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How your money habits compare to other people in their 20s and 30s

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Your 20s can be a time of striving for better things. A better job. A bigger paycheck. A savings account.

Even if you’re making some progress, it can be difficult to know where you stand or how you compare to your peers.

A study released Thursday by Navient, a student loan servicer, and Ipsos, a market research company, may offer some insight. The companies surveyed more than 3,000 people ages 22 to 35 about different aspects of their financial health.

Remember, everyone’s path to financial stability is unique. But the findings may give you a sense of where you stand on certain goals, compared to other people your age. Here are some of the report’s top takeaways:

More than 40 percent of people above age 30 are done paying student loans.

Sixty percent of the millennials surveyed said they borrowed to pay for college. But the report found there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to student loan debt. Not surprisingly, the chances of paying off those loans increased with age. Forty-four percent of people over 30 who borrowed for college are now debt free, compared to 29 percent of 22- to 30-year-olds who have cleared their student debt.

For those still making payments, their burdens varied significantly. The average debt load in that group is $22,817, but the majority of those with debt, 51 percent, said they owed $10,000 or less. An additional 21 percent owed more than $30,000.

Ninety-three percent of young adults are saving for a goal.

The majority of young adults between the ages of 22 and 35 — 93 percent — said they are saving. But most of them haven’t saved very much. About half of consumers had set aside less than $1,000 total for all of their savings goals. That includes 6 percent have not saved anything at all, even though they said they had a savings goal in mind.

Most people are saving for near-term goals, such as a vacation or to build an emergency fund. Only one in three workers under 35 are saving for retirement. And those workers with a bachelor’s degree were much more likely in general to be saving for retirement than people with an associate’s or those who did not have a degree.

The numbers also support, at least in part, a concern that many financial advisers have been bringing up for years: That people with student loan debt may have a harder time saving for retirement. Workers who had a degree but did not borrow were much more likely to have saved at least $50,000 for retirement than those who did borrow for their degrees.

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Forty-two percent like their jobs.

In total, 75 percent of the young people surveyed had jobs, including 62 percent of people with full-time jobs. That’s up from last year, when 69 percent of people had jobs, including 57 of people working full-time. The shift means that fewer people are unemployed, studying or staying at home to take care of children.

The more education you have, the greater your chances of working full-time. For instance, 89 percent of people with advanced degrees were working full-time, compared to 83 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree, 61 percent of people with an associate’s degree and 49 percent of people who had some college but no degree.

The likelihood of having a full-time job also increased generally with age, but tapered off for people ages 34 and 35. And some young people are having a better time finding jobs they like. Forty-two percent of respondents said they were very satisfied with their jobs, up from 37 percent last year.

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The median salary for millennials with advanced degrees is $95,000.

Broke in your 20s? Life should get a little easier as you enter your late 20s and early 30s. The median salary for workers between the ages of 28 and 35 is $72,500, nearly double the median pay of workers between the ages of 22 and 27.

Paychecks are also bigger for people with more education. The median pay for a worker with an advanced degree is $95,000, compared to $62,500 for workers with only a bachelor’s degree and $47,500 for workers with an associate’s degree.

Workers who started college but didn’t finish fared worse than people who didn’t go to college at all, according to the survey. People with a high school degree or less earned a median of $42,500, more than the $37,500 earned by people who went to college but did not earn a degree. While it’s not clear what caused that income gap, researchers said the situation may be particularly dire for people who didn’t finish college but still have student loan debt, making them more likely to default.

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Twenty-four percent of people 25 to 30 with a college degree have a mortgage. 

Much is said about how low-paying jobs and student loan debt make it harder for young people to become homeowners, on top of rising rental costs and spiraling child-care expenses. But the report found that two major factors affected young people’s chances of owning a home: education and age.

Sixty-five percent of people with at least a bachelor’s degree owned their homes, compared to 42 percent of people who had not finished their degrees. People in their 30s were also more likely to have a mortgage than those still in their 20s. That may be because they’re more likely to have a better paying job and because they’ve had more time to save.

Surprisingly, people with student loan debt weren’t less likely to have a mortgage than people who didn’t borrow to pay for college. Researchers said this could be because finishing college can have a more prominent effect on a person’s ability to land a good-paying job, regardless of whether or not they had borrowed to pay for those degrees. Still, people who had mortgages but no student loan debt were more slightly likely to say that they have an excellent credit score. Eighty-four percent in that group said their scores were greater than 700, compared to 79 percent of people who had both student loans and a mortgage.

Read more: 

5 financial milestones to reach in your 20s

Six money milestones to hit while you’re in your 30s

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