In the roughly three decades I have spent working within the financial services industry, I have observed a number of changes in how Americans plan, spend, and save their money. Many of the financial pressures on Americans have changed in that time, from the near-death of the company-backed pension plan and the rise of individual retirement accounts, to rising living costs and wage stagnation for jobs in a number of industries. We’ve weathered stock market bubbles and the housing crisis and navigated the rise of technology in our daily lives, which in turn has given us some pretty amazing digital solutions to help us manage our finances and make smarter financial decisions.
But in this time, there’s one increasingly dire financial strain that I have watched grow to crisis-level proportions: The rise of student loan debt. The numbers are staggering. In 1990, 92% of Americans graduated from a post-secondary institution debt-free. Today, that number is only 30%. Over the last 20 years, total outstanding student debt has risen from $250B to $1.7T. While we’ve seen the advancement of technology-driven products for everything from wealth management to mortgage lending, solutions for student debt have lagged behind despite burdening so many Americans.
“FutureFuel.io is now enabling employers of all sizes to help their employees tackle this crisis head-on.”
After nearly 30 years of leading strategy and innovation across the wealth management, insurance, retirement and benefits verticals, I’m thrilled to have joined FutureFuel.io as Chief Operating Officer to help tackle the student debt crisis. FutureFuel.io has experienced amazing success early on in its journey to spearhead and accelerate the creation and adoption of the student debt repayment as an employee benefit market vertical, an approach unlike any other I have seen in my career working within the benefits industry. The nation has reached its tipping point relative to how the rise in student loan debt is impacting the economy and crushing the dreams and financial freedoms of hard-working Americans. FutureFuel.io is now enabling employers of all sizes to help their employees tackle this crisis head-on.
Part of what drew me to this role is founder and CEO Laurel Taylor, who is a force like no other. Her vision for the company, passion for the team and amazing work ethic are infectious. She has built a culture and team that is laser-focused on the company’s mission to make a difference in people’s lives. The talent within FutureFuel.io is unlike any other start-up I’ve seen. The team is a venerable who’s who of industry experts, from across the globe, that have been painstakingly, hand-picked to help build and drive the future of the company and accelerate its growth and success. Partnering with Laurel to lead this talented team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew I could not pass up the chance to work alongside her and meaningfully change the lives of millions of Americans with the right set of solutions.
“Student debt is one of the most critical, and overlooked, roadblocks to financial health and wellness.”
While FutureFuel.io is technically still considered a start-up, the product, platform and team have already proven themselves to be that of a much more mature organization, especially given the early successes the company has experienced in the market. It has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to obtain funding and gain the trust of the equity markets, as shown by its top-flight investors, board members and advisors that have already boarded the FutureFuel.io train. Through its vision and leadership, FutureFuel.io is reshaping the employee benefits landscape by redefining its fundamental ecosystem and how all the pieces work together. By incorporating its innovative student debt solutions into the benefits ecosystem, FutureFuel.io is making it easy for payroll providers, wealth managers, retirement and even insurance providers to finally come together in helping employers enable their employees to crush their student debt so they can begin building wellness and improve their overall financial health.
The road ahead will be challenging, rewarding, and exciting. We’re already looking forward to the passage of the SECURE Act 2.0, which will accelerate the adoption of benefits that acknowledge and address student debt within the workplace by incentivizing employers to match employee student debt payments with 401k contributions. We are also growing rapidly via our partnerships with leading financial institutions and employers that clearly see the demand for a comprehensive, intuitive platform where individual Americans can pay down student debt, improve income planning, and increase savings. If I know anything from decades of watching the ebbs and flows of retirement savings behaviors across the U.S., it’s the significant freedom that comes with financial stability and wealth accumulation. Student debt is one of the most critical, and overlooked, roadblocks to financial health and wellness in our individual lives and I cannot wait to help clear the path for the 45 million Americans trying to build better futures.