Is it better to pay off your student loan or top up your pension?

Is it higher to repay your student loan or prime up your pension?

A graduate wearing a mortarboard looks out towards the city

Graduates in England left college in 2021 with a median student loan of £45,000 (the very best amongst the UK’s 4 nations). Meanwhile, the typical graduate wage was simply £24,000. So it’s no shock that a lot of as we speak’s graduates have resigned themselves to paying the naked minimal and ready for it to be written off after 30 years.

But what if you wish to free your self of student debt sooner? Does it ever make sense to repay a student loan early? And wouldn’t you be higher off placing any spare cash into your pension the place it has an opportunity to develop? In this text, we’ll discover out.

Investing vs paying off debt

Before we get to tackling the massive query, let’s take a look at the essential precept we’re coping with – is it extra financially efficient to speculate your cash or repay debt? The reply might be influenced by each the quantity you count on your investments to develop and the quantity of curiosity charged on that debt.

High curiosity debt

High curiosity debt usually contains private loans and credit playing cards, the place rates of interest could be as excessive as 20% (or much more).

This sort of debt could be harmful as a result of small borrowing quantities can develop rapidly with out cautious administration.

There are few (if any) methods to speculate your cash to realize the same price of progress, with out risking shedding your cash altogether. So because of this, it’s typically suggested to repay excessive curiosity debt earlier than investing cash elsewhere.

Low curiosity debt

Low curiosity debt is mostly thought-about to incorporate loans charging as much as round 5% curiosity, though there’s no actual outlined determine.

This sort of debt is taken into account comparatively low-risk as a result of there’s little probability of it rapidly spiralling uncontrolled.

In addition, you don’t should danger all the things to speculate your cash in ways in which might outgrow low curiosity debt.

For instance, the very best incomes financial savings account is 3.5% on the time of writing. So placing your cash into that account may very well be extra financially efficient than paying off a lower-interest loan of say 2%.

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Plan 1 student loans

If you began college earlier than 1st September 2012, you’ll doubtless have the Plan 1 student loan which fees 1.1% curiosity.

You’ll begin repaying your loan for those who earn £382 per week or £1,657 a month (earlier than tax and different deductions).

Because the rate of interest may be very low, it shouldn’t be too tough to search out methods to speculate any spare cash to outpace the expansion of your student loan.

For instance:

  • Say your remaining student loan was £5,000 costing 1.1% curiosity
  • And you had £5,000 sitting in a financial savings account incomes 3.5% curiosity
  • The curiosity in your student loan would value £55 a 12 months
  • But your financial savings would earn £175 a 12 months

Leaving your cash in your financial savings account would make you £120 higher off on the finish of the 12 months, since that’s what you’d have left after paying the curiosity in your loan.

Plan 2 student loans

If you began college after 1st September 2012, you’ll doubtless have the Plan 2 student loan. As of September 2021 it charged between 1.5% and 4.5%, however this modifications every year and can be dependent in your revenue.

You’ll begin repaying your loan for those who earn £524 per week or £2,274 a month (earlier than tax and different deductions).

Because the rate of interest is probably as excessive as 4.5%, it will be harder to search out comparatively low-risk methods to speculate any spare cash to outpace the expansion of your student loan.

For instance:

  • Say your remaining student loan was £20,000 costing 4.5% curiosity
  • And you had £5,000 sitting in a financial savings account incomes 3.5% curiosity
  • The curiosity in your student loan would value £900 a 12 months
  • And your financial savings would earn simply £175 a 12 months

At first look, leaving your cash in your financial savings account would go away you £725 worse off on the finish of the 12 months.

However, Plan 2 student loans get written off after 30 years in the event that they haven’t already been paid. And with as we speak’s students graduating with round £45,000 in student loan debt, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be paid off via common funds, until they earn a really giant wage.

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For the vast majority of graduates (these beginning on salaries lower than £40,000) it’s unlikely to be value paying off their student loan early, and as a substitute making the minimal funds till it’s ultimately written off.

What if the compensation threshold modifications?

In September 2021, the federal government was reportedly contemplating decreasing the earnings threshold at which graduates begin to repay their Plan 2 student loans from £27,295 to round £23,000. This might cut back graduates’ take-home pay by as much as £800 a 12 months and restrict the quantity they might put in the direction of additional loan repayments or their pension. However, no matter this alteration, we predict the concerns outlined on this article nonetheless apply to anybody contemplating whether or not it’s higher to repay their student loan early or prime up their pension.

Investing in your pension

As we’ve seen, investing your cash can typically be more practical than paying off some lower-interest money owed. But in these examples we’ve targeted on brief intervals of time. So what occurs to investments over a interval of 40 years or extra?

Pensions are long-term investments. You can begin one while you get your first job after college, and it could actually begin paying you an revenue as quickly as you select to retire after the age of 55.

Unlike different investments, pensions have two notably good options:

  • Your employer will contribute in the direction of your pension (at the very least 5% of your wage)
  • The authorities will prime up your private contributions by 25%

So for each £1 you pay in, the federal government will add 25p. And that’s along with no matter your worker pays in.

So evaluating paying off your student loan to investing in your pension is barely totally different from other forms of investments.

Let’s take a look at an instance:

  • You’re 21 and resolve to place a spare £500 into your pension
  • The authorities tops up your contribution by £125 (25%)
  • So a complete of £625 goes into your pension
  • Your pension grows at a median price of 5% till you retire at 67
  • Your preliminary £500 funding is now value £4,963
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Had you used that cash to repay a part of your Plan 1 student loan, you’d have saved your self £5.50 (1.1% curiosity). And you’d have misplaced out on a possible £4,463!

Of course, there’s no assure that the cash you set into your pension would develop by this quantity. But then it might develop much more. This is the chance you are taking while you make investments that may go up or down.

You’ll additionally want to think about that the earliest you possibly can entry your pension is from the age of 55. So you’ll have to be certain you gained’t have to entry that cash sooner.

Is it higher to repay your student loan or prime up your pension?

Graduates with a Plan 1 student loan usually tend to see a greater return on their cash in the event that they put money into a pension. Graduates with a Plan 2 student loan might want to contemplate whether or not they intend on paying off their loan in full or pay the minimal till it’s written off after 30 years – in the event that they do (this often applies to larger earners) it may very well be more practical to repay the student loan first, for the reason that rate of interest could be arduous to beat with any low-risk investments.

All this stated, it’s additionally value noting that the emotional influence of dwelling with out debt could be liberating. However, earlier than deciding to repay your student loan for the sake of your psychological well being, it’s value talking with an unbiased monetary adviser to assist affirm whether or not doing so is de facto in your finest pursuits.

Risk warning: As at all times with investments, your capital is in danger. The worth of your funding can go down in addition to up, and it’s possible you’ll get again lower than you make investments. This info shouldn’t be thought to be monetary recommendation.