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Generation Debt: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

"Generation Xers are woefully under-saved for retirement, but to turn things around and get them on track for a secure retirement, education will be critical," she says. The irony is that education got Gen X-ers into debt in the first place.

That aside, a re-education on personal finance may help mitigate the sense that retirement is a fait accompli. But, a reappraisal of what we consider "good" versus "bad" debt may also be required.

"From a planning perspective, the assumption is that education is always going to advance the individual and improve their situation," says Balsley. "As a student, you don't think about the consequences of debt, but those consequences appear very quickly after graduation."

Have student loans left the "good debt" category forever? Sure, they have a lower interest rate than, say, a credit card. But, most people will be indebted for a much longer time than they would with a credit card. And, sure, if your debt is held by the government, you can have the remaining balance forgiven if you've been a public school teacher or worked for a qualifying non-profit for a period of time. But most people fall outside of that narrow path.

Perhaps a third category is in order for student debt. Neither good, nor bad, student debt is like that formerly awesome tattoo you got, well, in college.
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