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Pay off student loans, or save for retirement? Both.

David Brancaccio, Erika Soderstrom, and Alex Schroeder Jul 28, 2023
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zimmytws/Getty Images

Pay off student loans, or save for retirement? Both.

David Brancaccio, Erika Soderstrom, and Alex Schroeder Jul 28, 2023
Heard on:
zimmytws/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Some people work for employers who match, up to certain limits, the amount of money you save each paycheck for retirement. Starting next year, a change in the law connects this to student loan repayments in a way that might benefit some borrowers.

The Secure 2.0 legislation allows companies to match a student loan payment with a retirement account contribution. In other words, when you pay your loan, you get money from your employer for retirement savings, up to a point.

Marketplace’s senior economics contributor Chris Farrell has been looking at this. He spoke with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

David Brancaccio: So how will this work in the new year?

Chris Farrell: If you have federal student loans, you have to start paying them back in October, right? After this three-year hiatus. But next year, employers will have the option of treating an employee’s student loan payments as retirement savings contributions. In other words, employees can receive a matching contribution from the employer, up to a certain percentage of their salary, in their employer-sponsored retirement savings plan for making the student loan payments. So they get the match, David.

Brancaccio: So if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that wants to do this, and you have enough money to save, you could take $50 and save it for your retirement … or you could pay 50 bucks to pay back your student loan, and the employer could match either of those.

Farrell: That’s right. And this is really good news for, particularly, younger employees, who … their household budgets are stretched, they’re gonna have to dip into their household budget now to start paying off the student loans, the notion of saving for retirement, it’s really hard to do. What this does is it says, “Look, you can take advantage of your retirement savings plan and that matching contribution.” And by the way, David, most of the gain in a retirement savings plan, it comes from the employer’s match. It’s just an incredible return. And at the same time, you can be paying off your student loans. So it kind of ends, or at least dampens, that traditional personal finance question, “Do I save for retirement, or do I pay off my student loans?” What this new law allows, starting in 2024, is you can do both at the same time.

Brancaccio: It’s interesting. And if next year the labor market stays relatively tight and a person is shopping for a job, might be something to consider: Which companies have that benefit?

Farrell: Well, I have my fingers crossed that a lot of companies are going to embrace this change. I think in the competition for talent, where employers are looking for workers for those companies with 401(k) plans, with 403(b) plans, this is a no-brainer.

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