COMPANY MAKES PROGRAM AVAILABLE ON DAY ONE OF EMPLOYMENT FOR ELIGIBLE EMPLOYEES
NEW YORK, October 3, 2017 – Recognizing the stress and financial burden that student debt can create, New York Life has launched a student loan repayment program offering up to $10,200 over five years for eligible employees*, as well as student loan advice and online planning tools
Through the new benefit, employees who have taken out student loans for themselves will receive assistance to accelerate their student loan repayment plans. If they have taken a loan out for their child, they will receive counseling and advice to help guide them through the repayment process.
New York Life is making these benefits available to eligible employees on day one of their employment, with no waiting period. This new offering builds on New York Life’s existing assistance programs, including a tuition reimbursement program that has enabled hundreds of employees to enroll in undergraduate, graduate, or independent study courses, and a New York Life Family Scholars Program that assists the children of employees and agents who plan to attend college or vocational/technical school programs.
Katherine O’Brien, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, New York Life, said, “Part of our commitment to the wellbeing of employees means offering benefits that address the real challenges they face. Student loan debt can create significant obstacles when it comes to achieving other life milestones, such as buying a home or starting a family. We are delighted to offer this new benefit to help ease the financial burden of student loans and make life better for our employees.”
New York Life has partnered with Student Loan Genius, America’s first student loan benefits provider, to offer its counseling and contribution services to employees. Through Student Loan Genius, employees will be receiving help via online tools, email, and phone where live counselors offer personalized student loan guidance in real time.
“Student Loan Genius is excited to partner with major insurance and financial forces like New York Life. These companies aren’t just offering a benefit, they’re making a statement about how American companies can’t continue to avoid problems like student loans payments that face employees,” said Matt Beecher, CEO of Student Loan Genius. “New York Life has a long history and reputation of helping Americans pursue long-term financial wellness and stability. We’re excited to help and even more excited that they’re leading one of the most influential industries in tackling student loans.”
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As leaders we all gaffe (make a mistake). As a matter of fact, in a lot of cases we make more than the average employee. Many times in secret and most of the time with high consequences. If you’ve had a title of Director of above, chances are you’ve been in a spot where you questioned your own call.
When you’re right, you’re relieved. When you’re not, you learn, maybe pick up a book or talk to an advisor, and work to never make the mistake again. As a matter of fact, that’s who leaders are – people who’ve made a ton of mistakes. They make them, learn from them, and consequently have more to offer.
Given that leadership is learning, one of the most dangerous habits of a leader is the trend of denying or going through great extremes to hide a wrong instead of actually working on a fix.
In a New York Times article on Watergate, one of the greatest cover up attempts in history, and President Nixon, Michael Useem, a Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania professor offered, “It was the inaction, the cover-up, that absolutely ruined his reputation in history forever.”
Whether you’re talking sexual harassment, harsh words, short-term thinking, or, God forbid, mismanaging money, the instance is rarely the only problem. The biggest problem in some of the most memorable leadership gaffes (think Enron, Anthony Weiner, and I could go on) is that when the stories unraveled, the bad behavior had been happening for years.
On the other side of the fence, we, as leaders, through no fault of our own can end up in hot water over something as simple as chasing a deal. When you’re liable for designing a work experience for people (whether 20 employees or a thousand), there’s a healthy fear that kicks in when you’re making choices.
Did we choose the right retirement plan provider? Are outside contractors going to do good work? Will the security team be able to keep employees safe? And, there are a ton more.
There are a ton of little worries that come along with executive leadership that most people don’t pay attention to. If you answer them right, no one cares. If you answer them wrong, you (or by association, your company’s name) ends up in the news.
No one works on a brand day and night, early and late, to have it associated with below-the-belt inappropriateness, drug abuse, or discrimination. For decision makers, those moments are one of our biggest nightmares.
We have to ask a question no one on earth has to: Whose hands am I putting my employees into?
These days, answering the “who” question is a lot easier than a lot of us demonstrate. When you’re weighing spreadsheets, security reports, and consultant recommendations, you can easily forget the power of the simple.
While we’d like to think “the experts” know it all, we’ve got to remember back in 1980 high-dollar consultants told one of America’s largest cell phone providers, the trend of mobile wouldn’t really catch on.
Then, if they had Google and social media, they might’ve saved themselves an acquisition and egg on their faces twelve years later.
For us as leaders today, we don’t have to wait 12 years or until a major scandalous headline to spot a hairy service provider. Today, through review sites, social media, and the millions of other data feeds we can easily find the obvious danger zones and service providers whose association will jeopardize our companies and brands.
At the end of the day, they’re our employees. The big question we have to remember ask when making decision is, “Whose hands?”
And, that’s not just company past performance, it’s people. So, to expand, let’s say the real question is
“When I look across the executive table, would I put my employees in that person’s hands?”
If the answer’s not a complete yes, we may need to rethink the deal (no matter how good it seems).
Learn how student loan benefits can help drive retention and recruiting for your organization.
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Student loan debt is a serious problem in need of meaningful solutions – from education for borrowers about the impact of debt on their financial future, to help repaying their debt faster so they can save for other financial goals.
This article was originally published via The Hill on 5/26/17 by Chris Walters and Jovan Hackley
Tax reform presents an opportunity for Congress to address the student loan debt crisis, which is creating a national economic drag.
You’ve heard the numbers before: Over 43 million Americans have more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Unfortunately, the implications are worse than the numbers themselves – high levels of student debt undercut the opportunities that higher education is intended to provide for young Americans.
To help those already in debt, as well as those who will acquire it in the future, the federal government should encourage and expand a practice that already exists: student loan debt repayment as an employee benefit. Congress should use the tax code, as it has used it many times before, to incentivize employers and employees to work together toward a better financial future by changing the tax treatment of an employee benefit.
There is strong precedent for this minor change to the tax code. For example, tuition assistance plans already enjoy favorable tax treatment. Changing the tax code to treat student loan repayment like other employee benefits – by reducing the employer tax on student loan assistance plans and allowing employees to pay down student loan debt with pre-tax dollars – would create a pathway to debt retirement and to future savings and investment.
Under current tax law, an employee in the 20 percent tax bracket who receives a student debt benefit from their employer is losing 20 cents on every dollar they receive from their employer. This money is going to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), rather than to helping the employee pay down their debt. Over the course of a year, if a company invests $5,000 in repaying an employee’s loan, $1,000 of this money goes to the IRS. No wonder why only four percent of U.S. companies offer student loan assistance as an employee benefit.
By changing the tax code, employers could better assist their employees in repaying their student debt because all payments would go to the lender, not to the IRS. This change would encourage more employers to offer this benefit, creating a positive economic ripple effect.
Members of the U.S. Senate and House have proposed a few bipartisan solutions to address this issue. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation in the House to modify Section 127 of the tax code to allow a tax exclusion for employer student loan assistance to be used to repay student loan debt. Similar bills were introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), as well as Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.).
These bills are designed to help the U.S. business community balance the need for a highly educated workforce with the long-term economic costs created by overwhelming student debt. Each offers a thoughtful solution for debt holders and for an economy that cannot absorb another loan crisis.
This spring, college graduation ceremonies will have a cloud over them, because more than 70 percent of graduates will leave school with debt – a burden they incurred, in part, due to a lack of education about the impact that student loans may have on their long-term financial future. The average student loan balance for the class of 2016 was more than $37,000 – up 6 percent from the previous year. At that rate, 2017 graduates will have an average balance of approximately $40,000 apiece.
Most graduates will struggle to make payments – the delinquency rate on student loans is now more than 11 percent – and all will be inherently discouraged from saving for retirement or a home until that debt is retired. Some graduates will be employed by a company that offers a program to help pay their loans. More companies should — and more will if Congress takes action to change the tax treatment of this important employee benefit.
Chris Walters is CEO of GradFin and Jovan Hackley is Head of Advocacy and Engagement for Student Loan Genius. GradFin and Student Loan Genius are co-founders of the Student Debt Reduction Coalition, which supports federal and state legislative initiatives that would reduce the employer and employee tax on student loan assistance plans and improve financial counseling for student debt borrowers.
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It’s graduation season, and millions of fresh-faced cap and gown donners are about to step into a world of possibility, both good and bad. As they grasp diplomas, degrees, and future possibility, 70 percent of them are foraying into an environment a recent government move will make more expensive by the minute.
From Bloomberg to Bankrate, last week news quickly spread about student loan interest rate hikes. Just in case you missed it, for 2017-2018 interest rates will jump from 3.76 to 4.45% for undergraduate loans, 5.21 to 6% for graduate loans, and PLUS loans will increase to 7%, up from 6.31 percent.
These small climbs are tied to 2013 federal provisions that link student loan rates to U.S. economic health determined by the Federal Reserve instead of a rate preset by Congress, as was the case in previous times.
For employers the news “sounds” bad, but the question arises, “Is there a business reason to care?”
We could tell you yes, but we’ll let you figure it out for yourself.
Recent overall interest rate hikes, which spurred the loan rate increase, are a sign. “For now, the Fed has concluded that the economy is growing at roughly the maximum sustainable pace,” according CNBC and New York Times contributor Binyamin Appelbaum.
This good sign for the economy and banks drives the increases, but there’s a secret worker problem that sandwiches employers in between a rock, called student debt, and a hard place for recruiting employees.
With the average cost of college increasing by 3.5 percent annually according to College Board, it’s safe to say that the cost of education is now increasing exponentially.
The changing tuition fees and rates today, turn into monthly payments and salary demands for the majority of workers entering the workforce in the not too distant future.
Combining the tuition fee and interest rate increases mean that a next year’s working graduate with the average student loan debt of about would owe an estimated 5% more each month than a counterpart in the same situation last year upon graduation.
That higher student loan payment is combined with growing rent, up 2.7% according to Apartments.com; growing medical expense, up 6.5% according to a recent PWC study; and the emergence of small lifestyle subscriptions (e.g. music streaming, cellular phone service, Internet services) that weren’t a guarantee of previous generations.
For HR directors recruiting graduates this year and forward, they’re recruiting negotiating against a secret problem and growing inequity. While expenses and education, the cost of doing business for workers, continue to climb, Economic Policy Institute data shows that America’s in the midst of a 35–ear state of wage stagnation – with salaries in most industries being outpaced by the cost of education and expense.
While the dire drama of economic downers and education costs have continued, there is a brightspot – smart employers who’ve jumped into saved the day (whether for culture or to drive down retention costs).
2016 Data from the Life and Market Research Association showed that voluntary benefits spend, on conventional offerings like life insurance, have continued to grow.
What’s scary is that even in a day were costs are jumping and employer benefits spend is following, many studies still show that there’s still a gap between employee need (in places like student loans) and more common benefit offerings. Could the scary doom of today’s situation be that employers are spending in the wrong places?
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One of the biggest voluntary benefits decision points isn’t always the “what,” but more often the “when” of expanding your voluntary options.
The right, well-timed benefits for the right employees can create company love that lasts (and retains employees) for years. The inverse results in wasted dollars and a revolving door that costs in every way, from your bottom-line to your culture.
For one of today’s Hottest New Benefits, student loan help, the question remains, “When is the timing right for offering student loan benefits? And, who will they help?”
Data from Prudential Retirement shows that there are three critical moments where student loan benefits matter most to companies and employees.
Data from Prudential shows that “three years after leaving school, only 46% of students have been able to pay even one dollar toward their principal loan balances.”
During the first few years of an employee’s career, company-sponsored student loan contributions offer high-impact opportunities for organizations and HR teams.
Today only roughly 54 percent of federal student loans are being repaid, according to the Q1 2017 U.S. Department of Education data. The same data shows a majority of borrowers are in grace periods, forbearance, or one of a number of statutes that exempt them from having to make payments.
Well, how long can that last?
The good news about these delayed payment scenarios is that most expire, and per the federal guidelines, just as an employee is likely to start searching for their second job. Bureau of Labor and Statistics data say that year four of employment, just as student loan payment delays reach their maximum, is when most workers find a new employer.
These data points suggest that, for employers looking to make or attract qualified mid-to-early career talent, student loan benefits present a serious opportunity.
Last, but not least, the last and most critical moment for employers to consider student loan benefits is actually found on their balance sheet.
The Prudential study shows that 73 percent of graduates with student loans say they wish they were saving more for retirement.
If your company has a pile, or growing pile, of unused retirement benefit dollars, it may be time to explore a student loan benefit to grow overall employee wellness.
If you’re unsure or would like to measure the impact of a student loan benefit, contact us today for a free student loan study. Find out whether now’s the time for the benefit 89 percent of job seekers say matters when choosing an employer.
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Like British tunes from the 60’s, the benefits that become a “hit” are the ones that both strike the right chord and get the viral distribution that makes everyone hit play.
Choosing the right benefit is only half the battle. Here are four tips for creating rollout/onboarding plan that drives adoption results.
Rock fan or not, most of us born before 1992 know the intro to the 1965 hit “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks (if you don’t click on the video and you’ll love it). What does this have to do with roll out? If you really want a benefit to be a hit, you’ve got to shake up the intro. Avoid the single sheet of paper in the folder or simple one-of-a-thousand Powerpoint slides. Find a way with visuals, memes, or swag to make the benefit standout.
To hear the song Proud Mary is really to only experience half of its impact. Click above to see Tina Turner live at (2:11) and fill in the other half of one of the most iconic rock experiences ever.
But, again, what’s Tina got to do with benefits?
To make a benefit roll out rock, it should be both show and tell. One great example of this is how Health Fair Connections launched Dentistry on the spot to bring attention to their new health benefit and its importance.
She’s no “rock” star to most, but Beyonce did score a Grammy nom for Best Rock Song in 2016 for the grungy track “Don’t Hurt Yourself.”
What did she teach us? A little shock and awe is a great way to engage audiences.
If you’re in HR, you don’t need a guitar and a leotard to shock. Instead, consider absorbing her strategy of a “surprise album release” that happens off-cycle. In 2016 and 2013, she dropped albums that went multi-platinum out of nowhere. Could a surprise benefit release be your key to creating an adoption hit?
Again, rock fan or not, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” is one of those tunes that moves us all. The synergy of guitar and organ make it one of the most iconic musical fusions of the 60’s. Click it to foot tap while you read on.
Steppenwolf’s lesson to HR pros is that the best of instruments don’t play (or dominate) alone. Like the guitar and the organ, tying a benefit, like a student loan paydown bonus, to other company goals can be a great way to drive a roll out win.
For ideas on how to connect benefits to company goals check out 4 Ways a Student Loan Benefit Can Boost Company Goals.
We hope these tips made your head nod and shook in a few ideas to help with your next benefit rollout or enrollment season. As always, if you’d like to add a student loan repayment benefit to your mix, contact us below and we will be happy to help.
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If you’re in human resources, or have worked anywhere near it, there’s no doubt you’ve been a part of the “why employees leave ‘money’ on the table” discussion.
From 401k matches to vacation days, modest stats show that upwards of 55 percent of employees leave some usable benefit untouched.
In addition, an AFLAC Study showed that workers put 8 times more effort into computer selection than choosing their benefits.
Why? The truth is that the window when an employee cares about benefits is pretty small. For many, enrollment is a small must-do item on a long list that’s disconnected from most of their life (at the time when they select it).
The weight is on benefits administrators and teams to help employees make the right decisions. Here are five common places where open enrollment goes wrong that are easy for HR to help make right.
BBC Health data from 2012 showed that internet exposure definitively changes the human brain. One of the biggest changes, according to a study by Microsoft, is that our attention span globally has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds – meaning it’s now shorter than a goldfish.
When it comes to benefits, most enrollment materials include endless language to make sure participants get all the details. The problem with this is that many times the real “payoff” gets buried in the effort to be clear. This results in unused benefits and wasted dollars for both employees and companies.
If HR wants to get roll out right, they’ve got to bring the real “lead” (a.k.a. what the benefit offers) to the first few words and images in every communication message.
From the lead (first) images to subject lines and words ask, “Would my average employee understand what I’m offering in under six seconds?”
Data from the Society of Human Resources showed that only 15 percent of employees could properly estimate the value of their benefits. Why? It’s probably because they haven’t been told.
A similarly timed study from MetLife showed that sixty-eight percent of workers would spend more time on benefits enrollment if they knew they could save money. While companies spend thousands to help provide benefits, when the ROI is missing from the enrollment experience, the data says participation/consideration will follow.
The golden calf of mass-benefit rollout processes stems from a well-intended place. Employers handle the administration at once and employees get to handle all of their signing up simultaneously.
The problem here is that for new, less-common benefits like student loan help or fertility support, participants are often fatigued from sign-up related to more critical benefits like health insurance. For companies releasing new benefits, one way to drive adoption is to rollout new benefits off open enrollment cycle to give their new star additions the attention they deserve.
AFLAC 2017 data showed that one of the biggest opportunities for HR is to retire the sign-up processes and tools when possible.
When surveyed, fifty percent of employees wanted their benefits sign-up process to work more like Amazon. The report showed that Amazon’s easy way of comparing products would make for an improved rollout for companies and participants.
Last, but not least, of the benefit roll out “wrongs” is probably the most critical. Employee benefits data showed that the majority of companies today are increasing their investment in open enrollment and benefits administration.
According to Trevis Parson, Chief Health and Benefits Actuary at Willis Towers Watson, “These are supposed to be attraction and retention tools to improve the experience of people who are bearing more responsibility every single year.”
As the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) conversation and other overwhelming amounts of data hit employees who are seeing increased costs, improved tools for training education have become more necessary than ever.
At Student Loan Genius, we’ve worked with hundreds of HR directors to design benefit rollouts for companies large and small. While every company doesn’t offer student loan benefits, here are some of our favorite, lesser-known sources for rollout considerations and ideas:
Human Resources Executive Online
Willis Towers Watson’s Blog
Cammack Retirement’s Knowledge Center
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Words like student loan “help” and “match” have been known to strike fear into the hearts of CFOs. When protecting the balance sheet is your job, the big question attached to most ideas is, “How much will it cost?”
To help marry HR’s hopes of helping with student loans and the company balance sheet, here are two cost-effective ways to offer student loan repayment benefits without breaking the budget.
Our user data shows that employees who use Student Loan Genius have an average student loan payment of $638 due each month before optimizing their student loan. For the average college graduate, who makes $50,651 per year, one payment cuts their monthly expenses by about 20 percent. That’s enough help to pay one and half times the average American car note or more than 100 times the amount required to bring a federal loan back into good standing (note, it only takes $5).
For a 1,000 person company with 20 percent of employees who have student loans, a one time student loan payment as a performance reward or financial wellness bonus will cost a little more than $140,000. Offering a one-time payment (instead of monthly help) cuts the cost of a student loan benefit program by about 90 percent.
For companies whose bottom lines rely on heavily specialized skill sets, a student loan benefit program could be another great way to retain those employees who are the most expensive to replace. Making your student loan repayment benefit available to a limited set of team members or departments (e.g. engineers, nurses, doctors) could help your company focus the benefit to control the budget and maximize the return and impact.
With 89 percent of job seekers with debt declaring companies should offer student loan repayment as part of the benefits package, it’s only a matter of time before it’s the standard in benefits packages. Today, these two strategies can help innovative companies begin expanding their benefit offerings in a budget friendly way and gathering data to help forecast benefits budgets for the future.
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One big step in getting the green light from the C-suite on a student loan benefit is answering the central question, “how will it work?”
The mechanics of a student loan benefit (loan optimization, money moving, etc.) are only one-half of the puzzle. The other major half is making sure the benefit supports your organization’s big-picture.
Here are a few ways you can structure your student loan benefit to not only engage and retain employees but to help support your bigger company picture.
According to a study by npENGAGE, 75 percent of employees believe their jobs are more fulfilling when they have an opportunity to make a difference. Additionally, the same study showed that more than half of today’s talent pool is adamant about working for a company with a clear social mission.
Awarding a one-time student loan payment to an employee who volunteers or engages in community service can help drive your social impact and/or corporate sustainability programs.
Research shows that almost half of today’s employees spend working hours handling financial stress.
A recent Price Waterhouse Cooper study showed employees spend up to three business hours each week dealing with personal financial stress. Offering student loan payment help and comprehensive counseling can impact the long-term financial wellness, and help regain the lost productivity caused by stress.
One of the easiest ways to leverage a student loan benefit to help your company drive retention is to add a custom vesting schedule to your benefit.
Beyond 2016 data showed 89 percent of job seekers believe employers should student loan repayment help as part of the benefits package. Additionally, 10 percent ranked student loan benefits as the most important benefit, even higher than paid vacations.
A bonus student loan payment can yield more than a financial payoff for your employees. Acknowledging hard working and high-performing employees with a bonus payment can go a long way in the morale and productivity departments. According to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, employees who received workplace appreciation incentives were 50 percent more productive.
There are a variety of ways that you can structure your new student loan benefit to help drive success for your company. Contact us to learn how integrating a student loan benefit into an existing company program can help reduce workplace stress, maximize employee performance, and recruit and retain some of today’s leading talent.
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Tis’ the (tax) season. Like most holidays, tax season can be stressful. You replace distant relatives with paperwork, Santa Claus with an accountant, and (for some) presents with your tax refund at the end of the process.
For student loan borrowers, a little extra work could go a long way.
To make sure you get your taxes right, cover these bases when filing right to avoid an audit or missed credits.
Remember that Form 1098-E is your official Student Loan Interest Statement for tax filing. This shows the amount of interest you paid on your eligible student loans during the previous tax year.
If you made more than $600 worth of payments in the last tax year, you should receive this form from your loan servicer. Your interest deduction can be worth up to $2,500. You may be able to reduce your payment with income-based repayment plans. If you haven’t received the form you can call your student loan provider or find it online.
If your loans are in default, meaning they’ve gone unpaid for more than nine months, the Department of Education could refer your account to the Department of Treasury. If that happens, they’ll likely withhold your tax refund to satisfy your debt – meaning you lose some or all of your refund.
Loan rehabilitation, for federal student loans, protects you for the withholding and puts you an affordable payment plan for the road ahead–avoiding the tax offset. To request rehabilitation, contact your student loan servicer.
In some cases, if you work in a public service job or as a teacher, you may qualify for student loan forgiveness. Student loan forgiveness is taxable and for some could result in a surprise bill. Check the mail or your servicer’s online portal (where you manage payments) for 1099-C form from which states the amount of debt forgiven.
If you need help finding your servicer, check out this post on tips for contacting your servicer.
Be a smart borrower. While you’re focused on last year’s finances and go a step further to get student loan help in the year to come.
Requesting student loan benefit help from your company is easy. Complete the form below to request the benefit that can help untangle the complexities around student loans and cut your repayment time.
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