We’ve all heard the student loan horror stories: the young woman who couldn’t get a job and wrecked her credit after defaulting on her mountain of debt; the couple who can’t buy a house because of their high college loan payments; the millennial with a 25% interest rate on his credit cards because missing a few student loan payments ruined his FICO score.

But, student loans aren’t the Grim Reaper. They don’t have to ruin your financial life. And actually, handled wisely, student loans can be a prudent choice and a good way to help close the affordability gap between the costs of your “desired education” vs. what you have in your bank account.

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