My son’s student loans are killing my retirement!


Q. To assist our son in fulling his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot, we took out a Parent Plus loan to cover his tuition. We borrowed $90,000 over four years. Is there any write-off we can take? It’s tough paying $1,200 per month and almost $1,100 goes to interest. It’s killing my retirement.

— Retirement-poor

A. You son is very lucky that you took out loans on his behalf.

Hopefully the day will come when he can help you with the payments.

That’s a conversation you should consider having with him once he reaches his goal and is drawing an income as a pilot, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

“He has a lifetime ahead of him to earn and save for the future, while your retirement dollars need to be focused on you and your immediate needs.” Mott said.

She said student loan interest is a deduction on the federal 1040 tax return, but not the principal portion of the payment. The maximum benefit amount is $2,500, she said.

“This figure is subject to a phase-out depending on your modified-adjusted gross income,” she said. “If you are filing jointly, your income must be below $135,000 to receive the full deduction.”

Mott said there are other qualifications that must be met in order to take the deduction, including: the loan must be solely for education purposes, the student must be you, your spouse or a dependent and enrolled at least half time in a program leading to a degree or other credential from an eligible institution.

Please refer to IRS Publication 970  for more details on the deduction and discuss it with your tax professional.

Dispersing with the student loans through a forgiveness program may be another route to pursue, Mott said.

But for you, this would be more complicated.

“Parent Plus loans are not eligible and must first be consolidated with the Direct Consolidation Loan program regardless of which option turns out to be the best for you,” she said. “The Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) evaluates your discretionary income and caps your monthly payments at 20 percent while extending the term to 25 years.”

Should any balance be remaining at the end of 25 years, the remaining amount will be forgiven, she said.

Bear in mind that the amount forgiven will be considered taxable income. You can get more information about Direct Consolidation Loans from the Department of Education.

Mott said the second alternative to disperse the loans is through a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, but this requires that you or your spouse be working full-time for a government entity or non-profit.

“The payment plan will be adjusted as it is with ICR, but after 10 years of consistent, on-time payments, the loan is forgiven,” she said.

Another option you may want to consider is transferring the loans into your son’s name at some point in the future. This would need to be done with a private lender, but might result in a lower interest rate, Mott said.

“The loans however, would no longer be eligible for any type of ICR or forgiveness,” she said.

You may also want to consider refinancing with a private lender as the rate you pay could be lower than the fixed rate on the Parent Plus loan.

“As a `thank you’ to those who serve our country, there are student loan benefits for members of our armed forces which take the form of interest rate caps, deferments, payment plans and forgiveness,” Mott said.

More information can be found here.

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