Which comes first -- student loans or 401(k)?

  @Money February 12, 2014: 5:06 PM ET
401k diploma

If your employer offers a 401(k) match, take that route. If not, go straight to paying off your student loan.

NEW YORK (Money Magazine)

I'm working full-time while I get my doctorate. Do I pay down my $100,000 student debt or add to my 401(k)? -- Shannon, Tampa

If your 401(k) offers a match, take it, says Colorado Springs financial planner Allan Roth.

Then, assuming you don't have credit card debt and do have cash set aside in case of unemployment, tackle the loans. You're likely to repay only part of the debt while in school, but a guaranteed return from cutting your total interest bill -- rather than an uncertain return on investments -- will put you on firmer ground.

Related: How much are 401(k) fees costing you?

Specify that extra remittances are a payment of principal, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at education portal Edvisors.com. Be aware also that if your income is above $80,000 in 2014 ($160,000 if married), you can't deduct any student loan interest. To top of page

Send your questions to Ask the Expert.

Join the Conversation
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.32%4.26%
15 yr fixed3.36%3.27%
5/1 ARM3.37%3.27%
30 yr refi4.31%4.24%
15 yr refi3.34%3.25%
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.