In 2015, the average graduate faced more than $35,000 in loans; higher degrees were paralleled by higher amounts of student debt. And despite what feels like a rebounding economy, the situation today is just as bleak. Recent research suggests student loan debt affects nearly 43 million borrowers and has now surpassed the $1.3 trillion mark. That’s trillion, with a “t.” Let that sink in a moment—more people in the U.S. have student loan debt than even credit card debt. In other words, the student debt crisis is no longer something we can afford to ignore, literally.
If you’re one of the billions of post-grads juggling student debt—two months removed from school or 10 years—there’s a lot you can do to ensure you’re not another statistic. And no, it doesn’t involve winning the lottery or a surprise inheritance. As the CEO and co-founder of Zebit, a free employee benefit that helps working Americans take control of their everyday financial lives, I’ve thought a lot about how recent graduates can manage and eradicate their student loan debts. (Hint: it pays to seek help from your employer!). Below are my top three tips to do this:
- Seek support. Dealing with student debt is bad enough, but there are often residual effects that carry over into your personal and professional life; stress brought on by financial insecurity can be detrimental to productivity and may even negatively impact relationships. Talk to your employer about available employee assistance programs (EAPs), and whether or not they subsidize access to counselors. Both are great options to managing side effects of financial woes.
- Get Educated. It’s important to have a holistic understanding of your financial situation; this goes a long way in addressing and managing debt. Best of all, there are free assessment and budgeting tools at your disposal, like Zebit’s Instant Budget app—it’s like having free personal financial advisor in your back pocket.
- Know Your Benefits. Many companies provide loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP), seeing them as a financial investment to attract and retain top young talent like yourself. It’s worth asking your employer if this benefit is available. If not, consider asking them to explore an alternative financial wellness program like Zebit, which provides financial education, planning tools and no-cost credit options to lower employee stress and improve corporate bottom line. Best of all: it’s free for employers AND employees—something you can both get behind.
For more information about how recent graduates and other working Americans can become financially literate, visit www.Zebit.com. And remember, just as you invested in your education, you should invest in your financial future too.
Photo: Flickr: Simon Cunningham