Planning a trip is nice. Paying down your student loan tab may be nicer.
Last year alone, American workers gave up about $62.2 billion in lost benefits by forfeiting over 200 million vacation days that could not be rolled over, according to Project: Time Off, which is sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association.
What if all that dough went toward your student debt?
In 2018, Fidelity Investments began to offer businesses a way to contribute to their workers' education loans. Since then, more than 50 companies have signed up.
One company is now trying a different approach to help its employees tackle student debt in the year ahead.
Employee benefits provider Unum recently announced that, starting next year, U.S. employees can trade up to five days, or 40 hours, of unused vacation time for a payment against their student loan tab through the Student Debt Relief Program, which is also managed by Fidelity.
Full-time employees receive 28 days of paid time off, including holidays and personal days, their first year at Unum, with additional PTO available over time.
Unum estimates that around 40 percent to 50 percent of those employees carry over five days, or 40 hours, each year. In fact, American workers use about half of their eligible vacation time on average, according to a separate study by jobs and recruitment website Glassdoor.
"PTO is often underutilized," said Carl Gagnon, an assistant vice president of Global Financial Well-being & Retirement Programs at Unum. "We just felt that this fell right in a sweet spot."
Of its 8,700 workers in this country, Unum estimates that 2,000 to 2,600 have student loans. The program is available for recent graduates as well as their parents and other loan co-signers.