6 Tips for Investing Despite Your Student Loans

by | BiggerPockets.com

When you hear the words “student loans,” do you feel debilitated or crippled? There is no doubt that if you have student loans, it is a huge source of stress and frustration. There are many different perspectives on how to handle them. Should you pay them off or pay the monthly minimum and use your extra income for investing? Investing while paying off your student loans is the ideal option, and it doesn’t have to be a dream. Anyone with any income level can invest despite their student loans.

Picture this — your student loans have an interest rate of 4%. If you pay those student loans off, you receive a return rate of 4%. But what if you could get a return of 8% or even more? The even better news is that this interest will compound. Wouldn’t that be a great benefit to your financial future?

There are countless opportunities to invest your money, despite having to pay off your student loans. No matter where you are financially, you can accomplish the portfolio of your dreams with a little step in the right direction.

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Make a budget.

Do you know how much extra cash you have at the end of the month or how much you spend on going out to eat every week? These details are important pieces of information you need to know. Creating a budget is extremely important for first time and even expert investors. You need to be able to see where your money is going.

When you first start investing, you may need to make a few adjustments to your budget and spending habits. Maybe you can only order sushi once a week instead of three times. Minor adjustments can do wonders for your pocketbook and your portfolio.


Start small.

Half the battle is making the decision to start to investing. No matter where you are financially, you can invest some extra cash. Think about how many times you have ordered takeout this week or stopped at Starbucks. Those little expenses could add up. Imagine if you starting investing $3 a day for the rest of the year. It doesn’t seem like a large amount, but it can add up. If you started January 1, you would have $1,095 to invest by the end of the year.

Related: Should You Pay Down Student Debt or Start Investing?

Choose an amount that you are comfortable with and invest in something that builds over time. With a little bit of consistency and discipline, you will have your very first portfolio.

Pay yourself first.

If you have done your research, you will hear a lot of expert investors tell you to “pay yourself first.” What does this mean for a graduate with student debt? It means you need to make investing a priority. A great way to make investing a priority is to automate your investment efforts. For an example, pull a specific amount from your bank account every month and deposit it into your Roth IRA. This way, you don’t have to think about it — it is already done.

When you make a conscious decision to invest or to buy a pair of shoes (that you don’t really need), most likely you will pick the shoes. This gives you instant gratification. Prolong that gratification and if you truly want something, take some time and save for it. Don’t sacrifice your investing.

Creating good financial habits now can have an extraordinary payoff for you and your family in the future.

Find a mentor.

Investing can be emotional and challenging. Finding a mentor can be a great way to help you be held accountable and encourage you to be consistent. Search for a mentor who has the same money philosophy as you. You want someone to be aligned with your goals and the risks you are willing to take.

Working with a mentor is a great way to educate yourself and learn from someone who has experience in the field. Especially if you want to dabble in real estate, having a mentor could have a big payoff in the future. They can help you avoid the mistakes they’ve made and guide you to a healthier financial lifestyle.


Use tax-advantage accounts.

Does your job provide a 401(k) plan? If so, make sure not to miss out on free money. Once you determine the percentage of your income you can invest every month, ask your employer about their match program. Most companies will match your contribution up to a certain percentage of your income. If they will match your contributions, let’s say up to 6%, be sure you are contributing that amount. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to invest free money.

If you are self-employed, an entrepreneur, or your employer doesn’t provide a 401(k) plan, there are many other options for investing with tax-advantage accounts. For example, consider opening a Roth IRA. Contributions do not have tax breaks; however, your earnings and withdrawals are generally tax-free.

Take a look at real estate.

Investing in real estate is not something that happens overnight. It is a lifelong journey toward your financial goals. Make sure you establish your expectations upfront, so you are in it for the long haul. Depending on your financial situation, you may need to start small. Maybe your first home is your first investment or you partner with a local investor that will help you flip a house.

Related: How to Get Started in Real Estate Investing as a College Student (or Recent Grad)

No matter where you start, just start. Educate yourself, make a plan, and stay consistent with your efforts in order to achieve your financial goals.

Starting small and making a plan is key for building your financial dreams. No matter where you are financially, you can start investing today. Your student loans should not prohibit you from financial freedom. You deserve to reach your goals, so don’t let anything hold you back. Start investing today; your future self will thank you.

To those readers carrying student debt: Are you able to invest regularly? Any tips you’d add to this list?

Be sure to leave a comment below!

About Author

Ashley Chorpenning

Ashley is a Finance Blogger with a degree from University of Cincinnati in Finance. She has a deep passion for helping millennials gain financial literacy and planning for their futures. You can find additional articles by Ashley at MoneyGravity.net


  1. Peter Mckernan

    Great article! It is tough to pick what is best for a person’s situation, some of what you listed I agree with along the lines of getting into a 401K, IRA, and saving for that next investment. I face student loans not for myself; however, my fiancé’s student loans when we get married and the quick answer is that we are going to work on paying them off right away. Her interest is 7-8% on high loans and I have quite a bit saved up to pay a lot of it off right away. It is just a tough decision either way!

    Thank you for writing this!

    • This is very true! If student debt is causing you stress, it may be a good idea to pay it off first. Everyone is different, however; investing a small amount can have a large payoff for your future. Do what is best for you. Make a plan and be consistent.

  2. Kira Hadalski

    Thanks for the article! I struggle with this every time I think about it. I have student loans but have also been increasing my savings at a fast clip so I can start investing asap. In a way, I feel like having cash flowing real estate assets and working a full time job may actually help me pay the loans off quicker. I may be wrong, but I’m coming to the decision that it’s in my best interest to not wait to invest until the loans are gone. I’d end up waiting more than a few years to get my feet wet if I did that.

  3. Ivan Rubio

    Great article! I would love to recommend the Mint.com app and website to create budgets and financial goals. It helped me tremendously in becoming a financially disciplined person. I have student loans myself and I usually try to give about $80 more than the minimum. In addition, I set a goal of saving a minimum of $700 or more per month for my investment goals. Then whatever is left over is my what I need to use for rent, utilities, phone, and food. If I get any bonuses at work I don’t use those to pay off student loans because I feel like the interest of 3.25%-5% is low and I’d rather use my cash flow to invest in a duplex where I can get a 12-15% rate of return monthly.

    If it’s credit card debt, those have 15%-25% interest so I always pay that off the same month that I’ve incurred it.

    • When I was in college, I worked part-time so I was eligible to open a Roth IRA. I did some research on compounding interest and asked my family for a good recommendation for a financial advisor. Even though I was only investing a small amount every month, my money was still working for me. You could also partner with someone in real estate. You need to determine how involved you would like to be. Don’t worry where you start. Just start:) Thank you for the great question.

  4. Richard Anderson

    Thanks for writing this article, but for those with serious student loan debt, there also needs to be a focus on tax planning. Especially, if the debt is so great they have chosen an income based repayment plan with the hope of debt cancellation at the 20 year mark – or even shorter for those with non-profit based careers. Folks in the position of receiving debt cancellation often times are not preparing for the large tax bill that comes with the forgiveness. They may find they need to tap their investment savings to pay the IRS.

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