Latest Example of Fidelity Supporting Creative Student Debt Repayment Solutions
Fidelity Investments, a leading workplace benefits provider and one of the largest and most diversified financial companies in the industry, announced it is working with two Fortune 500 companies, insurance leader The Travelers Companies, Inc. and US defense contractor Raytheon, to offer their employees a new benefit designed to help eliminate the student debt burden, while also building healthy savings for retirement. Fidelity, which introduced its Student Debt Benefits program in 2018, has increasingly seen companies interested in finding creative ways to help people tackle the student debt problem.
“When it comes to attracting top talent, employer productivity or increased retention, expanding benefit selections to be more relevant to today’s workforce makes good business sense. It’s encouraging to see so many companies aggressively working to introduce solutions that stand out.”
Under the Student Debt: Retirement option, employers will allow payments made by eligible employees toward their student loans to qualify for the company’s contribution to that person’s company 401(k) plan. This means that if an employee is making monthly student loan payments, to help them save for retirement at the same time, an employer contribution will be made into a Fidelity retirement account. Both companies have announced they will start allowing employees to enroll in the program this fall, with the benefit going into effect starting in January 2020.
Student debt has taken on increased urgency, with 45 million borrowers in America owing more than $1.52 trillion in student loan debt; a burden that can significantly impact one’s financial priorities, including buying a home, having children and saving for retirement.
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Offering a student debt solution has become an important way for plan sponsors to attract and retain top talent and Fidelity has increasingly been working with companies to find innovative ways to introduce a benefit aligned with their employee’s unique needs. In addition to the Student Debt: Retirement option offered by Raytheon and Travelers, other options include:
- Student Debt: Benefit Choice, which leverages the power of other benefits to help reduce student debt. Employers are increasingly finding creative funding options to help make an impact on student debt. One example is employee benefits company Unum, which, working with Fidelity, will allow employees to transfer carry-over paid time off (PTO) into a payment against student debt beginning next year. This option plays into a strength specific to Unum — a generous paid time off package.
- Student Debt: Direct, which makes student debt payments directly to a loan service provider. This direct payment option continues to be popular, with the majority of Fidelity’s student debt benefits plans being administered falling into this category. It allows employers to make after-tax contributions toward participants’ loans on top of payments made by the employee, which can have a profound impact on the loan duration and the interest that accumulates. A long-standing example is Kronos Incorporated, a leading multi-national workforce management and HR cloud software provider headquartered in Lowell, Massachusetts that has offered employees student loan repayment assistance since 2016.
“As a leader in both the retirement and student debt benefits space, we are actively collaborating with clients to develop benefit programs designed to meet their talent needs, promote financial wellness, and optimize their benefits budget,” said Sangeeta Moorjani, head of product for workplace investing at Fidelity. “When it comes to attracting top talent, employer productivity or increased retention, expanding benefit selections to be more relevant to today’s workforce makes good business sense. It’s encouraging to see so many companies aggressively working to introduce solutions that stand out.”
In fact, although Fidelity began administering the student debt benefit to its plan sponsor clients in 2018, it first began offering a program to its own employees in 2016, becoming one of the first companies to help its workforce ease the pressures of student debt. To date, more than 10,000 Fidelity employees have saved $55 million in student loan debt — $37 million toward principal payments plus an additional $18 million in interest payments — since the program began, with an average savings of $5,500 per person.
In addition to the money saved, Fidelity internal data also demonstrates the positive impact the program has had on retaining and recruiting talent, including:
- An approximate 75% reduction in turnover in the first year of program participation1;
- 50% of Fidelity new hires with student debt say the benefit offering was a major factor in their decision to join the company.
Fidelity’s Student Debt Program Offers an End-to-End Solution
Student debt isn’t a once and done solution, but a problem that can be quite different depending on what stage of life you’re in — whether it’s a question of paying off your debt, understanding how much debt you have or saving for your children’s education. In addition to the Student Debt Benefits program, which helps solve for the issue of paying off debt, Fidelity’s Student Debt Program also provides additional solutions and education, including:
- Pre-College Planning Resources to address the issue of taking on too much debt, by offering targeted education and resources to help families plan, save and pay for college.
- A Student Debt Tool to address the issue of knowing where you stand when it comes to your student debt, by helping individuals see all their student loans in one place and options available for repayment.
“By adopting a holistic approach, we are helping employers get in the trenches with employees to find ways to pay student debt off faster and hopefully, save money,” says Moorjani. “What we have learned this past year is there are a growing number of companies increasingly aware that helping employees take on the issue of student debt can help improve their overall financial wellness, which can in turn have a positive impact from a business perspective in a host of ways.”
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