AgeLab Research Scientist Julie Miller presented at the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education Symposium in Portland, OR, on the impact of student debt on retirement planning and relationship dynamics. Dr. Miller spoke before an audience comprised of financial coaches, counselors, and educators.
Dr. Miller gave a paper presentation called "The elephant at the dinner table: How borrowers make, negotiate, and experience student loan decisions within family systems.” She also gave a 3-minute TED-talk-style presentation on the same topic.
Dr. Miller’s presentations utilized survey and focus group data for Boston-area student loan borrowers to address how individuals communicate about student debt to members of their families. Financial communication norms within families can serve as meaningful predictors of individuals’ financial attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors.
The majority of borrowers who participated in the research perceived themselves as making loan-related decisions with little guidance or support, particularly if they were not sharing loan repayment responsibilities with parents. Almost half of all participants reported some type of family conflict related to their loans; if the loans imposed any effects on family dynamics, they most often were negative.Results also revealed that repaying loans often negatively impacts borrower’s abilities to financially support older and younger family members, suggesting ripple effects of student debt that affect not only borrowers themselves, but those who are or may come to be dependent on them for care.