I attended a private institution in the USA for higher education and as a result I pay monthly student loan payments so expensive they rival my rent payments. I try not to think very hard about this as doing so can sometimes cause debilitating bouts of depression. Over the past few years I have long since paid off an amount equivalent to the amount I originally borrowed, but naturally, due to interest, I still have over $35,000 left in payments to make. I am barely able to make these payments with some left over for rent, utilities, and food, but with effectively no amount to put into any kind of savings. At my current rate of payment, which is the best I can manage, I will expect to be free from debt, but with 0 savings, at age 40.
This strikes me as a very frightening situation as I have effectively lost 2 decades of possible savings that could have been made due to exorbitant student loan costs. As a result, my future prospects seem bleak. For example, I cannot imagine ever possibly being able to purchase a house, but I have no idea how feasible living the rest of your life in an apartment is. This terrible student loan experience (at the time I was also required to have a co-signer, and my Mother agreed to it, for which I feel eternally guilty) has made me very averse to ever taking out another loan ever again. I have attempted to apply for a credit card two or three times in the past and was rejected each time so I can only assume my credit score is terrible anyway.
My question is, even when I have paid off my student loans, at age 40, what possible choices do I have for the rest of my life? From reading other questions on this site, it seems like I should have already had a reasonable amount of savings in some kind of savings account, retirement fund, or otherwise that I do not fully understand. I feel that even once I have rid myself of the huge financial and emotional burden of student loans, I will have "missed the boat" on life, so to speak. Thus the best I can hope for is to keep working at my current job until the inevitable layoff or retirement, at which point I cannot imagine being able to support myself beyond that, and so at that point I expect to undergo severe emotional breakdown, depression, homelessness, and possibly suicide.
Is there any reasonable alternative I have missed?