David Bach in Web chat: Tips to reduce student loan debt

Feb. 16, 2011 at 6:35 PM ET

TODAY Money expert David Bach, author of a new book "Debt Free for Life," joined us for a live Web chat Wednesday morning after the show's Money 911 segment.

Here are two of his answers to questions from the live chat. See below for the full Q&A and video of the Money 911 segment.

Question from Becky Rogers:

My son's W-2 came in the mail yesterday, and one of the perforated sides was either torn or removed from the form. Our mail box is at a bank of boxes at the end of the street. When I peeked inside where the form was accessible, I could easily see his social security number. Not knowing if this was random or if somebody purposely opened the form to steal his ID information, is there a place to report possible identity theft, even if I can't substantiate that claim? Are there any other steps you would recommend taking to prevent any long term issues? My son will be taking out student loans for his senior year of college next year, and I don't want this possible identity theft issue to be a concern. Thank you!

Answer from David:

My suggestion is that you immediately pull your sons credit reports. You can do this for FREE at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. You also might want to consider buying an identity theft monthly membership that will notify you if you anyone is trying to use his credit. You can also lock his credit files with the credit bureaus by visiting their websites.

You can't report identity theft because you don't actually know if anything has been stolen. So checking his reports is the first step. Thank you for asking, and for being so on it for your son!

Question from Jenny:

My husband owes $50,000 in student loans. How can we find ways to reduce this debt? It is crippling. We are now 49 and only make $52,000 a year. He is Native American and has consolidated the loans, but it's still an emotional for us because it has stopped us from buying a home.

Answer from David:

Jenny, there are multiple options. First, to pay the loans off, you can simply up what you are contributing to the loans and pay the principal down fast. But my guess is you don't have that money.

Student loans don't have to stop you from buying a home. Many people save to buy a home and make minimum payments on their student loans while they build savings to buy a home. The good news is your husband consolidated his debt already and my guess is the interest rate is extremely low because its government loans not private.

I would also look at my new book "Debt Free for Life," and read the chapter on student loans. You can get more details on this book at http://www.finishrich.com.

Good luck to you both. And know that student loans are crippling a lot of Americans -- it’s the next credit crisis facing American's. It's a real problem -- you are not alone!

Complete archive:


If you have a question for our TODAY Money experts, submit it here.

To sign up for an e-mail reminder for our next chat, click here.

Watch this week's Money 911 segment: