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College Loan Debt Affecting Life Decisions, Study Says [AUDIO]

Student loan debt isn’t only a problem immediately after college. In fact, according to a new survey from the American Institute of CPAs, many borrowers are putting off big purchases and life events in order to keep up with their loan payments.

Student loans
Zephyr Picture, Getty Images

Saving up for retirement was delayed by 41 percent of the people surveyed, while 40 percent put off buying cars, 29 percent postponed the purchase of a home. Fifteen percent of respondents said their loan debt kept them from getting married.

Leslie Beck with Compass Wealth Management in Maplewood, also the chair of the Financial Planning Association of New Jersey, said she isn’t surprised by the survey’s findings.

“This is an investment that you made,” Beck said of college. “You need to give yourself some time to get a return on that investment, and in the mean time, you may have to give up on a few things.”

However, she said many New Jersey families tend to focus too little on the finances associated with a college education; they are simply concentrating only on the school itself.

Following an acceptance letter, a student receives an offer letter, detailing the financial help they’re getting from the school and the other payment options that may be available. According to Beck, it would be wise for families to truly understand the details of all the loans they will be taking on.

“There’s a real difference between federal student loans and private student loans,” she said, noting that federal loans have much more flexibility and could even be forgiven.

The majority of borrowers, according to the survey, didn’t realize it would be so hard to repay their college loans.

Before it’s too late, college students have different strategies they can adopt to limit their debt load in the future. Beck has seen a number of students attend big-time institutions, but take transferable credits over the summer at a local school. Many high schools offer credit-earning opportunities that can be applied to a student’s college education.

“Nowadays, you need to be more creative than ever,” Beck said.

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