The Burden Of Debt

Survey: Student Loans Have Significant Impact on Retirement Preparation

Participant poll illustrates how debt payback leads to a key investing roadblock

INDIANAPOLIS (August 28, 2018) — Preparing for the future while being tethered to debt is an increasingly common dilemma for retirement plan participants, especially for those who are paying on student loans, according to a new OneAmerica® survey.

Nearly 4 in 10 survey respondents indicated they are paying toward a student loan for themselves or on behalf of someone else. Of those, an astounding 85 percent of respondents paying toward student loans reported that their obligation to repay the funds are impacting their ability to prepare for retirement. Of that group, 38 percent said that student loans are having a “significant impact” on their ability to prepare for retirement.

From Aug. 25, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018, more than 12,200 OneAmerica retirement plan participants responded to an online poll, sharing their thoughts on financial wellness, education and resource preferences, and potential roadblocks to retirement. The survey results provide insights into how retirement plan sponsors can work with participants to improve their financial wellness and overcome retirement planning hurdles.

Student-debt and the bottom line

“The reality that many participants face when it comes to student loans is tough,” said Marsha Whitehead, OneAmerica vice president of enterprise marketing. “These survey results make it clear that retirement plan providers, in partnership with retirement plan sponsors and advisors, are in position to help participants understand the impact student loans can have and the best way to balance current and future financial demands. This is critical to retirement preparation.”

Survey results also showed that women, who already lag men when it comes to retirement preparation, are more likely to be paying toward a student loan than their male counterparts (41 percent compared to 34 percent).

Retirement plan sponsors do recognize the financial impact student loans are having on their employees, with some offering student loan payback programs to assist employees.

While student loan payback programs are a great benefit to help participants gain control of their student loan debt, OneAmerica cautions sponsors not to replace or provide employees the option of applying an employer retirement plan contribution to student loan debt.

Financial Wellness Education

women, who already lag men when it comes to retirement preparation, are more likely to be paying toward a student loan than their male counterparts ...

“By providing comprehensive financial wellness education, retirement plan sponsors can help participants get control of their financial lives in balancing immediate financial demands while also focusing on retirement preparation,” said Melissa Musial, OneAmerica marketing research and data manager. “Participants may also benefit from education on how to prepare future generations for post-secondary educational expenses – for example, 529 tax-advantaged savings plans and preparing early – to break the cycle of student loans impacting retirement outcomes for the future workforce.”

“Participants may feel that their immediate financial needs are more pressing than preparing for retirement,” said Musial. “Although it is difficult being tied to the past and paying towards debt, participants need to understand how important it is to prepare for the future.”

While participants were able to finance their schooling, they will not be able to borrow in order to finance their retirement years, Musial added.

Want to know more about the OneAmerica Survey? Download a free infographic and whitepaper at



OneAmerica is the marketing name for the companies of OneAmerica. Products issued and underwritten by American United Life Insurance Company® (AUL), a OneAmerica company. Administrative and recordkeeping services provided by McCready and Keene, Inc. or OneAmerica Retirement Services LLC, companies of OneAmerica which are not broker/dealers or investment advisors. Provided content is for overview and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be relied upon as individualized tax, legal, fiduciary, or investment advice.
About OneAmerica
A national leader in the insurance and financial services marketplace for more than 140 years, the companies of OneAmerica help customers build and protect their financial futures. OneAmerica offers a variety of products and services to serve the financial needs of their policyholders and customers. These products include retirement plan products and recordkeeping services, individual life insurance, annuities, asset-based long-term care solutions and employee benefit plan products. Products are issued and underwritten by the companies of OneAmerica and distributed through a nationwide network of employees, agents, brokers and other sources who are committed to providing value to our customers. To learn more about our products, services and the companies of OneAmerica, visit