Research Initiatives

IPI Survey of Millennials: College Debt/Retirement Bind


Burden of College Debt Means Widespread Postponement of Nest Egg Accumulation, Marriage, First-Home Purchases

WASHINGTON, DC///September 17, 2015///Half of millennials are carrying student loan debt and the resulting financial pressures are so severe that fewer than two in five are saving for retirement, with many also delaying such key steps in life as buying a first home and getting married, according to a major new online survey of 1,016 millennials conducted in April 2015 by the nonprofit Investor Protection Institute (IPI).

Key findings of the “Investor Protection Institute College Debt/Retirement Savings Bind” include the following:

  • About half of millennials (49 percent) surveyed said they have college-related debt, including 20 percent with debt of $1,000-$20,000, 16 percent with $20,000-$50,000 in such debt, and 13 percent with $50,000 or more in college debt.
  • Fewer than two in five millennials (38 percent) are already saving and investing for retirement. A nearly equal number (34 percent) say that, as a result of college debt, “I have either delayed starting to save/invest for retirement or been able to save/invest much less than I had hoped.”
  • 40 percent of millennials say they are “concerned” about their delay in saving and investing for retirement, compared to only 7 percent who say they are not concerned. Well over half (56 percent) of millennials worry “about having to work longer as a result of having a late start on saving/investing for retirement.”
  • Fewer than two in five millennials (36 percent) say that college-related debt has no impact on them. For the rest, college debt has influenced a wide range of personal decisions:
    • 29 percent have delayed the purchase of a home.
    • 26 percent have postponed a major purchase, such as an auto.
    • 22 percent have cancelled plans for additional education.
    • 19 percent have had to return home to live with their parents.
    • 17 percent (included married individuals) have put off starting a family.
    • 12 percent have delayed marriage.

    Don Blandin, president and CEO of the Investor Protection Institute, said: “Many older Americans will remember the struggle to pay off their college loan debts, but those amounts owed in past years look insignificant against the skyrocketing debt that many graduates leave school with today. In a still tight economy where wages have not improved significantly in recent years, many graduates find themselves with hefty college loan debts and relatively modest means with which to satisfy them. Our message to these young people is very simple: As hard as it is to save, the earlier you start saving the more likely you will be able to support yourself in in the future. These are the years that will make the difference between comfortable and lean golden years. Saving and investing for your retirement should not be viewed as optional. It is every bit as important as making your rent or covering your car payment.”

    Other key IPI survey findings include the following:

    • Only a third of millennials describe themselves as having “little or no” college and non-college debt, while 16 percent said they have a “large amount” of college and/or non-college debt. Another 24 percent said they had a “fair amount” of college and/or non-college debt.
    • More than two out of five millennials (43 percent) report having additional non-college debt of $1,000-$20,000.
    • About half of millennials (52 percent) don’t expect Social Security to be around when they retire and that they will bear the full weight of financing their retirement.
    • More than a third (34 percent) expect to use a combination of financial professionals and their own planning aided by technology to save/invest for retirement.
    • One in five respondents was in college, 37 percent were college graduates not seeking or having achieved additional education, 13 percent were pursuing a post-graduate degree, and 24 percent had completed a graduate degree. (Only those who attended college responded to the college debt-related questions.)
    • Women accounted for 51 percent of respondents and men for 49 percent.
    • Over half of the respondents (54 percent) were single, 35 percent married, 7 percent engaged, and 4 percent divorced.

    Full survey findings are available online at


    The Investor Protection Institute ( is an independent nonprofit organization that advances investor protection by conducting and supporting unbiased research and groundbreaking education programs. IPI serves as an independent source of unbiased and non-commercial investor education materials.

    MEDIA CONTACTS: Pat Mitchell, (703) 276-3266 and