Help When You Need It: Sources of Advice for Student Loan Borrowers Across the Life Course

by Adam Felts

A paper authored by AgeLab researchers, titled "Help When You Need It: Sources of Advice for Student Loan Borrowers Across the Life Course," describes challenges faced by student loan borrowers across age groups, with the aim of informing financial social workers and other professionals on how to best advise and assist student loan borrowers. The paper also examines borrowers' utilization of sources of advice and information about their loans.

AgeLab researchers discovered that younger borrowers - those ages 25- 35 - were most likely to report negative consequences of carrying debt. Those negative effects were primarily felt in the areas of housing and transportation, with these younger respondents reporting difficulties with purchasing or renting a home and with purchasing a car. Younger borrowers also reported having to delay marriage and having children as a result of their loans. Mental health was another area in which younger respondents reported negative impacts.

The paper also explored borrowers' use of professional sources of advice on their student debt. Most student loan borrowers across all ages had not consulted with anyone - including family members, financial advisors or other investment professionals, the human resources department at their workplace, or their college financial aid office -about student loan repayment. However, those who did consult any of these sources tended to report that seeking consultation was helpful for them.

The authors conclude that many student loan borrowers would benefit from working with a financial social worker to help manage their debt, use credit responsibility and effectively, and balance paying off loans with saving for other key financial goals. This form of professional financial counseling appears to be presently underutilized given the challenges faced by borrowers.

The paper is published in the Journal of Contemporary Social Sesrvices, with Julie Miller, Samantha Brady, Lexi Balmuth, and Joseph Coughlin as authors. More information can be found here.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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