A crushing load of student debt is preventing young people from saving for retirement, buying a home or even deciding to start a family, Prudential Financial found in a survey of 2,369 people last September.
Forty percent said this debt is forcing them to delay saving for retirement. Forty-two percent said it is making them delay a home purchase, and 55% said it is preventing them from saving for emergencies. Furthermore, 25% are putting off having a child, and 20% are delaying getting married.
“We wanted to understand how student loan debt affects students and graduates in their daily lives,” says Prudential Advisors President Caroline Feeney. “The findings are troubling, given the amount of emotional and financial stress graduates face as they struggle to save enough money to establish families and households, plan for retirement or protect themselves from unexpected life events.”
Prudential created a report from the survey findings, titled, “Student Loan Debt—Implications on Financial and Emotional Wellness.” It notes that student loan debt, at $1.31 trillion, now exceeds any other type of U.S. consumer debt, aside from mortgages. By comparison, 10 years ago, student loan debt was only $481 billion.
In 2016, the average college graduate left school with $37,172 in student loans, and three years after graduating, only 46% had begun repaying those loans. In addition, the average net worth of households headed by college-educated adults younger than 40 carrying student loan debt is $8,700—compared to $64,700 for those without student loan debt.
However, Prudential found that there are things that students can do to put themselves in a better position. Fifty-six percent of the people surveyed said they would have applied for more scholarships. Forty-four percent said they would have saved more for college, 34% said they would have gotten a job during their college years, and 31% said they would have tried to accelerate their college years.
Prudential also recommends that students applying for college use websites and tools to evaluate and compare college costs and consider attending a community college for the first two years of school or an in-state college for all four years. Additionally, financial advisers can help navigate the student loan marketplace to find the most economical loans. Once graduated, people also need to stick to a budget and avoid racking up credit card debt that could interfere with repaying the loans, Prudential maintains.
Prudential’s full report can be downloaded here.