Pay off student loans

How to Start Paying Off $50,000 in Student Loans the Right Way

paying off 50000 in student loans

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If you’re paying off $50,000 in student loans or more, managing your debt might feel overwhelming or downright impossible. Fortunately, there are ways to pay off $50,000 in student loans without losing your mind. These strategies might even help you get out of debt ahead of schedule.

Do the math on paying off $50,000 in student loans

Before you can start tackling your student loan debt, you need to know exactly what you’re working with. First, take some time to look up your loans and write down all the details, including,

  • How much you owe
  • Interest rate
  • Monthly payment
  • Repayment term

Once you have this bird’s eye view of your loan, you can design a customized repayment plan. Let’s take a look at what it takes to pay off $50,000 in student loans in 20, 15, 10, 7, 5, or 3 years (for the sake of this example, we’ll assume a 5.05% interest rate.

Loan term Monthly payment  Interest costs 
20 years $331 $29,527
15 years $397 $21,406
10 years  $532 $13,786
7 years  $708 $9,461
5 years  $945 $6,682
3 years  $1,500 $3,988


By the way, you definitely don’t need to do this math in your head. Just look for a student loan calculator online to do the math for you. Play around with the monthly payments to find one that works for your budget and goals.

As you can see, increasing your payment could get you out of debt a lot faster and save you a bunch of money on interest. Even if you can’t increase your payment that much, throwing a little extra at your loans could help you pay off your $50,000 student loan sooner.

Use the debt snowball or debt avalanche

If you’ve got multiple loans across different loan servicers, it’s tough to know where to start. While you should keep making the minimum payments on all your loans, you might want to throw extra payments at just one to pay it off faster.

But how do you choose which loan to tackle first? Well, that’s where the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods come in.

  • Debt snowball: Line up your student loans in order from smallest balance to largest balance. Then, make extra payments on the loan with the smallest balance. Once you’ve paid it off completely, you move on to the loan with the next smallest balance. This approach works for a lot of people (Dave Ramsey, for instance, is a big proponent), because it can keep you motivated. You’ll see your progress clearly when you’re able to pay off a student loan in full.
  • Debt avalanche: Line up your student loans in order from highest interest rate to lowest, and target the loan with the highest interest rate first. That way, you’ll make extra payments on the loan that’s costing you the most in interest. When you close out that loan, you’ll move on to the loan with the next highest interest rate. This approach saves you the most in interest, but it might take longer to pay off a loan in full if you’re tackling one with a high balance.

Think about your goals to figure out which approach, the debt snowball or debt avalanche, is right for you as you work on paying off $50,000 in student loans.

Refinance for better rates

Another effective strategy for paying off $50,000 in student loans is refinancing for better rates. Just like with a mortgage, you can refinance student loans for better interest rates to save money.

Not only could you snag a better rate, but you can also choose new repayment terms and adjust your monthly payments. And if you want to refinance multiple loans, you can combine them into one to simplify repayment.

The only downside is that refinancing federal loans turns them private, meaning you won’t be able to use federal repayment plans or forgiveness programs anymore. Make sure you’re okay with this sacrifice before refinancing.

If you decide it’s the right move, check your rates with a few lenders to find an offer with the best rate.

Explore options for loan forgiveness

Anyone burdened with a lot of student loan debt should explore options for student loan forgiveness. Depending on your profession or place of employment, you might be able to get partial or full forgiveness. Here are a few programs to consider:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: forgives your remaining federal student loan balance after 10 years of working in a qualifying organization, such as a nonprofit.
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: forgives up to $17,500 in federal student loans for teachers working in qualifying schools (often low-income schools).
  • State loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs): provide thousands of dollars in repayment assistance to qualifying professionals. Common careers include doctor, lawyer, teacher, dentist, pharmacist, and veterinarian. Unlike federal forgiveness programs, these LRAPs often offer help for both federal and private student loans.

For more options, check out our ultimate list of student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs.

Consider your repayment plan options

Finally, make sure to explore all your repayment plan options. While some borrowers might be wondering how long to pay off $50,000 in student loans so they can pay their debt off faster, others might be struggling to afford payments.

If this is you, look into alternative repayment plans, such as Income-Based Repayment or Pay As You Earn. These income-driven repayment plans cap your monthly payment at a certain percentage of your monthly income to make it more manageable.

If you’ve got private student loans, you’ll have to speak with your lender about your payment plan options. And again, borrowers who can qualify for refinancing will have the opportunity to choose new repayment terms.

Since everyone’s goals in paying off $50,000 in student loans will look different, strategies will vary from person to person. The most important thing is not to ignore your debt, but to think about your goals and how to make them work with your budget.

If you’re feeling really motivated to get out of debt faster, you might look for ways to increase your income, such as a side hustle or online freelancing gig, and throw the extra money at your debt.

Want better rates? Here are the best banks to refinance student loans:

Variable rates start at...Fixed rates start at...Repayment termsWelcome bonus Check your rates
refinance student loans4.54%4.49%5 - 20 years$200Visit LendKey
refinance student loans4.99%4.47%5 - 20 years$200Visit Earnest
refinance student loans4.22%3.97%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$120Visit Laurel Road
refinance student loans4.53%4.40%5 - 20 years$100 or $200, depending on the amount you refinanceVisit Credible
refinance student loans5.09%4.74%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit SoFi
refinance student loans4.53%4.83%5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years$100Visit ELFI