No. of Recommendations: 2

The rates are great now (around 3-4%) but I'm scared of what that rate could turn into years down the road.

Yes, I would be concerned if I were in any variable rate loan (student loan, HELOC, credit card debt, etc.) with a multi-year payoff right now - the rates probably won't be going down from here. The question is, how long will you be able to take advantage of the low rates before you start getting burned by higher rates?

Should I put all of my extra money into paying down these loans (which could take a decade at minimum) and not contribute to my 401k?

Does your 401(k) plan have a match that requires a contribution from you to receive it? If so, the benefit of the match probably outweighs the interest you are paying, and you should be contributing enough to get the match.

If you don't have a match, you might want to start putting any raises that you get toward your 401(k), rather than using them to pay down debt and/or increase your lifestyle.

What about investing in stocks (outside of the 401k)? Should I hold off on that until all student loans are paid off??

That's a question you need to answer for yourself, as it depends on how much risk you want to take. But, you might want to consider it this way: Would you borrow against a credit card with the same terms as your student loan, and use that money to invest in stocks? Because that's essentially what you would be doing.

I'm worried about the emotional impact of never seeing my money grow as well as the very real fear of not having enough for retirement (I'm 30).

From a net worth perspective, any dollar you have saved/invested is offset by any dollar you owe someone. So 'seeing your debt shrink' is just as important as 'seeing your money grow,' from a net worth perspective. How you get there all depends on the risk you want to take - it's a sure boost to your net worth to pay off debt, and a riskier potential boost (or decrease) to invest in stocks.

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