When you think of people paying off student loans, you may envision a young professional in the working world still carrying their school ID in their wallet. Hardly any of us would think of people long settled in their careers, like former President Obama, who once told an audience that he had just paid off his student loans just nine years before his election.
Still fewer of us would imagine the face of the student loan borrower to be wrinkled and graying, but that's increasingly who it is today, according to new federal findings. Americans over age 60 — baby boomers — are the fastest-growing segment of student loan borrowers, says a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The number of older consumers with student loans in 2005 was 700,000, the figures show. Now there are more than 2.8 million elderly people with such loans.
The agency stresses that while younger people make up the majority of student loan borrowers, over the past 10 years, such debt among older Americans has quadrupled. In 2005, this group owed an average of $12,100 in student loan debt. Now that figure has ballooned to $23,500, according to the findings.
The reasons for the increase among baby boomers are myriad, but two factors stand out, according to the agency: “This trend is not only the result of borrowers carrying student debt later into life, but also the growing number of parents and grandparents financing their children’s and grandchildren’s college education.”
This means that more older Americans are helping out their children and grandchildren, falling into deeper debt in the process.
See if you can refinance: Depending on when you took out your loan, interest rates may have been on the high end. This may be a great time to look into refinancing your loan to get a lower rate. This could give you big savings over the course of your loan and allow you to keep more of your money.
Check into a deferment or forebearance: A deferment allows you to delay paying your loan for a period of time. What's great about it is that interest does not accrue. A forebearance would also postpone or temporarily reduce your payments, but interest would accrue doing that time period.
Look into a loan forgiveness program: There are some programs out there that would let your loan be forgiven, but you have to qualify. If you have a direct loan, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which requires that you pay 120 payments and either work for the government or a charity. Among others, there is the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, which is available for full-time educators who have put in at least five consecutive years of service at a low-income school or educational facility.
RELATED: How refinancing can save you money
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