A Veteran’s Guide To Debt
Learn to Manage Money After Time in the Military
Managing and getting out of debt is difficult, especially when every day there seems to be another way to take on more. There are ways, however, that military veterans can take advantage of government programs and benefits to help you reduce the debt you have, refinance it and budget for a debt-free future.
Examine What You Have
Your first step to getting out of debt is to look at what you have currently. Gather up your bills and check your credit scores with the major credit bureaus for both personal finances and any businesses you own. You can then examine solutions for each of these such as refinancing loans with higher interest rates, working with your creditors to see if they have options or programs available to you and even looking at government programs to eliminate your student loans.
Refinance When Practical
Refinancing a loan means taking out a new loan at a lower interest rate and using that to pay off your existing one. This is usually done with home mortgages and can give you an equity balance to use for home renovations or paying off credit lines or other loans with higher interest rates. Veterans have access to Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans through the VA and you can check the VA IRRRL rates through your mortgage provider, a third-party lender or on the VA benefits site to see how low of a rate you can currently lock in.
Eliminate What You Can Through Benefits Programs
There are ways to discharge student loans, and some other debts, through the benefits offered military veterans. For example, if you have one hundred percent disability rating from the VA, then the Department of Education offers a chance to have your student loans discharged. This means that the debts are forgiven and should no longer appear on your credit report. It is important to monitor your credit report for this information, however, as sometimes it can be mistakenly listed as “assigned to the government” for monitoring. That listing is common for those who have Social Security disability discharges, but the step is skipped for those with the VA rating.
Pay More Than Minimums
While it may be tempting to pay just the minimum due each month on each debt, rounding the payment up even a little bit can save you money in the long run. The bigger your monthly payment, the less of a balance will be there to generate interest over the next billing cycle. It is important to check that your payment is going to the principal and not the interest for maximum benefit, you will also want to make sure that there are no prepayment penalties on your mortgage or other loans. When you can keep your revolving credit balances below thirty percent, you can bump up your credit score as well.
Track Your Spending
Once you have gathered all your debt statements and checked your credit reports for accuracy, you can sit down to make a budget to avoid more debt and pay down what you owe. This is a difficult step for many people because it is easy to write a budget based on what you think you spend instead of what you really do. Take the time to write down all your cash flow for a month on a tracker, like your check register, or on a plain piece of paper. Write down the information from your receipts as soon as you can and remember any automatic payments. This will give you the best picture of your spending habits and allow you to work real numbers into your budget.
Getting out of debt is a difficult process, but it can be easier with a few tips and tricks such as paying more than your minimum due and researching government programs. Veterans can take advantage of benefits like student loan forgiveness, VA IRRRL programs and even grants. The more you research available help and track your spending, the better your budget will look moving forward.