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Paying off student loan debt with PTO days

A new program at Unum allows employees to trade 40 hours of paid time off for money towards student loan debt

PORTLAND, Maine — With canceled plans, events, and trips, many of us are sitting on tons of vacation days. At Unum, instead of letting PTO days roll over into what we hope is a normal 2021, employees can trade the 40 hours in for money towards student loan debt.

Unum's Student Debt Relief Program started in February and 427 employees to-date have taken advantage. On average, $1,250 has been dealt out for those enrolled, according to Assistant Vice President of Global Financial Well-being & Retirement, Carl Gagnon.

"Between principle and interest, we’ve helped employees’ payoff just over $625,000 of student loan payments in their first year,” said Gagnon. "And we know based upon the fact that Unum has 10,200 employees in the U.S., that somewhere between 25-30 percent of our employees are burdened with some sort of student debt themselves, or their spouses or partners or dependents.”

The student debt crisis across the nation affects tens of millions of Americans. Through Q2, student loans owned and securitized, or outstanding topple $1.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Gagnon says their research shows average debt ranges from $38,000-$40,000. This program allows the employee to sign up to help with a spouse's or partner's loan, a child's, or their own loan.

First-year employees have 28 days of PTO and holidays, with five days or 40 hours eligible to roll over to next year.

"[It] gives our employees additional choice in their benefits programs. It allows them to basically chose whether or not they want to trade some of that PTO back to help pay back some student debt and help them be a little bit more financially viable," said Gagnon.