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College Students and Recent Grads

How to Set Up IBR, PAYE, and ICR Student Loan Repayment Plans

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

How to Set Up IBR, PAYE, and ICR Student Loan Repayment Plans

Does the amount you earn on a yearly basis pale in comparison to your monthly student loan payments? Do you have federal student loans? If the answer is “yes” to both of these, then you might benefit from a student loan repayment plan. These income-driven plans include:

Income-driven repayment plans can reduce your monthly payment amount — sometimes dramatically — because they cap that payment at a (hopefully) affordable level, based on your income and family size. Your payment adjusts annually according to these factors.

Specifically, the amount you pay is calculated as a percentage of your discretionary income. According to the Federal Student Aid office, for IBR and PAYE, discretionary income is the difference between your income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence. For ICR, it’s the difference between your income and 100% of the poverty guideline. (You can look up the poverty guidelines used to determine eligibility for some federal programs, if you want more information.)

A great benefit of these plans is that each has a maximum length — usually 20 or 25 years — after which all remaining loan balances are forgiven. Note, however, that you will generally be taxed on the amount that gets wiped away.

Want to find out how to apply for an income-driven repayment plan? Read on for information on how the process works.

Getting started with income-driven repayment plans

Generally, if you want to set up your student loan account on an income-driven repayment plan, your best bet is to first contact your student loan servicer. (Not sure which loan servicer you have? You can check on the National Student Loan Data System website.)

If you log into your account online, you should see a section for changing your repayment plan. At the least, your servicer should address the issue in an FAQ section of its site.

It’s your loan servicer’s job to help you find the best plan for your situation, but you need to contact it as soon as you start having difficulty in making payments. You don’t want to miss any payments and end up delinquent (or worse, in default) because you couldn’t pay. Plus, loans that are in default aren’t eligible for income-driven repayment plans.

How to apply for income-driven student loan repayment

The application process is very simple and straightforward. The first step is to fill out the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Request form. This can be done online, or you can apply with a paper application supplied by your student loan servicer.

When you make your request, you have to choose the specific plan you’d like to go with. You can select one yourself, or you can ask your loan servicer to choose the plan with the lowest monthly payment amount.

Since you’re applying for a repayment plan based on your taxable income, you will need to provide proof of income. The easiest way is to use your most recent tax return, as long as your income hasn’t changed significantly from the date you filed. You will also need to have filed a federal income tax return for the past two years.

The online application makes it easy to find your adjusted gross income (AGI) — you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your income information. If you apply with a paper application, you’ll need to supply a paper copy of your most recent federal tax return or an IRS tax return transcript.

If your income has changed a lot since you last filed, or if you haven’t filed two federal tax returns yet, there are other ways of proving your income.

First, if you don’t have any source of income at all, you just need to indicate that on your application. Only taxable income counts. So if you receive any government assistance or any other income that’s not considered taxable, you don’t need to report it here.

If you do earn an income, you’ll need to provide your most recent pay stubs or other alternative documentation that shows how much you make.

Additionally, if you have federal loans with multiple loan servicers, you must request income-driven repayment for each loan individually. There’s a section of the application that asks if you have eligible loans with more than one servicer, so you can indicate that there.

The application itself shouldn’t take long to complete, but the entire process can take a few weeks, depending on which loan servicer you have.

If you have an immediate need to lessen your payments, your loan servicer may apply a forbearance to your federal loans while the process wraps up. That’s why it’s important to contact your servicer as soon as you realize that you can’t make your payments.

You have to reapply annually

You’ll be required to submit your proof of income on an annual basis after you apply the first time. As your income changes, so does your payment, so you need to provide this information continuously. However, there’s no income limit for income-driven repayment plans.

If you start earning more and you’re on an IBR or PAYE plan, your payment amount is capped at the amount you’d be paying under the standard 10-year repayment plan. It will never exceed that amount. Technically, your loans will still be under your chosen income-driven repayment plan, but your monthly payment is no longer based on your income. You can still have your outstanding loan balance forgiven after your repayment term ends (if you don’t pay your loan off before then).

For ICR plans, your payment amount could fluctuate between the lesser of 20% of your discretionary income and what your monthly payment would be if you had a 12-year fixed plan. On a REPAYE plan, your monthly payment is simply 10% of your discretionary income.

Whose income is taken Into consideration?

If you’re married and wondering if your spouse’s income will be taken into consideration, it depends on how you file your federal taxes.

Filing separately means only your income and loans will matter (unless you’re on a REPAYE plan, which considers both incomes, regardless of how you file).

Filing jointly means your monthly payment will be based off of your joint income. If you and your spouse file jointly and you both have eligible federal student loans, all of them will be taken into consideration, but your spouse doesn’t have to enter into an income-driven repayment plan for you to join.

Meet the income-driven repayment plans

Now, let’s take a look at each major plan type and some of their respective details:

Income-Based Repayment plan overview

You don’t qualify for IBR unless your payment amount would be less than what you’re paying under the standard 10-year repayment plan.

A good way to estimate whether you’ll qualify is to check if your total student loan debt is higher than (or makes up a significant portion of) your annual discretionary income, which would reduce your monthly payment under IBR. If your debt-to-income ratio — how much student loans and other debt you have relative to your income — is high, you may qualify for this option. You can calculate your DTI in a few simple steps using information about your monthly income, debts and payments.

Borrowers who got their first student loans after July 1, 2014, have a maximum term of 20 years under IBR plans, while borrowers who had loan balances before July 1, 2014, have a maximum 25 year term. Anything left after those terms expire will be forgiven.

Pay As You Earn plan overview

For PAYE, your monthly payment will be about 10% of your discretionary income, and never more than what you’re paying under the standard 10-year payment plan.

You have a maximum of 20 years to pay back your loans under this plan, after which your balance is forgiven.

The qualifications for PAYE are the same as IBR — you must be paying less under PAYE than you were under the standard 10-year plan.

However, PAYE is only available to those who were new, first-time borrowers as of Oct. 1, 2007, and who received a disbursement in the form of a direct loan on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

Revised Pay As You Earn plan overview

REPAYE is a fairly recent addition to the income-driven repayment plan menu. It’s similar to PAYE in many ways but distinct in a few key ones.

For example, unlike with PAYE, REPAYE is available to any borrower, regardless of when you received your first federal student loan. And, if you’re married, your spouse’s income will be considered in calculating your monthly payment, no matter how you file your taxes.

Under this plan, your monthly payment is 10% of your discretionary income, and you must repay your loans for 20 years if they were used for undergraduate studies (or 25 years if you took out loans for graduate or professional studies) before they are forgiven.

Income-Contingent Repayment plan overview

Your monthly payment under the ICR plan is the lesser of these two options: 20% of your discretionary income, or the amount you would pay on a 12-year fixed repayment plan, adjusted according to your income.

Under this plan, your term is 25 years before you can receive forgiveness. There are no initial guidelines you must qualify under — anyone can choose this plan to repay their student loans.

Benefits of income-driven repayment plans

As mentioned, the big bonus for all four of these repayment plans is that your outstanding balance is forgiven after your repayment term is complete. Also, if you qualify for forgiveness after 10 years through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, that takes precedence.

IBR, PAYE and REPAYE have an extra perk if you took out a subsidized student loan: If your monthly payment isn’t enough to cover any interest that accrues monthly on your subsidized loan, the government will pay the difference for the first three years. For REPAYE plans, the government will also pay half of the difference on your unsubsidized loan and continue to cover half of the difference after three years on your subsidized loan.

You can use MagnifyMoney’s student loan calculators to see which plans could offer you the lowest monthly payment. Income-driven plans aren’t guaranteed to give you the lowest possible payment — all situations are different. And don’t forget that there are other repayment plans that aren’t reliant upon your income but can still lower your monthly payment, such as the graduated and extended repayment plans.

Check with your loan servicer first

Before applying for an income-driven repayment plan, it’s best to check with your loan servicer to get its input. You don’t want to end up owing more per month than you do now. These repayment plans are designed to help you, not hurt you.

You may find that forbearance or deferment is a better option, especially if you’re only experiencing a temporary economic hardship. Note that both forbearance and deferment can result in interest piling up, so be careful to examine all your options before you decide.

And while it’s crucial to check with your servicer, remember that this is your decision, and you don’t have to follow your servicer’s advice. The best solution will be the one that saves you the most money while also fitting with your own financial goals.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

Emily Long
Emily Long |

Emily Long is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Emily here

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Best Savings Accounts for Kids

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Piggy banks are fun for small change, but if you want to teach your kids important lessons about managing money and the power of compound interest, get them their own savings account. While your local bank branch probably offers more than one savings account product, you might consider looking online for one that’s designed with children in mind.

To aid in your search, we have chosen six savings accounts tailored for kids from a selection of nearly 100 kids’ savings options offered at banks and credit unions around the country. We based our selections on how well they met these five criteria:

  • Competitive annual percentage yield (APY): Accounts should demonstrate the rewards you can get by saving your money, and a competitive interest rate helps achieve that objective.
  • Low fees: Kids don’t need to lose their money to fees, so finding an account with zero fees was important.
  • Low minimum deposits: Most kids don’t have a large amount of money to save when they first open an account. Having a low minimum deposit requirement can help them get started quicker.
  • Broad geographical reach: Banks and credit unions need to be available to a large geographic market, with extra points for physical locations where kids can go and deposit cash and coins.
  • Great educational tools: Savings accounts that are geared to kids should have some educational tools to help them learn about what it takes to achieve financial success. Bonus points if the tools are fun, too.

 

Best overall savings account for kids: Capital One

Kids Savings Account from Capital One Capital One’s Kids Savings Account has all of the features you’d expect to see in a savings account for adults but with the additional feature of parental controls, which makes it a great overall solution for kids of all ages. The account earns 1.00% APY, has no monthly fees and can be opened with $0. You can set it up the account, and make your initial deposit at a later date.

The Kids Savings Account parental controls allows parents to sign into the account under their own usernames and passwords to help their children manage their funds. Parents always control transfers in and out of the account, offering good balance between independence for the young holder and parental oversight. Kids get to view their balance and watch their money grow.

Capital One lets you create an automatic savings plan linked with other accounts, so you can automatically transfer your child’s allowance into their Kids Savings Account. When it comes to geographical reach, Capital One has approximately 500 branch locations, as well as a great mobile banking app, which allows you to deposit checks and check balances.

Capital One Kids Savings Account
APY: 1.00%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for college savings: Citizens Bank

CollegeSaver from Citizens Bank (RI) If you want to be rewarded for consistent savings, the Citizens Bank CollegeSaver account has a bonus you might consider. If you open the account before your child is six and make a deposit of at least $25 each month until your child turns 18, Citizens Bank will give you a $1,000 bonus (the current account APY is a low 0.05%). You can also open this account if your child is between 6 and 12 years of age, but the minimum monthly deposit will be $50 and opening deposit is $500.

If you were to open the account today with an initial deposit of $25 upon the birth of a child (and assume the current APY held for 18 years), and then deposit $25 a month for 18 years, your $5,400 investment would accrue $24.48 in interest. Add the bonus and you’ll end up with $6,449.48. The bank doesn’t put any stipulations on how the money can be spent, so you can use the balance for college or any other financial needs.

Citizens Bank CollegeSaver
APY: 0.05%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $25 for children under six years old; $500 for children age six to 12

LEARN MORE Secured

on Citizens Bank (RI)’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for a young child: PNC Bank

S is for Savings from PNC Bank If you want to engage your child with educational tools, PNC’s S is for Savings account offers a lot. Granted, this account offers the lowest APY of the banks that made this list, but it makes up for it with its interactive online banking experience.

The Learning Center features Sesame Street characters that will help them learn basic money concepts. The site has fun activities you and your child can do together.

Features include the ability to set up automatic savings deposits that help them see the benefits of having a savings routine. Kids can work towards goals and learn about the three components of money: saving, sharing and spending. As your child gets older, you may choose to transfer their accumulated balance to a savings account at a bank that offers a higher interest rate.

PNC Bank’s S is for Savings
APY: 0.01%
Monthly Fees: $0 for account holders under 18
Minimum Opening Balance: $25

LEARN MORE Secured

on PNC Bank’s secure website

Member FDIC

Best savings account for teens: Alliant Credit Union

Kids Savings Account from Alliant Credit Union When your child turns 13, Alliant Credit Union considers them to be a young adult, offering their High-Rate Savings Account with a 2.10% APY and no monthly fees. For teens who want to set savings goals, the credit union allows them to set up supplemental accounts that can be earmarked for specific items, such as saving for a new car.

What makes this a great option for a teen is that Alliant also offers an interest-paying teen checking account for kids ages 13-17. The checking account earns an APY of 0.65%. The two accounts can be linked and both will earn your teen interest. Alliant also refunds up to $20 per month in ATM fees if the teen uses out-of-network machines.

To open an account at Alliant Credit Union, you must be a member. Membership is open to employees or former employees of partner businesses or organizations. Or you can join by making a $10 donation to the Foster Care to Success Foundation.

Alliant Credit Union High-Rate Savings:
APY: 2.10%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Opening Balance: $5

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on Alliant Credit Union’s secure website

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Best APY for a kid’s savings account: Spectrum Credit Union

MySavings from Spectrum Credit Union Spectrum Credit Union currently offers the highest interest rate on the market for a kid’s savings account, but only on a relatively limited balance. Spectrum’s MySavings account earns 7.00% APY on account balances up to $1,000, making for a rate that’s higher than many CDs. Balances over $1,000 earn the regular savings rate, which is 0.50%. A high interest rate can help get kids excited about savings as their balance will grow quicker.

Spectrum Credit Union currently has branches in six states, but deposits can be made nationwide through the Credit Union CO-OP Shared Network. Membership is open to anyone by joining the Contra Costa County Historical Society ($15 membership fee) or the Navy League of the United States ($25 annual membership fee).

Spectrum Credit Union MySavings
APY: 7.00% for the first $1,000; 0.50% on balances above $1,000
Monthly Fees: $0 for account holders under 18
Minimum Opening Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Spectrum Credit Union’s secure website

NCUA Insured

Best online tools for a kid’s savings account: Capital One

Kids Savings Account from Capital One Kids are digital natives, and that makes a kid’s savings account’s online banking features extra important. In addition to being our pick for best overall savings account for kids, the Capital One Kids Savings Account offers a great selection of online saving and budgeting tools that will keep kids engaged and informed.

One of the best features is the ability to create additional savings accounts and set a target goal for each account. For example, you child may set a goal for holiday gifts, another goal for a new bike or car and another goal for vacation money. They can even give each account a nickname, such as “My Wheels Fund.”

Capital One has a full suite of online tools for your child to track their progress and success, helping to keep them focused on their goals. Capital One also offers standard features on its mobile banking app, some of which are available for kids, including the ability to check their balance or make a mobile deposit.

Capital One Kids Savings Account
APY: 1.00%
Monthly Fees: $0
Minimum Balance: $0

LEARN MORE Secured

on Capital One’s secure website

Member FDIC

Why your kid should have a savings account

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about money, and a savings account is a great tool to help accomplish this aim. According to the 9th Annual Parents, Kids & Money Survey by T. Rowe Price, 55% of parents said their child has a savings account, but just 23% of kids said that they talk to their parents frequently about money. Parents who discuss financial topics with their kids at least once a week are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money than than those who do not have a discussion with their children.

Savings accounts show kids the value of saving at an early age. They get to watch their money grow as compound interest work its magic, and they can set short- and long-term goals for the money they save. The reward of achieving the goals will teach life lessons on patience and planning. Once you open an account for your kids, share money management tips with them, things like “paying yourself first” by saving a portion of gifts and allowances they receive instead of spending it all.

When you teach your child good money habits early on, you help set them up for success later in life. Putting your child on the path for financial responsibility and independence by choosing the best savings account for kids could be the greatest gift you can give them.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza |

Stephanie Vozza is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Stephanie here

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Investing

SoFi Automated Investing Review 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

SoFi is mostly known for student loan refinancing. However, in recent years the company has expanded its offerings to include mortgages, life insurance and now investing through SoFi Automated Investing.

Using the principles outlined in Modern Portfolio Theory, SoFi Automated Investing, formerly known as SoFi Wealth, aims to help you grow your wealth over time. SoFi Automated Investing uses ETFs to construct your portfolio based on your answers to a questionnaire. There are different strategies you can choose from and you have access to financial advisers, but ultimately, SoFi Automated Investing acts as a robo-advisor that puts together a portfolio for you based on your goals and risk tolerance.

SoFi Automated Investing
Visit SoFiSecuredon SoFi Automated Investing’s secure site
The Bottom Line: SoFi Automated Investing offers a simple way to start investing with a small amount of money to start and low fees.

  • Receive financial planning assistance free of charge
  • Special bonuses for members, including invitations to special events
  • A wide range of low-cost ETFs from 20 different asset classes

Who should consider SoFi Automated Investing?

SoFi Automated Investing is ideal for beginning investors looking to get their feet wet without the need for a large amount of money. You can open an account with a $100 one-time deposit or $20 monthly deposit. This makes it easy for newbies to begin investing.

Additionally, SoFi is especially suited for long-term investors looking to do very little of their own portfolio management.Due to broad-based ETFs that don’t rely on individual stock picking, there is very little effort required on the investors side. This makes SoFi investing ideal for financial goals such as retirement.

SoFi Automated Investing fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $100 one-time deposit or $20 monthly deposit
Management fees
  • 0%
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • SEP IRA
Portfolio
  • ETFs covering 20 asset classes
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax loss harvesting detailSoFi does not currently offer tax loss harvesting.
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Email, 4 branch locations

Strengths of SoFi Automated Investing

SoFi Automated Investing has several things going for it, making it a good choice for many investors.

  • No management fees: Right now, SoFi isn’t charging any management fees. ETF expense ratios still apply.
  • Diverse investments: SoFi investing offers a wide range of ETFs from 20 different asset classes. This makes it possible for you to enjoy diversity in your portfolio, according to your risk tolerance. You can get exposure to U.S. and international stocks, bonds and real estate with automatic rebalancing when needed.
  • Free access to financial advisers: SoFi Automated Investing offers unlimited access to financial planning professionals at no additional charge. There’s a wide range of hours available and you can meet with your adviser via chat, video or phone. SoFi’s financial advisers are fiduciaries, which means they must adhere to your best interest and they don’t make commissions based on recommendations.
  • Bonuses: Being a “member” of SoFi allows you access to some special bonuses. For example, SoFi often holds in-person events for which you can receive an invitation to join. On top of that, if you use SoFi investing, you can get a discount on your interest rates with SoFi loans. Finally, you can access career advice on top of financial planning help.

SoFi can be a great option for beginners looking to get started and who need a little help planning a goals-based roadmap.

Drawbacks of SoFi Automated Investing

No SoFi Automated Investing review is complete without offering some of the drawbacks to the product. While there are some great upsides, the reality is that SoFi is relatively new to investing and doesn’t offer some of the benefits you might see with other robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront.

  • No tax-loss harvesting: SoFi investing doesn’t offer any sort of tax strategy. It doesn’t automatically harvest losses when you sell ETFs and it won’t distribute your assets across your accounts in the most advantageous way.
  • Limited types of accounts: While you can open individual and joint taxable accounts, and set up retirement accounts, there aren’t a lot of other options. You can’t open a 529 account or set up a custodial account. If you’re looking to do a little more, you may want to explore other options.

Is SoFi Automated Investing safe?

Anytime you invest, it’s important to be careful and comfortable with your strategy. You always run the risk of loss whenever you put your money into any investment account. However, SoFi investing is as safe as any other robo-advisor. The use of index ETFs means that your portfolio follows overall market trends, which, over time, tend to head higher returns (despite short-term losses).

On top of that, SoFi Automated Investing carries SIPC insurance, which protects account holders if the broker fails. However, realize that SIPC insurance doesn’t protect your portfolio from losses due to market and economic events.

Before you invest, check with resources like FINRA BrokerCheck and the Better Business Bureau to see what disclosures and complaints might be related to the company.

Final thoughts

SoFi Automated Investing is a good option for most investors looking for a simple way to manage a long-term portfolio. It’s very easy to open an account and you get free personalized financial planning help and advice to help you coordinate your portfolio to meet your financial goals.

SoFi investing is still relatively new, so you might miss out on some benefits and tools offered by those that have been in the investing space for decades. Consider your needs and compare SoFi Automated Investing with services like Betterment, Ellevest, and Wealthfront to see if it works for you.

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on SoFi Automated Investing’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Miranda Marquit
Miranda Marquit |

Miranda Marquit is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Miranda here

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