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Crushing College Debt Screwing Up Millennials’ Personal & Professional Decisions

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A new study finds the crushing amount of student loan debt they have incurred will rule key life milestones (i.e., marriage, children and homeownership) and affect their level of engagement at work. 

According to an ORC International survey commissioned by PadillaCRT, a large percentage of millennials believe their student loan repayments will last well into their 30s and even 40s.

Survey results reveal:

• One in four millennials owe more than $30,000 in college debt, and expect to take more than 20 years to pay off their loans.

• Women are two times more likely than men to think it will take more than 20 years to pay off their college debt.

As a result, millennial employees don’t feel financially secure. This financial insecurity delays traditional life events, impacts how they engage with the workplace and affects how employers can retain them.

Other Key Findings:

• Forty-two percent of women have more than $30,000 in college debt, compared with 27 percent of men.

• Thirty-seven percent of women are less likely to stay with their current employer because of their current financial situation, compared with 25 percent of men.

For millennials, the next 10 to 20 years after college typically include major life milestones. From purchasing a new car and buying a house to getting married and having children, the survey showed millennials are choosing to delay these milestones because of their outstanding debt. These delays not only impact their personal life, but also their engagement levels at work.

For companies, engaged employees are more than just nice to have – they’re integral to business success. Over time, highly engaged workforces outperform less-engaged companies by 147 percent higher earnings per share and enjoy a 90 percent better growth trend, according to a 2013 Gallup study.

With millennials expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, it’s imperative that companies understand how their needs, preferences and life stages drive their approach to and engagement with work. However, based on a 2016 Gallup study, companies are still missing the mark – only 29 percent of millennials consider themselves engaged at work, less than all other generations. And survey results revealed similar alarming stats that companies need to be aware of as their workforce changes:

• Only 55 percent of millennials feel like they have a good idea of what is going on at their company.

• Fifty-nine percent of millennials value student loan repayment assistance over other options, including more workday flexibility (51 percent) – a new finding compared to previous surveys that placed flexibility at the top of the list of engagement drivers.

To engage and retain millennials – and other employees – companies should consider the following:

• Purpose is powerful: Invite millennials to play an active role in building a corporate culture that engages them and drives the company forward.

• Culture is key: Celebrate the small wins and create opportunities for employees to see the impact they are making.

• Options are essential: Align benefits and opportunities for involvement with employee preferences and give employees opportunities to choose those that are relevant for their age and stage.

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