Baby boomers are easing into retirement, but some may find their golden years are haunted by student loan debt that could follow them until they die.
It's not their children's debt, however -- it's their own. Many boomers returned to graduate school during the recession to bolster their skills, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Student loan debt is actually growing fastest among people over 60, the report notes. More than 2 million Americans over 60 owe student loan debt, with the average balance standing at about $19,500, up from just under $11,000 in 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In all, that amounts to $44 billion in student loan debt carried by people who often qualify for senior discounts.
"I fully expect to die with this debt," a former meteorologist told the Chronicle. After going back to school at 58 to become a mental health counselor, he's now $70,000 in debt and unemployed at 65.
Of course, it seems like adults in every age bracket are getting crushed by student debt, which is exacerbated by a still-recovering economy. As reported previously on MSN moneyNOW, more PhDs are applying for food stamps, while 284,000 students with college degrees were working at minimum-wage jobs last year. Working at McDonald's (MCD +0.87%) might be a disappointment if you're fresh out of college, but it takes on a deeper shade of depressing for seniors.
Older students have seen their debt loads mushroom not only because of rising tuition, but because they often take more time to complete a degree while juggling full-time jobs and family life.
Some are turning to the government for help. The meteorologist, for instance, slashed his monthly student loan bill in half to $250 through the government's income-based repayment program.