Skip to main content
News Release

New Research: Juggling Student Loans, Saving for Retirement and Other Priorities

September 10, 2019

New CFP Board/Morning Consult Survey Gives Insight into Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Loans, Savings and Working with a Financial Planner

A new survey by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and Morning Consult shows that nearly one in four American households hold student loan debt. At the same time, nearly half of consumers say they are confident that they can pay off their debt while still being able to save for retirement.

While it’s no surprise that Americans are juggling multiple financial priorities, the new research provides a glimpse into how consumers are balancing competing obligations and their level of confidence.

“CFP® professionals take a holistic approach to financial planning – looking at every facet of a person’s financial life. This includes finding ways to pay down debt and save for a comfortable retirement,” said Kevin R. Keller, CEO of CFP Board. “The services of a CFP® professional providing comprehensive financial planning are needed now more than ever as more Americans are juggling student loans, saving for retirement and other priorities.”

Handling Student Loan Debt

Highlights of the research about student loan debt shows:

  • Nearly one in four surveyed (23 percent) say they, or someone in their household, has student loan debt with that number increasing to 34 percent for high earners (adults 35-65 with household income of $100,000 or more);
  • About half (49 percent) of all adults say they are either very confident or somewhat confident that they can pay off their student loan debt while, not surprisingly, 62 percent of adults 35-65 with income of $100,000 or more say the same thing; and
  • High earning adults disproportionately believe they will achieve certain life milestones while still paying off their student loan debt, with 40 percent saying it is very likely they will fund their retirement account (compared to 26 percent of all adults); and 37 percent saying they will purchase a home (compared to 24 percent of all adults).

Saving for Retirement

When it comes to saving for retirement, highlights of the research showed that:

  • When asked which ways they are saving for retirement, 68 percent of those surveyed said they are using a 401K/403B, IRA/Roth IRA and/or an investment portfolio;
  • What’s more, 40 percent of those surveyed say they are not saving for retirement or do not know if and how they are saving; and
  • Only 5 percent of adults 35-65 with $100,000-plus in income say they are not saving for retirement. A whopping 77 percent say they are using a 401K or 403B as their way of saving.

No matter their age or household income, Americans are concerned about saving enough money that will last through retirement – 49 percent of all adults and 56 percent of high earners express concern about saving enough money.

One stark difference between high-earning and lower-income Americans is that those with less income said their primary driver for retirement is when they can collect Social Security payments, as opposed to other triggers like reaching an age or savings milestone.

Using the Services of a Financial Advisor

The percentage of Americans using a financial advisor for retirement advice is higher among high earners, with 38 percent surveyed saying they use an advisor compared to only 18 percent of all adults.

Of those using a financial advisor, 35 percent of those ages 35-65 with $100,000-plus in income say they have completed a financial plan within the last two years – more than double (17 percent) the rate of the average American. For those who are receiving financial advice, the plurality say they would prefer a completely in-person approach to financial planning (34 percent) while the most cited response from adults 35-65 with $100,000-plus in income is wanting to have a part digital, part in-person approach (39 percent).

“In evaluating the research, there seems to be a strong correlation between those saying they use a financial advisor and those saying they are confident in their ability to pay off student loans and save for retirement on their terms,” said Joe Maugeri, CFP®, CFP Board’s Managing Director for Corporate Relations. “This illustrates the tremendous value consumers receive when working with a competent and ethical financial professional who can help them balance their goals and meet their financial needs.”

About the survey

The CFP Board/Morning Consult survey was conducted May 31-June 2, 2019 among a national sample of 2,201 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, educational attainment, gender, race and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The poll oversample was conducted between May 31-June 2, 2019 among a national sample of 578 adults 35-65 with $100,000-plus in household income. The interviews were conducted online. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. is the professional body for personal financial planners in the U.S. CFP Board sets standards for financial planning and administers the prestigious CFP® certification – one of the most respected certifications in financial services – so that the public has access to and benefits from competent and ethical financial planning. CFP Board, along with its Center for Financial Planning, is committed to increasing the public’s awareness of CFP® certification and access to a diverse, ethical and competent financial planning workforce. Widely recognized by firms and consumer groups as the standard for financial planning, CFP® certification is held by more than 83,000 people in the United States.


Dan Drummond, Director of Communications
Mobile: 202-243-8621