Student loans can be a major burden -- that's no secret. But data released earlier this year by TD Bank shows just how cumbersome those loans can be. A survey of adults aged 18 to 39 showed student debt eats up roughly 20% of their incomes. 

Those surveyed bring home an average of $2,689 per month in take-home pay. The average student debt payment, meanwhile, is $579 a month. That means around one dollar of every five is lost to student loans right off the bat. That's a tough pill to swallow, and it certainly makes it extremely difficult to meet other financial goals.

A young woman sitting outside with her chin resting in her hand.

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Younger borrowers are hurting

Losing so much income to student loans means falling short in other important financial areas. Outstanding debt is stopping 20% of those surveyed from saving any money on a monthly basis. And that's troubling, because those who fail to build emergency funds risk having to take on even more debt -- that of the credit card variety -- when unplanned expenses pop up. Meanwhile, those who fail to sock away funds for retirement risk struggling financially in the future. 

Additionally, 54% of younger workers have maxed out credit cards because of their student loans. And 36% have put off buying a home because of that debt. 

Making your debt more affordable

If you're grappling with costly student loan payments on a moderate income, it pays to see if there's a way to make your debt more manageable. If you took out federal loans for college, see if you qualify for an income-driven repayment plan, under which your monthly payments will be recalculated as a reasonable percentage of your income -- often 10%, which is certainly better than 20%. 

If you took out private loans for college, there's no such thing as an official income-driven repayment plan, but you can still ask your lender to lower your monthly payment. Your lender might agree to this if doing so lowers the risk that you'll default altogether. Another option with private loans is to look into refinancing. If you can ditch your existing loan in favor of a new one with a lower interest rate, you'll shrink your monthly payments in the process so that they don't make up quite so large a portion of your monthly income. 

Be smart about spending

When you're stuck with a hefty student loan balance and large monthly payments, you need to be strict with your spending. And that means getting on a tight budget -- one that prioritizes essentials like housing, transportation, and food, and limits discretionary spending on things like leisure and entertainment. At the same time, be sure there's room in your budget for savings as well as your loan payments -- you don't want to fall behind on other important financial objectives in the course of shedding that debt. 

The fact that so many younger borrowers are saddled with mountains of student debt is a shame. If you're one of them, try making your loans easier to pay off, but also make smart decisions that allow you to ride out this difficult, albeit temporary period of your life and come out on top financially.