Skip to main content

Should Companies Offer An Employer Match For Student Loans?

I had an epiphany while paying bills this month: I can finally see the light at the end of my student loans.

I'm close, but not quite, in terms of paying them off. Our society awards piddly few benefits to being a Gen Xer these days, but making that last student loan payment will definitely be one of them.

Before you hate me for being dutiful, please realize that my opening boastful statement is possible only after years of small, monthly installments that have been a staple of our monthly budget for nearly two decades. I say "our," because my husband also married my student loan debt when he married me. And now, the end finally feels within reach. I don't know what we're going to do after we make that last payment, either. It will feel very strange, like losing a fair-weather friend. But I'm ready. So, so ready.

Seriously, the Gen Xer in me feels very lucky to see more and more daylight at the end of this very long tunnel, because U.S. college graduates owe a record-breaking $1 trillion in unpaid student loan debt. This figure is more than the credit card debt we owe as a nation. Think about that for a second: We Americans owe more in student loans than we do on our collective credit cards. WOW. Just, wow. And now the experts are calling student loans the next debt bomb. Oh, goodie, goodie gumdrop. You Gen Yers may be younger and faster, but I'm older and have lower monthly student loan payments. Towanda!



From a workplace perspective, it's interesting to ponder how student debt loads could be affecting workers' career choices. And I'm not talking about the I-need-to-find-a-job-ASAP meme or I-need-to-major-in-engineering meme. No, I'm wondering about career specialization -- e.g., specializing in a field specifically with one's student loan debt in mind. It's happening in medicine, for example. To say that medical residents walk away from medical school with some student debt is an understatement. To make their hefty student loans payments, what are they doing? They're specializing to earn a higher salary. Goodbye, family medicine and hello, Endocrinology! Or they're going an entirely different route, but let's not go there.

For the younger generation staring down $30,000 to $100,000 (or more) in student loan debt, there will be added pressure to find jobs that will cover their student loan payments, that, after this recession, could include the interest payments that accumulated while they were unemployed. I'd like to take the job, but I need to earn X amount to cover my student loans. Or they'll need to take a second job, the "student loan payment" job. Ugh.

And depending on what happens economically over the next five to 10 years, the younger generation of savvy career specialists could be paying off their student loans well into their 50s or 60s, which in turn means delaying big-ticket purchases from cars to homes. From the employers' perspective, providing an employer match to help employees pay off their student loans faster could become a very trendy, 21st Century perk. Forget bring your dog to work day and catered dry cleaning; just help me get this debt albatross off my back, please. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised to see student loan employer match programs percolate to the surface as the hiring picture improves.

From my Gen X vantage point, I don't envy the younger generation. It will have a long road ahead, and a possible debt bomb with which to contend. The Gen Yers and Millennials will have to be much more calculated and much more smart than Gen Xers in their career decisions. Better hurry kids, your loan servicer is waiting.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…