Nearly 45 million Americans have some kind of student loan debt, and the system for paying back those loans can be confusing. That means it’s all too easy to make a mistake that costs you thousands of dollars.

One of the biggest, and potentially most expensive, issues for borrowers once they’ve started to repay their loans is that many assume they’re in the right type of repayment plan. But that may not be the case, says Elaine Griffin Rubin, senior contributor at financial aid site Edvisors.

Lots of people get stuck in a routine when paying down student loans, she says. Instead, every time you get a raise or a bonus or some sort of boost in income, make it a priority to ensure that you’re paying down your loans in the way that makes most financial sense for you.

Adam Minsky, a lawyer specializing in student loan law, agrees and suggests you "reevaluate the repayment plan at least every couple of years or so." If you’re on an income-driven plan, for example, your financial situation two or three years from now may be different. You may have gotten married or divorced, or have bought a house, he says: "Circumstances change."

Your plan may need to change, too.

Federal student loan repayment plans can be divided into four general categories: Standard repayment plans, which spread equal payments out over the term of the loan, typically 10 years

Graduated repayment plans, which start off with lower payments that ramp up over time

Extended repayment plans, which generally give borrowers up to 25 years to pay back the loan

Income-based plans, which allow for monthly payments based on your income level Within each of these structures, there are several types of federal loans. Within income-driven plans, for example, there’s the Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYER Plan), which generally caps payments at 10 percent of your discretionary income, and the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan), which caps payments at 10 percent of your discretionary income if you’re a new borrower."There’s no one-stop shop to find what the optimal repayment plan is," Minsky says, adding […]

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