Move over, millennials. Baby boomers are coming in hot, ready to steal one of your biggest claims to fame. Unfortunately for boomers, that claim is unprecedented and debilitating student debt. According to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, baby boomer student debt is on the rise. The number of borrowers age 60 and older has increased by at least 20% in every state and 46% in more than half of all states.
Even worse, recent data show unpaid student debt is affecting boomers’ monthly Social Security checks. The Government Accountability Office found nearly 114,000 Social Security recipients are losing an average of $140 a month thanks to that lingering student debt.
Where are baby boomers struggling the most? Here are the 15 states where older Americans are wrestling with student debt.
- Total baby boomer student debt: $2,056,024,000
We begin our countdown with the state making the biggest moves of all. Unfortunately, they can’t be considered power moves, as residents in Washington have experienced a 52% uptick in the median balance of student debt per borrower. Boomers in 2012 dealt with a median debt of $11,915, but that number has risen to $18,149 in 2017. With over $2 billion in total debt for those over 60, boomers shouldn’t expect to rid themselves of monthly payments anytime soon.
Next: One Carolina is better than the other.
14. North Carolina
- Total baby boomer student debt: $2,489,550,000
With a median debt amount per borrower totaling just $11,833, North Carolina is one of the few states that actually saw improvement on its overall median student debt balance from 2012 to 2017. Despite that, there are 56% more boomers tackling student loans in 2017 than in 2012, suggesting that even during top earning years, student loans will remain an issue for many Americans.
Next: A state that’s keeping up with the trends
- Total baby boomer student debt: $2,748,123,000
One look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau data, and you’ll notice student debt by state is highly concentrated on the East Coast. And baby boomers in Virginia have no plans to buck the trend. The state is riddled with over $2.7 billion in baby boomer debt, with the typical borrower carrying a $14,950 median balance. The future doesn’t look too bright for those hoping to repay their debt soon, as Virginia has one of the highest costs of living in the country.
Next: Georgia boomers aren’t so peachy.
- Total baby boomer student debt: $3,345,422,000
It’s probable the past five years haven’t been too peachy for Georgia baby boomers. The number of people with student loan debt in the state has increased by 63% since 2012, the biggest rise of all the states. Some 99,216 people are burdened with student debt with a median balance of $15,842. But a WalletHub analysis proves boomers aren’t alone in their debt. Georgia has one of the highest numbers of millennials in debt, as well.
Next: No high fives for Michigan
- Total baby boomer student debt: $3,421,531,000
Despite how it looks on a map, the Mitten State is not actually giving any of its baby boomers a high five for managing their student debt properly. There are over 121,000 baby boomers with student debt in Michigan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sure, the rivalry between University of Michigan and Ohio State was fun, but Michigan alumni are probably regretting such massive tuition bills since graduation. But things aren’t faring so well with the Buckeyes either, as we’ll see later.
Next: Another East Coast state
- Total baby boomer student debt: $3,559,640,000
Residents of Maryland have no trouble locating delicious soft-shell crab or a sunset over the Chesapeake Bay. Such a lifestyle sounds nice for those heading toward retirement, but unfortunately boomers in this state tend to also carry a significant amount of student debt. Almost 80,000 borrowers have a median balance of $18,710 — the highest of the 15 states struggling student debt.
Next: The New England state with lots of borrowers
- Total baby boomer student debt: $3,668,714,000
We head just a little north to find our ninth worst state for older Americans with student debt. The story in Massachusetts hardly differs from that in Maryland, but this state does house a significant number of borrowers with remaining loan balances. Over 105,000 people over 60 struggle with student debt here.
Next: Why baby boomers in Ohio might continue to struggle
- Total baby boomer student debt: $4,637,882,000
Remember Michigan? Its rivals in Ohio fare worse when it comes to student debt. Over 151,000 borrowers carry a $17,321 median balance. Unfortunately, the tough times could continue, as Ohio holds one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 5.4%.
Next: The real issue with New Jersey
7. New Jersey
- Total baby boomer student debt: $4,742,573,000
When it comes to beaches and excessive debt balances, New Jersey is not to be outdone by its neighbor Maryland. Both states fare equally poorly for median debt balances over $18,000, but New Jersey emerges victorious — if you could call it that — for total baby boomer student debt. It’s resting over $4.7 billion.
Next: This state is home to one of the most expensive colleges in the country.
- Total baby boomer student debt: $5,103,916,000
Somewhere between the prairies and metropolitan cities, baby boomers in Illinois are drowning in student debt. It’s home to the third most expensive college in the country, the University of Chicago. Today, the state carries over $5 billion in total debt, and the number of boomers struggling to get a handle on it has increased by 49% from 2012 to 2017.
Next: Somewhere down in Texas
- Total baby boomer student debt: $6,760,220,000
Landing in the top five for the states where baby boomers are struggling with student debt, many Texas residents remain riddled with debt well into their 60s. We’ll skip any “size of Texas” jokes when it comes to qualifying their burdens, but there are 45% more boomers with debt in 2017 than there was in 2012. The weight of their growing debt? It’s near the tune of a median $15,754 per person.
Next: All ages struggle with debt in this next state.
- Total baby boomer student debt: $6,830,725,000
Pennsylvania is home to some of the most expensive colleges in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that baby boomers in this state carry a median balance of $14,495 into their later years. More than 200,000 people over 60 report student debt, but they’re not alone. Pennsylvania boasts one of the largest proportions of students with debt for all ages, according to WalletHub.
Next: A popular retirement destination riddled with debt
- Total baby boomer student debt: $7,132,025,000
Florida is a top destination for retirees. But it’s hard to relax on the beach when your thoughts are consumed with debilitating student debt. Will small Social Security payouts or other retirement funds do much to chip away at the $18,226 median debt boomers in this state carry? It’s doubtful. It’s for this reason Florida ranks as the third worst state for senior student debt.
Next: A state that proposed free college tuition is consumed with student loans.
2. New York
- Total baby boomer student debt: $9,181,882,000
The typical lavish New York City lifestyle is hard to come by with such a high cost of living. The Empire State is also riddled with massive student debt, despite proposing free college tuition earlier in 2017. With over $9 billion in student debt, baby boomers probably wish that bill was enacted earlier while they were busy amassing loans the size of Texas.
Next: The No. 1 state where boomers are struggling with student loans
- Total baby boomer student debt: $11,274,120,000
Seniors have a rough go of it in California. Taxes are astronomical, and the cost of living for retirees is painful — both of which are key reasons why repaying student loans would take a back seat for residents in this state. California boasts the highest number of people over 60 with loan debt at 317,472. With a median student debt balance of $14,531 per borrower, it’s easy to see why the state is burdened with over $11 billion in total student loan debt.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.