Student loans are getting workers down. Not only do they take a toll on workers’ financial well-being, those loans are seriously handicapping their ability to save for retirement.
Numbers are higher among younger workers, as might be expected, with nearly half of millennials (44 percent) reporting student debt. But 26 percent of GenXers and 13 percent of boomers have student loans, too, and roughly half are paying at least $3,000 per year.
And, in addition to taking a toll on workers’ psyches—51 percent say “debt is ruining their quality of life,” compared to just 28 percent of those without loans—those loans are dragging down retirement savings.
Workers with student loans are participating in employer-provided retirement plans at a lower rate than those without loans (71 percent compared to 77 percent).
And if that’s not bad enough, 51 percent of workers with student loans are contributing no more than 5 percent of pay to their plan.
That’s putting them seriously behind in their savings, because not only are most of them missing out on company contributions—usually they must contribute 6 percent to gain the benefit of the full match—but that’s nowhere near enough to see them through retirement.
Student loan woes don’t stop there, however; 54 percent spend time at work dealing with financial issues, compared with 47 percent of workers without student loans, and 31 percent are worried about paying their bills, while only 20 percent of workers without loans report that worry.
In addition, it weighs on their morale, with 56 percent worried about saving for the future, compared with 41 percent of those without loans. And just 27 percent said they are “financially comfortable,” compared with 43 percent for their loan-free colleagues.
So why should employers be concerned about this?
The carryover effect of all those money worries on their businesses. “While it’s not surprising that student loans can negatively impact workers’ wellbeing, the degree to which the stress is felt should be incredibly concerning to employers because financial stress has been shown to lead to a loss in productivity,” said Heather Tredup, partner and retirement best practice leader at Aon Hewitt, in a statement.