Author Topic: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)  (Read 16215 times)

onehappypanda

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Was looking for info on paying student loans early today and ran across this little nugget:
http://www.thousandaire.com/blog/dont-pay-off-your-student-loans/

I'd love to hear a discussion on it.

My take:
It might make sense to hold off on paying more than the minimum a low-interest loan if you can make more money investing it elsewhere. So that bit is true.

However I think the advice of never paying off a low-interest loan early, even if it's possible to do it all in one fell swoop, might be a tad extreme.

And I think advice like this can easily be taken the wrong way. Especially the whole "you don't get rich by avoiding debt" thing. Some people take that as a license to spend whatever the hell they want even if it's not necessary.

What do you all think?

arebelspy

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2012, 07:43:46 PM »
Blanket statements like this are made to be eye-catching headlines.

Of course it depends on the many details.  Interest rate, opportunity cost, risk tolerance, etc.

The wife and I have student loans that are now paid off to have a remaining balance of just under 3K for me, and about $800 for her.

I have about 70 grand cash sitting in various money market and checking accounts.  I could quite easily pay them off.

But the interest rate is 3.5% or so.  I'd rather pay the minimums and the tiny amount of interest and have the $3800 extra in cash for jumping on opportunities (like houses).

I'll be sad the day they're paid off.  Sure, it'll free up a few hundred in cashflow but I'd rather have the chunk of cheap cash.

For others it may be different.

Mostly though the pay it down early crowd is the "no debt" crowd that just wants to pay it down to not have debt, rather than because it's the mathematically smart thing to do, cause, as this article points out, it usually isn't.

Reading through that article though, I have to say, it was VERY well written.  Kudos to the author, cause many personal finance sites these days (MMM excluded) write very blah stuff (GRS, FMF, TSD, etc.)  Good examples and good discussion.

However looking at the first comment, his reply, and her counter reply, it shows what I was talking about regarding the "no debt" crowd - they're often stubborn to the point of being irrational about debt.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2012, 07:47:04 PM by arebelspy »
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Early FI

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2012, 08:50:46 PM »
Luckily he wrote that post in July of 2011.  Had he written it in July of 2009, I suspect the headline would read "Pay Your Student Loans Down ASAP - Guaranteed 5% Return".  I wish he would have included a discussion of asset allocation (surely the choice isn't paying off your student loans and 100% stocks, right?).  Also, he should have focused on future expected market returns instead of focusing on the 28% return from 2010.  Ignoring 2008 and 2009 significantly weakens his argument.  Not that I disagree with his thesis...

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2012, 10:55:35 PM »
Odd. He just posted this blog about paying off his student loans early and in full...

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2012, 11:31:06 PM »
Nevermind - this post explains it. Sort of. He flip-flopped on his earlier position and decided to pay off his loans in full because he's not sure he can make more by investing the money elsewhere. He then uses some fuzzy math to justify repaying the loans early by pointing out all the interest he'd save - as one commenter pointed out, the savings amount to about 9% (not annualized, mind you) over 5 years. I wonder what happened in the writer's life to change his perspective so drastically...

arebelspy

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2012, 11:46:39 PM »
Nevermind - this post explains it. Sort of. He flip-flopped on his earlier position and decided to pay off his loans in full because he's not sure he can make more by investing the money elsewhere. He then uses some fuzzy math to justify repaying the loans early by pointing out all the interest he'd save - as one commenter pointed out, the savings amount to about 9% (not annualized, mind you) over 5 years. I wonder what happened in the writer's life to change his perspective so drastically...

How disappointing.

That's one thing I like about MMM, his uncompromising nature.  Not that he won't listen to reason, but that he sticks to his guns, even if others don't like it.
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Ben

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2012, 05:42:32 AM »
Nothing wrong with some flip-flopping if his understandings, beliefs, or needs have changed. One of the silly things about our government (and human nature in general) is that people get dinged for having the humility to change their mind as opposed to bullrushing forwards with their original stance.

That being said, he played fast-and-loose with his fuzzy math justifying why you should keep your loans (using 2010 stock returns as justification), and fast-and-loose again while justifying why he paid them off (using total ROI instead of annualized ROI). And advocates saving up to pay the ENTIRE loan off in one check, as opposed to sending in additional principal payments each month.

So it seems safe to say that he is still learning about economics and math, and it would be good for him to keep flip-flopping as his knowledge and understanding expands. Unfortunately, that means his readers may be on a bit of a roller coaster with him as he continues to learn, but that's what happens when you follow a blogger during his financial education.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2012, 05:58:33 AM »
Sucks for those of us with student loans at terrible rates like 6.7%

arebelspy

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2012, 07:46:59 AM »
Nothing wrong with some flip-flopping if his understandings, beliefs, or needs have changed.

I don't mind that he changes his mind, just that he had no justifiable reason for doing so.  Claiming a 12% return is ridiculous (cause it's over 6 years, so it was basically a 2%/yr return).

If he at least said "yeah, it doesn't mathematically make sense, but I want to be debt free" or whatever, fine.  But to try and justify it how he did... meh.

If you want to be taken seriously, it helps to either be consistent or else have a good reason for not being so.  He has neither.

Sucks for those of us with student loans at terrible rates like 6.7%

Yeah, that's rough.  =/   I could see the case for paying them down then.  Mine at 3.5%?  Not so much.
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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 09:31:02 AM »
From the post:

Quote
I canít say it enough; rich people donít get rich by avoiding debt. Very few business owners start a business with their own money. Almost all of them take out a loan, and the ones that are successful get a much larger return on that investment than the 8% or whatever interest they paid to borrow it.

...and the ones that aren't successful get hosed.

If this dude is so confident in his ability to earn are good return in the stock market, why didn't he propose trading on margin, which he could get at a much lower interest rate than his student loan?

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2012, 10:06:50 AM »
So it seems safe to say that he is still learning about economics and math, and it would be good for him to keep flip-flopping as his knowledge and understanding expands. Unfortunately, that means his readers may be on a bit of a roller coaster with him as he continues to learn, but that's what happens when you follow a blogger during his financial education.

Well said.  I think there are quite a few personal finance blogs around like this.  It's more about their journey and the things they learn along the way, which is great, but as you mentioned, it might confuse the readers if they get the wrong impression about the author's knowledge.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2012, 10:51:11 AM »

The wife and I have student loans that are now paid off to have a remaining balance of just under 3K for me, and about $800 for her.

I have about 70 grand cash sitting in various money market and checking accounts.  I could quite easily pay them off.

But the interest rate is 3.5% or so.  I'd rather pay the minimums and the tiny amount of interest and have the $3800 extra in cash for jumping on opportunities (like houses).

I'll be sad the day they're paid off.  Sure, it'll free up a few hundred in cashflow but I'd rather have the chunk of cheap cash.

For others it may be different.

Mostly though the pay it down early crowd is the "no debt" crowd that just wants to pay it down to not have debt, rather than because it's the mathematically smart thing to do, cause, as this article points out, it usually isn't.

I'm confused. If you have $70K sitting in cash in money market or checking accounts, are you getting a better interest rate than inflation, let alone the 3.5% you're paying on your debt? I thought it was mathematically better to invest rather than pay off debt if you could be reasonably sure of a better rate of return for your money. If it's more the opportunity cost of quickly jumping on a house, wouldn't that be similar to someone wanting to pay off their debt for the opportunity to be able to switch to a lower-paying but more fulfilling job? I am one of those people that dislike debt, though, so I might just be seeing this through my bias!

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2012, 10:56:03 AM »
I think the topic of paying of student loans is pretty interesting. The one thing I really like about student loans is they are above line tax deductible. That means  you can take the standard deduction and deduct you student loan interest.

My wife and I still have about $4000 of student loans left (started at $63000.) Part of me wants to pay them off just so I can say I don't have any debt other than my mortgage. The other part of me says 1.875% is one hell of an interest rate.

arebelspy

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2012, 11:51:47 AM »
I thought it was mathematically better to invest rather than pay off debt if you could be reasonably sure of a better rate of return for your money.

It is.

If it's more the opportunity cost of quickly jumping on a house

Yes, it is.  Right now I have 4 houses in escrow (short sales that can take anywhere from 2 months to 8+ months), plus a fourplex.  I have two rehabs going.  Other deals come up that are cash only.  I need to keep a decent cash cushion to jump on available deals.  It's actually a little low right now.  The return I get from being able to take advantage of these deals as they come up far exceeds the small opportunity cost of keeping the cash and paying 3.5% on a student loan.

wouldn't that be similar to someone wanting to pay off their debt for the opportunity to be able to switch to a lower-paying but more fulfilling job?

These seem like apples and oranges to me.  If someone wants to pay off debt to switch to a lower paying job, there's reasons for and against that idea (paying off the debt vs investing, before switching to the job), mostly related to risk.
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velocistar237

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2012, 11:56:44 AM »
I thought this thread was going to be about Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #15 on: March 05, 2012, 03:01:03 PM »
I thought it was mathematically better to invest rather than pay off debt if you could be reasonably sure of a better rate of return for your money.

It is.

If it's more the opportunity cost of quickly jumping on a house

Yes, it is.  Right now I have 4 houses in escrow (short sales that can take anywhere from 2 months to 8+ months), plus a fourplex.  I have two rehabs going.  Other deals come up that are cash only.  I need to keep a decent cash cushion to jump on available deals.  It's actually a little low right now.  The return I get from being able to take advantage of these deals as they come up far exceeds the small opportunity cost of keeping the cash and paying 3.5% on a student loan.

wouldn't that be similar to someone wanting to pay off their debt for the opportunity to be able to switch to a lower-paying but more fulfilling job?

These seem like apples and oranges to me.  If someone wants to pay off debt to switch to a lower paying job, there's reasons for and against that idea (paying off the debt vs investing, before switching to the job), mostly related to risk.

Thanks for your response! I understand your POV now.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2012, 08:01:21 AM »

Thanks for your response! I understand your POV now.

No problem.  Thanks for forcing me to clarify.  :)

Some may be benefited by paying down a loan, even a cheap one, based on risk tolerance and peace of mind.

Most aren't going to be willing to jump on opportunities, so cash sitting is costing them money, and is a bad idea.

However, even if I didn't want cash sitting (as I do), I'd invest the money in something like the permanent portfolio before I'd pay down a student loan at 3.5%.  Others wouldn't.  Thus why the blanket statement that catches eyeballs is almost always wrong. 
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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2012, 09:36:32 AM »
I thought this thread was going to be about Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Speaking of this, if I consolidated my student loans after graduation, can I still take this option, or am I out of luck?

Oh damnnit, the clock only starts after 2007?

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2012, 10:18:05 AM »
Speaking of this, if I consolidated my student loans after graduation, can I still take this option, or am I out of luck?

It depends. If the consolidation was private, you're out of luck. I helped someone look through her loans to see whether she could do IBR, and at least a good chunk of them didn't qualify because of the type of consolidation.

Oh damnnit, the clock only starts after 2007?

When I heard about IBR, I was ready to spread the good news to all my friends. The more I look at it, though, the more I see that it doesn't help very many people. If you took out the right kind of loan after a certain date and didn't consolidate it the wrong way, and you plan to have a low-paying job for 25 years, or at least for 10 years while working at a 501(c)(3), then it can work. It helps to have dependents, too. Or, if you game the system and become FI before taking out a bunch of school loans, and then you keep your expenses low, you can get away with never paying them back, you just have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount (unless PSLF). Also, this also only works if they don't get rid of the program. It would be interesting to see some IBR & PSLF statistics, but it hasn't been long enough since the programs were created.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #19 on: March 06, 2012, 09:21:37 PM »
My student loan at 3.5% (effectively 2.7% after tax refund) is gonna last as long as I can make it, as long as I'm paying down mortgages and other debts at higher rates.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2012, 07:37:05 AM »
I haven't been able to deduct student loan interest for a few years - I think there are income limits to doing so?

Our debt is comprised of:
--mortgage @ 4.875%
--consolidated student loan @ 3.13%
--family loan @ 0%

Financially I guess it makes most sense to throw extra money toward the mortgage over the other two, but I can't get away from the psychological relief I would feel to be done with the non-mortgage loans. Ah, psychology!

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2012, 07:55:52 AM »
My wife's student loan makes me depressed. All there is to do is pay it down. Tears.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2012, 08:49:00 AM »
http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-10-06/next-bankruptcy-whole-generation

Yes, every college is raising it's tuition. That still doesn't mean you should just stick with the place that charges $30k/year.

And there is a way to ensure competition. High School graduates should boycott any college that charges over a certain price per year. Of course, since our society is cutthroat in regard to educational competition, I won't hold my breath on that one.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2012, 12:26:53 PM »
My wife's student loan makes me depressed. All there is to do is pay it down. Tears.

I hear you.  My wife's graduate school cost a bundle (about half financed with student loans), and sometime I wonder if it was worth it.  And now we've reached an income bracket where the 6.8% loans are no longer deductible.  Paying this off is our top priority.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2012, 03:20:26 PM »
My wife's student loan makes me depressed. All there is to do is pay it down. Tears.

I hear you.  My wife's graduate school cost a bundle (about half financed with student loans), and sometime I wonder if it was worth it.  And now we've reached an income bracket where the 6.8% loans are no longer deductible.  Paying this off is our top priority.


Yup same problem

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2012, 05:43:10 PM »
I'll piggy back on a lot of the remarks in saying it isn't a simple "if, then" scenario. YMMV, as they say.

  • Where does this interest rate fall amongst total debts?
  • Higher student loan rates may warrant early pay off or using a 0% credit card, roll the debt onto a 0% CC and pay it off ASAP.
  • People who are making over 75k ($150,000 if filing a joint return)) cannot write off student loan debt:  http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch04.html
  • If market returns are possibly higher than your student loan interest rate, then it may be worth investing vs. paying off that debt.
  • What is the psychological effect for you of being totally debt free? That is different for everyone.

My interest rate on 6k of student loan debt is 3.9%. At current standings, I'm not convinced I'd be better off spending that money elsewhere (in addition to debt free = peace of mind factor). If stocks were in the gutter, I'd be more willing to delay pay off but I'm not seeing a lot of bargains out there right now (with my limited skill set).

All this said.... I've got an appt with my financial advisor next week, I'll bounce this off of him while looking at my portfolio and see if my opinion changes. :-D

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #26 on: March 14, 2012, 09:51:14 AM »
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500395_162-57396672/rate-on-popular-student-loan-about-to-double/?tag=stack

Federal Subsidized Stafford loans are about to double their rates.

I never qualified for any (my consolidated loans are at like 4.3%), and like others have mentioned, I haven't been able to get the tax deduction for years.

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #27 on: March 14, 2012, 10:36:38 AM »
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500395_162-57396672/rate-on-popular-student-loan-about-to-double/?tag=stack

Federal Subsidized Stafford loans are about to double their rates.

I never qualified for any (my consolidated loans are at like 4.3%), and like others have mentioned, I haven't been able to get the tax deduction for years.

My prediction:
It's an election year.  They'll ignore it on purpose to let it blow up into a big story, then extend the current rate to make people happy and try to get votes.

Thanks for the heads up though, in case it does happen. Good to know!
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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #28 on: March 14, 2012, 12:52:50 PM »
Blanket statements like this are made to be eye-catching headlines.

Of course it depends on the many details.  Interest rate, opportunity cost, risk tolerance, etc.

The wife and I have student loans that are now paid off to have a remaining balance of just under 3K for me, and about $800 for her.

I have about 70 grand cash sitting in various money market and checking accounts.  I could quite easily pay them off.

But the interest rate is 3.5% or so.  I'd rather pay the minimums and the tiny amount of interest and have the $3800 extra in cash for jumping on opportunities (like houses).

I'll be sad the day they're paid off.  Sure, it'll free up a few hundred in cashflow but I'd rather have the chunk of cheap cash.

For others it may be different.

Mostly though the pay it down early crowd is the "no debt" crowd that just wants to pay it down to not have debt, rather than because it's the mathematically smart thing to do, cause, as this article points out, it usually isn't.

Reading through that article though, I have to say, it was VERY well written.  Kudos to the author, cause many personal finance sites these days (MMM excluded) write very blah stuff (GRS, FMF, TSD, etc.)  Good examples and good discussion.

However looking at the first comment, his reply, and her counter reply, it shows what I was talking about regarding the "no debt" crowd - they're often stubborn to the point of being irrational about debt.


The problem with the debt strategy that you are espousing is not the strategy itself, its the people. Most people who forgo paying off the student loans are not going to be investing intelligently enough for the strategy to work. IF they are even investing it at all. They mostly just use this 'strategy' as a rationalization for not paying their student loans.   For the average person, its just not worth the risk to have outstanding debt at 3.5 - 4% and money invested earning 6-7%. The real gains after inflation are just not worth the risk to people who don't both know what they are doing AND have a lot of discipline.

Just like the average athlete won't get results trying to use the same moves as the pros.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 12:55:15 PM by The Money Monk »

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #29 on: March 14, 2012, 01:57:50 PM »
The real gains after inflation are just not worth the risk

Inflation is irrelevant, because it affects both; sure, it makes the earnings you make by investing the money worth less, but at the same time the loan costs you less in inflation adjusted dollars.

However, you're right, if a person doesn't have the discipline to invest the money, pay down a low rate loan.

Just like you shouldn't do a 0% credit card transfer if you can't handle saving the money and paying it off.

I'm assuming most Mustachians are badass enough to invest the money and not splurge.  In this case, paying off the student loans is a bad idea.

In the case that you will spend the money on stupid sh*t, don't do that, pay down the loans instead.  Of course, if you have the discipline to do that, then invest the money instead.  ;)
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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #30 on: March 19, 2012, 07:33:14 AM »
The real gains after inflation are just not worth the risk

Inflation is irrelevant, because it affects both; sure, it makes the earnings you make by investing the money worth less, but at the same time the loan costs you less in inflation adjusted dollars.


Yeah but that only works if your income increases in pace with inflation. Possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

arebelspy

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #31 on: March 19, 2012, 07:53:07 AM »
The real gains after inflation are just not worth the risk

Inflation is irrelevant, because it affects both; sure, it makes the earnings you make by investing the money worth less, but at the same time the loan costs you less in inflation adjusted dollars.


Yeah but that only works if your income increases in pace with inflation. Possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

No.  If you are directly comparing inflation adjusted invested money to inflation adjusted loans, inflation is irrelevant.

If you are making $0, it doesn't matter.  You're comparing buying power of future dollars, whether they be in loans or investments.  Future salary is irrelevant.
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velocistar237

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2012, 07:53:50 AM »
Yeah but that only works if your income increases in pace with inflation. Possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

For many people, salaries stagnate mid-career, so income might not keep pace with even low-interest debt. On the other hand, many investments, e.g. equities in general, keep pace with inflation. Companies sell products, so when the product price goes up, so do the stock price and the dividend. Also, bond funds exist with a stable return of 5+%, so it doesn't make sense to pay down a 3% debt, however your income behaves.

trammatic

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #33 on: March 21, 2012, 07:11:49 AM »
http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-10-06/next-bankruptcy-whole-generation
And there is a way to ensure competition. High School graduates should boycott any college that charges over a certain price per year. Of course, since our society is cutthroat in regard to educational competition, I won't hold my breath on that one.
Funny thing is, about 5 years ago, George Washington university in DC actually significantly raised tuition to signal that its program was worth more than competing schools.  It worked...applications spiked and the average quality of incoming freshmen went up.

James

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #34 on: March 21, 2012, 07:44:32 AM »
8 years ago I graduated with my Masters and $64k of debt and hit the lowest lock in rate in the history of student loans.  It's locked in less than 3%, and everyone said I'd be an idiot to pay it down, "It's like free money".  8 years later I've realized I've been an idiot not to pay it off, I've still got half the loan sitting out there.  Like others have mentioned, I used the low interest rate as an excuse to spend my money elsewhere.  I certainly put a nice large amount into retirement accounts, but I could have done that while also paying off the loan.  I purchased a new vehicle just one year out of school, and if I had purchased a used one I could have put $20k toward the loan.  We purchased a larger house because we had the excess money in our monthly budget, and now I'm down $100k in the value of that house and we want to move closer to town or out of state. 

Having that remaining student loan hanging over our heads just doesn't make sense for us, even though I'm sure I could make more in investments.  I desire simplicity more than money.  I know I could make more by investing the money rather than paying down the loan, but I have enough money coming in to both invest and pay down the debt.  Maybe when I'm 50 I'll look back and regret paying off the loan because I'd be $10k richer if I'd invested the money instead, but it's much more likely I'll regret a lot of stupid purchases instead.

Physics

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Re: Don't EVER pay off your student loans. (and other interesting advice)
« Reply #35 on: March 21, 2012, 08:14:01 AM »
I had a similar approach.  I decided that the simplicity I gained by having no debt was worth more to me than the spread on the possible leveraged profit I could use the money for otherwise.

In other words, I had a guaranteed return on paying down debt (my mortgage in this case), and at the end of it, one less monthly thing to worry about, and one less big corporation that had influence on my life and could cause headaches for me through incompetence or malice.  And on the other hand I had the (risk weighted) possible better investments I could use the money for.  Others may have a different result for their calculation but I'm 100% positive I made the correct decision for me and my family.

I now have $200 total debt (my credit card spending so far this month since I last paid it in full).  The peace of mind is so wonderful and my balance sheet is ALL green.  Also, as long as I can continue paying my property taxes, I will always have a nice, safe place for my family to live.  I aim to minimize structural costs wherever they are.