Don’t wait until graduation before thinking about money. (iStock)

In an ideal world, college students will choose majors based on their passions and not on how big their paycheck will be when they graduate.

But with student loan payments often taking a big bite out of recent grads’ paychecks, ignoring pay completely can be a mistake.

After rent, credit card payments and other bills are taken into account, consumers paying off student loans may find themselves with very little cash left over for meeting other financial goals. And the chances of struggling financially are higher for some majors than for others, according to a new analysis by Credible, a marketplace for loans.

Majors were ranked according to the debt-to-income ratios for those borrowers, or the share of their paychecks that were eaten up by student loan payments and other debt bills. (The lower the ratio, the more free cash those workers have to spend on other goals.)

The study found that people with the highest earning potential were often less burdened by their debt, even if their jobs were likely to require them to take on more loans.

For instance, dentists, pharmacists and doctors had a bigger share of their paycheck available after accounting for student loan payments, rent and credit card bills — even though they are required to go to graduate school and tend to have higher debt loads than people who studied other majors, the report found. People who studied for less lucrative careers, such as those who studied psychology, education and history, may have had smaller debt loads but they saw those bills eat up a bigger chunk of their pay, the study found.

The company analyzed the debt and income levels of more than 11,500 applicants who were looking to refinance their student loan debt and calculated, by major, how much of the borrowers’ pay was going to debt payments and other bills. The analysis was based on the income and debt amounts reported by the applicants. Credible then used average figures for rent, credit cards and other bills, according to Experian, TransUnion and the Federal Reserve, and kept those the same for every major.

People who see a high share of their paychecks go to major bills such as student debt payments and rent may also have a harder time meeting other life goals down the road. For one, they may have less cash available to save for a down payment for a home or a car. They might also have a more difficult time qualifying for loans, since lenders look at debt-to-income ratio when evaluating a borrower’s ability to pay back his or her loans.

The study didn’t take into account that rent varies by location and by a person’s ability to pay. But it still highlights the challenges that consumers face when trying to meet multiple financial goals when they are struggling to afford the necessities.

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