Student loan debt is a growing problem in the U.S., and not just for recent college graduates. Roughly one in six people over age 50 are carrying student loan debt, according to a new report by Barclays.
There are more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loans in the U.S. Americans age 50 and older account for 15.5 percent; people 60 and older account for 4.2 percent, with an average debt of $18,250, according to the report. As for delinquencies, adults age 50 to 59 account for nearly 17 percent of past-due student loan balances, while people over 60 account for nearly 5 percent.
Student loan debt in retired households rose by 62 percent between 2007 and 2009, Barclays reported. The causes vary: While some older people may still be paying off college debts from their 20s, others took on loans to attend school later in life.
In addition, more post 50s are finding themselves in debt from co-signing loans for children and grandchildren. Some 71 percent of post 50 parents have helped their adult children pay for their college tuition, according to a recent Ameriprise Financial study.
Older debtors who have federal student loans outstanding may get a shock when they begin drawing Social Security, as the government can garnish those payments to apply it to those loans. Meanwhile, students loans can't be discharged in bankruptcy unless the borrower can prove "undue hardship," In 2008, only 29 out of 72,000 borrowers in bankruptcy were granted this exemption.
More than half of boomers have their adult children living at home, at no cost.
Nearly a quarter of boomers claim to be saving for the future, down from 44 percent in 2007.
Assisting Aging Parents
More than half of boomers are providing financial assistance to their aging parents, covering basic needs such as: grocery bills, medical bills, and utility bills. Additionally, 10 percent feel that helping their parents has slowed their retirement savings.
Assisting Adult Children
The majority of boomers said they have provided support to their adult children, as 71 percent helped pay for college tuition or loans and 53 percent helped their children purchase a vehicle. More than one third felt that supporting their adult children has damaged their retirement savings.
Assistance Vs. Retirement Contribution
More than half of boomers said they would choose to contribute to their retirement savings instead of helping their adult child pay off credit card debt. The study showed more than half would help a parent pay for long-term care insurance instead of contributing to their own retirement savings.
Nearly half of boomers worry that their adult children do not know how to prepare financially for retirement. More than one third expressed feelings that their adult children lack financial responsibility.
The majority of boomers said they would still support their adult children financially if they had to do it over, while 20 percent felt guilt for being unable to help.
Children Of Boomers
More than half of children of boomers said while growing up, their parents rarely or never talked to them about how to budget. Additionally, 52 percent said their parents never relayed the importance of saving for retirement.