If you graduated from college years ago and are still reeling from the costs, you’re not alone.
A new survey from Bankrate shows that 73 percent of respondents have delayed at least one major life milestone because of their student loan debt. Participants said they’ve put off buying a house (23 percent), saving for retirement (29 percent), saving for emergencies (34 percent) or paying off other debt (27 percent).
“For prospective students and their families, many of who will help them to pay for their secondary education, we’d urge them to investigate all possible options for financial aid including scholarships to limit their borrowing, ” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate, in an email.
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Bankrate surveyed 3,885 adults in the U.S. this February. The average student loan debt in 2019 is $33,310, according to financial-service marketplace Credible.
“There’s a huge toll being taken on individuals and the U.S. economy from the growing burden of student loan debt,” Hamrick said. “For the huge slice of the American population with debt, it is necessary to juggle competing goals including saving for emergencies and retirement, as well as major life decisions.”
Looking back, 77 percent of millennials with student debt said they would have made different financial decisions in college, according to the survey.
Among those regrets? Thirty percent of respondents said they would apply for more scholarships, 19 percent said they would have gone to a community college and 18 percent reported they would attend a different university.
If you’re applying for colleges now, there’s options when it comes to footing the bill.
Melissa Ridolfi, vice president for retirement and college leadership at Fidelity Investments, told CNBC that Fidelity is seeing parents become more educated when it comes to their children’s college funds.
When it comes to funding your child’s education, Ridolfi had these tips: Start saving as early as possible, have a dedicated savings account (such as a 529 plan) and save regularly.
“We see 37 percent of parents starting to save before their child is even 2 years old,” she said.
Financing a college education? You should:
• Start saving early;
• Establish a routine and save regularly; and
• Put funds in a separate account.
Fidelity also has a gifting platform (similar to GoFundMe), in which people can send out a link and family members and friends can donate money to someone’s 529 plan.
“We’re also seeing that parents are more realistic about the cost of coverage and how much of that they can cover themselves,” Ridolfi said.
“They definitely understand the importance of saving and saving early.”