You may be eager to get out from under the pressure cooker of mounting debt as quickly as humanly possible once you graduate. Student loan debt is something that can follow graduates for the rest of their lives if they don’t actively work to pay it off quickly and not just make minimum payments toward the interest of the loan.
But don't let that stop you from getting an early start on securing your financial future and planning for your retirement. Keep in mind that when you’re young, you have the incredible benefit of time on your side when it comes to your retirement.
Students graduating from college today have a giant cross to bear - debt. That is why almost half of new graduates are asking about debt relief programs instead of retirement benefits when they enter the job market.
College is becoming more and more expensive - the average published tuition and fees at public four-year colleges increased by 13% since last year. Think about what that means when you’re taking meetings and handing out resumes, trying to find a job. It’s hard to think about retirement when all you can focus on is getting a job to pay off your overwhelming student loans.
And even if the jobs that are available don’t offer such benefits like debt relief or a 401k, the problem will have to be faced at some point. However, the good news is that employers actually have a positive reaction to prospective employers asking about benefits of any kind, including student debt programs, because it shows a sense of responsibility and initiative, as well as foresight.
Currently, only 3% of employers offer student debt relief programs, but that number is projected to go up. The fact of the matter is, it is certainly desirable to have a 401k with monthly contributions growing your retirement fund, especially if there is an employer match. You would be wise not to leave that money on the table.
There is also this to consider: Retirement contributions typically offer tax breaks, company matches, and future compounding that are worth far more than the interest saved by accelerated student loan repayment. So it becomes an argument of pure mathematics at that point.
The choice then becomes do you forego your retirement benefits so that you can pay off your student loans? Or do you build a healthy 401k and manage your college debt by yourself? That’s assuming, of course, that your employer offers both benefits.
The answer may be that you can actually do both. If you choose to go with the student debt relief program, then make sure that you’re at least contributing to a Roth IRA or some version of a personal retirement fund. On the other hand, if you take advantage of your employer-matched 401k program, then there are multiple student debt relief programs available to you elsewhere.
Either way, if you’re considering the issues of managing your debt and planning for your financial future, this is a good way to enter the workforce.
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