Question: Having $138,000 in student loans at 9% I would pay just about $160,000 in interest if I go 20 years to get forgiveness for the loan. Is this the best way to go or should I try to pay it off sooner? Gary, Jamison, PA

Answer: The numbers answer your question: Pay it off earlier. The total cost of the loan balloons if you wait for the 20-year forgiveness period, as your calculation shows. (It could be 25 years, too, depending on the repayment plan and when the student loans were taken out.)

However, the loan forgiveness is an important safety valve for those who choose or end up in a low paying jobs following graduation.

You might want to see if you qualify for the income-based repayment plan. Most borrowers have a monthly payment under income-based repayment that is less than 10% of gross income. You can learn more about it here.

You can always accelerate your payments if your income improves.

Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon