Study: Student loan debt threatens retirement savings

By Amy R. Connolly  |  Feb. 5, 2016 at 3:00 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Millions of Americans are at risk for a shortfall in their retirement funding due to student loans, a new study showed.

Asking the question, "Will the explosion of student debt widen the retirement security gap?," researchers with the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found student loan debt chips away at the ability to prepare for a comfortable retirement.

Some 52 percent of Americans are at risk of a shortfall in retirement, based on data that includes a student debt load of $18,000. If that student debt load is raised to $31,000, the average for many borrowers today, some 56 percent of Americans will feel the pinch at retirement, the study found.

"The bottom line is that college costs should be included in broader policy discussions over how to improve financial security," researchers said. "If today's working-age households had the same level of student debt as those recently leaving college -- an additional 4.6 percent of households would be at risk of having inadequate income in retirement."

With outstanding student loan debt reaching a staggering $1.3 trillion, and about $103 billion of that in default, student loan debt has become a national crisis. It has been well documented that student borrowers who recently left school struggle to repay loans due to under- or unemployment. This new study shows paying down loans has continuing aftershocks well into retirement.

The study, based on 2013 data, also shows student borrowing reduces the rate of homeownership and home values, thus creating less home equity by retirement age.

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