Restart Of Student Loan Payments To Slash Household Spending By $15.8 Billion Every Month

Restart Of Student Loan Payments To Slash Household Spending By $15.8 Billion Every Month

Two weeks ago, in “The Great Student Loan Nonpayment Boondoggle Is Over And Household Spending Is About To Collapse“, we showed how the three year-long payment forbearance had artificially boosted disposable incomes by tens of billions. And, more importantly, with repayment on said loans set to resume in a few months, personal spending was set to collapse.

Today, in a note from Barclays economist Adirenne Yih (available to pro subscribers in the usual place), the bank has published a detailed calculation of just how much disposable spending would shrink by as a result of the student loan payment restart. In a nutshell, the bank estimates a potential aggregate $15.8bn monthly headwind – or $190 billion per year – to US spending as the average student debt holder sees an incremental monthly payment of ~$390 beginning this fall. This represents an ~8% headwind to monthly personal income, affecting 16% of the US population, and adding pressure to not just consumer discretionary and apparel, but all retail spending.

For those who missed it the first time, here is the background:

Student loan payments are set to resume in the coming months. For more than 40 million Americans carrying student loan debt, the timeline to resume making payments is now on the horizon. The debt ceiling deal passed earlier this month paves the way for student loan payments to resume as early as August 29, 2023, per the latest update from the U.S. Department f Education: Federal Student Aid. For most, this will be the first time making payments since the early days of the pandemic in March 2020.


ogically, Barclays regards the “essential” nature of the debt payments as reducing discretionary spending by an equal amount. As such, the bank estimates a potential aggregate $15.8bn monthly headwind to U.S. spending, as the average student debt holder sees an incremental monthly payment of ~$390 (more details below).

The analysis is based on federal student loan data for the aggregate $1.4 trillion balance across the 40.5mn borrowers by age cohort. Utilizing a 10-year payment period and a 5.8% interest rate, the bank calculates an approximate $390/month payment across cohorts.

Compared to a median pre-tax personal annual income of ~$57k, this payment represents an approximate 8% headwind to monthly income. In aggregate, this amounts to an “additional” (or rather, original, as the payments were there and then three years ago, they just stopped) $15.8bn in monthly payment for federal student loans affecting approximately 15.5% of the U.S. adult population (and 32% of the 25- to 34-year-old cohort).

As an aside, Barclays’ monthly estimate of $15.8bn in incremental payments is conservative as the analysis only takes into account federal student debt (Direct Loans), which is 87.2% of total student debt.

Some more details on who owes what:

  • As of March 31, 2020, there were 38.4mn recipients of Federal Student Aid (Direct Loans) equaling $1,315bn outstanding.
  • As of March 31, 2023 these numbers have increased and there are now 40.5mn recipients and $1,430bn  outstanding.
  • Additionally, the 25-34 age group has the largest amount of borrowers at 14.7mn recipients (36%), while the 35-49 age group has the largest amount of Federal Student loans outstanding at $533bn (37%)

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