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If you’re like many college students, you swallow each student loan like it’s a nasty medicine: you know it’s going to taste bad, but you also know it’s necessary. Yet, carrying too much student debt might actually hurt you in ways you don’t realize.

Here’s what the weight of too much interest-bearing student loan debt can do:

Impact Your Credit Score

Carrying too much interest-bearing student debt can strain the budget, making it tougher to submit on-time payments for student loans and other bills. When you make late payments toward obligations like loans, credit cards, or utilities, it counts against your credit score, which is a number that banks, landlords, and others review to help determine your creditworthiness. If you have a lower credit score, you may not qualify for that apartment you really like, or you may need to pay a higher interest rate when you take out a car loan.

Squeeze Your Budget

Variable rate student loans, which are offered by private lenders, are often an attractive option at first glance because they offer a lower initial interest rate. However, the rates fluctuate throughout the length of the loan. When interest rates go up, so do your payments.

Affect Your Ability to Buy a Home

You may not be considering a house purchase right now, but what about three or five years down the road? One survey of people with interest-bearing student loans revealed that nearly 75 percent said their education debt has prevented them from buying a home.

Reduce Your Retirement Savings

One survey discovered that people saddled with student loans are less likely to participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans. That might not sound like a big deal now, but the data suggests that lack of participation adds up. The analysts estimate that carrying $30,000 in student debt can slash about $325,000 from your 401(k) balance by retirement. A student with $50,000 in debt takes a larger estimated hit to their savings: nearly $530,000. Ouch!

Affect the Decisions You’ll Make for the Next Decade or More

It’s one thing to understand you have a loan payment to make this month; it’s another thing to understand you’ll be making that payment for up to a decade or longer.

What will you be doing in 10 years? Will you be traveling the world? Will you have six kids? Or maybe you’ll be traveling the world with six kids?!

You may not know where life will take you, but it’s safe to say that no matter where you go, you won’t want those life decisions shackled to a decade-old interest-bearing student loan payment.

You have alternatives to interest-bearing student loans.

Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning offers interest-free loans that can cover part of your college costs. Get details now so you’re ready when the 2017-18 application period opens February 1, 2017.