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Increasing number of American retirees affected by student loans

A record number of older adults now carry student loan debt, and the phenomenon is still growing: people over 60 are in the fastest growing age group for college debt, according to a report from The New York Times.

A record 2.2 million people age 60 and older now hold student loan debt — three times as many as in 2005. Collectively, older adults owed $43 billion in student debt at the time of the report.

Retirees may have student loan debt from a number of different sources. Some carry debt from their own educations, especially those who went back to school later in life. Others took out student loans to help pay for their children’s or grandchildren’s tuition. Either way, skyrocketing tuition rates make the burden high for those over sixty.

Additionally, a larger portion of older adults who have student loan debt are now having difficulty paying. Nearly 10 percent of older adult borrowers are at least 90 days behind on payments (as compared to about 6 percent in 2005).

Student loan debt can have devastating effects for seniors, as the government has the right to withhold a portion of a person’s Social Security payments to cover student loans. As of September 2014, 119,000 older adults were having their Social Security checks garnished.

Some older adults find themselves working long past their intended retirement age, sometimes on a part-time basis, to manage the educational loans.

Student loans are one of the longest-lasting forms of debt. Most student loans cannot be discharged during bankruptcy, although some lawmakers are pushing for reform.

The elder law attorneys at Hook Law Center assist Virginia families with will preparation, trust & estate administration, guardianships and conservatorships, long-term care planning, special needs planning, veterans benefits, and more. To learn more, visit or call 757-399-7506.

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