Ah, the pleasures of a quiet home!
For many parents, seeing their children graduate from college and enter the world of adult life is one of life’s greatest joys. After years of driving to soccer practices and hosting college-age kids doing loads of laundry, becoming “empty nesters” offers parents an invigorating opportunity to look at life in a new way.
Yet with the newfound freedom of an empty nest there can also be stress. Student loan discussions are often rightfully focused on the financial concerns facing new graduates themselves, but it’s Baby Boomers age 60 or older who are the fastest-growing category of student-loan debtors. In a climate in which nearly 90% of Millennials who graduate from high school attend college within eight years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the financial strain this places on their families.
One of the most important aspects of recent discussions about empathy has been how life outside of work impacts employees on the job. Financial stress alone lowers productivity and increases the likelihood that employees will miss work due to personal financial issues. Facing the unknown and life stage changes can create a sense of instability, which can affect anxiety levels as well.
These issues are important for employers, who can demonstrate empathy with their employees facing new situations and commit to helping their employees build healthy, financially sustainable lives. This approach can keep employees engaged on the job — and much less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Employers are often encouraged to support younger graduates, but there are programs that can impact their parents — and help you build empathy into the ways that you support older adults. Here are the trends facing empty nesters and strategies to help you protect your employees against financial free fall:
Build student loan support programs for all generations.
In the wake of the student loan crisis, many savvy employers have begun to offer student loan support programs, targeted to employees who are recent graduates themselves. But many of these programs are tailored to the needs of younger people, who may not have the considerable assets or high living expenses of older adults. Offering student loan financial planning programs that consider the specific PLUS loans many parents rely on, as well as the tight timeline to pay down debt before retirement, can demonstrate a sensitivity to how this financial burden impacts parents specifically.
Offer financial education classes targeted to the specific needs of parents.
Where in the past a single company pension could provide a full, lasting retirement, parents today are much more likely to have a complicated web of assets and debt and must face how this will impact the next generation. Offering family-related financial literacy programs can help your employees understand what their monetary position means for their coming retirement, and how their children may be impacted by an eventual transfer of wealth.
Focus on retirement.
Even if you sponsor a retirement plan for your employees, many struggle to fund their accounts in an intentional way when significant income is being diverted to student loans. As retirement nears, many folks must come to terms with a lower monthly income than they might have anticipated. Even with years in the workforce and retirement looming, one in three Baby Boomers have less than $25,000 in retirement savings. Executing a communications campaign about how to leverage a retirement account for higher returns can be helpful, particularly when it’s complemented by access to a financial advisor who can help them personalize a contribution plan that makes sense for them.
The big picture matters. Even with the complexities of a financial situation strained by college educational costs, your role as an employer can be to ground your employees in a secure future now that tuition isn’t top of mind. Focusing on total rewards shows your employees that even after the graduation caps have settled onto the floor, you have empathy for what comes next.
Want to learn more about how you can help your employees avoid a financial free-fall? Listen to our on-demand webinar for more info.