Talking with your employer about personal finances can be awkward. Admitting to them you are struggling with student loan debt can be downright petrifying. But, if you are one of the 44 million Americans with student loan debt -- or in the 70% of soon-to-be graduates with student loans -- it might be necessary. Student loan repayment is one of the hottest new employee benefits, and it could save your financial life.
Today, only about 4% of employers offer student loan repayment assistance to their employees. So, chances are your employer has not included this perk in your benefits package. This relatively new employee benefit can help you get out of debt years faster, however, and save thousands on accruing interest.
Schedule a meeting with the right person
Take some time first to decide who is the best person to ask about this potential offering. If you are already in the process of renegotiating your salary -- or want to do so simultaneously -- then it may make sense to talk with your boss about . If not, however, then the HR department will often be the best point of contact.
After deciding who to approach, set up a formal meeting. You are asking for something important and valuable. It warrants more than a pop-in or casual mention to your point of contact. Arranging a meeting will convince your benefit provider to take your request seriously.
Equip yourself with facts before your meeting. Do your research on other student loan repayment programs. The benefit is gaining popularity and has received plenty of coverage. Research what other companies are contributing and how often. Since the benefit is still new, your employer may not have heard of or may not know much about it.
It can be beneficial to research how exactly other companies are administering their repayment benefits. Your HR representative might not be thrilled about the prospect of taking the time to mail a check to your loan provider each month or they may be worried about the added expenses. Employers that already offer repayment assistance, however, are busting these myths. With platforms like Goodly, student loan repayment is easy and affordable.
State the value-add (and why you deserve it)
Similar to a salary negotiation, you should make sure to qualify your ask. Explain what you bring to the company and why they should support you with repayment assistance. Also, explain how student loan repayment benefits will help you bring even more value to the company. A recent SHRM study showed that debt hurts employees’ productivity and morale at work, and managers think that student loan repayment benefits would improve both these things. You don’t need to frame it as if you are being unproductive in your current work, but highlight how productive you feel you can be if some of the stress of loan repayment is alleviated.
Unlike in a salary negotiation, however, this is not just about you. About 30% of the workforce currently holds student loans, so there is a good chance there are others like you at your company. Make sure to emphasize to your employer that they will be helping many of their employees with repayment benefits. It can help to cite the improvements in recruiting and retention that student loan repayment causes.
What to do if it’s a ‘no’
Unfortunately, your employer may still say deny your request -- either because they are unwilling or simply can’t. ‘No’ might not mean ‘no forever”, however, so make sure you gather info on exactly why you were denied. If it was performance-based, ask how you can improve. If it is budget-based, you could suggest swapping out current benefits employees seems less interested in. If it is a timing issue, make sure you check back in later.
And remember, you rarely get things you don’t ask for.