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Rising student loan debt has become an impediment to an entire generation’s dreams of success through a college education. If you’re mired in debt yourself, it may feel impossible to make any serious headway on the total amount owed without giving up other important expenses and even the smallest personal luxuries.

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Like many Millennials and young people still stuck paying for the promise of “adulthood” and a better life down the road, the burden of student loan debt remains a source of deep concern and stress. If student loans are dragging you down both physically and mentally, it’s time to reevaluate your approach and take decisive actions that will lead to positive, lasting results.

Student Loans in the 2016 Election

With Millennials having finally overtaken the “Boomers” as America’s largest living generation according to The Pew Research Center, the student loan crisis sits front and center on both the Republican and Democratic parties’ platforms going into the November Presidential election.

Taking a leaf from Bernie Sander’s book, Hillary Clinton has now promised to eliminate 4-year college or university tuition for families earning less than $85,000, among other student loan debt relief tactics. While Donald Trump has stated that he’ll release his position on the student loan crisis by the beginning of September, the official 2016 GOP platform is calling for the Federal Government to stop originating student loans.

Discussing the Debt Crisis

It’s common knowledge today that young Americans are saddled with more debt than previous generations; between an anemic job market, higher housing costs, and rising tuition, it’s difficult to find secure economic footing and grow one’s wealth. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances, college students now face a whopping average of $30,156 in debt upon graduation, and a full 18 percent of graduates report being behind on one or more of their loans.

Why Debt Weighs Heavy

A recent study published in the Social Science & Medicine journal revealed that being in debt harms more than just the financial health of young Americans. Owing large sums also tends to negatively impact one’s physical and mental wellbeing, leading to a range of damaging physiological and psychological symptoms. While the study focused exclusively on families with young children, it seems fair to extend their findings to conclude that debt is stressful for all. Additional research also indicates a correlation between high debt and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. According to several other major research projects, debt-related depression and anxiety can lead to serious medical problems such as:

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  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of strokes and heart attacks
  • Sleeping abnormalities
  • Panic disorders
  • Weight gain, headaches, and digestive problems
  • Alcohol or substance abuse

Finding Balance and Making Changes

It hard not to feel overwhelmed when you’re making consistent debt payments every month and seeing little change in your debt load. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. By acknowledging your debt, eliminating negative thoughts about money, and forgiving yourself, you can make positive changes that will help you manage – and reduce — your debt load with less stress. The following are some ways to resist the negative attitudes of others, eliminate poor spending habits, and create a bubble of positivity and support around yourself.

  • Become aware of negative thoughts
  • Make an effort to think and speak positively about your future
  • Reiterate your goals first thing every day
  • Surround yourself with inspiring affirmations
  • Spend time with positive people
  • Break goals into achievable milestones

Related reading The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Creative Student Debt Management

Repaying your student loans and personal debt is a long term process that requires determination and a certain amount of ingenuity. With a creative debt elimination plan you will be able to tackle and reduce your debt more quickly — without resorting to eating ramen noodles or mac-n-cheese at every meal. The following are a few “outside the box” strategies you can employ to conquer your student loans once and for all:

Choose public service. If you enjoy helping others, the Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) can help you reduce your Federal Student Loan debt. Additionally, law enforcement, non-profit, military, public school administration, public health, and some government positions may lead to qualification for debt forgiveness.

Ask your employer to foot the bill. Many companies acknowledge the negative impact of their employees’ student debt and may offer benefits packages that include student loan reimbursement.

Don’t forget your deductions. A portion of your student loan payment goes toward interest. Deduct up to $4,000 in interest from your taxes for your qualifying student loans, and up to $2,500 in deductions in qualified higher education expenses through the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

Avoid incurring more debt. When you are saddled with debt, it’s not wise to add to it with significant financial obligations such as buying a home, purchasing a vehicle, or getting married.

Use auto-debit payments. By enrolling in an automatic payment program you’ll avoid incurring fees by missing payments, and may be able to reduce your interest rate. For example, Sally Mae offers a .25 percent reduction in loan interest to qualifying applicants.

Negotiate with creditors. If your phone is ringing off the hook with calls from creditors and debt collectors, sitting down for a chat is probably the last thing you want to do. And while buying your own debt is, unfortunately, not possible, you can have a meaningful discussion with your creditor and ask questions that will (hopefully) lead to a payment arrangement, or a settlement agreement, that works better for you given your current financial situation. If possible, try to work out an agreement with creditors before a bill is sent to collection agencies.

By acknowledging your current debt, eliminating negative thoughts about money, and forgiving yourself, you can make positive strides that will help you manage – and reduce — your debt load with less stress. Facing your student loan debt obligation head-on with a positive attitude and a creative approach will can leave you happier, healthier, and debt-free sooner. 

The tools are out there, we simply have to take action as we see changes in our overall society happen and hopefully one day see the removal of a debt based system.

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