Many adult students in California have returned to college to seek a new degree or to complete a course of study abandoned long ago. Others are there to acquire new skills that can help them compete in today’s workforce. While continuing one’s education is always a sound personal decision, the choice to fund those studies using student loans can be a questionable financial choice. When those loans come due, many older Americans will find themselves in need of debt relief as a result.

When making the choice to go back to school, it is imperative to sit down and go over the numbers, both concrete and projected. If an individual’s retirement is not adequately funded at the time that this new debt is acquired, it is possible that student loan payments could pose a significant burden to the retiree’s monthly budget. In making these decisions, one consideration is the age at which the individual is expected to complete his or her student loan payments. Another factor is the projected earnings of the individual leading up to retirement.

In some cases, senior citizens will find themselves on the hook for student loan payments for loans they co-signed for children or grandchildren. For those who have not taken on this financial responsibility, it is worth the time to sit down with a financial planner and determine if it financially feasible to take on the risk of future loan payments. This is especially true in light of the fact that student loans are rarely discharged in bankruptcy and are eligible for garnishment of Social Security payments. Although the guidelines are stringent, there is a hardship exception to the general rules that the loans cannot be discharged.

As with all financial decisions, the choice to borrow for one’s education should be made with a careful approach and an idea of all possible ramifications. Going back to school can be incredibly rewarding for California residents. However, doing so at the risk of future financial strain and the need for debt relief is a decision that must be carefully considered.

Source: TwinCities.com, “College debt isn’t just for kids: More older Americans saddled with student loans,” Mila Koumpilova, Dec. 13, 2012