Millennials who graduate college and begin their careers at age 22 with $30,000 in student loan debt could wind up with $325,000 less in retirement savings than their debt-free peers, according to a recent research study conducted by the Limra Secure Retirement Institute.  And that’s assuming they’re able to pay back their student loans within 10 years.

The findings “can be looked at as a cautionary tale,” Michael Ericson, the research analyst who authored the study, tells Financial Advisor. “Advisors can help clients enter these things [student loans] with their eyes wide open.”

To do its research, the Secure Retirement Institute built a model and analyzed data from the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial statistical survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board.  The factors found to influence retirement savings, says Ericson, were the interest rate on student loans, the rate of return on an employee’s 401(k) plan, and whether or not an employer offered a match on contributions.

The study found that millennials with student loan debt are saving at a lower rate. Those without student loans are 60 percent more likely to maximize their employer match compared to those who are paying off these loans.

When developing its model, the Secure Retirement Institute assumed a conservative rate of return of 5% and the use of a federal loan, which is usually 4 percent to 5 percent. Private loans, which tend to range from 7 percent to 9 percent, would make the retirement savings gap wider, says Ericson. If interest rates should rise, as is widely anticipated, student loans are likely to get even more costly, he says.

The Secure Retirement Institute’s analysis also found that for the under-35-year-old population, education debt as a percentage of total installment loan debt more than tripled between 1989 and 2013, rising from 21 percent to 68 percent.

“It’s not just affecting those going to college,” says Ericson, “but also the parents and grandparents of the students.” Education debt accounts for 15 percent of the installment debt held by retirees (ages 65-74), compared to less than 1 percent in 1989. Pre-retirees (ages 55-64) have seen this figure climb to 30 percent from 4 percent over the same time period.

The Secure Retirement Institute says its research “underscores the importance for parents and students to examine the amount of student loan debt they are willing to take on, understanding the long-term implications of this debt throughout their lives.”