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student debtAndrew Burton/Reuters

  • A new poll indicates most student-loan borrowers would prefer loan repayments this holiday season over things like bitcoin or the new iPhone X.
  • The findings highlight the student debt crisis, which has ballooned to $1.4 trillion.
  • Retailers could feel the heat if debtors starting making their true desires known.

For the millions of American families swapping gifts this year, chances are good the younger members want out of the tradition.

A new poll of student-loan borrowers has found the majority would prefer loan repayments as gifts over flashier items, such as the iPhone X, $1,000 worth of bitcoin, or tickets to Super Bowl LII. Most respondents also rejected the fully-paid memberships to Amazon Prime and Netflix, instead opting to receive the equivalent amount in repayments.

The findings highlight the rapidly growing crisis of student debt. In the US alone, there are more than 44 million student debtors collectively carrying around $1.4 trillion in debt. The average amount of debt for a graduate in 2016 was $37,172, according to the personal financial site Make Lemonade.

Conducted by the financial literacy site LendEDU, roughly 70% of respondents were between 18 and 34 years old. The remainder were split between those in their late 30s and 40s.

For each of the 1,000 respondents, LendEDU asked people to choose between 13 different gifts and the equivalent dollar amount in loan repayments, including their dream puppy (valued at $1,000), tickets to “Hamilton” on Broadway ($500), and 1 oz. of marijuana ($300). Only one item was more preferable to loan repayments, and that was a $100 bill (which, you could assume, the person would put toward their debt anyway).

The new findings echo those from a recent survey from the Student Loan Report, which found that 69.3% of people with student loan debt would prefer to receive loan payments this holiday season instead of any material gift. (Similar to LendEDU’s survey, 68% of respondents were betweeen 18 and 34 years old.)

Aside from the plight of millennials and GenXers, the results indicate that retailers might not carry as much sway over American consumers as they once did. Any money that goes toward repaying loans are funds that don’t go into the pockets of Walmart or Target.

That trend coincides with other data on falling Christmas spending and stagnating wages, despite a strong US economy overall.

Neither LendEDU nor the Student Loan Report indicate that people are asking for loan repayments instead of gifts, merely that they’d prefer one over the other. But for concerned gift-givers, the findings may serve as a wake-up call that the “perfect” gift isn’t one to unwrap.

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