1. Don't ever miss a student loan payment

A May report from the Federal Reserve showed almost 60% of student borrowers made zero payments on their federal loans between August 2020 through December 2021.

Struggling with student loan debt? Whatever you do, don't just throw up your hands and stop paying.

"Make paying back your student loan the very first bill you pay," Orman says on her Facebook page. "It is more important that you make your student loan payments on time each month than any other bill."

She has called student loan debt "the most dangerous debt you can ever have" because you can't erase it through bankruptcy.

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2. Don't ever co-sign a loan

When a friend or family member in need asks you to co-sign a loan, Orman says the only correct response is to turn them down.

As she puts it: "Don’t be afraid to say 'no to others and say 'yes' to yourself."

When you co-sign a loan, you become legally responsible for paying back the money. Life is unpredictable, and if anything happens to prevent the borrower from repaying the loan, you’ll be on the hook to make the payments.

Plus, if the borrower is so much as late on a few payments, your credit score can take a hit.

3. Don't let debt linger

"Debt is bondage,” Orman told CNBC. "You will never, ever, ever have financial freedom if you have debt."

Still, she points out that not all debt is the same.

Mortgages and student loans can be considered "good debt," because home loans usually have fairly low interest rates and your degree is an investment that should generate a higher income over time.

However, credit cards have much higher interest rates. The longer you put off paying down your credit balances, the more money you lose, and you can easily wind up paying for your purchases three or four times over.

It's not easy getting out from under a mountain of credit card debt, but rolling it into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan can make the debt more manageable and help you pay it off faster.

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4. Don’t ever take out a payday loan

If you want to get a rise out of Suze Orman, just ask how she feels about payday loans.

“I am begging all of you, do not take a payday loan out,” she said on one episode of her podcast, going so far as to add that it’s the biggest mistake listeners could ever make.

Payday loans are tempting because they’re relatively easy to get when you’re strapped for cash. However, they’re offensively expensive. The typical annual percentage rate is 400%. By comparison, the average APR on credit cards is currently around 20%.

Several states have capped the APR on payday loans at 36% or have even banned the loans altogether. A lower-cost personal loan is a good alternative.

5. Don’t retire owing money on your home

A survey from mortgage banker American Financing found that 44% of Americans in their 60s and 70s are still paying off a mortgage. And 17% said they don’t expect to ever pay it off.

“This is so not OK,” Orman has blogged.

She urges people to go into retirement mortgage-free, for two reasons: to stretch their retirement savings, and to rid themselves of debt — an albatross that affects even mental health.

“If you’re going to stay living in that house for the rest of your life, pay off that mortgage as soon as you possibly can,” Orman tells CNBC.

Without a mortgage, you'll have more financial security in retirement, she says. So work until you're 70, use excess emergency savings and do whatever else it takes to get that house debt paid off.

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About the Author

Samantha Emann

Samantha Emann

Senior Associate Editor

Samantha is a veteran editor with almost a decade of journalism experience. She graduated from Humber College’s journalism program and has written and edited for a variety of news organizations including The Toronto Star, The Hamilton Spectator, TC Media and Narcity. She also co-founded one of Canada’s first esports podcasts, Scrub League.

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