How much debt can you repay?

Determine how much debt you can repay

To repay your civilian student loans, try to keep your monthly student loan payment at 10% or less of the net monthly income you plan to earn after you finish school. (Your net income, or take-home pay is the amount you earn after taxes, insurance, or other costs that have been subtracted from your gross income, the total amount you earn.)

If you aren’t sure what your expected net income will be, then assume that that net income is 20% less than your expected gross income.

How much do you think you’ll be able to handle in monthly student loan payments? Use the repayment calculator on the Federal Student Aid website ( to estimate the monthly payment for federal student loans. You can use the Hands on Banking cost of loan calculator to estimate the monthly payment for state and private loans.

Be realistic about what your salary will be after graduation. Before you borrow, estimate the amount of debt you’ll be able to handle without a lot of financial stress. Never borrow more than you need and try to keep your payments as low as possible.

Click the Next button to explore the basics of student loans.