Student debt is an unfortunate reality for most U.S. college graduates. Roughly 70 percent of grads leave college with student debt, and over 44 million Americans hold a total of $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.

For federal student loans, the standard repayment plan expects borrowers to pay off their debt in less than 10 years. For many, however, it can take twice as long.

Research from Citizens Financial Group suggests that 60 percent of student debt borrowers expect to pay off their loans in their 40s. Data collected at the state level supports these findings. A study from the OneWisconsin Institute finds that it takes graduates of Wisconsin universities 19.7 years to pay off a bachelor’s degree and 23 years to pay off a graduate degree.
The Federal Reserve reports that there are that there are 6.8 million student loan borrowers between the ages of 40 and 49 and that together, these graduates hold a collective $229.6 billion in debt. That means that Americans in their 40s with student loan debt each have an average balance of $33,765.
Many predict that the long-lasting effects of student debt will impact the housing industry, as well as how Americans finance retirement.

The Federal Reserve Board of Washington, D.C. found that an increase in student debt has led to a decrease in home ownership, and a study from NerdWallet predicts that students who graduated from college in 2015 will have to delay retirement until the age of 75, in part because of the increasing burden of student debt.

Fortunately, there are other repayment plans that allow for borrowers to pay off their loans over a longer period of time. The Extended Repayment Plan, for example, gives borrowers up to 25 years to pay off their loans and allows them to choose for their payments to be either fixed or graduated.

Before making decisions about financing a degree, students should plan out how long it will take for them to pay off their loans. By staying organized, taking into account how much money they expect to make and keeping an eye on interest rates, graduates can make sure they pay off their loans as efficiently as possible.