This article is the second part of a series on 10 Things Employers Need to Know About Student Loan Debt. Catch up with Part One, here.
Americans owe a combined $1.4 trillion in student loan debt — and employers are starting to feel the burden of that enormous debt. The vast majority of employees are financially stressed, and they are less focused, less engaged and less productive than those without debt and are more likely to take one a second job or skip work due to a stress-related illness.
The student loan debt crisis isn’t going away, but there are ways you help your employees cope with their financial stress and get back to work. Here are 10 important things you need to know about student loan debt and the struggle your employees are facing in paying it back:
6. Student loan debt is not a millennials-only problem.
Younger employees aren’t the only ones dealing with the stress of student loan debt. In fact, 2.8 million Americans aged 60 and older carry outstanding student loans from their own college education. This number is up significantly from 2005, where only 700,000 Americans in this age group carried outstanding loans. Your older employees may be struggling to repay debt from continuing education or are possibly paying off debt from sending a child or grandchild to school.
7. Stress over student loan debt is keeping your employees from major life milestones.
Millennials graduating with student loans are more interested in paying off their loan debt than they are in homeownership, getting married or having children. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has found that having student loan debt decreases homeownership at every level of higher education. Indebted millennials also less likely to set aside money for retirement or build an emergency fund, creating further vulnerability, possible additional financial debt and significant stress into the future.
8. Stress over student loan debt is making your employees sick.
Over half of young workers with student loan debt worry about it constantly, according to American Student Assistance, a nonprofit specializing in helping consumers finance their higher education. Stressing about massive debt isn’t just an emotional strain, it can also cause significant physical ailments from occasional headaches or gastrointestinal problems, to more chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or depression and anxiety.
9. Most employees wish they had more information about repaying student loan debt, they just don’t know where to look.
Repayment options for student loan debt are often complicated and difficult for consumers to navigate on their own. With private loans, interest rates and monthly payments can change with little to no warning. Certain options, like consolidation or forgiveness, often requires knowledge of how to make negotiations with whoever holds the loan. Don’t let your employees feel overwhelmed by their debt – employers hold a unique ability to help their employees manage their student loan debt and help build their financial literacy.
10. Most employees want their employers to provide them with resources on student loan debt.
Employees already rely on their Human Resources departments for information on workplace safety, benefits and managing retirement plans. Increasingly, they are looking to their employer and HR team to provide debt counseling, financial tools and management options and overall financial wellness. By offering debt counseling and financial literacy services, you show your employees that you understand the financial challenges they face paying back student debt and are invested in their wellbeing. Your employees will not only feel happier to work for an employer who cares about their wellness; as their financial wellbeing grows and their student loan debt decreases, your employees will be healthier, more present, more productive, and ready stick with your company for the long term.
Financial literacy and financial planning are key to reducing financial stress, student loan debt and creating financial wellness. The first step, however, is knowing how to get there. For your employees, student loan debt affects their ability to plan for the future and build productive and meaningful relationships. For employers, it means being able to attract and hold on to talented employees. Consider who in your workforce might be affected by significant student loan debt. The cost of a higher education shouldn’t cost your company a good work force and it shouldn’t hold your employees back from planning their future.
To get the complete picture about student loan debt and your employees, be sure to read Part One of this article here.