TIAA-MIT AgeLab Study Finds Student Loan Debt Significantly Impacts Retirement Savings, Longevity Planning and Family Relationships
One-quarter of those not saving for retirement cite student loans as the reason; Parents and grandparents borrowing for loved ones are hardest hit

NEW YORK July 30, 2019 – A large majority of American adults (84%) report that student loans are negatively impacting the amount they are able to save for retirement, according to new research sponsored by TIAA and conducted by the MIT AgeLab. Nearly three out of four (73%) borrowers report they are putting off maximizing their retirement savings, saying they expect to begin or increase their contributions once their student loans are paid off. Among those who are not saving for retirement at all, more than one quarter (26%) point to the need to pay off student loan debt as the reason.

The yearlong study, which explores the intersection of student loan debt, longevity planning and family dynamics, shows that life stage—and who the loans are being taken out for—plays a key role in the balancing act of paying off student debt and saving for retirement.

Borrowers of all ages, including parents and grandparents, are making financial sacrifices to repay student loans

Among 25- to 35-year-olds who are not saving for retirement, 39% say they are prioritizing student loan payments. Of the parents and grandparents taking out loans for children and grandchildren, 43% say they will increase retirement savings once the student loan is paid off.  In focus groups, women, in particular, described the struggle of sacrificing their own financial security in retirement in order to put their children’s education and wellbeing first.  

“To be sure, getting a college degree remains one of the smartest investments a person can make in their financial future – but saving for retirement is equally important,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA. “We believe that advice and coaching are key to navigating what can seem like competing demands. TIAA has found that people who engage with qualified financial professionals are better equipped to make decisions about paying for education for themselves or a loved one without sacrificing their future financial security.”

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Executive Summary Student Loan Debt: The Multigenerational Effects on Relationships and Retirement

Part One – Repay Now or Save For Later: The Balancing Act of Repaying Student Loans and Saving for Retirement

Part Two – The Elephant At The Dinner Table: Family Conversations And Conflict Surrounding Student Loans

Part Three – ‘Til Debt Do Us Part: Student Loan Debt And Romantic Relationships

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Elizabeth Anderson

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