MADISON, Wis.-How do consumers and members conceptualize borrowing and debt? How do credit unions respond to basic borrowing needs? Those questions are at the core of a new research paper from the Filene Research Institute that is based on research conducted at 11 credit unions nationally.

More than 100 members participated in initial interviews and two-dozen were the subject of in-depth home interviews. The researchers found a "diverse group of members whose relationship with and feelings toward borrowing ran the gamut from healthy to dysfunctional," said Filene.

"What was surprising was the researchers' finding about how emotional and financial considerations link inextricably in the borrowing process," the authors said. "Members are caught up not only in financial factors but in emotional factors, as well."

Among the key findings:

* Members (and couples) have a "golden mean" in which their emotional and financial lives are at equilibrium.

* Borrowers take on loans with different levels of "friction." Positive friction applies to loans perceived as good or helpful. Negative friction attaches to loans that members resent, "bad" loans, Filene said of the report, which stays away from statistics.

* Many members perceive CUs as social institutions first and FIs second.

* Convenience is (still) king.

* Members often appreciate tough love.

* Being debt-free can't buy you love.

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