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Discretionary Income Calculator for the New IDR / SAVE Plan in 2024

Our discretionary income calculator below (fully updated with the latest 2023 poverty line numbers) will show you the brand new definition of discretionary income for 2023 when student loan payments start again. President Biden's New IDR plan (called New REPAYE / SAVE) now excludes 225% of income instead of 150% like IDR plans did historically. This means lower payments for millions.

Discretionary Income Calculator for 2023

What is your family size? Enter the total number of people in your family including you, your spouse, and children your children. Include unborn children who will be born this year.

Where do you live?

What was your AGI (taxable income) on your most recent federal tax return?

Are you legally married?

What was your spouse's AGI (taxable income) on your most recent federal tax return?

2023 Discretionary Income (New REPAYE Plan)

To calculate your new IDR payment, take the number above and multiply by 5% if you have undergrad loans only or 10% if you have grad school loans only. If you have a mix of undergrad and grad loans, take the weighted average between 5% and 10% based on what percent of undergrad loans you have.

Some borrowers will also not have to recertify IDR payments until as late as early 2025 if the Supreme Court takes a while to rule on Biden's student loan cancellation plan. That could be a good or bad thing because of the huge increase in the poverty line in 2023, which could make it advantageous for some borrowers to recertify their income early.

How Discretionary Income Works

The Discretionary Income Calculator above is completely updated using the latest 2023 poverty guidelines that the government publishes every January.

Servicers use the Federal Poverty Line to calculate how much income you actually need to pay a percentage of under Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans.

The most recent IDR plan finalized by President Biden in June 2023 will be called the SAVE Plan (Saving on a Valuable Education).

This plan will only charge 5% to 10% of your income above 225% of the federal poverty line.

See below for the breakdown of federal poverty line values for the contiguous states in 2023 as well as what 225% of the poverty line looks like for your family size.

2023 Federal poverty line values for U.S. contiguous states

Family SizePoverty Line Values225% of FPL
(Used for SAVE Plan)
1$14,580$32,805
2$19,720$44,370
3$24,860$55,935
4$30,000$67,500
5$35,140$79,065
6$40,280$90,630
7$45,420$102,195
Note: For each additional family member, add $5,140 to calculate poverty line.

Use these numbers when calculating your income-based monthly student loan payments. That link has a calculator that will do it for you.

What is Discretionary Income?

Discretionary income is typically defined as what you have left over after you've covered your necessary expenses (like rent/mortgage, groceries, utilities, etc.). Often, this type of discretionary income is contrasted with disposable income, which is your take-home pay after your social security and income taxes have been taken out of your paycheck.

With such a broad definition, it can be difficult to determine exactly what one's discretionary income is. Expenses that one person feels are necessities may seem like luxury items to someone else. The Department of Education needs a concrete way to determine your discretionary income for the purpose of calculating your student loan payments.

The federal government created Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans because they want payments on federal student loans to be affordable no matter how much you owe. How does the government figure out what an affordable payment is, though? That's where the discretionary income definition comes in.

Income-Driven Repayment programs like REPAYE, PAYE, IBR, and ICR take 10% to 20% of your “discretionary income.” That means the government needs a standardized formula to figure out what they are supposed to charge you.

Once you know how to calculate YOUR discretionary income, you'll never need to worry or wonder what your student loan payments are going to look like ever again.

Discretionary Income Calculation Depends on Your Family Size

The discretionary income definition is a technical one, but it's easy to understand. There are three steps in the calculation.

Step 1: Look up the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) for your family size

You can find these numbers by searching “federal poverty guideline” or by checking out the numbers over at the ACA Exchange. The contiguous United States and the District of Columbia all have the same poverty guidelines. But if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, it's a bit higher.

Step 2: Multiply the Federal Poverty Line for Your Family Size by 225%

You know how when you're doing your income taxes, you get to deduct something from your income? The discretionary income definition is similar. You get to deduct a certain amount of money from your adjusted gross income before the government wants a percentage of it under an income-driven repayment program.

Now we'll learn how to calculate that deduction.

Take the federal poverty number for your family size and multiply it by 2.25. That's 225% of the poverty line.

Let's look at the father in Virginia with a family size of four. His poverty line number in 2023 was $30,000. Take that number from 2024 and multiply by 2.25. His deduction for the purposes of the discretionary income definition is $27,750 *2.25.

For a single person, that deduction would be $14,580*2.25.

Step 3: Take Your Adjusted Gross Income from the Previous Tax Year and Subtract the Deduction. That's Your Discretionary Income

Remember I said steps one and two give you the amount of income that the government won't count in your student loan payment calculation. Here's how the mechanics of that works.

Say the dad from Virginia has a spouse who makes $60,000 per year. He makes $100,000 and has $300,000 of law school loans. Say their combined income on the previous year's tax forms shows $160,000.

To find his annual payment under Pay As You Earn and Revised Pay As You Earn, he would take $160,000 – $ 67,500 and multiply that by 10%. Divide that number by 12 to get the monthly payment.

How to Use the Discretionary Income Definition to Find Out What You'll Pay After Graduation

Most people don't make any income while they're in grad school. They might have a working spouse, and if so that will influence the required payments under an income-driven repayment program.

For example, let's say Jane is a graduating med student and her husband Matt is a teacher. Matt makes $50,000 per year, and Jane made $0 last year.

Using the discretionary income definition, we first look up the federal poverty line for their family size of two. That is $19,720. Now we multiply by 2.25 to get $44,370.

Take $50,000 and subtract $44,370. Now multiply by 5% to 10% depending on the mix of grad and undergrad loans and divide by 12.

That payment is almost $0 a month and it counts for IDR forgiveness and PSLF if applicable.

If you wanted to know how much you'll have to pay on your student loans, use our Income-Based Repayment calculator to see what you would pay on IBR, PAYE, or New REPAYE / SAVE.

The Income-Contingent Repayment plan (ICR) is generally unhelpful as it's the only one of the current plans that bases payments on 20% of discretionary income instead of 10%. However, it's the only IDR plan that Parent Plus loan borrowers are able to join.

Can Discretionary Income Show my Student Loan Payment for Future Years?

Your discretionary income can absolutely give you a picture of what your student loan payment for future years will be. First, you need to know that your student loan servicer uses your prior year's annual income in the calculation.

So say your re-certification date for REPAYE is coming up this September. You graduated in mid-2022 and have been paying $0 for the past year. You're really worried about what they're going to ask you to pay come September.

Say you worked half the year and made $60,000 (maybe you are a dentist or something like that).

Take your adjusted gross income from 2022, find the 2023 poverty line number for your family size and multiply by 2.25, then subtract that from your 2022 taxable income. Multiply the result by 10% and divide by 12.

There ya go! That's what you'll pay for student loans when you recertify in September.

Note that according to studentaid.gov, no one who was making payments before March 13, 2020, will be asked to recertify before July 2023.

Functionally, many borrowers will have lower payments than even what they would have on New REPAYE / SAVE well into 2024 because of this delay in recertification. That means you want to carefully plan when you sign up for New REPAYE / SAVE.

How Does Discretionary Income Affect Student Loan Payments Over Time?

Great question. Discretionary income changes every year and is dependent upon taxable income, family size, and the government's federal poverty line numbers. That means student loan payments change every year under REPAYE/PAYE/IBR.

The federal poverty line increases over time because of inflation. That means your discretionary income, or the deduction you get before having to pay a percent of your income to student loans, would increase yearly as well.

Keep in mind that for most people with student loan debt, your income would be larger than the poverty line. Your income would also probably grow at the rate of inflation or potentially more than that.

However, if you suffered a pay cut, your student loan payments would decrease. And if you experienced a job loss or any reduction in pay so dramatic that it dropped your income below 225% of your federal poverty guideline, your monthly payment would be $0.

But if you aren't making any payments, what will happen to your student loan balance? It will continue to grow as it accrues unpaid interest. However, keep in mind that once you reach the end of your repayment term (20 to 25 years), any remaining balance will be forgiven.

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Comments

  1. Ian January 25, 2019 at 10:53 AM
    Reply

    Hi Travis – I noticed that the free student loan calculator spreadsheet that you link to above seems to adjust discretionary income for family size under REPAYE but not under PAYE/IBR. Does PAYE/IBR ignore family size in determining the poverty level for purposes of calculating your discretionary income?

    • Travis Hornsby January 27, 2019 at 6:31 AM
      Reply

      No it should adjust. I put the discretionary income calculations in two separate columns so you can adjust for filing taxes separately under PAYE / IBR, which you cant do on REPAYE. It should work fine.

      • Ian January 27, 2019 at 7:14 AM
        Reply

        Okay, got it. Makes sense now. Appreciate the explanation!

        (I think I confused the spreadsheet — and myself — by accidentally putting in “married filing separately” with an initial family size of 1, which is obviously not a real life scenario, so no surprise I got an odd result.)

        Thanks again!

  2. Denise L. Perrault April 4, 2019 at 4:34 PM
    Reply

    Hi Travis,
    I appreciate you offering this information. I am having a hard time following each sample given. Ie
    I am a family of 1, I see the amountil given in the FPL $12,060 × 150% (1.5)
    Then what…can you finish this calculation and tell me what if any my payments are? OSLA asked me for my “current” income. I finished school last August 2018 was in a certificate program…I already owe $55,000. I feel they have been screwing me for years. Can they include Unemployment income? I was on unemployment first fro.June 30, 2017 until December 31, 2017, then January 30, 2019 until June 30, 2019. I also worked a part-time job making $117 a week, then approx $200 a week from Sept to Dec.
    I understand calculation better… not in a paragraph form,
    Federal Poverty level. $12,060
    (150% of FPL) X 1.5
    Then what? Can you finish your thought on the complete picture? Thank you…
    I just started working 35 hours, so my income has fluctuated from January until now. I get paid bi-weekly. I don’t get what I need to calculate once I multiply $12,140 × 1.5 =
    What do I need to do with my income?? Thanks, Denise

    • Travis Hornsby April 4, 2019 at 8:34 PM
      Reply

      Denise say you made $20,000 per year on your last year’s tax return. You could submit that return to OSLA if your debt is federal, and they should tell you that your discretionary income is $20,000-1.5 x $12,140 = $1,790. On PAYE or REPAYE you’d pay 0.10 x $1,790 = $179 per year, or $14.91 a month.

  3. Tom April 9, 2019 at 12:29 PM
    Reply

    I’m married with no children. My wife and I are considering filing separate tax returns this year to reduce our student loan payments. If my wife and I file separately, would each of our discretionary income calculations be based on a household size of 1, or 2?

    • Travis Hornsby April 9, 2019 at 8:35 PM
      Reply

      If you file separately then it should be based on household size of 1 each not 2. Generally if you both have debt it’s not worth it to file separately

  4. Jackie April 16, 2019 at 9:44 AM
    Reply

    Hi Travis thank you for this site and generous content!, you’re brilliant. My question is while I am in the process of re-certifying for IBR Should I also be considering simultaneously to apply for a lower interest-rate?
    Thanks, Jackie

    • Travis Hornsby April 16, 2019 at 12:21 PM
      Reply

      Only if you want to leave the IBR plan and sell your loan to a private lender who will give you a lower rate. But then you cant do IBR

  5. Leslie June 26, 2019 at 12:44 PM
    Reply

    Hi Travis
    Thank you for assisting with all questions. My question is if I’m paying child support does that reduce my discretionary income? My last tax return was married filing separately due to an upcoming divorce.
    Any options I look at for reducing the amount of my payments so far are only based on income not expenses.

    • Travis Hornsby June 27, 2019 at 3:14 PM
      Reply

      That’s a very complicated question because the new tax law treats child support and alimony differently I think, so you’d have to check with a lawyer. I’m pretty sure it has no impact though.

  6. Joanne June 27, 2019 at 7:54 AM
    Reply

    Hello Travis,

    I want to recalauate my monthly payment because I teach school and my pay is less in the summer. I get paid for 10 months but elected it to be paid out on a 12 month installment. However, I do’t get my local supplement during the summer so I make less about 900.00 less. I want to submit my pay stub for June to fed loan with my lower gross monthly earnings but I’m afriad they will use my yearly gross income shown also on my pay stub and recalualte and then I’ll have a higher monthly payment instead. My question is if I re submit my pay stub for Jue wihich is 900.00 less will they use my monthly gross earning to recalualte my new monthly payment or will they use my year to date amount listed on my pay stub. Please advise…as soon as possible

    • Travis Hornsby June 27, 2019 at 3:07 PM
      Reply

      You’re really supposed to use tax returns in this scenario. I personally don’t feel comfortable recommending paystubs in this situation

  7. Michael June 27, 2019 at 7:17 PM
    Reply

    This is great stuff Travis! Very impressive!

  8. Jennifer July 2, 2019 at 1:28 PM
    Reply

    Hello Travis,

    Both my husband and I have student loans. Since they take both of our incomes into the equation, does that mean that is the maximum amount we will pay for both of our loan payments combined? Thanks so much. LGB!! We also love the STL Zoo.

    • Travis Hornsby July 2, 2019 at 4:33 PM
      Reply

      They dont double count your income if you both have loans. You’ll pay a very similar amount compared with if you were single. Yep PLAY GLORIA!

  9. Thomas Rios July 17, 2019 at 1:45 PM
    Reply

    Hi Travis,
    Kind of in a sticky situation here. I have approx. $325k in student loan debt. Mostly Federal with some Private loans as well. I am currently making payments on my Private loans which total around $500-600/month.
    I unfortunately defaulted on one of my federal loans and am currently going thru the loan rehabilitation program. Payments for that is approx. $1,300/month. I need to start paying on my other Federal Loans so I don’t fall into default.
    Am married with one kid and one on the way next month. Our household income last year was about $150,000.
    So I am currently paying approx. $2,000/month in student loans (Private/Federal) with more likely to be added once I start paying the other Federal Loans. I really cant afford much more with other bills added on plus the new addition to our family. Do Lenders take other student loans into account? I really need to consolidate but have to wait until after the rehabilitation program is done in 10 months. Thank you for any advice.

    • Travis Hornsby July 18, 2019 at 7:27 AM
      Reply

      Well you only have to wait to consolidate if you dont want the default hurting your credit score. If you already have a mortgage and a car and dont need great credit then maybe you could just pull the trigger. But yeah once that rehab payment is over you definitely need to be on REPAYE or PAYE to pay a lot less on your federal loans. That’ll certainly help

  10. Elizabeth July 25, 2019 at 2:49 PM
    Reply

    Hello! Thanks for the formula. How can an individual filing as a single person lower their agi in a smart way? Do contributions to an HSA for 401k lower agi and therefore lower ibr payments?

    • Ashley Harrison August 2, 2019 at 2:46 PM
      Reply

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Both HSA and 401(k) contributions can lower your AGI. You’ll have to crunch the numbers and possibly talk with a CPA to see how it would work out in your specific situation, but this is certainly something you could look into.

  11. Gerald July 30, 2019 at 11:02 AM
    Reply

    Hello Travis,
    Thanks for the information. I have a question regarding lower payment options. My wife and I have been filing taxes jointly as long as we’ve been married, but in an effort to reduce my student loan payments through my Income Driven Repayment Plan, can I file taxes separately? Is this a common strategy for lowering payments (temporarily)?

  12. Javier Serrano September 24, 2019 at 9:36 AM
    Reply

    Your 2019 FPL is showing 2018 values

    • Travis Hornsby September 25, 2019 at 10:30 AM
      Reply

      Dang the table didn’t save, fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out Javier.

  13. Julie B. December 10, 2019 at 5:22 PM
    Reply

    I just got married a couple of months ago. I have approx. 47,000 in student loans. My husband about 55,000. He makes around 40,000 and I around 35,000. My question is, if we file jointly, and they use both of our totals, will be both be paying an exorbitant amount, or would it be pretty reasonable? His currently is only 75 dollars a month, I am just about to finish school. I am not wanting to pay 200+ a month a piece just because our income is combined. So, how does that work? Will we both have to pay higher because they combine our income for both mine and his IBR or will we just pay around the same? Hope that makes since.

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner December 13, 2019 at 10:24 AM
      Reply

      You’ll pay more if you file jointly so that’s one reason people hire us to do an analysis of the right path studentloanplanner.com/help

  14. George January 20, 2020 at 2:49 PM
    Reply

    Hello Travis,
    Really struggling figuring out how much my monthly payment will be. I’m a teacher, who is about to finish grad school, will still continue teaching. I owe about 50,000 on Fed loans and earn about 102,000 a year. What might my monthly payments look like?

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner January 27, 2020 at 3:29 PM
      Reply

      They’ll be the standard 10 year plan since you earn much more than you owe. About 500 a month.

  15. Will January 24, 2021 at 1:26 PM
    Reply

    Hi,
    what if your monthly income changes month to month and isn’t consistent (i.e. your a dentist who owns his/her own practice), how do you calculate the exact amount you owe on a monthly basis? If you accidentally overpay on a month using REPAYE or PAYE, can that extra go to a future payment, or will it automatically be applied to the accruing interest (which is bad if you’re going for forgiveness and want to pay as little as possible)? If you somehow underpay, do you make up that difference at the end of the fiscal year after submitting your taxes?

    • Amy at Student Loan Planner February 9, 2021 at 12:58 PM
      Reply

      Payments based on your income use tax returns, specifically your AGI, to determine your monthly payment. So it isn’t a month-to-month calculation. When you certify your income for PAYE or REPAYE, you typically have the same payment amount for 12 months.

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