September 22, 2014 — Just about everybody we know still has the same recurring college-days nightmare: the final is tomorrow, and somehow you managed to overlook going to class all semester. You have no notes, know nothing, and doom is imminent. Well add to that one more, real life nightmare – your unpaid college loans.
The GAO analyzed data from the Survey of Consumer Finances and found that about
3 percent of households headed by those aged 65 or older — about 706,000 households — carry student loan debt. This compares to about 24 percent of households headed by those aged 64 or younger. Compared to student loan debt, those 65 and older are much more likely to carry other types of debt. For example, about 29 percent carry home mortgage debt and 27 percent carry credit card debt. Still, student debt among older American households has grown in recent years.
Although federal student loans can remain unpaid for more than a year before the Department of Education takes aggressive action to recover the funds, once initiated, the actions can have serious consequences. For example, a portion of the borrower’s Social Security disability, retirement, or survivor benefits can be claimed to pay off the loan. From 2002 through 2013, the number of individuals whose Social Security benefits were offset to pay student loan debt increased about five-fold from about 31,000 to 155,000. Among those 65 and older, the number of individuals whose benefits were offset grew from about 6,000 to about 36,000 over the same period, roughly a 500 percent increase.
If you failed to pay your student loans don’t think you are out of the woods. It looks like there is a good chance your Social Security benefits might be reduced to pay them off. Here is a link to the GAO Report.
Comments? Do you still have any student loans to pay off? If so, do you have a strategy for taking care of them, or have you actually seen your SS benefits get cut?