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Buried in student loans? Here's how to pay them off

For the first time, student loan debt has outpaced credit card debt in this country. And it's likely to top $1 trillion this year.

With so many college students and graduate students entering the real world in massive debt, what's the first thing they should do once they're out of school, enter the workforce and want to pay it down?

According to CBS News Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis,"You want to make a list of all the loans, everything that you owe. Make sure you know what the loan terms are, how long do you have to pay off the loan, and also what percentage rate you are getting charged on a month-to-month basis in order to maintain that loan "

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Jarvis suggests the second thing you want to do is pull together your paperwork and consolidate those loans, because you're going to get better terms, and consolidating enables you to pay just one.

Student loan delinquency is growing at a rate of between 7 percent and 15 percent, so when you start paying these loans down, what options do you have?

Fortunately, there are multiple options, but the fastest way to go is the standard option.

"With the standard option, you're going to pay a minimum of $50 per month, over the course of ten years. This will end up being the least expensive option. So if you can afford it, it's the best idea for you," Jarvis explains. "The extended repayment is also a $50 minimum, but then you have a little more flexibility -- 12 to 30 years to pay it off. The graduated repayment will let you pay a smaller amount on a monthly basis, $25 minimum, and also over a 12 to 30 year period. And lastly, the income-based repayment is a $5 a month minimum. It's the least expensive on a month-to-month basis option, but it becomes the most expensive over a lifetime of a loan because it can last up to 25 years."

Are there repercussions if you're late on a payment? Is it similar to being late on a credit card payment, which affects your credit report?

Jarvis points out that it can actually be worse because, not only are you going to face the issues with your credit report, but it can also be an issue if you're defaulting on that student loan, since you can have your wages garnished.

"You can have your Social Security checks withheld in the future," she adds. "You can have your tax refunds withheld, and obviously, the implications for your credit score are very significant. The thing with student loans is, if you file for bankruptcy, you still owe those student loans."

What if you just can't get a job to pay it back?

"It is very important, before you start missing your payments, to go back to your lender and tell them you're struggling," Jarvis says. "There are a couple of options for those who can't pay them back, (including) deferment ... and the best thing you can do, if you're facing any type of financial hardship, whether it's medical bills, a loss of a job, you go back to the lender, you explain it to them. Much better to do that early as opposed to when you're actually really facing problems with the loan."

Are there any other ways to save money on your student loans?

Jarvis suggests that students start paying off their loans while they are still in college. And if you're paying off those student loans, make sure you're taking the deduction on your taxes. It's also important to repay the highest cost loans first. To make things easier, you can also set up auto-pay.

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