8 Frozen Margarita Recipes That’ll Silence The Shamers

If you’ve ever felt a nagging sense of shame every time you crave a frozen margarita, you shouldn’t. But statements like these may be the reason you feel that way:

Frozen cocktails carry a good deal of baggage in the cultural imagination. … Your first vision at the mention of ‘frozen cocktail’ is that of a rotating slushie machine, dispensing candy-pink blends of cheap booze and artificially flavored mixers into plastic palm-tree-shaped novelty glasses.”

 

If you want a frozen margarita, don’t let the naysayers stop you. Make your own damn frozen margarita and enjoy every last icy crystal. There are just a few things to keep in mind.

 

Use good alcohol. Don’t use a crappy blender. And many would argue you should never use fresh fruit juice in a frozen marg. Rather, it’s suggested that you use a frozen fruit concentrate (preferably made of all-natural juice, with no sugar).

The eight recipes below don’t all adhere to that rule, but to each his own. Take your pick and find your best-frozen margarita.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/frozen-margarita-recipes_us_5ae8929be4b04aa23f275448

China-based online education companies just launched an aggressive hiring spree in search of U.S. teachers

Teachers have long supplemented their incomes by tutoring. And there’s perhaps never been a better, or easier, time to do it than right now.  The reason: China-based online education companies are in an apparent race with each other to hire U.S. teachers who’d like to work from home this summer and, using their webcams, “teach cute kids” the English language — in the marketing parlance of one of those companies, Beijing-based VIPKid.

If you doubt that’s true, you haven’t been looking at the classifieds. Just today, five-year-old VIPKid — which reportedly raised $200 million in fresh funding last summer at a $1.5 billion valuation — listed openings for thousands of U.S. teachers, from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, to Saint Joseph, Missouri, to Carmel, Indiana.

Its jobs offensive comes just three days after seven-year-old, Beijing-based China Online Education Group, known as 51Talk, did precisely the same thing.

Both companies are growing quickly and, in the process, trying to outgun competitors. These include 14-year-old, Goldman Sachs-backed iTutorGroup, which operates out of Shanghai as VIPABC and boasts of it’s $1 billion valuations on its home page, and 15-year-old TAL Education Group, a holding company for a group of tutoring-related companies that went public in 2010 and now enjoys a roughly $17 billion market cap. (51Talk is also publicly traded, having IPO’d in 2016. Its market cap is currently $215 million.)

There’s seemingly plenty of demand for all. According to a recent report from the China-focused consultancy iResearch, online language lessons in China represented a $4.5 billion market opportunity in 2016 and is expected to grow to nearly $8 billion by next year.

VIPKID seems to be winning the war for media attention, however.

Back in January, Forbes named the company the best employer when it comes to work-from-home jobs (up from fifth place in 2017). Its founder, Cindy Mi, has also received glowing coverage in Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and Fast Company, among numerous other English-language outlets. (We also featured Mi in a fireside chat at our signature Disrupt event in San Francisco last fall.)

According to one of its job listings today, teachers are paid on average between $14 and $18 an hour and the openings are available to candidates who are eligible to work in the U.S. or Canada, have a bachelor’s degree in any field, and have at least one school year of traditional teaching, mentoring, or tutoring experience.

The company — which is backed by Sequoia Capital, Learn Capital, and an investment firm co-founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma, among others — says it already works with more than 30,000 teachers. We’ll have to see how much those numbers change after this summer.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/25/china-based-online-education-companies-just-launched-an-aggressive-hiring-spree-in-search-of-u-s-teachers/

Rockets blow big lead again as Warriors set up Cavaliers NBA finals rematch

Kevin Durant scored 34 points and the Golden State Warriors are heading to their fourth straight NBA finals after fighting back from another big deficit

Kevin Durant scored 34 points and the Golden State Warriors are heading to their fourth straight NBA finals after fighting back from another big deficit with a huge third quarter. They beat the Houston Rockets 101-92 in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals on Monday night.

Stephen Curry and the defending champions trailed by as many as 15 in the first half after falling behind 17 in Game 6. Curry, who finished with 27 points, scored 14 of Golden States 33 points in the third quarter as Houstons shooting froze. The Rockets missed all 14 three-point attempts in that quarter as part of 27 misses from long range.

The Warriors will host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Thursday night. The last three finals have been between the Warriors and Cavs, with the Warriors claiming two of them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/may/28/houston-rockets-golden-state-warriors-nba-western-conference-finals

Why Are Boomers Still Working? Maybe We Just Don’t Know How To Retire

Ann Brenoff’s “On The Fly” is a column about navigating growing older and a few other things.

 

I am a 68-year-old baby boomer who still works full time. I am precisely who younger people point to when they hear the reports that more of them can’t find jobs and more of me still have ours.

 

Even as their population numbers have swelled from 2007 to 2015, the number of  22- to 34-year-olds in the workplace has remained the same, while the number of retirement-age workers has grown 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So why don’t I just retire and make room for someone younger to have a turn at the trough?

 

Every boomer has a different story, but as a collective group our defense has been a heartfelt “we need the money.” As a demographic, we got hit hard in the Great Recession, lost our jobs, our homes and our retirement savings, and so yes, we are still working to replace what we lost more than a decade ago. We are also caregivers to elderly parents, our adult children still live with us, our names are co-signed on college loans and second mortgages, so we have expenses many incurred in the pursuit of helping others. And lastly, we exist with the constant reminder that we could very well live into the triple digits whether we want to or not, thanks to modern science and right-to-die laws with more holes than Swiss cheese. Too bad neither Social Security or Medicare are enjoying the robust health or predictions of longevity that boomers appear to be having.

So yeah, we need the money. Except maybe that’s not all of it.

 

People need more than financial security to make the leap to retirement, says the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. Work gives us intangible benefits things like a sense of worth, the knowledge that we are making a contribution and a chance to be part of something. How do you replace all that?

 

It isn’t even just that my generation has “a notoriously hard-charging work ethic and drive to get ahead” that can “make it difficult to envision downshifting into the slower pace of retired life,” as Gallup found in 2014.

 

No, it is something else. I don’t know how to retire. While I never thought of how to retire as something that needed to be learned or taught, perhaps it is.

The good news is that some corporations are changing their benefits to accommodate workers age 55 and older, mostly because we will account for 25 percent of the labor force by 2020. And some of those benefits include helping people learn how to not work anymore. Lessons include the obvious things like understanding retiree health care options and financial planning, but they also delve into what your retirement goals are. What will you do when the alarm clock no longer rings each morning?

 

Some companies are also providing the option of a phased-in retirement, where you go from full-time to part-time hours but keep all-important health benefits for you and your family members who need them. Herman Miller, the Michigan-based furniture company that employs 8,000 people worldwide, has a flexible retirement program that couples the reduction of hours for pending retirees with a coaching service. You aren’t just handed a gold watch and shown the door with insincere promises made about staying in touch; you first discuss things like setting goals. And it’s a two-way street: Retiring employees put together a knowledge-transfer plan to mentor their replacements. The flex program gives employees six months to two years to phase out of their jobs.

 

Herman Miller also lets all workers take up to 12 unpaid weeks off while their health benefits continue. This provides a good taste of retired life, and we suspect that more than a few have used it to test their snowbird wings, trading in the cold Michigan winter for a warmer climate to see if they like it.

 

I like the idea of testing out retirement before jumping in the deep end. I also like the idea that retirement could be a gradual change where the balance shifts away from work and more into post-work leisure over the course of a few months or years.

In the meantime, I have regular conversations with my financial planner, Jason, who probably serves in equal parts as my financial advisor and therapist. When I ask Jason when I can retire, I secretly hope his answer will be, “When I tell you,” because honestly, I just might need someone else to decide this for me.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-are-boomers-still-working-retire_us_5af45468e4b09bb419e59b35

Interesting Talks About Student Loans

 

Published on Jul 2, 2016

“Once upon a time in America,” says professor Sajay Samuel, “going to college did not mean graduating with debt.” Today, higher education has become a consumer product — costs have skyrocketed, saddling students with a combined debt of over $1 trillion, while universities and loan companies make massive profits. Samuel proposes a radical solution: link tuition costs to a degree’s expected earnings so that students can make informed decisions about their future, restore their love of learning and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

 

Entrepreneur Dusty Wunderlich exposes the catastrophic consequences of the student loan crisis using simple economics and explains how an oversupply of highly educated Americans is flooding the market and crushing student borrowers’ ability to thrive. Dusty proposes solutions for a more sustainable economic future and outlines a new way of decision making for parents, students, universities, and employers.

Oliver North to be NRA’s new president

Washington (CNN)Oliver North, the Fox News contributor and the central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, will be the National Rifle Association’s new president, the group announced Monday.

In his statement, LaPierre compared North favorably to Charlton Heston, the Hollywood icon who was once president of the group.
North will become president “within a few weeks,” the group said and is retiring from his position at Fox News, effective immediately.
North will join the NRA at an increasingly contentious juncture for the group, facing off against a renewed push for gun control in the wake of the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Some survivors of the shooting have emerged as prominent voices in favor of gun control measures and have accused the NRA of endangering lives through political influence.
After the shooting, President Donald Trump indicated the willingness to part with the NRA on some issues but has since backtracked and embraced the group tightly. He made his fourth consecutive appearance at the NRA’s annual convention on Friday.
In a statement slamming the choice of North, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence co-President Kris Brown referred to North as a “walking lightning rod.”
“Oliver North’s very name is synonymous with corruption and disgrace,” Brown’s statement read.
The NRA couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
LaPierre has for years assumed both public-facing and leadership roles for the group as it has navigated administrations of both parties and responses to incidences of mass gun violence. North is set to replace Pete Brownell, who the group announced on Monday would not seek a second term as NRA president.
North became a national figure during the Reagan administration as a public face of the Iran-Contra scandal and faced years of legal battles as a result before his charges were dropped in 1991. The scandal arose over secret arms sales to Iran; the US used the proceeds to fund anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua, called the Contras. Iran-Contra was a central controversy for President Ronald Reagan.
North has since become an author and hosted Fox News’ “War Stories with Oliver North,” according to the channel.
CNN reported in March that North was one of several people listed to attend a fundraiser hosted by Blackwater founder Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to note that North’s retirement from Fox News is effective immediately.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/07/politics/nra-oliver-north/index.html

NYT: For-profit college fraud investigations scaled back under Betsy DeVos

Washington (CNN)A Department of Education team that had looked into fraud and abuse by for-profit colleges has been dismantled to the point that it has “effectively killed investigations” into institutions where top hires of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once worked, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing current and former employees.

An investigation into DeVry University, now known as Adtalem Global Education, “ground to a halt early last year,” and later, over the summer, DeVos picked Julian Schmoke, a former dean at the school, to be the team’s supervisor, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, probes into for-profit education companies Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corp. also “went dark,” the newspaper said. The Times reported that former employees of those institutions are working for DeVos as well, including Robert S. Eitel, a former Bridgepoint attorney who is now her senior counselor, and Diane Auer Jones, a former Career Education employee who is now a senior postsecondary education adviser at the department. The department’s recently confirmed general counsel, Carlos G. Muñiz, provided consulting services to Career Education, the newspaper said.
Eitel recused himself last year from matters involving Bridgepoint and Career Education, where he was previously a top lawyer. Jones has not recused herself from issues involving Career Education, according to a list of recusals the department provided the newspaper. The department did not say whether Muñiz had recused himself from issues involving Career Education, the Times reported.

Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill told the Times that the team had lost members due to attrition and those investigations are just one way the team helps the department provide oversight. Hill also said the new employees who had worked in the for-profit education sector did not influence the team’s work.

 

The department’s deputy press secretary, Evelyn Stauffer, did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment Sunday.

 

DeVry, which agreed to a $100 million settlement in 2016 in a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit that alleged its ads about employment and salaries after graduation misled prospective students, did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment. Schmoke, who the department said recused himself from matters involving DeVry, declined to be interviewed by the newspaper.

The Education Department reached a limited settlement with the for-profit college in 2016 after finding it couldn’t back up claims that 90 percent of its alumni since 1975 were employed in their field of study within six months of graduating, according to the Times, which added that investigations into its other practices continued afterward.

 

Although Hill told the newspaper that the probe was suspended early last year, before President Donald Trump took office, former and current employees disputed her account, saying the team’s work became a contentious issue in meetings with Trump’s transition team, the newspaper reported.

 

Regarding the team’s investigations into recruiting and advertising issues at the other companies, Bridgepoint said in a statement to the Times that it was aware of a review of certain issues beginning in 2015, but not of the involvement of the enforcement unit. Career Education did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/13/politics/department-of-education-for-profit-investigations-betsy-devos/index.html

America’s Student Debt Crisis

Millions of Americans who went to college are now crippled by their student loans. “Debt is the first thing I factor in all of my decisions,” says Jessie Suren, who graduated with a criminal justice degree and is struggling to pay off her debt.

Currently, there is a focus because of external factors to public school (access to funding) to prepare a student for college and career readiness.  Unfortunately, some of the advice is misguided because although efforts are directed at increasing attendance in college using federal student loans there is no preventive counseling to students on how to repay the debt.

I personally made the decision to use student loans because it was a way to increase my income.  As a public school teacher, my pay is a direct correlation or table cross matrix between the years of service and my education accomplishments.  Therefore the amount of increase in annual pay because of my degrees is not uncommon but still painful each month.

I choose not to squander and complain about the debt but instead focus on using the knowledge to build the additional income to pay off the student loan debt so I can retire in comfort.  My education has developed my writing and research skills to a level that I firmly believe is capable of accomplishing anything that I focus on through the end.

 

 

This Is The Biggest Life Event That Millennials Don’t See Coming

Ann Brenoff’s “On The Fly” is a weekly column about navigating growing older and a few other things.

 

Dear millennials,

 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but you are about to get sucked into a hellhole, unlike anything you’ve ever previously imagined. It will devastate you, leave you emotionally spent, make you physically ill and resentful at times. It could totally derail your career or force you to dip into your retirement savings and then one day it will abruptly end and leave you in a state of deep grief. Oh, and the government doesn’t really give a damn about any of this, so you are pretty much on your own.

What is this nightmare scenario? You are about to become my generation’s caregivers.

That’s right. A recently released AARP report, “Millennials: The Emerging Generation of Family Caregivers,” points the finger squarely at you. It notes that your caregiving responsibilities are just starting to rev up, with about 1 in 4 of you already putting in an extra 21 hours a week taking care of us. To be clear, that is 21 unpaid hours while you work at your real jobs and/or care for your own families at the same time.

 

Close to half of you will be helping a parent or a parent-in-law. In most cases (65 percent), it will be your mother, said AARP. About 76 percent of the people cared for by millennial family members are 50 or older, and the average care recipient is 60 years old. The average care recipient helped by a grandchild is 77 years old. And more than half of millennial family caregivers (51 percent) are the sole caregiver, alone in their duties.

 

You can expect this trend to continue. As more people like me go not-so-gently into our elder years, more of you will be asked to step up and take care of us. Why? U.S. public policy has lagged woefully behind today’s reality that 10,000 baby boomers a day are turning 65. And that burden is headed straight to your shoulders.

 

So let’s start with what caregiving entails. My generation already knows this, because we’ve served as our own parents’ and spouse’s caregivers, but here’s the CliffsNotes version for you.

It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Family caregivers today do many of the same things that nurses do, and then some. And much of it isn’t pretty.

 

You can look forward to changing adult diapers (just don’t dare try to claim those as a caregiving expense!), giving medications, installing safety bars, taping down rugs and telling your grandmother who helped raise you that she can’t drive anymore while she sobs and asks you what your name is. Again.

 

You will be changing catheters and testing blood and hooking up your dad to a home dialysis machine because visiting health aides don’t come every day. Family caregivers do. You will sometimes forget to dispose of your “sharps” properly and someone will call you on it.

 

You will make multiple trips a week driving your loved one to doctors, waste hours in line at the pharmacy and spend hours on the phone with insurance providers all the while trying to juggle your own life, family, and job. You will blow your stack, cry yourself to sleep and endure days when you don’t even have time to shower. Your own health will suffer. The stress of trying to work while doing all this will feel unbearable at times, especially if you’re doing it without help. Impatience may become your middle name.

You not only don’t get paid; it will cost you.

You are a godsend that’s what everyone will tell you. After all, the work done by the nation’s family caregivers would cost about $642 billion a year if it were done by paid skilled nurses, according to the Rand Corp. Meanwhile, Rand put the annual income lost by family caregivers for the elderly at $522 billion. That was in 2014, so you can mentally adjust for inflation.

 

It’s staggering. Bear in mind: Family caregivers labor free of charge, contributing their time, their energy and often their own well-being. You will join their ranks out of love, obligation, guilt and for one other important reason: You’ll have no choice.

And it will cost you in yet another way. Caregivers’ out-of-pocket costs were nearly 20 percent of their annual income, AARP said in its 2016 report, with average annual spending of $6,954.

 

To cover the extra expense, AARP notes, many family caregivers cut back on their own spending. They reduce, if not stop, saving for retirement altogether. They don’t eat out or take vacations. And many have dipped into personal or retirement savings.

The damage to caregivers is long-lasting.

Many caregivers find their health adversely affected. A UCLA Center for Health Policy Research survey found that nearly one-third of the estimated 3 million-plus informal caregivers in California reported emotional stress so severe it disrupted their lives. “Caregiver syndrome” is the popular name for the anger, guilt, and exhaustion that come from providing unrelenting care for a chronically ill loved one.

 

As you will quickly find out for yourself, respite care an outsider to come in and give you a break once in a while is expensive and not always available.

 

Caregiving can impact your health, but what it does to your career is something awful times two. Caregivers miss days of work, don’t apply for or accept promotions, and sometimes just drop out of the paid workforce altogether to care for their loved ones.

Lost wages and benefits average $303,880 over the lifetimes of people 50 and older who stop working to care for a parent, according to a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report. To add insult to that injury, a lower earnings history means reduced Social Security payments when you become eligible.

The government could help a lot but doesn’t.

That National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report provides a very sobering look at the state of family caregiving in the U.S. It notes that caregivers are cracking under the strain, and although things could be done to support them, nobody is really paying attention.

What could be done to ease the almost certain misery you’re headed for? How about tax credits for caregiving or reimbursement for caregiving expenses? Why not offer Social Security credits so that caregivers don’t miss out down the road? And maybe pass paid family leave to take care of an elderly loved one so that after you’ve spent the night dealing with Grandpa’s tendency to rage after sunset, you don’t have to report to work at 9 a.m. the next day?

Good luck,

Ann

P.S. Welcome to the club.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/biggest-life-event-millennials-dont-see-coming_us_5b045ed8e4b0784cd2af0f9a

6 Legit Ways To Lower Your Student Loan Payments

Like millions of other Americans, financial journalist Janet Alvarez was laid off from her job in 2009. She decided to ride out the recession by pursuing her MBA, racking up six figures in student loan debt along the way.

 

But when she graduated, the economy was still sputtering, and there were few jobs available for her, despite her advanced degree. Her credit score was in the gutter, and to top it off, she had tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt.

“I was really at a rock bottom,” said Alvarez.

 

But thanks to her professional background, she had the skills to dig up solutions to her massive debt problem. Through a combination of income-driven repayment and refinancing, she was able to lower her payments until she was in a position to aggressively tackle her loans. Today she is nearly debt-free, and as the executive editor of personal finance site Wise Bread, she helps others navigate similar difficulties.

 

Whether you’re barely scraping by or simply want to pay less per month on your student loans, there’s hope for getting those payments lowered.

1. Extend your repayment plan.

When you graduated from college, you were automatically enrolled in the standard repayment plan, the default plan for federal borrowers, which requires you to pay off your loan over 10 years. What you might not realize is that this plan is not your only option far from it, in fact.

 

One way to lower your monthly payments is to enroll in an extended payment plan. Adam Minsky, a lawyer whose practice is dedicated entirely to helping people with student loans, said this allows you to stretch out payments over up to 25 years. With more time to pay, the amount you have to hand over each month decreases.

The extended repayment option is available only to federal student loan borrowers (as are most repayment benefits). Additionally, you cannot have had an outstanding balance on any Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans before Oct. 7, 1998, and you must have at least $30,000 in Direct or FFEL loans.

 

The drawback? The longer you take to pay off your loan, the more you’ll pay in total interest. It’s important to ask yourself whether lower payments now are worth spending more on your loans over time.

2. Opt for a graduated payment plan.

If your income is low now but you expect it to increase over the next few years, a graduated repayment plan might give you the breathing room you need.

 

Rather than fixed payments over 25 years, this variation of the extended repayment plan starts off with monthly payments that gradually increase. Most federal loans require a payment period of just 10 years. However, if you consolidated any loans through the Department of Education, you may have 10 to 30 years to pay off the consolidated loan, depending on how much you owe.

3. Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.

If you’re unemployed … your payment might actually be $0. Janet Alvarez, executive editor of WiseBread

You also have the option of enrolling in one of four available income-driven repayment plans, which cap monthly payments as a percentage of your discretionary income.

In fact, according to Alvarez, “if you’re unemployed or your earnings dropped to a very low level, then your payment might actually be $0.”

These plans promise to forgive any remaining balance after the repayment period is up, though borrowers must pay taxes on the full forgiven amount the same year it’s discharged.

  • Pay as you earn (PAYE): Payments are capped at 10 percent of your discretionary income and can never exceed what you would pay on the standard plan. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 20 years.
  • Revised pay as you earn (REPAYE): Payments are capped at 10 percent of your discretionary income. However, there’s no cap on how high payments can go; if your income increases significantly, so can the payments. Additionally, if you’re married, your spouse’s income and student loan debt will be considered when determining payments, even if you file taxes separately. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 20 years for undergraduate loans and 25 years for graduate loans.
  • Income-based repayment: Payments are capped at 10 to 15 percent of your discretionary income, depending on when you took out your loan. Payments will never exceed what you would pay on the standard plan. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 20 to 25 years, again depending on when you borrowed.
  • Income-contingent repayment: Payments are capped at 20 percent of your discretionary income or what your payments would be on a 12-year fixed repayment plan, whichever is less. However, there’s no cap on how high payments can go. Additionally, the amount of student loan debt you have is considered along with your income when determining payments. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 25 years.

Another reason to consider an income-driven plan: You might get your debt forgiven sooner, tax-free.

 

“Certain loan forgiveness programs require that you be in certain types of repayment plans,” said Minsky. “For instance, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires that borrowers be on an income-driven plan. So if you’re not in one of those plans, you might not be able to make qualifying payments toward that program.”

 

If you are considering one of these income-driven plans, be sure to fully investigate all the rules before committing. Then you can use the Department of Education’s repayment estimator to crunch the numbers and see which plan would work best for you.

4. Consolidate your loans.

If you have multiple federal student loans with varying interest rates, repayment terms, and payment due dates, a direct consolidation loan is a convenient way to roll all those loans into one. Plus, borrowers with loan balances exceeding $60,000 can extend their loan term up to 30 years, according to Minsky.

 

Consolidating is often required to enroll in certain repayment and forgiveness programs, including those outlined above. But even if you don’t pursue one of these programs, simply consolidating and extending the repayment period beyond 10 years is another way to see lower payments.

 

Keep in mind that federal consolidation doesn’t save you any money. Not only will you pay more interest over time, but also the interest rate you pay on your new loan will be a weighted average of your old loans, plus a small percentage. Again, you’ll have to decide what’s more important to you: more cash now or more savings overall.

5. Refinance at a lower interest rate.

One of the few options available to borrowers who took out private loans is student loan refinancing.

 

The process of refinancing involves taking out a new loan through a private lender and using that money to pay off your old loans. The goal is to achieve better terms with the new loan, such as a lower interest rate or different repayment term. Since refinancing is available only through private lenders, you’ll be subject to a credit check and other eligibility requirements to qualify, all of which vary by lender.

[With private loans,] basically, you owe what you owe, and you have to pay it. Janet Alvarez

Although it’s possible to refinance federal and private loans, refinancing federal loans is generally ill-advised. That’s because refinancing with a private lender strips you of any federal protections, such as income-driven options, forgiveness programs, deferment, and forbearance.

 

“Private loans generally don’t include any provisions to protect borrowers during times of unemployment or financial difficulty,” said Alvarez. “Basically, you owe what you owe, and you have to pay it.”

 

Even so, if you have older federal loans or high-interest PLUS loans, scoring a lower interest rate might be worth giving up those benefits.

“It comes down to the borrower’s risk tolerance … whether they’re comfortable giving up those rights and protections that are inherently part of the federal loan system,” said Minsky.

6. Set up autopay.

If you have private student loans, be sure to opt into your lender’s autopay program. Most lenders will provide a rate discount in exchange for the guarantee that they’ll get paid on time and in full every month.

Usually, the discount is a small 0.25 percent. Even so, every bit helps, especially if you have a large balance. Some lenders will offer an additional discount if you’ve made consistent payments for a certain period, according to Alvarez.

You don’t have to be held hostage by student loans.

“Most of us will at some point encounter difficulties that are beyond our control,” said Alvarez. “A recession, we can’t control. Layoffs, we often can’t control.”

However, she said, after rebuilding her financial life from scratch, she felt much more empowered.

“I understood how the game worked,” said Alvarez.

The student loan system can feel like a game in which the odds are stacked against you. But if you know what tools are at your disposal, it’s a game you can learn to win.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ways-to-lower-student-loan-payments_us_5af2165ce4b0aab8a789f1a7