Q: What do you do in a student loan consultation?
A: I educate my clients on the options available for student loan repayment that will save them the most money. Sometimes that means taking advantage of the government repayment programs such as REPAYE, PAYE, and IBR in a more optimal way. If the borrower’s debt to income ratio is low, I am often able to find lower interest rates through private refinancing partners. Usually this also results in a $200-$300 refinancing bonus for the client. The final way I help is making sure clients are properly set up to take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
Q: I have a meeting with my financial advisor about my student debt. Why should I work with you when I already have someone helping me?
A: To be frank, most financial advisors do not have a lot of experience or expertise in handling complex student loan cases. I suggest to every client to only work with an advisor who has a fiduciary responsibility to put your best interests first. Ask any advisor you work with to explain the difference in the interest capitalization rules for REPAYE vs. PAYE vs. IBR. Also ask him or her to come up with an approximate estimate of balance you’ll owe after 20-25 years on income based repayment. If he or she cannot answer both of these questions, it means you should not trust them to give you the best advice possible on managing your student debt. Advisors are very competent on a lot of issues, but unfortunately I’ve met very few that have more than a working understanding of student loans.
Q: How do I know Student Loan Planner is legitimate?
A: Unfortunately that’s a fair question to ask because they are a lot of student loan scams out there. The first way to know is that my fee is a fraction of the $1,500 or more that some of the “student debt relief” companies charge. The second way to know is that I actually do detailed financial modeling. The scam companies only do one thing for the most part, and that’s send in the forms to do loan consolidation. As a general rule, if a company’s website says that they’re a ‘document preparation service,’ then they’re probably a student loan scam.
Another way to vet me is to check out what my past clients have said about my service. Check my Facebook page and see the reviews that show the lengths I go to so clients know all their options and that they save as much money as possible.
Q: Why use Student Loan Planner when I could just use my financial aid office or my loan servicer?
A: In a perfect world, you shouldn’t need to use my service. However, in practice, many financial aid officers are far more concerned with getting you loans to pay the college’s tuition bill than worrying about how students will pay it back in the future. Many will just tell you to sign up for IBR or PAYE and push you out the door.
The loan servicers are even worse. The average call center rep is only useful if you know exactly what questions to ask them, and even then they frequently give inaccurate information.
When you hire me for a flat fee consult, I work for you and have a huge incentive to save you as much money as I can on your student loans.
Q: What qualifications do you have to be giving student loan consultations?
A: There really aren’t any credible credentials specific to student loans. I passed the three exams of the Chartered Financial Analyst program, but that is targeted at security analysis and investment management. Other credentialed financial professionals might have a CFP or CPA, but that does not necessarily mean they have any real knowledge of student loans. One friend who is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) told me that none of the material in their curriculum taught him anything about how to help people manage their student loans.
I did trade over $8 billion in municipal bonds and worked on a team that managed over $100 billion in assets for the largest mutual fund company in the world. That’s why I’m qualified to do student loan consultations, because I understand how to build excel models cold. No other student loan advisory firm has the capabilities I do solely because I was trained to write formulas and code for active trading decisions in the millions and billions of dollars.
Q: What are your typical savings for clients?
A: Every client is different, but usually I save at least a few thousand dollars. As of the end of November, the actual average client savings is about $110,000 on an average student loan balance of $243,000. Of course these savings are over the life of the loan and each individual is different. The vast majority of my consults are with graduate degree holders with six figure debt loads. That said, I’ve worked with folks with $10,000 to $900,000 in student debt and would welcome anyone who wants help understanding their student loan repayment options.
Q: When do you charge your fee?
A: I send an invoice after the phone call. I find that people are more comfortable paying after I’ve shown how useful my help is. If I provide no new information to you at all and you feel like I haven’t assisted you in paying down your student loans better than you are currently, I don’t charge anything.
Q: Who do you work with?
A: The short answer is anyone with student debt. I can generate the most savings for individuals and couples with six figure debt burdens, though I’m frequently able to generate savings in the thousands for debt loads as small as $20,000. I’ve worked with professionals from most every major graduate degree program including doctors, lawyers, business owners, veterinarians, dentists, pharmacists, chiropractors, physician’s assistants, and more.