MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. - Ryan and Emmy Earp of Minneapolis have two solid careers, two adorable kids and a house in a sought-after neighborhood. There's no denying the two have invested heavily in their educations.
Between the two there are two undergraduate degrees, a master's degree in public policy, one MBA, and years of medical school, followed by a residency.
"We kind of still live paycheck-to-paycheck. We have a lot of loans given the fact that we both have been through graduate programs," said Emmy, a doctor, who specializes in family medicine.
Collectively, the Earps owe roughly $327,000 in student loans. That's roughly the value of their home.
"It's a reality that we're facing on a monthly basis, and it's going to be this way for our professional lives," said Ryan. "We're going to be paying off [the loans] about the same time that our kids are going to be in college. And our retirement. Probably much further out."
According to Twin Cities financial advisor Dan Ament of Morgan Stanley, managing both student debt and a mortgage payment can be a challenge for many young households.
"The financial reality for many of these families is that they’ll be paying these debts down well into their working careers," said Ament.
The financial burden becomes even more challenging when parents have to choose between setting aside money for retirement or saving for their children's college funds.
"Student debt is not discharged in bankruptcy. So if someone gets in a distressed situation, you can walk away from a mortgage or a credit card, but student debt is going to follow you forever," said Ament.
"Many people have a financial goal to have their home paid off as they enter retirement and that's a great goal to have. However, recognize that mortgage debt isn't necessarily a bad debt, if it's relative to your overall financial means," said Ament.
As of this year, Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans, and most of those borrowers are millennials. Could mounting student debt debilitate a generation's financial stability when they are most vulnerable, i.e. ready for retirement?
"This is an economic crisis in the making," said Ryan Earp.