Young, tech-savvy graduates often go from celebrating their diplomas to figuring out how to tackle their student loan debt in a matter of weeks.
Knowing where to begin can be difficult. However, specific money management start-ups are currently lighting up the digital arena.
None of these options are perfect, but they offer electronic alternatives to penny-pinching alone. Here are five mobile-friendly tools to get started:
1.) LearnVest: Founded in 2009, this company’s mission includes allowing “people everywhere to take control of their money so that they can afford their dreams,” according to its website.
Since its launch, CEO Alexa von Tobel has raised more than $72 million from sources such as American Express Ventures and Accel Partners. In an email interview, she said that, “across our platform, LearnVest serves hundreds of thousands of people.”
For example, after users register online and connect their accounts, they receive: a personalized financial action plan, a commitment calendar for goal saving, custom challenges and a money center to keep track of finances. Premium members also get special content and notification about events. The free iPhone and iPad LearnVest app is available in the Apple App Store.
Keeping those resources in mind, the price of this service could be a concern for some. In the same email interview, von Tobel expanded on the cost.
“If and when you need extra help, a client can upgrade and get his or her own dedicated LearnVest Planner … a one-time setup fee (ranges from $89-$399 based on the plan level you choose) and a monthly subscription fee of $19 a month.”
2.) Tuition.io: This currently fee-free financial service was created after CEO Brendon McQueen graduated from Columbia University in 2009 with 12 student loans to pay back.
Tuition.io users are managing $1.5 billion in student loan debt and borrowers are from more than 3,000 schools. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Tuition.io helps students with loans understand who they owe, how much and when to make payments. They link their accounts so their loans are all listed in a single place. When users sign in, they can view “snapshots” and graphs with payment history, “projections” and find out if they are eligible for repayment plans.
Tuition.io has had other quantifiable results.
“Tuition.io users, specifically, are increasing their monthly payments by nearly 5 percent (which can save borrowers a ton on interest over the long haul) and even increasing their rate of repayment which is to say that they begin repaying their loans after signing up with Tuition.io,” McQueen said in an email.
3.) SponsorChange.org: Grads focusing on employment but yearning to continue their community service could be suited for this program. The company’s slogan shows what sets it apart: “You Serve. They Sponsor. Change Happens.”
Co-founders Raymar Hampshire and Robert Hampshire established this national program to help college graduates—”change agents”—improve communities while paying down student loan debt. Donors sponsor grads at work in regional, nonprofit organizations.
Change agents must be college graduates, demonstrate that they have student loan debt, have a strong interest in volunteer work and perform documented community service, among other qualifications. Sponsored agents hand over their student loan account information to SponsorChange’s team, which then makes direct payments.
This company operates on a smaller scale than other profiled start-ups mentioned. Volunteer opportunities are currently available in a handful of cities, but the team plans to expand its reach throughout the country.
4.) Student Loan Hero: This start-up was founded in 2012 after CEO Andy Josuweit had $104,000 in loan debt after graduation day. Since then, more than 15,000 people have become Student Loan Hero users, and the site is managing $554 million in student loan debt.
The company pledges to help users in different ways, namely by keeping track of all private and federal loans in one location, providing a detailed description and analysis of student loans, supplying users with fiscal strategies meant to decrease total acquired interest and giving guidance regarding federal and private loan and repayment methods. Users create accounts for free.
The website also has free calculators allowing indebted grads to calculate their student loans in terms of comparison, prepayment and refinancing, to name a few.
5.) ReadyForZero: This start-up targets consumers with all types of debt, not just grads with student loans. But don’t be fooled—the visual tools provided can make loan payoff plans clear. Founded in 2011 by Rod Ebrahimi and Ignacio Thayer, the company has helped pay off more than $183 million in debt, and manage more than $2 billion in the United States.
After linking all accounts (including credit cards, mortgages and student loans), regular users can see their finances mapped out on personal graphs. They can configure mobile alerts to remember to take care of payments.
Premium upgrade users pay $10 to $15 per month, depending on whether the ReadyForZero PLUS or ReadyForZero PLUS Credit plan has been selected. Regular users (nonupgrade) can access the service for free. The iOSReadyforZero app is available in the iPhone App Store at no charge.
Two-thirds of the class of 2011 had loans, according to a report by theProject on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access and Success. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that in 2013, the amount owed in federal student loan debt shot to $1 trillion.
Digital student loan management options should be considered with a grain of salt, and coupled with advice from a professional, such as nationally recognized student financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz.
“Live like a student while you’re in school so you don’t have to live like a student after you graduate,” Kantrowitz said. “The students who win a gazillion dollars are the ones who apply to everything.”