So what are the effects of all this student debt? For one, the whole backpacking around Europe after graduation is much less cool than it used to be. So is everything else that used to be cool, like bar tending, ski bumming, trail blazing, or starting a software company in your mom’s garage. Actually, that last one may still be cool, if it was ever cool, but it is clearly more difficult to do with student loan payments to make.
The long term effects of all this debt are surprisingly significant, a recent study from the New York-based Demos Group shows. A dual-headed household, in which both partners graduated with bachelor’s degrees and an average debt load, earns $208,000 less than households of graduates with no student debt, according to the study.
That’s a huge difference and it all relates to early investment. Young adults in debt put off projects such as home ownership and retirement planning to pay off those student loans. Demos estimates that two thirds of the difference in lifetime earnings stems from diminished retirement savings and another third is lost because indebted households build less home equity.
On another note, less easy to quantify, young graduates in debt are less likely to take risks, entrepreneurial or otherwise. The twenties is a time to take some risks, to travel, to explore, to open a bar with a buddy or buy a house in a cool, but rough part of town. Or for those overachievers, it is time to get started on building a life in a place with a job and a house. But it is tougher for recent graduates to do any of these things these days, and student debt is one of the primary reasons.