Family and Money

What you need to know about student loans.

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Guest post by Ryan Lane, Senior Editor, American Student Assistance

“Should I consolidate my student loans?”

It seemed like a simple question to me. However, my father’s answer was surprising: “I don’t know,” he said.

How could he not know? This was my CPA father—a man who made financial decisions for a major hospital in Boston. Surely, if anyone had sound advice about student loans, it’d be him. And yet, he was as clueless as I was.

It’s not surprising that I would ask a parent for help. According to a 2014 survey, 56 percent of millennials reach out to parents or other family members for financial advice. But where can those family members turn when they lack the necessary answers, as my dad did? Ideally, financial advisors like you.

The challenge is that student loans have intricate borrowing and repayment rules. Borrowers can turn to organizations like the one I work for, the national nonprofit American Student Assistance, for neutral advice. However, parents with children struggling with student loans—or dealing with this debt themselves—may expect more personal insight from their advisers than a website to visit.

That might especially be the case this month. The grace period for many recent graduates expires in November, and that will likely have them asking their parents, “What do I do with my student loans?” Set them up for a productive conversation by sharing the following information.

Lower Payments

Federal student loans come with flexible repayment options that can help borrowers find a payment amount that fits their lives and budget. Most notable are a number of income-driven repayment plans, which share an application and base borrowers’ monthly payments on factors like their family size and salaries. Payments under these plans can be as little as $0—and these lowered amounts could prove especially useful to those just entering the workforce.

Payment Postponements

In addition to lower payments, federal student loans also let borrowers pause repayment temporarily via deferment and forbearance. Unemployed or cash-strapped new graduates often opt for these options, particularly forbearance—which can be enacted with a simple phone call.

Forbearance always increases the amount a borrower owes, though, and deferment time is limited. As a result, borrowers should use these options only when truly necessary. Income-driven repayment is often the smarter bet.

 Repayment Goals

These unique options can play an important role in repaying federal student loans. However, at the end of the day, they’re a debt like any other that borrowers must manage. For financial advisers, that means helping parents and their children figure out how to align these payments with other financial goals.

If a borrower opts to pay less now (via an income-driven plan or postponement option), it could mean paying more overall. Both options can let more interest build up on a loan. If the borrower prefers to get out from this debt faster, you can prioritize that.

In the end, understanding student loans is important, but planning how to repay them is too—and you’re uniquely qualified to help borrowers do so.

What student loan problems have your clients brought to you? Do you feel comfortable offering them solutions?

Ryan Lane is the Senior Editor, at the national nonprofit American Student Assistance. In his role, he oversees the development of articles, infographics, and course materials for the organization’s free education finance support program: Salt. Working with internal and external subject matter experts, Ryan creates content that simplifies the world of college financing and helps families successfully plan for, pay for, and repay higher education expenses. Over the past three years, he has written about student loans as a co-author of the U.S. News & World Report Blog “The Student Loan Ranger.” For more information about Ryan and the ASA, visit

Are millennials more honest about money than their parents?

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A new research study by The and Bankrate found that individuals from the millennial generation are breaking money silence when it comes to their salaries. Their research finds that 63% of people 18 to 36 years of age have discussed their compensation with an immediate family member, compared to 41% of baby boomers.

In my opinion, the most significant finding is that 20% of millennials talk about their salaries with coworkers, whereas only 8% of baby boomers report having this type of open and honest dialogue at work. The increase in salary transparency among the younger generation will hold employers more accountable for their compensation practices and can be especially beneficial to women who are looking to close the gender wage gap.

If talking about money makes you cringe, here are three tips to help you break money silence at work and at home.

Tip #1: Examine your money talk mindset. What are your automatic thoughts and feelings about discussing finances at work or at home? What did your parents teach you about money talk? How might these attitudes impact your ability to discuss your compensation with your family, your friends, or your coworkers? By identifying these attitudes and beliefs, you can start to embrace the ones that serve you and let go of the part of your mindset that blocks you from receiving a fair and just salary.

Tip #2: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. A money conversation is not about winning an argument. It is about moving toward mutual understanding. Approach each dialogue with a healthy dose of curiosity, and focus on putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you are at work, this translates into spending time asking your boss questions so you can understand his or her perspective. Find out how you can demonstrate your value to the company and help your boss show upper management how you contribute to the firm. Remember, bosses suffer from money silence too.

Tip #3: Progress, not perfection. Talking about money is not easy. There is a longstanding tradition in our society that says discussing finances with others is rude and unnecessary. If you take the risk to engage in a financial conversation, reward yourself for a job well done. Learn from each interaction, and let go of any need to be perfect in your money conversations. Together, we can make progress toward breaking money silence for good—one money talk at a time.

What do you think about discussing salary at work? Does it make you uncomfortable, or do you believe it is important to be fairly compensated?

You can find more information on the study here.

Check Out These Breaking Money Silence Revolutionaries

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These individuals have joined the Breaking Money Silence Revolution and are doing great work with clients and/or advisors to empower them to talk more about the human side of finance.

Ellen Rogin Money Will Not Buy Happiness

Ellen Rogin, CPA, CFP® – Prosperity on Purpose

Ellen has leveraged her expertise to develop prosperity strategies that work and is a speaker, money expert, and New York Times best-selling author. Her current book is a New York Times bestseller, Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality.

Ellen highlights my new book, Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life, in her list of books that will feed your mind and soul. Check out the entire list here:

5 Books to Kick Start Your Fall: Inspiration to Grow Your Influence, Open Communication, and Lead a Richer, Happier Life

Michael Kay, CFP® – President, Financial Life Focus

Michael F. Kay, CFP® is President of Financial Life Focus, a fee-only multi-advisor financial life planning firm and the author of The Feel Rich Project (Career Press, June 2016) and The Business of Life.

I was a guest author for Michael’s Forbes blog and I discuss how important it is to talk to your parents about finances. Check out the post: 3 Tips for Raising Financially Fit Parents

Susan B. Weiner, Investment Writing

Susan helps financial professionals increase the impact of their writing on clients and prospects. Her Investment Writing blog is popular with advisors who care about deepening their connections with clients and prospects. Susan and I talk about how important it is to communicate with your clients about their legacy in this expert interview. Read it here: Communicate with your clients about their legacy

Myth: Parents must protect their children from college financing decisions

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Ryan Lane, Senior Editor, American Student Assistance 

The college selection process is complex and stressful, and many parents fail to discuss the long-term financial ramifications of taking on student loan debt with their children. In today’s episode, Kathleen and Ryan discuss how many parents try to protect their children by not talking about money, but do the family a disservice by not engaging in this important and enlightening conversation. Ryan offers tips for involving your children in the college funding decision-making process and how doing so can help them avoid huge student loan debt when they graduate from school. 

Take Aways: 

  1. Start the college application process early by involving your children in the FAFSA process and talking about different ways to finance their education, such as loans, grants, scholarships, and good old hard work.
  2. Schedule a money talk with your children to discuss the FAFSA results, repayment schedule, how it may affect their college choice. Create a mock budget to demonstrate the long-term, real-life impact of each of the funding options.
  3. When discussing this topic with recent graduates, encourage them to pay down student loans faster by making an extra payment per year. Have your child calculate the amount of money saved by avoiding additional interest expenses. Then brainstorm all the other ways they could use this cash. For example, if you save $1000 in interest expense, what could you buy instead? A long weekend in Bermuda comes to mind?!

Guest Bio:

Ryan Lane is the Senior Editor, at the national nonprofit American Student Assistance. In his role, he oversees the development of articles, infographics, course materials for the organization’s free education finance support program: Salt. Working with internal and external subject matter experts, Ryan creates content that simplifies the world of college financing and helps families successfully plan for, pay for, and repay higher education expenses. Over the past three years, he has written about student loans as a co-author of the U.S. News & World Report Blog “The Student Loan Ranger.” For more information about Ryan and the ASA, visit

Breaking Money Silence Facebook Live Launch Party

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My 5th book, Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life was published Saturday, September 30, 2017, and I celebrated with my first Facebook Live event. It was great to celebrate with friends and colleagues and I even hosted a contest during the event.

If you missed the Live event, watch it below and enjoy! Make sure you ‘LIKE’ my Facebook Author page so you can be notified of upcoming Facebook Live events, contests, giveaways, and more. To learn more, visit the Breaking Money Silence website or order the book on Amazon.

BREAKING MONEY SILENCE – Author’s Announcement

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My new book, BREAKING MONEY SILENCE: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly About Finances, and Live a Richer Life will be published on September 30, 2017. You can pre-order Breaking Money Silence on Amazon.

In BREAKING MONEY SILENCE I dive into the taboo of money and tap into this neglected area of discourse from all perspectives—women, couples, parents, children, and wealth advisors—to offer a new vision for how we understand, communicate about, and plan for money. Empowering readers to defy the standard conventions around money, the book equips them with the practical tools to navigate difficult conversations, understand individual money mindsets, and futureproof one’s finances. My goal is to show how, by doing so, marriages and families can remain intact, businesses can enable financial literacy and thrive, and women can inch closer to financial equity.

Pre-order Breaking Money Silence on Amazon.

What people are saying about the book:

“Like termites eating away at the foundation of your home, money taboos can cause devastation and destruction to the relationships you value most. Whether it’s your romantic relationship or with your kids, parents, siblings, employer or even your peers – Kathleen provides tactical, practical, and actionable strategies to break down those confining money walls. Your entire financial foundation, heck your entire life, will be stronger for having read this transformational book.”
–Manisha Thakor, CFA, CFP®, Co-Author, On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance and Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey

“Talking about money is the most important personal finance skill anyone can learn, and Kathleen has literally written the book. In fact, this isn’t a book, it is a guide. Follow it and it will change your life!”
–Carl Richards, CFP®, New York Times Columnist and Author, The One-Page Financial
Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money and The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money.

“Kathleen has an amazing gift for empowering people to a better path. Her book will offer you various ways to connect with your family to have meaningful conversations about money. If you’re an advisor, you’ll want to use some of her suggestions to help you facilitate better money discussions with your clients. Either way, it’s a must read!”
–Deena Katz, CFP®, LHD, Personal Financial Planning Professor, Texas Tech University

Coaching Clients on Talking to Aging Parents About Money

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The following articles, books, and online resources can help you and your clients learn how to communicate and assist aging parents.

Breaking Money Silence: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life.
By Kathleen Burns Kingsbury

This book is a step-by-step guide on how to overcome the social taboo against talking openly about money with your loved ones. Includes a chapter on how to raise financially fit parents. Pre-order on Amazon now, for September 2017 release date.

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss
By Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins

Revised and updated, this guide features the latest information on the causes of dementia and how to manage the early stages of the disease. It also includes information on the prevention of dementia, and how to find appropriate living arrangements for the person who has this illness and can no longer live at home. A section on financial issues is included.

Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease
By Joanne Koenig Coste

Offers a practical approach to the emotional well-being of both patients and caregivers that emphasizes relating to patients in their own reality. This book includes hundreds of tips, including how to cope with the diagnosis, how to adjust to the disease’s progression, and how to help the patient talk about the illness.

Alzheimer’s Association

Founded in 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association advances research to end Alzheimer’s disease and dementia while enhancing care for those living with the disease. The website offers educational resources, financial and legal information, support group listings, and referrals to treatment facilities across the country.

Myth: Aging parents communicate with you about money.

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Aging parents communicate about money

Kelly Pelissier, Creative Director and owner of Sage Hill Design

Does talking to your parents about money make you feel like a child? As our parents age, we may find ourselves in the position of parent in many aspects. Kelly and Kathleen delve into this money myth in today’s episode. Listen and learn how to approach your parents for this difficult conversation.

Key take aways include:

  1. Starting the conversation with loving intent.
  2. Acknowledging your parents’ difficult feelings about the topic.
  3. Introducing the idea and then letting them set up a time later on to discuss the topic in more detail.
  4. Know that it is a journey not a one time conversation.
  5. Give your parents control over what financial information to share and when.
  6. Know that breaking money silence with your aging parents allows you to learn more about your family history and more about them as people, not just parents.

Kelly Pelissier – Having more than 15 years in the creative industry, Kelly decided to put the long commutes behind her and begin her own firm, Sage Hill Design in 2008. Her prior experience as both Art Director and Adjunct Design Professor have given her advantages in both corporate and educational realms. Her irrational fear of boredom and sense of global responsibility have led her to start a small organic farm with her husband. 

Kelly has worked with KBK Wealth Connection since its inception and continues to be an important part of the team.

Special Offer: For Breaking Money Silence(TM) podcast listeners:  Complimentary 30 minute consultation with Kelly to discuss your branding and creative needs. Just mention that you hear about Sage Hill Design from this broadcast.

For more information:


Breaking Money Silence in Blended Families

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At age fifty, I didn’t anticipate that I would become a stepsister or have a stepmother. But that is exactly what happened when my eighty-five-year-old father decided to marry his seventy-five-year-old girlfriend this year. All of a sudden the classic television show, The Brady Bunch, took on new meaning.  Who would I be in this new family – Marcia, Jan, or Cindy? Who would my stepsiblings resemble? Greg, Peter, or Bobby?

Yes, blending a family is messy, even when done well. Unfortunately, in my instance, the silence around this union and what it meant emotionally and financially was deafening. There was no communication. There was no dinner to bring this new family unit together. It was quiet, with each of the adult children left in our own worlds, grappling to understand this next step in our respective parent’s lives, and what, if anything that meant for us. It was a great example of what not to do when blending a family.

Family communication is not easy, but when done well it allows each person to have a voice so they can express their feelings. If I had to guess, the silence in my family was due to my father not having a map for navigating these waters. As an expert in the field of communication, I understood my dad. As his daughter, it made accepting this new family situation challenging and complicated.

When blending a family, open dialogue is essential. Questions abound. How does this change our holiday rituals? What should we call our new “mother”? Where will you live? Will you be selling the family home? If something happens to you and you get sick, how will this change how you want to be cared for? The list of inquiries goes on and on.

This is where working with a trusted advisor can be so useful. This professional can provide a much-needed outsider’s perspective and help their clients break money silence before the couple legally ties the knot.

Here are a few tips to consider if you are working with a client who intends to remarry:

  1. Initiate the conversation. Once you learn a client is seriously dating after a divorce or loss of a spouse, introduce the idea of talking to the children about what this relationship means to each of them. If there are complicated family issues, it may be best to refer to this work to a family counselor. However, in many situations, you can provide a safe place for these meaningful conversations to occur.
  2. Encourage ongoing dialogue. This is not a one-time discussion, but a series of talks over time. Each time you meet with the client, ask about the relationship, how this impacts him or her financially, and how the children, and if applicable, grandchildren, are adapting to this new reality. Educate the client about how remarriage changes the current financial plan and encourage thoughtful consideration of these ramifications before deciding to walk down the aisle again.
  3. Host a family meeting. When the client announces that the couple is going to get married, offer to host a family meeting. Prior to the meeting, help the client consider how, if at all, remarrying changes the estate plan and what documents need to be amended. Review financial goals and how these may change. Then invite the client’s children from the first marriage into the office to discuss the family transition and answer any questions they may have about what this means to them personally and financially. Remind each person that this transition, while exciting to their parent, can involve ambivalence and a sense of loss of what the family used to be. Normalize any feelings they are experiencing and give them a chance to voice them in the meeting.
  4.  Bring the blended family together. If the couple decides to hire you jointly, coach them on how to effectively blend the family. Offer them resources on the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of their union. And if they are interested, offer to host a blended family meeting. This is not a place for the children to meet each other for the first time, but a meeting to help all parties understand their parents’ wishes, and how this new relationship changes what previously was decided. Based on that information, the client can then decide how to proceed.
  5. Hire a family wealth consultant. Depending on the complexity of the family situation, including their level of wealth and level of function or dysfunction, consider hiring a professional skilled in family communication and dynamics. This family wealth consultant can work with you to provide structure to the meetings and support in mediating differences as they arise. To find a professional to work with, visit the Financial Therapy Association website where professionals with these skills are listed.

Bringing two families together to make one is never easy. But the transition will be easier if you encourage open communication and careful consideration of the financial, legal, and emotional aspects involved.  While you can’t change the past, you can change the future.  In my instance, my husband and I are committed to keeping financial and emotional lines of communication open.  As an advisor you can help couples do the same.

How do you handle working with blended families? When do you bring on additional team members versus working alone?