Fidelity Investments® Student Debt Tool Reveals that Private Health Care & Social Assistance, Higher Education Professionals Have Highest Monthly Payments, on Average
Despite Declining Interest Rates During Pandemic, Overall Debt and Monthly Payments Have Increased Across Generations and Occupations
Employers Nationwide Helping Make a Difference in Current No-Interest Environment
Who’s paying the most when it comes to America’s student debt burden? With more than 44 million Americans owing an estimated $1.67 trillion in student debt1 and this fall being the first time 2020 college graduates will begin paying back student loans, it’s certainly a debt Millennials are wrestling with—and soon, Gen Z-ers.
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Many individuals with student debt are delaying contributing to retirement or are taking out loans against their 401(k), an action that borrows against one’s future to pay for the past. (Graphic: Business Wire)
They’re not alone. As new data from Fidelity Investments® 2020 Student Debt Snapshot demonstrates, despite a decline in interest rates, overall student debt has only increased during the pandemic, regardless of generation or occupation. In fact, Baby Boomers with student debt continue to lead the pack over other generations, with the amount of debt owed increasing by 33% over 2019, owing in part to Parents Plus loans secured for their children. This data is derived from more than 250,000 loans reported using Fidelity’s Student Debt Tool2.
The Snapshot also examines which occupations carry the most student debt, and employees working in the health care & social assistance industry are paying the most—$801 a month, which is about $100 a month more than the nearest sector and a 10% increase over 2019.
"Health care workers are on the front line every day taking care of us during this pandemic, but also the ones struggling the most with student debt," said Asha Srikantiah, head of Fidelity Investments’ student debt program. "Student debt impacts everyone, young and old, as well as workers in all industries, and given the heightened stress we are all experiencing, it’s important to recognize how tightly tied financial stress is to emotional well-being. Fidelity’s research shows when it comes to financial wellness, taking on debt is one of the most negative events. Conversely, paying off debt is one of the most positive—financially, as well as with health, work and life overall. The solution starts with knowing where you stand, so you can feel confident taking action."
Aside from generation and occupation, the data also shows many individuals are delaying contributing to retirement or are taking out loans against their 401(k), an action that is literally borrowing against one’s future to pay for the past:
Of note, the number of people who have an outstanding loan against their 401(k) is up significantly, from 13.9% in 2019 to 23% in 2020, which is attributable in part to changes to retirement withdrawals enacted in April as a result of the CARES Act. This increase is a concern, as these loans can have a dramatic negative impact on 401(k) balances—particularly among younger retirement savers, who have a longer time horizon and greater potential in their early years to save more.
More Companies Helping Employees Pay Down Student Debt
Recognizing that student debt is an emerging challenge for so many Americans, Fidelity was one of the first companies to help its own employees ease the pressures of student debt, by offering a student debt employer contribution benefit. To date3, more than 11,400 Fidelity employees have saved $49.8 million in principal plus about $20 million in interest payments since the program began in 2016, with an average savings of $6,379 per person. Noticing the positive impact it was having, benefits leader Fidelity introduced a Student Debt Benefits program to other employers in 2018. Building upon its history of building innovative products and services, Fidelity allows companies the ability to design a program that best serves the unique needs of their specific workforce.
Some recent organizations teaming up with Fidelity to offer the benefit include:
Novaspect, Inc.4, an Emerson Automation Solutions Impact Partner headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois that was named the 2020 PlanSponsor of the Year, and was recognized in part for offering the student debt program as one of its competitive benefits.
Pet Paradise, which is headquartered in Jacksonville, FL and focused on providing access to premium care resort-style pet day camp and care, overnight boarding, professional pet grooming, and veterinary care.
Allegro Microsystems, a global leader in sensing and power semiconductor solutions, headquartered in Manchester, NH.
Unum, a leading employee benefits company headquartered in Chattanooga, TN that offers employees the ability to transfer carry-over PTO into a payment against student debt. Unum was a pioneer in offering this option, which has grown increasingly popular, as companies wrestle with how to address accumulating PTO as a result of the pandemic.
In addition, Minnesota’s largest non-profit health insurer will offer its associates an annual student debt contribution of $500 beginning in 2021.
The CARES Act legislation makes this an ideal time for employers to continue or introduce a student debt repayment benefit, as payments made to federal student loans between now and year end go directly toward the principal balance.
"What we’ve learned is that growing numbers of companies are realizing the impact student debt relief can have on overall financial wellness," said Srikantiah. "This can in turn have a positive impact from a business perspective in a host of ways. For example, early adopters of the benefit at other companies have reported seeing a 52% reduction in turnover5."
Fidelity Offers Multiple Student Debt Solutions
Fidelity’s Student Debt Tool is available to all Americans, completely free, and enables borrowers to have a singular view of federal and private loan options by aggregating all of their student debt loans in one place, along with options available for repayment. This can make a difference in determining how to make the biggest impact, as Fidelity estimates contributing even $100 more per month until the loan is paid off will save a borrower 3.5 years on the life of the loan6. Fidelity also offers access to a student debt refinancing platform, Credible.com7, through its Student Debt Tool, which gives users the ability to compare pre-qualified rates from up to ten refinancing lenders without affecting their credit score. Credible helps users refinance their loan with the lender of their choice—and users receive a $750 bonus from Credible once they close on a refinancing loan8.
In addition, Fidelity recently launched Fidelity Spire—a mobile app helping users plan, save and invest to reach their short- and long-term goals. Fidelity SpireSM users have access to the Student Debt Tool from the app, and to further help, Fidelity recently announced a giveaway for three users of Fidelity Spire to receive $30,000 to pay off outstanding student loan debt9.
Finally, to help people avoid accumulating debt in the first place, the company provides Pre-College Planning Resources to help families plan, save and pay for college.
About Fidelity Investments
Fidelity’s mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $8.8 trillion, including discretionary assets of $3.5 trillion as of September 30, 2020, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 32 million people invest their own life savings, 22,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing more than 13,500 institutions with investment and technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for more than 70 years, Fidelity employs more than 45,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/our-company.
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1 Source: As of September 13, 2020, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US), Student Loans Owned and Securitized, Outstanding [SLOAS], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/SLOAS
2 Data derived from nearly 60,000 Student Debt tool users who shared loan information representing more than 5,000 companies, as of September 30, 2020.
3 As of April 2020.
4 By clicking the live links to the listed companies, you acknowledge you are now leaving Fidelity.com for a website that is unaffiliated with Fidelity. Fidelity has not been involved in the preparation of the content supplied at the unaffiliated site and does not guarantee or assume any responsibility for its content.
5 Fidelity analysis of 24 early adopters of the Student Debt: Direct Benefit representing more than 100,000 participants. The overall turnover results were calculated from January 2019–January 2020.
6 Estimate is based on a $40,000 student loan balance with a $400 monthly payment and 7% annual interest rate.
7 Credible Operations, Inc. is not affiliated with Fidelity Brokerage Services, member NYSE, SIPC or its affiliates. Credible is solely responsible for the information and services it provides. Fidelity disclaims any liability arising from use of this information.
8 To receive the bonus, Fidelity customers or participants in Workplace-sponsored plans must access Credible through a Fidelity approved channel (Fidelity.com or NetBenefits) and close on a student loan refinance through one of Credible’s lender partners. Residents in these states are not eligible for the bonus: California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, DC, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
9 No purchase or transaction necessary to enter the Fidelity Spire Student Loan Giveaway. This giveaway is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 18 years of age or older, who as of 09/07/20, have outstanding student loan debt for costs for college or trade school tuition, room and board, and/or books. Void where prohibited. Starts 12:00 a.m. ET on 09/08/20 and ends 11:59 p.m. ET on 12/08/20. For complete rules, download the Fidelity Spire app and go to the Offers section or go to www.fidelity.com/spire. Sponsored by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC.
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