Debt can be frightening; studies have shown that debt can affect people’s ability to start their own business, own a home or choose a fulfilling career.

Susan Remo, a member of the USC Credit Union in Los Angeles who refinanced her own student debt, worries about how debt might affect her own kids. “It starts them off in a deep hole with no easy out,” she says.

Never too late

“Money can feel like a private thing, but there’s real value in talking to friends, family members or financial advisors.”

“Debt is a tool,” says Valerie Ives, student lending manager at USC Credit Union. “It’s never too late to take control of it and better your situation.”

Ives cautions that student loan debt is different from other debt. “People borrow for school when they’re 18 or 19 years old,” she says, “and rarely consider the long-term impact of debt.”

This rings true for Olga Cebotarenco, who also refinanced her student loans. “My understanding is, even if you file for bankruptcy, student loans can not be forfeited,” she says. “They are stuck with you for life.”

Another option is refinancing — which is easier than you might think. “Refinancing my student debt was very easy for me,” confirms Remo. “The process was simple, and I saved 4 percent overall on the interest rate.”

Cash in on assistance

Ives suggests making more than minimum payments and checking your free credit reports annually. “Know what you owe, and don’t do it alone — money can feel like a private thing, but there’s real value in talking to friends, family members or financial advisors. And most universities offer a lot of free resources that can help.”

For more information about managing, refinancing or understanding your debt, visit the USC Credit Union website.