The fall semester at college campuses across the country is officially underway. As the new academic year starts, students are thinking about (and balancing) their coursework, new roommates and of course, their student loans.

Student debt reached $1.48 trillion in Q2 of 2019, but new research from CFP Board and Morning Consult found that even though nearly one in four American households hold student loan debt, nearly half of consumers say they are confident that they can pay off their debt while still being able to save for retirement.

Juggling multiple financial priorities is something that every American encounters, no matter their age. Paying off student debt, saving for retirement, purchasing a home and supporting a family  are all important financial goals—and it can often be difficult to prioritize. 

Before ranking financial goals in order of importance, it helps to have a deeper understanding of the two most common financial commitments people prioritize: reducing student debt and saving for retirement.

Student debt.

Nearly one in four Americans (23 percent) say they, or someone in their household, have student loan debt. For high earners (adults 35-65 with household income of $100,000+), that number increases to 34 percent. While it is no surprise that so many Americans take on student loan debt, it is surprising that about half (49 percent) are confident that they can pay off their debt. That number again increases with high earners—62 percent of high earners are confident they can pay off their debt. They are also more confident in their ability to reach certain milestones. In fact, 40 percent say it is very likely they will fund their retirement account and 37 percent say it is very likely they will purchase a home.

Retirement savings.

All Americans are concerned about saving enough money to last through retirement—49 percent of all adults and 56 percent of high earners express concern. However, only 40 percent of adults say they are not saving for retirement or do not know if and how they are saving. On the other hand, only 5 percent of high earners are not saving. When asked which ways they are saving for retirement, 68 percent of those surveyed said they are using a 401K/403B, IRA/Roth IRA and/or an investment portfolio and three in four (77 percent) of high earners say they are using a 401K or 403B. 

Find the right balance with a CFP® professional.

A CFP® professional takes a holistic approach to financial planning, examining competing priorities and providing comprehensive advice to balance various financial obligations—including managing student loans and saving for retirement. 
High earners who engage with a financial advisor are a lot more likely to have completed a financial plan within the last two years compared to all adults (35 percent vs. 17 percent, respectively). Developing a financial plan with a professional will provide you with the peace of mind you need to balance your priorities while still planning for and reaching other financial goals—like that dream vacation or big-ticket purchase. Visit to find a CFP® professional in your area today.