COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

Savingforcollege.com

Does your employer help you save for college?
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/does-your-employer-help-you-save-for-college-745

Posted: 2015-03-26

by Kathryn Flynn

Clear signs indicate that the U.S. job market is improving. 295,000 jobs were added in February, and unemployment claims have been falling steadily. So as competition for talent begins to grow, what can employers do to retrain and attract quality employees? Money alone can’t buy happiness; so beyond compensation, leading companies tend to offer other benefits such as health care, life insurance and retirement savings accounts.

But many workers feel that there is a key piece missing from their benefits package - help with saving for college. College is one of the largest purchases a family may ever make, and it will likely come before retirement. So why do we rarely see college savings plans offered as employee benefits?

We asked Christian Duffus, Founder of LEAF College Savings:

1. How much do today’s job seekers consider a company’s benefits package?

Today’s job seekers rate a potential employer’s benefits package more than ever. 57% of employees strongly agree that they would work harder and be more loyal to an employer if they were not concerned with their personal finances. Additionally 44% of employees said, “having benefits customized to their needs would increase their employee loyalty.”

2. How important is it for employers to keep up with benefits offered by other companies in similar industries?

Employer benefits need to be competitive in order to retain talent. This is especially true for millennials whose average number of lifetime jobs will exceed 20 as compared with 11 for baby boomers. With the average cost to replace an employee at $6,000+, benefits are an important component of any company’s retention strategy as it costs more to hire new employees than it does to keep good ones.

3. What are the most valued benefits being offered?

National employee surveys, including by MetLife, show that employees expect employers to help them in achieving financial security. Beyond retirement and current financial stability, 62% of employees are asking for more voluntary benefits, even if they have to bear more of the cost. Popular benefits include vision care, critical illness insurance and pet insurance.

4. Why do you feel companies should consider offering 529 plans to employees?

Employer benefits cover almost all the important life stages of an employee. One of the most expensive and largely missing challenges is the cost of higher education for children and grandchildren. We know that most employees save for retirement through their employer benefits programs. Saving for college should also be an option.

5. What has been preventing companies from offering college savings plans as a benefit?

Traditionally, offering a single plan meant that employees who resided in other states couldn’t take advantage of annual state tax deductions for contributions made into an employer -sponsored plan, in addition to the myriad of investment options and strategies that could be considered by the employee. Alternatively, employers trying to support most or all plans has been a paper-based administrative headache and hence quite difficult for them to offer in a turn-key program, which is how companies are accustomed providing benefits.

RELATED: Should you use your employer-sponsored 529 plan?

6. How can LEAF help?

LEAF’s automated payroll contribution service streamlines the process for employers while, at the same time, supporting all plans. Employees can self-enroll and make changes at anytime during the year. And they can make contributions to more than one plan. In addition, employers have the option to match employee contributions either one time or recurring.

7. What are the potential benefits for the employer?

By providing a differentiated benefits program employers can reduce turnover of key employees at all levels of their organization; in a recent survey, 44% of employees said “having benefits customized to their needs would increase their employee loyalty.”

8. What are the potential benefits for employees?

Simply put, if an employer currently offers retirement savings, health, life and disability insurance, and now can include college savings as part of their benefits program, they cover all the major financial wellness baskets of an employee and their family.

9. About how many companies are currently offering higher education solutions for employees?

Today, less than 15% of U.S. companies offer 529 plans as a voluntary benefit. This is primarily the single plan solution as stated above so they have low participation. That said, companies that offer a universal or plan agnostic program as contemplated by LEAF are less than 1% currently.

10. Are you seeing this number begin to grow?

Providing universal choice for employees while making the program simple to manage for employers is a winning combination. While LEAF primarily targets knowledge-based organizations we have seen exponential growth in all categories from small and medium businesses to Fortune 50 organizations.

11. How do you expect this trend to continue?

This year we’re seeing an increasing number of large employers creating financial wellness programs for their employees. Naturally, college savings is a very important component of overall financial planning and stability and we’re very pleased to be part of this trend.

RELATED: Experts say this is how much you should save for college


Christian L. Duffus is the co-founder of LEAF College Savings, LLC. LEAF is the leading SaaS provider of 529 higher education, corporate benefit solutions – analogous to a 401K but for college savings. He is also the founder of the Scholar's Club, an extracurricular academic organization focused on developing a peer culture of accomplishment and academic excellence among disadvantaged and underserved students. Christian is a Graduate of Florida A&M University and the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration where he currently serves as a member of the Alumni Board of Trustees.





Clear signs indicate that the U.S. job market is improving. 295,000 jobs were added in February, and unemployment claims have been falling steadily. So as competition for talent begins to grow, what can employers do to retrain and attract quality employees? Money alone can’t buy happiness; so beyond compensation, leading companies tend to offer other benefits such as health care, life insurance and retirement savings accounts.

But many workers feel that there is a key piece missing from their benefits package - help with saving for college. College is one of the largest purchases a family may ever make, and it will likely come before retirement. So why do we rarely see college savings plans offered as employee benefits?

We asked Christian Duffus, Founder of LEAF College Savings:

1. How much do today’s job seekers consider a company’s benefits package?

Today’s job seekers rate a potential employer’s benefits package more than ever. 57% of employees strongly agree that they would work harder and be more loyal to an employer if they were not concerned with their personal finances. Additionally 44% of employees said, “having benefits customized to their needs would increase their employee loyalty.”

2. How important is it for employers to keep up with benefits offered by other companies in similar industries?

Employer benefits need to be competitive in order to retain talent. This is especially true for millennials whose average number of lifetime jobs will exceed 20 as compared with 11 for baby boomers. With the average cost to replace an employee at $6,000+, benefits are an important component of any company’s retention strategy as it costs more to hire new employees than it does to keep good ones.

3. What are the most valued benefits being offered?

National employee surveys, including by MetLife, show that employees expect employers to help them in achieving financial security. Beyond retirement and current financial stability, 62% of employees are asking for more voluntary benefits, even if they have to bear more of the cost. Popular benefits include vision care, critical illness insurance and pet insurance.

4. Why do you feel companies should consider offering 529 plans to employees?

Employer benefits cover almost all the important life stages of an employee. One of the most expensive and largely missing challenges is the cost of higher education for children and grandchildren. We know that most employees save for retirement through their employer benefits programs. Saving for college should also be an option.

5. What has been preventing companies from offering college savings plans as a benefit?

Traditionally, offering a single plan meant that employees who resided in other states couldn’t take advantage of annual state tax deductions for contributions made into an employer -sponsored plan, in addition to the myriad of investment options and strategies that could be considered by the employee. Alternatively, employers trying to support most or all plans has been a paper-based administrative headache and hence quite difficult for them to offer in a turn-key program, which is how companies are accustomed providing benefits.

RELATED: Should you use your employer-sponsored 529 plan?

6. How can LEAF help?

LEAF’s automated payroll contribution service streamlines the process for employers while, at the same time, supporting all plans. Employees can self-enroll and make changes at anytime during the year. And they can make contributions to more than one plan. In addition, employers have the option to match employee contributions either one time or recurring.

7. What are the potential benefits for the employer?

By providing a differentiated benefits program employers can reduce turnover of key employees at all levels of their organization; in a recent survey, 44% of employees said “having benefits customized to their needs would increase their employee loyalty.”

8. What are the potential benefits for employees?

Simply put, if an employer currently offers retirement savings, health, life and disability insurance, and now can include college savings as part of their benefits program, they cover all the major financial wellness baskets of an employee and their family.

9. About how many companies are currently offering higher education solutions for employees?

Today, less than 15% of U.S. companies offer 529 plans as a voluntary benefit. This is primarily the single plan solution as stated above so they have low participation. That said, companies that offer a universal or plan agnostic program as contemplated by LEAF are less than 1% currently.

10. Are you seeing this number begin to grow?

Providing universal choice for employees while making the program simple to manage for employers is a winning combination. While LEAF primarily targets knowledge-based organizations we have seen exponential growth in all categories from small and medium businesses to Fortune 50 organizations.

11. How do you expect this trend to continue?

This year we’re seeing an increasing number of large employers creating financial wellness programs for their employees. Naturally, college savings is a very important component of overall financial planning and stability and we’re very pleased to be part of this trend.

RELATED: Experts say this is how much you should save for college


Christian L. Duffus is the co-founder of LEAF College Savings, LLC. LEAF is the leading SaaS provider of 529 higher education, corporate benefit solutions – analogous to a 401K but for college savings. He is also the founder of the Scholar's Club, an extracurricular academic organization focused on developing a peer culture of accomplishment and academic excellence among disadvantaged and underserved students. Christian is a Graduate of Florida A&M University and the University of Virginia's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration where he currently serves as a member of the Alumni Board of Trustees.





 

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