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Most borrowers have no idea what they’ll owe in the future – or even how many years their loans are for

2 minute read

It’s no surprise that student loan borrowers are struggling. But now it’s affecting the population.

Another recent study, this one from Prudential, shows a quarter of them are even “delaying or have delayed having children” because their loans are consuming so much of their income. Yet they seem to know very little about the loans themselves.

“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 against unexpected life events.”

Student loan debt in the United States adds up to over $1.3 trillion — making it the second highest consumer debt in the U.S. behind mortgages. The average debt for a college graduate adds up to about $37,000.

One reason college graduates continue to fall further into debt may be how little they educate themselves on the loans they’re taking out. Prudential found that 25 percent of students don’t know the difference between private and federal loans, which can make a huge difference in the amount of interest the borrower needs to pay back and what payment plans are available.

They’re also not reading the terms they agreed to. Over three quarters of borrowers don’t know how long they will be repaying their loans, and over half don’t know how much to pay every month, according to the study.

Mouths to feed

Education expenses are making many young Americans delay traditional milestones like marriage and children until later on in life.

The average age to get married has gone up over the past few decades. In 1965, the average age for men to get married was 23, and 21 for women. The average age now has gone up to 29 for men, and 27 for women.

“Culturally, young adults have increasingly come to see marriage as a ‘capstone’ rather than a ‘cornerstone,’” says sociologist Mary Elizabeth Hughes. “That is, something they do after they have all other ducks in a row, rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood.”

It’s not easy getting all your ducks in a row when you’re starting $37,000 in the hole. Not to mention what usually comes next after marriage.

The typical cost to raise children in the U.S. ranges from $12,350 to $13,900 yearly, depending on which state you live in. Americans spend $233,610 on average getting them to adulthood. Per kid.

It’s no secret, children aren’t cheap. Without a clear plan on how to pay back the money we borrowed for school, it’s difficult to plan to start a family.

We can’t afford to buy homes

With the huge amount of debt we already need to pay back, we’re also reluctant to take out mortgages at the start of our careers.

Only 34 percent of millennials are homeowners in the U.S., according to the United States Census Bureau. The rest of us are just too far in debt to consider taking out a mortgage.

Whether college graduates are currently paying their student debt back or have already paid it off, they’re still struggling to move up to their own homes. Many are living in situations they don’t want to. Of the people in Prudential’s study, 35 percent say they’re living with a roommate or family member rather than living on their own.

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About the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Joe Pye is a certified debt management professional. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Florida Atlantic University’s student-run newspaper, the University Press. He was a finalist for the Mark of Excellence award by the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 for feature writing and in-depth reporting. He now covers personal finance topics for uncovering trends that help readers deal with the financial world. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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