Business

Thousands of Fidelity workers get help paying off student loans

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Nearly 5,000 Fidelity Investments employees have enrolled in the company’s recently launched benefits program that helps workers pay off their student loan debt, the Boston financial services company said Tuesday.

Fidelity launched the program several weeks ago, joining an increasing number of employers that provide such a benefit to workers.

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Fidelity workers who have been with the company for six months or more can qualify to receive $2,000 a year that’s paid toward their student loans.

Fidelity will provide up to $10,000 for student loan repayments.

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The average student debt in the United States has climbed 60 percent to about $29,000 from about $18,000 in 2007, according to the Department of Education.

Economists say the high level of student loan debt is forcing young adults to delay big financial decisions such as buying a home and having children.

“As a financial services firm, this was really concerning to us,” said Jennifer Hanson, the head of associate experience and benefits at Fidelity. “We felt that providing a benefit like student loan repayment assistance helps us to address a very real financial concern that is impacting our employees directly.”

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Fidelity is using technology developed by California-based Tuition.io Inc., a student loan management company, to automatically direct payments to the loan provider.

Other companies, including Natixis Global Asset Management, a Boston-based unit of the French financial firm Natixis, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global auditing and consulting firm, are also helping their workers pay off student loans.

Human resources specialists have said that loan repayments are a way for companies to compete for and retain younger workers as the job market tightens.

Fidelity also said that it has doubled its paid maternity and parental leave. The company is expanding maternity leave to 16 weeks, up from eight weeks. Employees will also be able to get up to six weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn, up from two weeks under the old policy.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.
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