Student loans

Millennials and Gen Z postpone major financial decisions because of student loans, study finds

Student loan debt has forced many young Americans to delay other major financial decisions, a new study finds. But despite the challenges, the vast majority said debt wouldn’t have stopped them from pursuing higher education in hindsight.

Millions of Americans are burdened with student loans. It has exploded over the past two decades, with Americans holding more than $1.7 trillion in student loans, including more than 43 million Americans with $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. It is the second largest form of debt in the United States behind home loans.

According to a report published Wednesday by, 74% of Gen Z borrowers and 68% of Millennials who took out a student loan for college delayed a major financial decision because of their debt. That’s more than for older generations: About 54% of Gen X borrowers and 42% of Baby Boomer borrowers said they put off a major financial decision because of their student debt.

Of those who put off major financial decisions, 27% overall said they put off saving for emergencies, 26% said they put off saving for retirement, 24% said they put off paying off other debts, and 23% postponed the purchase of a house.

“Savings are the biggest victim of student debt servicing, as saving for emergencies and saving for retirement top the list of financial decisions most often delayed due to student debt,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at

While financial decisions for those delayed due to student loan debt were spread across multiple age groups, 23% of Gen Z and 19% of Millennials said they put off having children due to student loan debt, compared to 9% of Gen Xers and 2% of Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, 18% of Gen Z and 15% of Millennials said they had delayed marriage, compared to 6% of Gen X and 2% of Baby Boomers.

Despite the burdens, 59% of those who graduated with student loan debt said higher education improved their career opportunities or earning potential. McBride said this signals savings may be delayed, for many this will mean greater ability to save in the long run.

Only 10% of those who borrowed for school said they would not have pursued higher education in hindsight.

But for many, student debt is not without regrets. More than half of borrowers said they would still have attended college, but would have done something different: apply for more scholarships, work while in school, get a different degree, or attend a less expensive school .

The Biden administration has grappled with how to deal with the student debt crisis. Earlier this month, the White House extended until August the pause on federal student loan payments that has been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This means that the vast majority of borrowers have not had to make a payment on their federal student loans for over two years. But the administration has not made a decision on whether President Biden will forgive student loan debt as some Democratic lawmakers have demanded.

In a recent interview, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said federal student loan debt forgiveness is “still on the table.” But the White House also called on Congress to act.

Critics of student loan debt forgiveness have raised an equity argument. Some have also pointed out that simply canceling student loan debt does not solve the problem of the continuously rising cost of higher education.

The average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student in a four-year public school was $10,740, according to the College Board. For out-of-state students, the cost was over $27,000. The average cost of a private, nonprofit education for the most recent school year was more than $38,000, the College Board found.