It’s the start of fall, a few weeks until Halloween, and another significant milestone as well; student loans are coming due for May 2016 graduates.
Federal student loans typically have a six-month grace period after graduation to allow borrowers an opportunity to find work, accrue some savings and prepare to start making payments.
Although this grace period sounds like a relaxing break, it can be a financially stressful time as recent graduates might be thinking about how their new monthly student loan bills will impact their monthly expenses. Studies have shown that Millennials are already more financially stressed than other working generations, so this upcoming shift could make things even worse.
Here are some of the ways student loans can impact the financial stress levels of your employees, and what you can do to help them manage this transition.
Student loan stress
Americans owe more in student loans than ever before. The average spring 2016 graduate has nearly $40,000 in student debt and many of these grads will be facing their first bill in a matter of weeks. The six month grace period is an opportunity to prepare for the higher bills that are now due each month, but for financially inexperienced recent grads it’s still difficult to anticipate these monthly payments – often hundreds of dollars – and then factor them into their budgets. The result is a shock to their system, and stress comes with it.
The more money you owe, the more financial stress you’ll feel. A 2015 study from the University of South Carolina found that the more debt a student loan borrower carries, the more likely they are to be depressed.
In the workforce, if you tend to hire younger workers, your employees are likely already paying down their student loans – 43 million Americans are – and the amount they owe could vary wildly. Even if it’s not their first payment they’re reacting to, struggling to cover them each month take its toll, especially when it’s not the only thing giving them anxiety.
Millennials are already stressed out
The American Psychological Association’s annual ”Stress in America” survey found that Millennials, including recent college graduates and young employees, have the highest self-reported stress levels of any generation in America. Student loans have a lot to do with this, as many of these young employees are handling things like a budget, an apartment lease and a full-time job for the first time on top of their loans.
To make things worse, the student loan payment process isn’t always as easy as it should be. Even if a borrower wants to make their payments on time and in full, the CFPB notes that plenty of obstacles can get in their way, like a lack of answers from their loan servicer about whether they qualify for more manageable payment plans. In some instances, loan servicers can intentionally apply borrowers’ payments in a way that causes them to pay more interest or fees in the long run, rather than helping them pay off their loans as quickly as possible. These issues, combined with debt inexperience and ignorance (in some cases), means you’ll be dealing with financially stressed employees in your workplace.
How employers can help
If your workers are showing signs of severe financial stress or depression, whether they’re less focused or productive, they’re missing work frequently due to anxiety-related illnesses or they’re worried about managing their money in the face of student loan payments, you can help. When it comes to financial knowledge, a little bit can make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, student loan burdens are common for employees today, but financial literacy isn’t. The more you can help educate your workers about setting a proper budget, maximizing their emergency savings and efficiently paying off their debt, the less stress they’ll feel about their finances. The result is more productive employees who are focused on accomplishing their money goals instead of worrying about their money fears.