A company realized why it's so hard for young employees to save money. Then came an idea.

Did you know that more than 40 million Americans have outstanding student loans, totaling more than $1.2 trillion?

It's true according to recent analysis. And with an average balance of $29,000, loans can be a major long-term burden that prevents borrowers from homeownership, owning a car, or even having adequate health insurance.

Bye-bye, income. GIF from "The Jetsons."

Some employers are helping out in a really cool way — by giving their employees money to pay down their student loans.

Free money?!


Well, not quite, but something along those lines.

Many businesses offer employees various perks as a way to keep talent for the long run. Whether it's in the form of health insurance, generous vacation policies, or year-end bonuses, these are fringe benefits businesses use to lure the best and brightest away from competitors and help retain their current employees.

But some companies are getting creative by offering their employees cash bonuses for the explicit purpose of repaying student loans.

$$$.

Natixis Global Asset Management is the latest company to offer this, giving employees $10,000 to repay student loans.

And here's how it'll work: Starting January 1, 2016, employees who have been with the company for five or more years will be eligible to receive a $5,000 lump-sum payment to go toward paying off government-backed student loans. They'll then get $1,000 per year for the next five years for that same purpose.
Their plan follows the same basic framework as that of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a company that announced back in September that they will begin offering employees $1,200 per year for six years toward paying down student loans.

According to Natixis, the decision was made simply because they wanted to "put their money where their mouth is."

As an asset management company, Natixis emphasizes the importance of saving for retirement at an early age. Unfortunately, when there are loans to be paid, that's not so easy.

"We decided it was time we put our money where our mouth is, and make sure our own people are on sound financial footing," Tracey Flaherty, the senior vice president of retirement strategies at Natixis, told CNN.

It's hard to start saving for retirement when you don't have money to save. GIF from "Bridesmaids."

Way to go, companies that acknowledge the burden of student loans! Now here's hoping Congress can find a long-term fix.

The skyrocketing cost of education (and the loans that result) needs to be addressed. When a college degree becomes a near requirement to survive in the workforce, the cost of college is extra burdensome.

Some in Congress have pushed bills that would help cap tuition increases, determine where federal loans can be used, and lower interest rates. Even the president has gotten behind student loan reform. So far, this hasn't really gained a whole lot of traction. Graduates and companies like Natixis shouldn't necessarily have to foot the bill for student loans, but until Congress makes some changes, it's great to see companies helping their people out anyway. It's the right thing to do.

Most of us don't think of a bird as a cuddly pet, but Swoop the snuggly magpie didn't care what humans think. After he was rescued by New Zealander Matt Owens, the baby bird became a beloved part of the family—the family being Owens and his cat, Mowgli.

"It was just sitting there bleeding, sort of unable to walk properly and it looked like it had been abandoned by its mum so I just picked it up and decided to take it home," Owens told Newshub. The timing of finding Swoop couldn't have been better. Owens' dad had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the bond he formed taking care of Swoop gave Owens an extra dose of love and comfort.

Mowgli wasn't sure about the new family member at first, but soon took to Swoop and the two became fur-feather friends. The Dodo recently shared a video on Facebook highlighting Owens, Swoop, and Mowgli's story, and it's unbelievably adorable.

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Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
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Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

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