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Here’s the average student loan debt of borrowers 35 to 49 years old

This age group has the largest amount of student loan debt on average.

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Thirty-five to 49-year-olds carry the highest amount of student loan debt.

Borrowers in this age group have an average balance of $42,373.23, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education's Q4 2020 data.

Trailing close behind are individuals in the older 50- to 61-year-old age bracket who have an average student loan debt load of $42,290.32 per borrower.

For many, these numbers may not come as much as a surprise. Parents often tack on additional student loan debt to finance their children's college education, in addition to having to still making payments on their own student loans.

Below, Select outlines what 35- to 49-year old adults can consider whether paying off their own student loans or their child's. Plus, how to save for your kid's college education early on.

Here's what 35- to 49-year-olds making student loan payments for themselves or their kids should consider

You're not alone if you are still paying off your student loans from your college education years ago. In fact, many Americans are paying their student loans well into middle age. A 2019 study from New York Life found that the average age when people finally pay off their student loans for good is 45.

Whether this is your case, or if you are managing the parent PLUS loans you took out for your child, refinancing these loans through a private lender can help accelerate your debt payoff and make it less expensive.

Those who qualify can refinance their student loans for a lower interest rate and get the chance to choose their own repayment term. A shorter refinanced loan term means you may have a higher monthly payment but you'll cut off years of payments (and interest), while a longer refinanced loan term helps your current cash flow since monthly payments are smaller.

For borrowers with parent PLUS loans, consider a private lender like Education Loan Finance (ELFI). With ELFI, you can refinance parent PLUS loans in your name or you can choose to have your child take over the loan repayment by refinancing it in their name. To help streamline all student loan payments, ELFI customers can also combine both private and parent PLUS loans into one refinanced loan.

Borrowers are assigned a personal loan advisor to guide them through the refinancing process and ELFI comes with its own payment protections like deferment, financial hardship or medical difficulty forbearance. ELFI's website claims that customers report saving an average of $278 every month and should see an average of $20,774 in total savings.

Education Loan Finance Student Loan Refinancing

  • Cost

    No origination fees to refinance

  • Eligible loans

    Federal, private, graduate and undergraduate loans, Parent PLUS loans

  • Loan types

    Variable and fixed

  • Variable rates (APR)

    From 5.28%

  • Fixed rates (APR)

    From 5.23%

  • Loan terms

    From 5 to 20 years for student loan refinancing; 5, 7 or 10 years for parent loan refinancing

  • Loan amounts

    From $10,000

  • Minimum credit score


  • Minimum income


  • Allow for a co-signer


Terms apply.

Because parent PLUS loans are a type of federal loan that qualifies for the current federal student loan payment and interest freeze, we do not recommend that you consider refinancing your parent PLUS loans until the forbearance ends on Sept. 30, 2021.

How to save for your kid's college education early on

A 529 college savings account is a good way to avoid having to take on student debt for your child years later when they eventually go off to college.

By opening up and depositing money into a state-sponsored 529 savings account, you get a head start on your kid's future education, as well as tax benefits. Your earnings in a 529 account grow tax-free and withdrawals for qualified educational expenses, such as tuition and books, are tax-free.

While some states offer better incentives for their residents, you can shop around for a 529 from any state no matter where you reside. We reviewed and analyzed more than a dozen 529 plans, considering features like fees, expenses and investment choices to help parents find the best 529 college savings plans for them.

Read more about our methodology on selecting the best 529 college savings accounts below.

Our methodology

To determine which 529 plans offered the best underlying investments, low fees and a variety of investment choices, Select analyzed dozens of offerings and narrowed it down to a list of 10 finalists. We looked at plans with offerings from reputable companies and investment managers and a variety of options to help the investor meet their goals. We didn't evaluate 529 plans based on advantages (such as lower fees) for in-state residents or prepaid college plans. 

We focused on the following features when comparing the best 529 plans:

  • Management fees: The plans on our list offer some of the lowest management fees, important since these fees can affect your annual balance. Even a small fraction of a percent in fees can mean thousands of dollars in savings for the investor. 
  • Investment returns: Past results do not guarantee future performance of any investment. However, seeing historical patterns of returns may indicate the plan manager is doing their job well. We looked at returns over a five-year time period.
  • Fund expenses: Aside from management fees, we chose plans offering the lowest maintenance fees for their underlying funds. We looked at 529 plans offering more passive types of securities like index funds, with the expense ratio being a major deciding factor. These costs also affect the amount investors will be able to save. 
  • Investment options: Having more choices means that parents and guardians can decide how involved they want to be when selecting their portfolio. We looked at 529 plans offering more hands-off choices such as age-based portfolios as well as individual funds. 

Each state's 529 plan may have different minimum contribution amounts. Some may not have minimum contribution amounts but do for automatic contributions, such as payroll deductions. Each state also imposes its own cumulative contribution limit.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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