Woman chained to debt

Whether they’re millennials, Gen Xers or boomers, Americans are increasingly weighed down by student loan debt. Not only does it threaten their ability to save for retirement, it’s keeping them from buying homes or cars.

According to research from the Association of Young Americans and AARP, student loan debt is exacting a toll on all three generations — not surprising when you consider that according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, borrowers owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. Of those with student loans, 45% of millennials, 48% of Gen Xers and 50% of boomers owe $30,000 or more.

Overall, all three generations say that household debt is a problem, whether it’s from student loans or other sources. For those with student debt, 44% of millennials and Gen Xers say it’s an issue, while 48% of boomers say so. Among those without student debt, 15% of boomers say that the debt they do have is a problem, while the figure is 20% for Gen Xers and 22% for millennials.

And student loan debt has interfered with saving for retirement for 41% of millennials, 38% of Gen Xers and 31% of boomers; with buying a house for 32% of boomers, 26% of Gen Xers and 36% of millennials; with buying a car for 33% of boomers, 25% of Gen Xers and 30% of millennials; and just moving into a new place to live for 18% of boomers, 21% of GenXers and 25% of millennials.

Student loan debt has also stopped them from helping someone else, although some of that debt is already in aid of someone else. And perhaps most alarmingly, it’s interfered with getting health care for 17% of millennials, 16% of Gen Xers and 9% of boomers.

In fact, it’s making a lot of people rethink the value of a college education; 61% of millennials, 62% of GenXers and 53% of boomers just don’t think college is worth the cost. And many of them don’t think it’s fair that they have to bear the whole burden of cost; 74% somewhat or strongly agree that community college should be free to whoever qualifies, while 66% somewhat or strongly agree that colleges and universities should share financial responsibility with students who default.

A whopping 86% somewhat or strongly agree that state and federal government should support career and technical education programs as alternatives to college, while 79% think state government should boost support for public universities to make them more affordable and 76% think the federal government should help in student loan debt refinancing.

Finally, the research finds, 61% strongly or somewhat agree that the federal government should forgive some student loan debt; 58% say it should help people repay some student debt; and 60% say it should tax stock market transactions to subsidize tuition at public colleges and universities.

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