The age at which student loan borrowers can expect to have paid off their debt continues to climb, darkening the future of our dear economy.
The folks at CNBC did us all a favor and compiled a bunch of data on the subject. The numbers show that with each passing year, the number of student loan borrowers in older age groups continues to grow. Things are looking so bleak that 60 percent of student borrowers expect to be paying off that debt well into their 40s. And the data backs those sentiments up: Between 2004 and 2015, the number of student debt holders in their 40s grew from 3 million to 7 million.
It doesn’t end there. Folks in their 60s with student debt — we’re talking about official senior citizens still paying off debts from their 20s — rose from just less than 1 million to around 3 million in that same time frame.
The future isn’t bright
From that same CNBC report:
“…NerdWallet predicts that students who graduated from college in 2015 will have to delay retirement until the age of 75, in part because of the increasing burden of student debt.”
Not only does that suck for the people who were hoping to, I don’t know, actually enjoy their lives, but that bodes terribly for future job-seekers. If the new norm becomes working into your 70s, how on earth are college grads in 2040 or 2050 going to get jobs? What jobs will even exist?
These are the questions we need to be thinking about as we try to reform our education system. Sure, things are tough now for recent grads looking for decent work, but that pales in comparison to what will happen to the labor economy if this keeps up.
What does it mean?
It means lots of things — none of which are good.
For starters, an aging labor force with no room for new prospects means less and less innovation. It means less room for creativity and less opportunity the development of a new generation of leaders.
It also means that younger generations will struggle to afford homes or invest. That spells bad news for those individuals and several sectors of the economy.
Additionally, you can kiss Social Security and retirement savings goodbye — if you hadn’t already. Assuming a majority of workers will hold jobs into their 70s just so they can reasonably pay off loans, as soon as they retire, they will absorb whatever remains of the Social Security fund to finance their old age.
There’s simply no way to pay off loans, pay bills, feed a family, and have a bunch of disposable income. Not unless you make hundreds of thousands a year, something only reserved for the top earners in our country.
We have two options: 1) Wait and hope that hundreds of thousands of new jobs materialize out of thin air, or 2) Fix the student debt crisis.
You take a second to think about which of those two sounds like the better plan.
It starts with ensuring the validity of college degrees. People who spend the time and money on higher education deserve the guarantee that that degree will put them in a position to get a more competitive job.
The reason we’re seeing older and older people still paying off loans is that the jobs they used to be qualified for no longer exist. As a society, we need to pay attention to these trends and adjust our educational programs accordingly. Otherwise, we’re just sitting behind the wheel of a screaming metal death trap with busted brakes.
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