There's no doubt that millennials are one of the most talked about generations.
But millennials are also one of the most misunderstood. They are often mischaracterized as "lazy, entitled, and narcissistic." They are accused of killing a whole ton of industries ranging from diamonds to beer. The list goes on and on.
But one of the most bothersome misconceptions about millennials is about the alleged reasons they can't afford to buy homes.
For instance, on July 26, the "Today Show" featured a study asserting that millennials can't afford to buy homes because they're spending too much on bachelor parties. The study, sponsored by real estate site Zillow, reported that attending "nine destinations bachelorette parties in your life time" could rack up a hefty sum of approximately $13,788.
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"In other words, you could spend up to 35% of a down payment on a median-price home (in certain areas of the country) celebrating a friend’s nuptials," reported "Today."
But here's the thing: The study doesn't mention how many millennials are jetting off to destination bachelor parties. Not all millennials are attending or can even afford their friends' destination nuptials or pre-nuptial festivities. In fact, a lot of millennials are choosing to stay unmarried.
"Studies" like this come up with a lot of obscure rationales for why millennials can't afford homes, but they're not painting the full picture.
It's not just bachelor parties getting the blame for millennials' financial woes. Some reports and pundits claim millennials spend too much on avocado toasts and coffee rather than saving up for a down payment for a home.
But there's one thing all these studies seem to leave out: Most millennials can't afford to buy homes because of massive college debt.
In the United States, approximately 45 million people have student loan debt. Americans owe more than $1.2 trillion in student loans with the average debt amount being $30,000. Millennials make up most of these borrowers, with 63% claiming to have more than $10,000 in outstanding college debt.
It's no secret that paying back student loans can take up huge chunk of a person's monthly income. In addition to high interest rates and potentially negative effects on credit scores associated with student loans, millennials are earning less and struggling to find jobs compared with previous generations. It's no surprise that saving for a down payment for a house is nearly impossible for many millennials.
The effects are probably more widespread than people think. According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of millennials blame student loans for not being able to purchase a house. About 52% of millennials also can't qualify for a mortgage due to their debt-to-income ratio, Marketwatch reported.
But skipping college — and the debt it often comes with — doesn't seem to make purchasing a home any easier. Millennials without college degrees have a harder time finding employment than those who do, which in turn means it'll be more difficult for them to save for a down payment or qualify for a mortgage.
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But — not all hope is lost for aspiring millennial homebuyers.
It's not impossible for millennials carrying student loan debt to afford a house. There are some steps that can help:
- Benefits packages for some employees might include student repayment assistance. Some companies are helping their employees by paying off a certain percentage or sum of their workers' college debt.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a federal program, sounds just like what it's called: The government will provide student loan forgiveness for direct loans if the borrower takes a career in certain government, public service, or nonprofit organizations, and has made 120 monthly payments.
- To reduce debt-to-income ratio, look into lowering the monthly payments or refinancing student loans with a private lender. Borrowers who have already graduated and maintain a steady income might qualify to refinance that loan for a lower interest rate.
All generations can agree: The student loan crisis needs to be addressed.
The student debt burden has rapidly grown for years, and with the present system unchanged, there are no signs of that stopping. Making matters worse, the current administration has proposed cuts to programs that would help borrowers suffering from steep college debt. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed to cut $13 million from a program that provides loan forgiveness for defrauded students.
The best way to tackle the ever-growing student loan bubble is to address it head on. Stand behind candidates that propose student loan forgiveness, urge local representatives to propose free tuition programs, and call your congressional representatives to come up with legislation to regulate and reign in college debt.
We can no longer afford a generation to be ridden with debt. It's time to take action now.