In a new study released by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), the struggles of the aged American population are outlined in detail. The main culprit of their struggle happens to be student loans. It seems a bit unrealistic that older Americans are experiencing the same difficulties as the beleaguered Millennial generation, but CFPB sheds startling insight on the growing predicament that the senior population finds itself in.
To start, the numbers do not tell a good story. According to the CFPB report citing the New York Federal Reserve, the number of senior student loan debtors over the age of 60 has quadrupled over the past ten years. In 2005, there were around 0.7 million aged borrowers as opposed to nearly 3 million in 2015. Today, seniors compose over 6% of all student loan borrowers.
In addition to more borrowers, the average student loan debt per senior increased at an alarming rate as well. The average debt toll has nearly doubled from $12,000 to $23,500 amounting to a total of $67 billion in outstanding student loans with seniors. These numbers were also reported by the New York Federal Reserve and incorporated into the CFPB report.
On top of all this information, the main beneficiary of the student loan debt held by seniors over age 60 are children or grandchildren. Roughly a quarter of outstanding student loan debt by seniors is intended for self-education while over 70% is intended for a child or grandchild.
In addition to loans taken out directly by seniors over the age of 50, it was found that over 50% of co-signers on student loans are over the age of 55. While this group is not primarily responsible for student loans, they are at a much greater risk of sharing the burden or picking up payments entirely.
All of this information does not paint a pretty picture. Seniors have many different responsibilities and obligations to manage such as retirement funds or mortgage payments, so adding student loans to the bill adds obvious detriment to a senior’s finances.
This wouldn’t be an issue if seniors could manage these student loans, but this is not the case. Over the past decade, the delinquency rate for student loan debtors over 60 has nearly doubled to 12.5%. Even more startling, the default rate for federal borrowers is at 40%. This leads to all sorts of problems. One such problem, social security garnishment, has made the headlines recently as more people begin to take notice to the senior struggle with student loans.
It is clear that the student loan burden impedes seniors from accomplishing their retirement; for instance, student loan debtors with a retirement fund had on average $10,000 to $20,000 less than seniors without student loans. (Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances 2013).
The problems experienced by seniors today are alarming, yet simple to understand. Taking on debt from one source leads to problems in all other financial areas. The trends observed here appear to be a byproduct of the overall growing student loan debt problem. As the debt toll grows, a larger portion of the population will begin to experience its effects.