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A 10-step plan to paying off student loan debt, from someone who repaid over $40,000

2. Triage your student loan debt
Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Andrew Burton/Reuters

Student loan debt is a big financial burden for many people. In fact, Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

While some may find themselves forced todefer="defer"or default on your student loans, it's better if you're able to come up with a system to pay them off - and within a modest time frame.

There are two primary reasons to pay down your student loan debt in a reasonable amount of time, Maizie Simpson, data and news editor at Credit Karma, told Business Insider via email.

"The first has to do with interest: The longer you draw out your repayment period, the more interest you'll end up paying," Simpson said. "The second reason is that the longer you have student loan debt, the longer you might put off big life decisions or making investments in your future, such as starting a family or contributing to a 401(k)."

When it comes to paying off your student loans, no matter how intimidating the debt amount is, making an actionable payment plan is key. Here, Elyssa Kirkham, a finance reporter and student loan expert for Student Loan Hero, who paid off a substantial amount of debt herself, took us through a 10-step plan for paying off your student loan debt.

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