Many people pursue a college degree for the promise of better opportunities, better pay and ultimately a better life. But at what point does the financial burden of higher education start to outweigh the benefits?
According to Pew Research, Americans owed roughly $1.5 trillion in student loans by the end of March 2019 – an all-time high. What’s more, is in a survey that looked at American consumer debt, the average U.S. household that took out student loans owed $46,679.
Student loans for many are necessary for earning a degree, but they can also negatively affect your future. In addition to making it more challenging to stick to a monthly budget, student loan debt could prevent you from reaching financial milestones in your lifetime.
You may not be able to afford a home
Student loan debt can significantly impact your ability to buy a house. For one, your loan payments may interfere with your ability to save enough money for a down payment, which many lenders require. Secondly, your student loan debt may prevent you from qualifying for an affordable mortgage and good interest rates.
Even if you can afford your mortgage payments, many recent college graduates are putting off buying a home to avoid accumulating more debt on top of their student loans.
Your retirement savings could suffer
It’s recommended that individuals put about 15% of their paychecks into a retirement savings account like a 401k or IRA as soon as they enter the workforce. But if you’re already struggling to cover your student loan payments, you likely can’t afford to start saving for retirement either.
Those without savings for retirement are in for a rude awakening when they do leave the workforce. Your finances for retirement need to last you for up to 20 years or longer. If you don’t have a nest egg, you could be left relying on social security payments or taking a part-time job when you should be taking it easy.
A low credit score can haunt you
If you’re failing to make your student loan payments on time, you could be negatively affecting your credit score. Lenders interpret low credit scores with higher risk, meaning they may be less likely to extend you a line of credit for big purchases like a car or home. It could also mean higher interest rates.
Additionally, credit checks are becoming increasingly common for job applicants. A low credit score viewed by a potential employer could hurt your chances of getting the job you got your degree for.
Managing your student loan debt
Student loan debt can feel insurmountable, but it can be overcome. If you implement simple steps such as sticking to a budget, cutting back on things you don’t need or taking a second job, you can ensure your student debt doesn’t interfere with your future.