As someone with student debt—in spite of being lucky enough to work full-time, including during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic—I know firsthand how many barriers come when you’re paying back not only a loan but a loan with a considerably high interest rate. Even on income-based repayment plans, student loan payments can seriously cut into the money you have to live in the day-to-day world, like when it comes to rent, groceries, or transportation. It can also cut into the money you have to save, which as many in finance will tell you, is crucial when it comes to long-term stability and security.
Putting money into retirement funds when you’re young is widely recommended, and many money-focused folks are quick to berate young renters for “wasting” money each month instead of investing in their own property. There are more than just financial reasons why someone wouldn’t necessarily want to own their own home, but a new report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shares some stunning numbers: More than half of the people who responded to an online poll via Morning Consult say their student loan debt is the main reason they haven’t yet purchased a home, as covered by CNBC.
The poll was a joint effort between the NAR and Morning Consult and included 1,995 online respondents. Six out of 10 millennials said their student loan debt made them delay homeownership. Who else did? Baby boomers, though at a lesser percentage. While 60% of millennials cited student loans, 30% of boomers did. Which, while less, is higher than many folks might think when they hear talk of student debt forgiveness.
According to the report, people who have student debt and own a home (about 28% of respondents) are more likely than student-debt holders who rent (about 19% of respondents) to say they had a “strong” understanding of their earning potential following graduation. Homeowners are still more likely than renters to say they had even “somewhat” of an understanding of their post-grad earning potential.
About 15% of respondents said their student loan debt has kept them at a job they disliked, while just over 10% said it’s kept them at a job they found boring. 10% said it’s made them take a job outside of their field of study, while another 12% said it’s actually made them take on a second job. Only about 40% of respondents said it hasn’t impacted their job decisions.
About 60% of respondents said an employer offering student loan repayment options would impact their decision to take the job, with millennials, those who own a home, those who hold student debt for multiple people, and those who are delaying buying a home because of debt being particularly likely.
Just over one-quarter of respondents said they haven’t been able to contribute to retirement at all because of their student debt, while 23% said there have been times they haven’t been able to contribute. Even in households making more than $100,000 per year, about one-third of respondents said there have been times where they didn’t contribute at all or had to contribute at a reduced rate because of their debt. Student loan holders in households with one or fewer income earners are also more likely to say they haven’t been able to contribute toward retirement.
In the big picture, we know that about one in eight Americans has student debt, according to 2021 census data. White borrowers hold more than 50% of the total student debt balance and are more likely to have taken out private loans. We also know that people between 25 and 34 are more likely to have student debt, though the greatest amount of debt is held by a different group. That would be adults between ages 35 and 49.
We know that Black graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student debt than white folks with a bachelor’s degree and that within four years of graduation, nearly 30% of Black graduates have monthly payments of at least $350. We also know Black women, who have the highest student loan debt of any racial or ethnic group, are about 56% more in debt than the average white male. Another way of saying all of this? We know student loan debt is an equity issue.
What can we do? Support progressives who support student loan cancellation, and help to push President Joe Biden to do—at least—what he campaigned on, which was to cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt per person.
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