A new joint study out by AARP and American Youth Association says student debt is preventing generations of Americans from saving for major life milestones. The generation hit hardest? Millennials.
The study found that 48% of millennials, those between ages 21 and 36, are paying off a student loan for themselves or someone else. That’s compared to 34% of Gen Xers, and just 12% of baby boomers.
Because of the crush of student loan debt, millennials have hit pause on saving for other life events. According to the study, at least a quarter of millennials said they are struggling with saving for retirement, buying a house and car, and moving out of their parents’ homes.
With 70% of current grads walking away from college with $37,172 in student loans, the debt burden felt by future generations will continue to grow.
“The student loan problem is rippling across the broader economy,” says Ben Brown, founder of The Association of Young Americans. “As people both young and old continue to graduate with more debt, that ripple effect will become wider and more significant.”
Brown says more needs to be done. “This highlights the importance of solving both the extreme cost of higher education as well as the $1.5 trillion student debt crisis.”
On top of the financial hardship, the stress of paying off loans is hitting millennials hard. According to a survey by LendEDU and Laurel Road, three-quarters of millennials said they feel stressed on a daily basis about their debt.
But there are ways to tackle your debt. Before you even apply to college, make sure the school is the right financial fit. Visit FAFSA4caster to get an estimate of how much aid you’ll be eligible for. This will help you make a financially smart decision before you even step on campus.
And setting your sights on an Ivy League or more expensive college might not be worth it in the long run. An analysis by Investopedia compared Ivy League colleges to public and private universities and found public school graduates receive a higher rate of return on their educational investment than those who attend an Ivy League school.
If you’ve already graduated and have a loan weighing you down, don’t panic. Set up a realistic payment plan that works for you and get help from Federal Student Aid, which has resources on repayment plans to pay off your loans.
And while it may seem daunting to save for retirement on top of everything else, take advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan at the very least. If you’re employer doesn’t offer one, here’s how to save for retirement if your job doesn’t offer a 401(k).