Student loan borrowers struggle to save ahead of resumed payments

  • 43% of student loan borrowers do not feel financially stable right now
  • 21% of borrowers report having $0 in savings
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of borrowers report having no money set aside for retirement

The decision of whether or not student loan forgiveness will come to pass is still with the Supreme Court, leaving many Americans in limbo. With payments set to resume no later than September 1, many borrowers are preparing to resume payments after a three-year hiatus. 

With so much uncertainty around the Supreme Court’s decision, many borrowers are worried about their financial futures.According to a study conducted by Qualtrics on behalf of IntuitCredit Karma, 43% of borrowers do not feel financially stable right now. In a similar Credit Karma study conducted in February 2023, 56% of respondents reported that their financial stability depended on not having to make repayments. 

Savings accounts are drained

Today’s high cost of living is forcing many borrowers to put the money saved during the payment pause toward basic necessities like groceries, rent and utilities. In the February study, more than a quarter of respondents with outstanding federal student loans (26%) said the money they previously paid toward their student loans was being used for necessities, which is inhibiting their ability to save. More than one-in-five respondents (21%) with student loan debt say they have $0 in savings. What’s more, the high cost of living could be impacting borrowers’ long term financial goals. 

Retirement savings becomes an afterthought

Considering many student loan borrowers don’t currently have any money in savings, it’s no surprise borrowers have pulled back on their retirement contributions. According to the study, 19% of student loan borrowers have reduced their retirement contributions within the last year as a result of inflation. Beyond cutting back on their retirement contributions, some don’t have any money saved for retirement at all. Nearly a third of borrowers (29%) report having no money set aside for retirement. Despite an apparent lack of funds, nearly half (46%) of borrowers still think they are likely to retire early.  

Net worth trends net zero 

By the same token, with student loans being a contributing factor to an individual’s net worth, nearly half of borrowers (49%) report they have a net worth of $0 or below, compared to 29% of respondents without student loans.

“Many Americans are struggling financially in today’s economy, plagued by high borrowing costs, rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and more,” says Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “Student loan borrowers’ financial instability may be exacerbated once they’re on the hook for payments, which they haven’t had to budget for in over three years. It is important to understand your options prior to payments resuming. The first step is to update your personal information on including income and family size. Then, take a look at what plans make the most sense for your budget. Especially if your income has decreased during the forbearance period, you might benefit from an Income-Driven Repayment Plan (IDR) which has been recently revised to significantly lower payments for many. If you can’t find an affordable payment plan due to added financial struggles, talk to a loan officer about options for deferment or forbearance.” 


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Qualtrics on behalf of Credit Karma between March 20, 2023 and April 3, 2023 among 1,006 adults ages 18 and older.