Would you retire with substantial debt?

In a perfect world, we’d all be debt-free by the time we retire. But the reality is that most of us won’t be able to work forever. Would you retire even if you still had significant debt, or would you try to keep working until you’ve paid it off?

This question seems to surface a lot regarding student loans. Here’s one letter I got recently from someone who is 75 with $235,000 in student loans. https://www.thepennyhoarder.co…h-235k-student-loan/ Lots of people who are retirement age have substantial student loan debt because they went back to school later (many did so after losing their jobs in the Great Recession) or they took on debt for their kids’ education.

In the letter writer’s case, I think the solution is pretty obvious: She’s on an income-based repayment plan (which means her student loans are federal), so she can keep the payments quite low, especially if her income drops. So retiring with student debt will make sense, though many people struggle with seeing the balance increase each month. If these were private loans, the solution would be a lot less clear-cut. She would probably have to work for as long as humanly possible or else go into default. Many people face similarly difficult decisions when they have large medical bills or credit card balances.

I think the solution here depends on so many factors, including how long you can realistically work, your retirement budget and the consequences of not paying off the debt. Obviously, retirement is easiest when your expenses are as low as possible, but in some circumstances, retiring with debt will be necessary.

What do you think? Would you consider retiring with debt? Or would you keep working as long as you can to retire with no debt?


I would probably keep working as hard as I could to pay it all off if I thought I could do so in a reasonable amount of time.

The thought of retirement just doesn’t sound right if you have a bunch of debt hanging over your head.


Exactly, best to pay debt off before retirement if you can. I, on the other hand, had debt at retirement but retired anyway. I knew I would keep working part-time, so…


I don’t think I could have retired with substantial debt and have peace. One of my main retirement goals was less stress in my life, the stress I have control over.


NO, I would do my best to have no, or very limited debt when I retire. That includes a mortgage.


i would work to pay off my debt


My goal is to continue living debt-free straight into retirement. I would never be comfortable taking out a mortgage nor a car loan near or in retirement. I eliminated my debt years ago and don’t want to ever go back. Zero debt is true freedom.

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No. I do taxes for the elderly each year for free. It wreaks havoc on their budget and lives. You need to have the house paid off at the very least or be in a rent controlled setting with gov housing / apartments for those 65 and older.