Loan benefits

Provide employees with financial wellness education

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Organizations are looking for new ways to attract and retain employees during what some economists and human resources experts are calling “the big resignation.” People are leaving their current jobs in record numbers in search of better pay and a more flexible work / life balance.

One of the ways that companies can set themselves apart is by offering unique and meaningful benefits to their employees. One avenue to consider is a financial wellness program, which helps reduce financial stress on employees while improving overall benefits for the organization.

A comprehensive financial wellness program includes tips and tools related to education savings. When it comes to solving the student debt crisis, the pressure is on. Nearly 43 million Americans, or 1 in 8 people, have federal student loan debt, according to the US Department of Education. Student loan debt can delay important life stages, such as buying a home or starting a family. The stress of being in debt can also hurt office productivity. It’s a trillion dollar problem, but integrating education savings into a financial wellness program may be part of the solution.

Select an education savings program

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged education savings tool that can help families in a variety of ways prevent or minimize future student debt. Many 529 plans offer free training – in person or virtually – to employers and their employees on the benefits of education savings.

The largest provider of 529 plans, Virginia529, offers its free Virginia529 @ work service to help organizations empower their employees to reach and achieve their financial goals. The service has been adopted by organizations large and small, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We believe in the importance of a comprehensive financial wellness program, which is one of the reasons we offer employees the opportunity to learn more about saving for higher education,” said Ana Agud, manager of work / life programs at Virginia Tech. “Our employees know this is an important topic and really appreciate that we organize training sessions for them. “

For organizations interested in adding an education savings program to their benefits program, here are some simple steps to consider:

Define the objectives of your organization

Document the goals you are trying to achieve as well as the measurable means by which you can assess the effectiveness. Is the main objective to raise awareness of savings? Help reduce employee stress?

“We want employers to understand why saving for education is important. We want to make sure they imagine long-term results for their employees, ”said Jackie Ferrado, community relations manager at WA529.

“It’s a benefit for the future, not for now – and it’s an ongoing work in progress. We work closely with human resources organizations to establish links with the HR teams. We try to present the program as a package that will help families understand the 529 – from new parents to grandparents – no matter what season their family is in. “

Connect with the 529 program employer contact

Some 529 programs have dedicated contacts who can serve as a resource for the employer. For Tami Foster, Director of the Employer Program at CollegeInvest in Colorado, managing relationships with her HR contacts is essential.

“We don’t talk enough about the importance of the 529s. We have over 900 employers we work with across the state. Everyone is stressed out about saving for education, and we break the information down into small chunks.

In Colorado, for every dollar an employer contributes to an employee’s CollegeInvest529 account, the employer receives a 20% tax credit, up to a maximum of $ 500 per employee per year. An employer could give up to $ 2,500 per employee and receive a tax credit of $ 500 for each person.

“We’re offering two options: providing training for employers to share with employees where to start with education savings, or the next level, how employers can contribute to employee accounts 529 – either one or the other. ‘other way can help improve employee well-being,’ said Foster.

Make known

Let current and potential employees know your organization cares about individual financial well-being by offering a 529 session, including details in your internal communication, or updating your benefits package. For Shontelle Rivers, who manages the workplace life and wellness programs at TSA, this has been essential:

“Virginia529’s education savings webinars and presentations have been exceptional. The information provided to us has inspired and enabled our workforce to save for continuing education, regardless of pay level. There is a savings plan available for everyone at all levels, no matter where you are in furthering your education and planning for your career.

Planning for the future

How do you see the future development of your organization’s education savings efforts? Be creative and repetitive and find different ways to share information with employees at different stages of their lives.

“We use brochures for our new hires and all pregnant women receive a savings brochure. During the pandemic, we adopted and hosted webinars for all employees, ”said Rita Jensen-Jaouhari, Director of Benefits and HRIS and Deputy Director of Human Resources at Virginia Hospital Center.

“Our contact at Virginia529 provides personalized support for our program. We have promotional material to post on our employee portal that all employees can access and we schedule a mix of communications, on-site training sessions, benefits fairs and webinars.

When employers take action to support education savings, it helps the organization, the employee, and the community by alleviating the debt burden and enabling individuals to achieve their financial goals.

Merrill Milani joined Virginia529 in 2019 as a Relationship Marketing Strategist. In this role, she is responsible for partnering with employers, who wish to educate their employees about savings for graduate studies and offer Virginia529 as a financial wellness benefit. Milani holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California at Irvine and an MBA with a concentration in Marketing from San Francisco State University.

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