It’s no secret that college costs have skyrocketed over the last few decades. In fact, tuition and fees have inflated more since the start of the 21st century than any other consumer good or service besides hospital care.
As a result, millennials paid about twice what their baby boomer parents did for a four-year college degree — and that means they borrowed more for school than their parents did, too. In 1989, when Boomers were about the same age as millennials are today, the average borrower owed less than $2,000; today, the average millennial’s student debt balance is over $33,000.
Understandably, millennials want to save their kids from the same debt-strapped fate — and they’re already saving more (and starting to save earlier) for their children’s education than previous generations.
But as the generation with the highest rate of student debt, helping their kids save for college poses unique challenges for millennial parents. Here’s why:
Many millennial parents are still paying off their own student debt.
The average borrower takes more than twenty years to pay off their college loans, and monthly payments average around $400 — so many millennial parents are forced to tackle their own student loan bills instead of contributing to their child’s college savings plan.
Student debt makes millennials more vulnerable to financial instability.
Among millennials with student debt, 27 percent delay contributing to an emergency fund, and 24 percent deprioritize paying off other forms of debt due to their college loans.
As a result, these borrowers are left more vulnerable to unexpected bills, hefty interest, and the consequences of a poor credit score — and ultimately less equipped to save for their kids’ college.
It will take more for millennials to retire securely.
Parents who prioritize helping their kids pay for college instead of building retirement savings will have a much harder time catching up later on, since starting to save as early and as much as possible is key to maximizing the power of compound interest.
And with the amount needed to retire comfortably estimated at $3 to $4 million, it’s no wonder 72 percent of millennials don’t think they’ll be able to save enough to be secure in their golden years. For many, college loans are to blame: a quarter of millennials with student debt say they’ve delayed retirement savings due to repayment.
The SECURE Act 2.0 can help.
Millennials want to break the cycle of student loans, but all too often, the long-lasting impacts of college debt make it impossible for parents to help pay for their kids’ education.
However, the SECURE Act 2.0 can help make financial wellness more attainable for more families. Included in the bill are provisions that allow employers to match employees’ student loan payments with tax-advantaged retirement contributions, and make emergency savings more accessible through new terms, automatic enrollment, and retirement match programs. By helping employees make simultaneous progress on student debt repayment and retirement savings while also building financial resilience, SECURE 2.0 can be the boost millennial parents need to help their kids get ahead, too.