Student loan debt remains a persistent force in the lives of many Americans. Only mortgage debt ranks higher as a source of outstanding consumer debt owed. A college education can be a path to higher income and job security for some, but loan repayment can be a challenge for most former students, no matter what their major was.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately one in ten Americans were self-employed in 2015. That figure amounts to millions of Americans working for themselves, and many of them carry outstanding student debt with monthly repayments. Anyone who ever applied for a loan while self-employed knows that financing (and refinancing) can be difficult to obtain. Income insecurity and complex financial situations make lenders nervous to negotiate terms with self-employed borrowers.
Can You Refinance Student Loans?
It’s not impossible to refinance student loans while self-employed, but it’s no easy task compared to the typical salaried or wage-earning worker. Documentation is your friend, and your lender or refinancing company will want to see a lot of it. Income tax returns, business financials, proof of assets, and strong evidence of business income are all likely to be requested by your bank or loan company if you hope to refinance your student debt.
Credit scores are also extremely important – do your best to maintain a strong credit history and don’t fall behind on any payments if you want the best chance when refinancing your debt. Approval for self-employment debt refinancing is far less likely than the general salaried workforce, so keep that fact in mind as you gather your information and supporting documents. Your lender may even demand a co-signer before they are comfortable taking on your student debt refinancing.
Better rates make loan repayment easier, but it can be a challenge to secure the refinancing if your lender isn’t sure you can maintain a strong income to repay your student debt obligations. It helps to be open and communicate your goals clearly to your lender. Work with your loan company or your bank, and expect some early disappointment as you get your ducks in order.
Proper accounting and good records are important to maintain – and make it easy for the lender to understand your situation. Large write-offs and deductions may help you pay less in personal income and business taxes, but remember that your lender wants to see a good income statement before they will take on your student debt refinancing plan.
It might be worth taking the hit on your taxes for a year or two to maintain a higher income to get the best chance at a good interest rate. It’s a trade-off you have to manage. Be prepared to wait longer for approval and don’t be surprised if the lender asks for more information, more documentation, and a better explanation of your business finances.
Self-employment offers a lot of benefits in terms of lifestyle and working conditions, but it comes at a cost. Lenders prefer to deal with certainties, and self-employment is inherently riskier lending for banks and loan companies. Do your homework, get your documents in order, prepare for the meeting, and you’ll have a good chance at a positive refinancing experience when you ask for a better rate on your outstanding student debt.