Student loan payments delaying borrowers from achieving their financial goals.

It has long been advised that homeownership is a brilliant way to start building wealth. But Americans weighed down by student debt payments, the dream of buying their dream home remains just that—a dream.

Student loans payments have kept 35 percent of millennials from entering homeownership, according to a recently released survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

And as surprising as that may be, the survey also revealed that Americans with student loans experience the effect of these debts in their daily lives. Often, they have to make a hard decision to invest in their retirement, purchase a home, get married or start a family or even their general savings.

Faced with this reality, Charlie Oppler, the President of the NAR, said, “Housing affordability is worsening, leaving future home buyers with student debt at a severe disadvantage.”

The current outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has surpassed $1.7 trillion—a much greater burden than credit card and auto debt.  Of the Americans owing $1.7 trillion in debt, a third of them are in delinquency or default.

With the delinquency rates being that high, the survey showed that 23 percent of student loan debtholders understood the costs of attending college before taking out these loans.  Additionally, 35 percent of those with student loans did not fully comprehend their potential earning following graduation.

The implications of which they feel now when their debt affects their eligibility for loans. According to the research, 51 percent of all student loan holders say their student loan debt has delayed them from purchasing their home, with 72 percent saying that their student loan will delay their home purchase.

Mark Kantrowitz, a higher education expert, says, “your payment history on the loans will impact your credit score.”

And that’s not all, Kantrowitz adds, “This can reduce your likelihood of loan approval and increase interest rate you pay.”

Student loans are not only affecting home affordability but also other financial goals that these millennials may have. “Aside from just purchasing a home, this report finds that more than half of those with student loan debt have some form of major life choice,” Oppler said.

More than 35 percent of student loan holders said that their college debt prevented them from going on vacation.  Moreover, 3 in 10 said that these debts had impacted their decision to buy a car or even continue their post-secondary education.

However, the effects of student debt are not limited to millennials alone. Twenty-two percent of Gen Z borrowers said their college debt had prevented them from renting independently or moving from their parent’s or guardians’ home. An additional 29 percent said that these debts had held them back from starting a business. Additionally, 19 percent of baby boomers said that student loan debt had prevented them from buying a home.

Having student debt doesn’t have to be a death sentence. NAR has taken the initiative to address the growing debt burden by supporting a multipronged approach. For starters, financial education should be made available to students as they consider financial debt to finance their education. Secondly, debt holders should consider debt consolidation and refinancing them at lower rates, which will help them have manageable monthly payments. Thirdly, debt holders should explore loan forgiveness programs such as PSLF and borrower defense. Lastly, NAR favors expanding tax preferences for employers that assist their employees with student debt.

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