Financial Q&A

Seeking solace from a long-term student loan

Q I am 69 years old, work part time, and have less than $5,000 in savings. My main debt is a student loan that I have been paying to Sallie Mae, seemingly forever. The balance is about $3,900 at 7 percent interest, and I am very eager to retire the debt. My payments are $65.20 per month. But only about two-thirds of that amount goes toward principal. I live in senior housing and my rent is based on my income. How can I reduce this debt short of an increase in payments?

Name withheld

A Call Sallie Mae (the Student Loan Marketing Association) at 888-2-SALLIE to work out a new payment schedule. (The number, incidentally, is only for Sallie Mae borrowers, not people who have other types of student loans.)

Options that Sallie Mae offers include a payment plan of $50 a month, which would retire the debt over 10 years; an income-sensitive option, based on a percentage of your annual income; and prepaying the principal, which might reduce the total interest expense.

Also, a Sallie Mae official says to notify them if your health or well-being changes even for a short period of time, since there are short-term options, including a temporary deferment of certain payments.

Q I am writing about the American Trust Allegiance Fund. Does this fund have a grade from a reputable rating service? Also, I have had trouble finding the fund in newspaper listings. Where can I find such listings?

W.K., Boston

A The American Trust Allegiance Fund (800-385-7003) was recently awarded a top, five-star rating from information firm Morningstar Inc., Chicago.

The fund's ticker symbol is ATAFX, which can be checked out on various Web sites including Yahoo! ( and Bloomberg ( It is also listed daily in The Wall Street Journal, under AmTrAllegnc.

Q I am a new investor. My broker says I should use a "limit order" for all my purchases, especially when I buy technology stocks that may be volatile. What does he mean?

S.M., New York

A A limit order specifies the highest price at which you wish to buy a stock, or the lowest price that you will accept for a stock you are selling.

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110


(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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