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Student debt has gone gray, according to new study

When you think about someone suffering from student loan debt, what do you picture? If we had to guess, you're probably thinking of a young adult, probably in his or her early-to-mid-20s. This person recently got his or her first "real" job, and they are working hard not just to move up the company ladder, but also to pay off the loans they have racked up during their college years.

This certainly sounds like the type of person who would be dealing with student debt, but obviously there is wide variety of people who are dealing with a tremendous amount of debt from college. As a new study found, student debt is growing fastest among the elderly demographic -- more specifically, for people aged 50 or older.

Elderly people in America may not make up the greatest slice of the student debt pie -- they only account for 17 percent of the total student debt in the country -- but since 2005, the amount of student debt this demographic holds has tripled. That's a staggering rise in a very limited amount of time. Some elderly people aren't even aware that they still owe student debt, causing a sudden and impactful change to their finances. For example, their Social Security checks could be garnished to pay off student debt they didn't even know they had.

Student debt is already a massive problem for the whole population, but this debt poses unique issues for elderly people. It could cause them to enter bankruptcy, as the debt -- and possibly interest -- has piled up for many years. Of course student debt can't be cleared out in bankruptcy (except in extreme cases), but the filing could help someone clear out other debts.

Source: Bloomberg, "Student Debt Threatens the Safety Net for Elderly Americans," Natalie Kitroeff, Aug. 12, 2014

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