Some employers offer their workers help with sorting out repayment options through loan navigator tools from start-ups like Summer and Savi. And more employers are even offering direct financial help with student loans as a workplace benefit, although it’s not widespread yet. Eight percent of employers offered student debt assistance in 2019, up from 4 percent in 2018, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. So it’s worth asking your employer about possible help.
PwC, the big accounting firm, was a pioneer in offering student loan help. The company recruits heavily on college campuses and began to hear from college students and faculty that student debt was a growing burden. “It started to emerge as a real hot topic, and a source of concern,” said Michael Fenlon, PwC’s chief people officer.
In 2016, the company began offering a student loan benefit. Employees who sign up receive $1,200 a year for up to six years to help them pay down their student loans. The payments do not replace the student’s regular loan payment. Rather, they are made as an extra $100 monthly payment to the student loan servicer, processed by Gradifi, an outside vendor, Mr. Fenlon said. The payments reduce loan principal and interest and shorten the payoff period by up to three years, saving borrowers thousands of dollars, PwC said.
Other companies offering student loan payment help include Aetna and Fidelity Investments; the website Nerdwallet offers a list.
Also, mobile apps have emerged to help borrowers pay down their loans more quickly. For a $1 monthly fee, ChangEd lets users round up everyday purchases to the next dollar and use the extra change to pay down student loans. The app automatically makes a payment to the loan servicer when the “spare” change totals $100.
Another app, Digit, which automatically moves small amounts of money from a user’s checking account to a savings account, introduced a new feature this week that offers the option of making extra payments on student loans. Clients link their loan servicer’s information to their account, which aggregates small deposits and then makes an extra monthly payment, said Ethan Bloch, Digit’s chief executive. Digit’s monthly fee is $5, after a free one-month trial.
Here are some questions and answers about student loan repayment:
Is the interest paid on student loans tax deductible?
Yes, depending on your income. You can deduct up to $2,500 in interest on federal and private loans on your federal tax return if you qualify, according to TurboTax. And you do not need to itemize deductions to do so — which is helpful because many recent college graduates probably take the standard deduction.
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