Before the millennial generation, young adults in the United States seemed to follow a relatively set schedule: Find a job, get a spouse, buy a house, start a family. But student debt may have disrupted those plans for today's youth. About 56 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds say they've put off a major life event because of their loan payments, compared to 45 percent of in-debt Americans overall, according to a Bankrate.com survey released Wednesday.
The average college graduate leaves school with more than $30,000 in student loans, which is about 80 percent of their average income, according to New America. The typical monthly loan payment is about $300.
In order to afford this, millennials told Bankrate they'd put off certain milestones. The most delayed events were buying a house and buying a car, followed by getting married and saving for retirement. Having children came last on the list.
Student loan debt kind of makes me feel like a serf. Also, my parents *hate* me because I can't move out.
— Jenna M. Dorsi (@JennaMichelle29) August 3, 2015
I can't think of anything I hate more than paying this $300 student loan bill every month
— Pinto (@iTalkTwit) July 31, 2015
I can't wait to be done paying off my student loan so I can really enjoy life
— Ritaa. ✌️ (@RitaX0X0) July 31, 2015
Priorities shifted as respondents' ages increased. About 53 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds said they'd delayed a life event, but they tended to put off saving for retirement before getting married. That was true among people 50 and older, as well. But their student debt load was likely lighter, partly because college was less expensive years ago and partly because they'd already had decades to pay it off.
Regardless of reason, demographic statistics already reflected this trend. The average marrying age for women in 2011 was about 27, and for men it was about 30. Census data shows in the 1950s, the average ages were about 20 and 23, respectively.
The change wasn't going unnoticed, either. "Rising student debt burdens may prove to be one of the more painful aftershocks of the Great Recession, especially if left unaddressed,” Rohit Chopra, the assistant director and student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in 2013.
Bankrate recommended young people get budgets and financial plans so they didn't have to postpone anything else. But that might not be a solution for everyone. “If I were in debt for half as much, I would still say it was too much debt,” recent graduate Mallory Bayers told USA Today. “It’s going to take half my life to pay all this money back for a degree I haven’t exactly put to work yet.”