchables.
CHRIS COX: Because Lunchables are so cheap.
RILEY BASS: Instead of real lunch.
CHRIS COX: So yes, we’ve been lowered down to eating Lunchables now because we have some debt. Massive debt in the form of?
RILEY BASS: Student loans.
CHRIS COX: Student loans. You know, it’s kind of stupid because they’re student loans but you’re paying for the majority of them as not a student.
RILEY BASS: Right.
CHRIS COX: So for the rest of your life for some of us.
RILEY BASS: Pretty much. I think I’m on the 216-year plan. So I have the next 8,000 payments lined up. Pretty much. I’m going to be paying post-life, post-humorously? Is that what you say when you’re dead?
CHRIS COX: Humorously, yeah. It’s not humorous anymore, exactly right, it’s after being humorous.
RILEY BASS: It’s freaking sad at this point.
CHRIS COX: All right so let’s–
RILEY BASS: Reel it back in, we gotta real it back in.
CHRIS COX: We gotta reel it back in because you know what? We have a super special guest today.
RILEY BASS: We’re on a roll with the specials guests.
CHRIS COX: We have some really good guests, and this is another one.
RILEY BASS: Thank god we have experts.
CHRIS COX: Because we don’t know what we’re doing with our lives. Our guest today is a friend of mine, a good friend of mine, Chris Mertens, Esquire. He is an attorney. And I am going to let him say hi and introduce himself a little bit.
CHRIS MERTENS: Hey guys. I feel very special thank you.
CHRIS COX: You should.
CHRIS MERTENS: I am an attorney here in Portland area.
CHRIS COX: Are you esquire really?
CHRIS MERTENS: The formality isn’t really required, that’s kind of old school. I guess there probably are some people that like it.
RILEY BASS: JD.
CHRIS MERTENS: It’s the degree I guess. The JD.
RILEY BASS: You can sign that after your name.
CHRIS MERTENS: I have enough letters in my name already.
CHRIS COX: OK, so you are an attorney. And what is it that you attorney for?
CHRIS MERTENS: I’m a consumer finance attorney. I have been practicing for almost 10 years.
CHRIS COX: Wow.
CHRIS MERTENS: And what that means is that I help individuals and small business owners that have financial knots, I guess, in their string of life and help them untangle them.
CHRIS COX: Knots.
RILEY BASS: What a great reference.
CHRIS COX: That’s nice.
RILEY BASS: I have a lot of financial knots.
CHRIS COX: I’ve got some knots too.
RILEY BASS: Well, I mean, everybody has goals and I try to look at everything like we are attempting to help people accomplish those goals, and sometimes we just get kinks in the rope and we need to undo those kinks, untangle the knots, and then get people back on track going forward. And that’s what I aim to do.
CHRIS COX: That’s awesome.
RILEY BASS: So you’re a professional untangler?
CHRIS MERTENS: I like to think so. I have that very tiny manual dexterity.
CHRIS COX: For those little and big knots. So what made you even go into doing consumer finance?
CHRIS MERTENS: Well, to be honest, I saw a real need. I came out of law school like I said about 10 years ago right around the financial crash and saw a lot of people suffering a lot of ways. And it’s difficult to find quality representation out there, to be honest. I care a lot about what I do because there’s an underserved population in this country, and really that population is the majority of our population.
CHRIS COX: True that.
RILEY BASS: True that.
CHRIS MERTENS: And like you said earlier, everyone is struggling with various financial problems of one degree or another. Even if we’re doing OK, there’s something looming on the horizon, or hanging off our shoulder. And so really if there could be somebody there that takes the time to understand the laws and know how you can navigate that system and then help educate and empower people. Well, if I can contribute one person at a time to that then that’s what [INAUDIBLE].
CHRIS COX: That is, I love it.
RILEY BASS: He’s in the business to help people just like audiologists are.
CHRIS COX: Yay. So we are in good company here. I knew it was good to have this guy come up. All right. So you specialize in consumer finance so what all does that entail?
CHRIS MERTENS: Well I really help people from all ranges of their financial life. Whether it’s talking a little bit about how to manage your debt and pay things in priority order, or how to maximize the potential benefits of your payments, or getting out of trouble for some default or errors that have been committed.
CHRIS COX: Uh oh.
CHRIS MERTENS: Not on the fault of the consumer most of the time, too. We have this massive system of debts and collectors and there’s rules out there that protect us, but they don’t really advertise those rules so I do my best to let people know that they are in fact protected, they have rights, and how to assert those rights in order to get back on track even better sometimes.
CHRIS COX: How many would you say of you are there out there? Because I don’t know if I’m ever really met an attorney with your sort of title. How many do you think are out there that specialize in what you do?
CHRIS MERTENS: Well in the student loan arena there’s really only a few people in this state right now that actively take on these cases. In the last year I’ve really kind of expanded helping people with student loans from all across the spectrum, whether it be at the beginning and just recent professional graduates to people that are in fact in default.
CHRIS COX: 85 years old and still paying it off?
CHRIS MERTENS: In fact I did have somebody who was in their ’80s and was very worried about their student loans being put on to their children.
CHRIS COX: Wow.
RILEY BASS: I had to set up that auto withdraw so–
CHRIS MERTENS: Well so quick tidbit, federal student loans will never follow you past your death.
CHRIS COX: Oh wow.
RILEY BASS: So in order to get out of paying my student loans I have to die?
CHRIS MERTENS: There are several other ways that I can touch on in a minute. And I know none of the listeners, or most of the listeners here will be worried about that aspect of it.
CHRIS COX: So you’ve helped people all across the–
CHRIS MERTENS: All ages, all financial levels, all across the spectrum as far as their education level goes. Really it’s a problem that touches on so many people.
CHRIS COX: But it seems like there’s not a lot of you that are out there to help.
CHRIS MERTENS: There are not enough.
RILEY BASS: It is really interesting to see, we’re both working in these things that are such huge issues in the country and they’re extremely underserved. There’s a lot a lawyers but not a lot that are doing the same thing you’re doing, just like there’s a lot of physicians and doctors out there but not a whole lot of audiologists. So we’re both kinda in the same boat.
CHRIS MERTENS: True we all have ears.
CHRIS COX: That’s true.
RILEY BASS: We all have ears and most of us have student loans.
CHRIS MERTENS: There’s your theme for the show.
CHRIS COX: There we go. Ears and student loans. No but let’s go back and focus on student loans. Do you mind telling us a bit about that some of the things we’ve seen out there that we can look out for?
CHRIS MERTENS: I think the main thing that usually encourage people, especially professional students coming towards the end of their education, is to remember the federal student loans in particular aren’t a bad decision. You will always be able to manage your federal debt. Unfortunately, there is a problem, I think, in our country right now about the cost of education, how much people are being burdened with. And that’s a much longer conversation to have about policies and what’s behind that. But the good news is is that as the Department of Education, with a little bit of help from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has–
CHRIS COX: What’s the acronym for that?
CHRIS MERTENS: CF PB.
RILEY BASS: I was trying to think that my mind, and I was like I couldn’t even do it. I’m like those are such big words.
CHRIS COX: Yeah they’re huge. The federal government loves acronyms. We just call the Department of Ed, Ed.
CHRIS MERTENS: That’s easy.
RILEY BASS: I gotta call Ed. I got a bone to pick with Ed.
CHRIS MERTENS: I often have a bone to pick with Ed, but again that’s a longer discussion. Point is is that they have at least issued several prepayment options and programs that are trying to make it simpler and easier to afford your student loan payments. And so a lot of time it doesn’t really matter, and it’s not based on what the volume of your student loan debt is. A lot of times it’s based on what your income is and what your family situation is. And so it’s a little bit less about paying your debt back, and more about affording your debt payments. I know that sounds counter intuitive from a financial planning perspective a little bit.
But the point is is that you should never be in default on your debt. Even if you’re unemployed you’re allowed to be in a payment plan where your payment could potentially be zero. So the important part is not to ignore them. And to always get advice. And one of the biggest things I’ve been doing, especially in the last year, has been talking to more professional recent graduates or soon to be graduates, because I think the more people we can educate when they’re coming out of school, we can not only give specific people specific roadmaps that might actually strategically benefit them financially, but we can also educate everybody as far as knowing what their options are if they do come into road blocks, or if they do end up taking a left turn instead of a right turn with their career.
CHRIS COX: I knew I should have taken that left at Albuquerque.
RILEY BASS: I knew it. Yeah, nobody ever came and talked to me during school about what I should do with the student loans. And I was just thinking, I’ve got to have enough money to get through the semester so I’ll take out as much as I can.
CHRIS MERTENS: When it comes to federal loans I will encourage students, especially when they’re in the last couple years, don’t turn them down for some other form of income, especially private student loans.
CHRIS COX: Those are not good.
CHRIS MERTENS: And I usually discourage them, but I know the education system is continuing to inflate and sometimes people don’t have an option. But if you can minimize that kind of debt at least right now in the current economic climate, private student loans are a little bit trickier in less flexible to deal with than the federal loans are. So I always encourage people to make sure that they maximize their federal financial aid, if possible. And then only supplement it as needed.
RILEY BASS: That was going to be my next question, is why you discourage the private loans? Is there a little bit different rules just because they’re not federally mandated?
CHRIS MERTENS: So essentially in the federal government is the lender for our federal loans now. It didn’t used to be that way but that created a different system with its own problems where a bunch of private companies were making a lot of money off of people not paying their student loans because they knew the federal government would pay them later. Anyway, the federal government now is the direct lender. So they’re interested in helping people repay the best of their abilities, but they also want to be fair because they’re the federal government, they don’t want oppress an entire population of the country. It might not seem that way some times.
RILEY BASS: I was gonna say, I find that hard to believe.
CHRIS MERTENS: But they want us to all be functional members of society and pay our taxes and also pay our student loans at a fair rate.
RILEY BASS: And then pay taxes on our student loans.
CHRIS MERTENS: No, no, in fact, you don’t have to pay taxes on your student loans.
CHRIS COX: You don’t pay taxes on your student loans.
CHRIS MERTENS: True.
RILEY BASS: You do get to interest back though.
CHRIS MERTENS: A little bit.
CHRIS COX: Depends on your tax bracket, right?
CHRIS MERTENS: Also true. Ideally you don’t, because you’re making enough money.
CHRIS COX: Man that’s a Catch-22 though isn’t it? Because either you get it back or you make enough that you don’t. But then– that’s weird.
CHRIS MERTENS: Private loans have a little bit less flexibility because they’re originated by banks and private lenders. And right now the laws are such that they are afforded a little bit of extra protection when it comes to bankruptcy or other financial relief. So there’s a lot of push and pressure to lend to these private loans, because they know that they have this little bit of extra protection. And so banks are happy to originate them. And also, the people or the banks that end up servicing them aren’t usually the ones that end up originating them. So it’s a little bit of a parallel if you think back to the mortgage situation, where people are encouraging students to take out these private loans to fund their lifestyles or education, or drum sets.
RILEY BASS: That never happened, what are you talking about?
CHRIS MERTENS: Knowing that they’re almost certainly going to be able to pressure them into paying or collecting at some point down the road. The reality of it, just to touch on the default situation for a second, is that private student loans are really just like credit cards with a little bit extra protection. So people should be super afraid of them if they do end up defaulting, but usually some professional guidance and advice is helpful.
RILEY BASS: So you say defaulting, and what do you actually mean by that? Just not paying them for a certain amount of time?
CHRIS MERTENS: Default means two different things depending on whether you’re talking about federal or private loans. In a private loan default means missing a payment. And just like you would miss a car payment, you would miss a credit card payment, you’re technically in default under your obligation to pay. That gives the creditor all kinds of rights to come collect under the collection loss. And federal student loans they built in an extra protection because they said, look, we know it’s hard for people to pay sometimes. So you actually have to miss nine payments in a row before you’re considered in default, which is nine months.
CHRIS COX: Nine.
CHRIS MERTENS: Nine.
RILEY BASS: I could not pay until February and be OK.
CHRIS MERTENS: Well you’d still have to get back on track at some point.
RILEY BASS: I can’t even imagine how much it would accrue over that time.
CHRIS MERTENS: But the point is that within that nine months hopefully you realize that there are some programs available for you to relieve those payments that you are not able to make. Such as income-driven repayment plans, and there’s four or five of them out now depending on when you graduated from school. Deferments and forbearances are options, but they’re usually things I discourage because the other programs out there are so much more powerful.
CHRIS COX: What’s the biggest difference between deferment and forbearance then? I know this kind of basic for you, but I didn’t really understand.
RILEY BASS: I see you smirking at our dumb questions but [LAUGHTER]
CHRIS MERTENS: Good thing this is radio. [LAUGHTER] So deferment is essentially where– well I mean it’s a slightly less dirty word, I guess, in the sense that a lot of times they will pay the interest or pause the interest accruing during that period. Probably the most popular or most widely used deferment is one based on unemployment and inability to pay. And you have to fill out a long form and apply for it and then they come and approve it for some period of time. A forbearance is, usually just there’s one based on just unemployment, but interest will continue to accrue during that time and then it’ll be capitalized at the end of that period too.
CHRIS COX: Capitalize means?
CHRIS MERTENS: Added to the principal balance. So your loan will grow faster.
RILEY BASS: So is there anything that could keep you from– I mean obviously you would want to go to the deferment if that keeps more interest from accruing, so why is there a way to choose which one you do? Does that question make sense?
CHRIS MERTENS: It does make sense. I mean the programs are fairly limited and the options are limited, so you have to kind of meet a few more criteria and check a few more boxes to qualify for deferment. But again, I’m going to say that I usually suggest doing none of the above and looking to get into an income-driven repayment plan, where you’re making payments even if your payment is 0. And the reason why that’s important is because under income-driven repayment plans if you make qualifying payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on when you graduated and when you started school, if there’s a balance left over on your student loans your balance is forgiven at that point.
CHRIS COX: After 25 years?
CHRIS MERTENS: And the standard repayment plan for just professional grad or grad plus loans and all that kind of stuff, the repayment period is usually 25 to 30 years anyway. Might as well be on an income-driven repayment plan, because you’re going to get the benefit of that flexibility of having your payment always be affordable. And if you make all of your payments, at the end of the repayment period then you’re done with your student loans.
CHRIS COX: That seems like a long time.
RILEY BASS: I get like this weird tinge of hatred and jealousy any time I see a friend post on social media that they paid off their student loans. I have this instant just like–
CHRIS MERTENS: I mean, we’re all in different positions in life, and we all have different expenses, and some people are able to do it. But the point is that there’s tools out there for those of us, including myself, who aren’t in a position to necessarily pay down our student loans quickly or even prioritize it. And the point is we have other things to pay, and sometimes we have other things to pay the make more sense. Like right now, if you’re making a mortgage payment, or lucky enough to be making a mortgage payment, in today’s market you’re building a lot of equity by every payment you make. If you minimize your student loan payment you’ve got more money to make that payment, or you have more money to contribute towards your retirement account pr 401K.
CHRIS COX: Or credit card bills.
CHRIS MERTENS: Or pay down that high interest credit card debt instead of that low-payment federal loan. Or pay down those private student loans.
CHRIS COX: So what you’re saying then is that you can kind of prioritize down those student loans and create more cash flow to use that for other things. So there’s no reason for you to be paying that 10 year payoff at $2,000 a month or whatever it is, when you can really be stretching that out longer and using that extra money over that year to pay off the things that really need to be paid down. Or save.
CHRIS MERTENS: Exactly. And that’s kind of a light bulb that I see a lot of my planning clients come to that realization. So it’s always the good aha moment in that we actually have some debt and it’s not a terrible thing to have. The goal is not always immediate repayment because it gives us that flexibility to plan for our other financial goals or life goals.
CHRIS COX: Wow. That’s huge.
RILEY BASS: That is. I feel like I was always told pay them off as soon as possible and as much as you can possibly afford to pay off. And when you get your income tax return or bonus or anything it’s like put it all toward your student loans. But you know what? I’d rather go on a vacation than pay my student loans.
CHRIS COX: I don’t know if that’s what Chris is saying to go on vacation with the extra money.
RILEY BASS: It’s a mental health break to keep working with all cylinders firing.
CHRIS MERTENS: I’m a little bit in agreement with the idea that we need to take care of ourselves.
RILEY BASS: See?
CHRIS MERTENS: We can work really hard and try to have all of our money invested and be able to retire comfortably. But if you’re sacrificing your entire quality of life for 45 years doing it, then I don’t know.
CHRIS COX: What kind of life is that?
CHRIS MERTENS: We could turn this into a long philosophical discussion.
CHRIS COX: Which maybe we have time for next time. But I think that that is a big thing for our listeners to take home. Despite, like you said Riley, despite everyone saying we need to pay them off as soon as possible, maybe that’s good for some people, maybe it’s not good for other people.
CHRIS MERTENS: There’s two different ways to look at repayment of federal student loans in particular. One is getting yourself in a situation where you can afford the payment, and give yourself maximum flexibility in the rest of your financial world where your goal is really just to meet the payments and keep them as low as possible for whatever the repayment term is under your income-driven plan. Or the alternative is that you’re trying to repay your debt, just like all your other ones, and pay it down as quickly as possible.
That usually has to do with where you are in your income bracket and your family size and your current career and future life goals, I guess. If you go from a position where you are an intern for a couple years, and really kind of grinding it out, and not making money, and then all of a sudden you get that private practice placement where you’re making it on the upper end of whatever your career is, then your goal might change, and might go from, oh I’m trying to keep my payment’s low so that I can eat every week, to–
CHRIS COX: Lunchables.
CHRIS MERTENS: More than Lunchables. To, I want to get this debt paid off so that I can move on and start saving for my kids’ college education, which is apparently something we need to think about.
RILEY BASS: What? I’m just going to point out that he said that the upper bracket of the salary is private practice, just saying guys. What? Who knew that?
CHRIS MERTENS: So recently I’ve been working a lot more with professional graduates, including from medical school and other specially trained professionals, and I’ve learned a lot about what people make coming out of school, and it’s definitely not always the golden paved street that we think is going to be coming out of school. And so that’s why these programs are here, it’s usually why I advise people to embrace the flexibility of their federal student loans, at least at the beginning, because we don’t know what’s going to happen within two or three years. You might decide that you do have a passion for working in the government or for the VA or for the school district. And if you do, you’ll be happy that you maintained that flexibility with your federal student loans where you can keep your payment affordable no matter what your income is even if you take a hit and not delve into private practice.
CHRIS COX: You’re saying that because of the year deal with working in the public area?
CHRIS MERTENS: Exactly. So there is another program that we only touched on, I really haven’t been spewing a lot of information here.
CHRIS COX: Smells like it.
RILEY BASS: Gross.
CHRIS MERTENS: So, you’re right Chris, there is a 10 year repayment term that applies to people that are working for a public entity, which is government on any level, or a 501c3 qualified nonprofit.
RILEY BASS: Is that a robot? Star Wars? C3.
CHRIS MERTENS: An IRS code robot.
CHRIS COX: They’re not called robots in Star Wars, OK? They’re droids.
RILEY BASS: Droids. Got it. I saw Star Wars recently, remember?
CHRIS COX: Welcome to the club.
RILEY BASS: I didn’t watch any of the Star Wars movies until I was 28 years old.
CHRIS MERTENS: I think that is maybe not a bad thing.
CHRIS COX: Are you not a Star Wars fan Chris?
CHRIS MERTENS: I’m a big fan. I just think it probably is an indication that she might be well rounded.
CHRIS COX: Better late than never I say.
RILEY BASS: AKA I’m less of a nerd then you are.
CHRIS MERTENS: Has a few social skills.
CHRIS COX: I think we’ve already figured that out Riley, we already talked about what we did in college.
CHRIS MERTENS: That’s why you guys balance each other out so well. So, just to give back to it, it’s a really powerful plan. And it is also a plan that is not cumulative. So if you end up starting off your career as an intern or resident or whatever the label is, and you’re working for, let’s say, a government agency, school district or something like that just to get your experience, if you have to be on an income-driven repayment plan in order to qualify further those accruing payments under the public service loan forgiveness plan.
Again, it is cumulative, it’s not consecutive. So you can go ahead and accrue those two years and then if you go into private practice and make your millions and decide not to pay off your student loans, and then your heart compels you to go again work for another qualified employer, you can start from where you left off before.
CHRIS COX: So you start with those two years still under your belt.
CHRIS MERTENS: Under your belt, correct.
CHRIS COX: So you only then work another eight years to get that forgiveness.
CHRIS MERTENS: Correct.
CHRIS COX: We do talk a lot about private practice here, but we hope that this podcast reaches anybody that’s in audiology school, whether you want to go into private practice or whether you want to go into the public space, either way we are all going to have student loans, and we hope that this reaches you whichever way you want to go.
CHRIS MERTENS: And really my point is is that maintaining this flexibility is really the most powerful part of all this. And so, to know that you can get through those first years where you’re either interning or grinding out your own practice, or maybe not earning a ton working for someone else as the newbie, maintaining the flexibility of being able to afford or a student loan payments is really is the message here. And you just need to either educate yourself or consult with a professional.
CHRIS COX: Like yourself.
CHRIS MERTENS: Like perhaps myself. I would warn people to be careful, because one of the reasons why I do want to do is that while there’s a lack of information out there I think reaching people, there’s also a deluge of information, and a lot of misinformation. And there are companies that will kind of do this mass marketing that aren’t attorneys that are really just looking to make a few bucks on doing something for you or telling you to do something that you could probably figure out on your own, or to do better.
So I don’t want people to go out and pay the first website that they see come up when they’re researching student loans. Just like any consumer decision, look into it, get some advice. And, again, a trained professional is really kind of a rarity, but it’s something that I do mostly just because there’s not enough people doing it and giving the right answers out there.
RILEY BASS: Now that I have graduated and am in the process of paying my student loans, and I keep up on them but I occasionally, well at least like once a week, will get phone calls from people around the country and they are asking me to– that I qualify for student loan debt consolidation and those things. Are they scams? I’m so leery of that because I just I don’t want to give people any information about my finances that I am really skeptical of that. And I just don’t know if I’m missing on something really awesome or if I’m–
CHRIS MERTENS: Well what I’ve looked into is that a lot of those companies are– well if they’re not scams, they’re just providing the service of consolidating your student loans, which doesn’t really do much of anything. And maybe changing your payment plan. And giving you that information that, like I said, you can go find out for yourself.
The Department of Education and the CFPB have actually done a pretty good job of trying to get media and websites out there that inform people on what their options are. It’s still fairly complicated, so it’s a lot to look at, and they can benefit from having somebody who knows what they’re doing every day doing it. And I’m not going to disparage other companies out there, but I definitely, again, would encourage you, especially if they’re contacting you, they’re out there soliciting business.
RILEY BASS: Right. And they cold call me based only on the fact that I have federal student loans.
CHRIS MERTENS: Exactly. And oftentimes they’ll charge people– well I know many of them charge more than I do. And I’m an individual that will give you a tailored analysis too. So I mean it’s just something to be wary of, to be honest.
CHRIS COX: So just shred those.
RILEY BASS: Well, they call me. So I don’t want to shred my phone.
CHRIS MERTENS: Well you can tell them that it is your cell phone and they should stop calling you.
CHRIS COX: Oh OK.
RILEY BASS: Done. If I answer.
CHRIS COX: Good tip.
CHRIS MERTENS: Technically there are other consumer protection laws that they may or may not be violating.
RILEY BASS: You’re such a plethora of knowledge.
CHRIS COX: Speaking of that, can we get some tips for our listeners? Some things maybe they can work on now as students and after they graduate?
RILEY BASS: We’ll queue that bing sound up. [BING] Bing!
CHRIS MERTENS: So I would encourage people to get on the right payment plan early, [BING] avoid any forbearance or deferment options when you can get right into a repayment program, maybe even get your repayment program started if you’re still job searching after you graduate, or have a lower paying job at the beginning, because that’s actually going to set your payment for the first year. So if you get your application for income-driven repayment plan approved while you have zero income or low income, your payment plan will actually remain low for that whole first year.
CHRIS COX: OK. So could we do that while we’re in our externship year, like your last year before we graduate?
CHRIS MERTENS: So you have to have actually graduated and enter repayment. Your federal student loans, if there from the school where you’re graduating, have a six month grace period. It’s arguable that’s waivable, although it’s not a common practice for the servicers. But if you get on your application early that’s probably going to give you your best bet at keeping that first year of payments low.
CHRIS COX: Can you send in the application before you graduate? Like say you’re going to graduate next week and you send in your application, does it have to be after the actual graduation date?
CHRIS MERTENS: It has to be after graduation, because there are exit counseling requirements. Which technically every school has, and every school has a financial person that gives these talks.
CHRIS COX: I don’t really remember mine.
RILEY BASS: I don’t remember it.
CHRIS MERTENS: All I’ll say is that there are varying levels of information that gets conveyed during those. I’m sure there are some very knowledgeable counselors out there. But honestly there’s a lot of students that don’t get all the answers, and definitely don’t get answers that are specifically tailored to their situation. Every situation is different. Like if you are married versus single that can impact what kind of repayment plan might make sense if your spouse has student loans or doesn’t have student loans, if you have kids, if you have a stay at home parent. There’s all kinds of factors that need to be considered to determine what’s going to be the best repayment plan for you.
And again, if you’re repayment goals are to afford your payment, versus trying to repay the loan as fast as possible. So those are all factors that need to be considered, and that’s kind of what I help people do. It’s something that people can sit down and do on their own, the resources are out there through the Department of Education. But in any event I would encourage people to sit down and think about and take the time, because you’re embarking on a long period of repayment no matter what the situation is, and you really want to give yourself a maximum benefit from your debts.
RILEY BASS: A huge thank you to our guest Chris Mertens who came up with the earlier this year at our February student summit, and for speaking with us again today. We really appreciate it. This is just general information and not to be taken legal advice from either Chris or Audigy Group. So Chris are you willing to give out your contact information in case any of our listeners have further questions for you?
CHRIS MERTENS: Absolutely. Probably the best way to reach me is through my website, you can find my email and phone number on there. I’m always happy to answer my phone or respond to emails. The website is westcoaststudentloanlaw.com, that’s the easiest one, and that’ll take you right to my student loan page.
CHRIS COX: Thanks Chris. I will say that he does a great job. He’s actually helped me out with understanding my student loan situation and helping me navigate through some of sludge of student loans I’ve been dealing with. So I do appreciate him for helping me out with that and give you a hardy endorsement from someone who’s actually used your services. So please get in touch with him. westcoaststudentloanlaw.com.
RILEY BASS: Tip number one, don’t buy drum sets and saxophones with your student loan money.
CHRIS COX: Still paying off.
RILEY BASS: Thanks for listening to the podcast, as always please follow us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram, and subscribe to us on iTunes, leave some feedback. And we look forward to talking to guys next week.
CHRIS COX: I’m am Chris Cox.
RILEY BASS: And I’m Riley Bass.
CHRIS COX: And we thank Chris Mertens for being on today.
CHRIS MERTENS: Thank you Chris and Riley, I appreciate it.
RILEY BASS: Bye guys.
CHRIS COX: Bye bye.