Health care, student loan forgiveness among graduates' top desires

As graduation season approaches for college students across the country, student loan forgiveness is on a lot of young job seekers' minds.

When asked to list the top three benefits that would help them achieve their financial goals, respondents listed health insurance and paid time off first and second, respectively, with student loan forgiveness listed third. Comparatively, only 36 percent of young job seekers listed a 401(k) match as a top-three benefit. The online MAVY Poll was conducted on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs.

“Early career decisions often have a major impact later in life,” stated Gregory Anton, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “A mentality of ‘I’ll start saving when I get a bit older’ often results in retirement savings being put on the back burner. However, by beginning to save towards retirement as early as possible, new graduates will benefit from decades of compounding growth. Time is an asset, and those just starting their career are in a prime position to take advantage of it.”

While student loan forgiveness was the third most sought-after benefit overall, respondents with outstanding loan debt viewed student loan repayment as the most important use of their benefits. When given a hypothetical $100 to have an employer split between paying a portion of their student loan debt versus putting it towards a specific benefit, respondents with student loan debt opted to have the employer put more money towards paying off their student loan debt in all cases.

“Student loan debt can cause recent graduates to make the mistake of looking past the benefits an employer is offering and just focus on the salary," added Anton. "Wide disparities between health insurance options, employer retirement contributions as well as vacation and sick leave underscore the need for prospective employees to fully understand the value of the benefits being offered to them."

Other notable survey findings include:

  • Sixty-four percent of respondents said they plan to return to school at some point.
  • A Bureau of Labor Statistics report found Baby Boomers held an average of 11.9 jobs from the ages of 18 to 50. When asked, poll respondents said they expect to work, on average, 4.6 jobs in their lifetime.
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents are confident they understand all the workplace benefits available to them. Eighty-five percent are also confident they will use the benefits available to them to their fullest potential.
  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents expect the value of employer benefits to increase in the future.

The survey was distributed to 1,984 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 in the U.S. in September 2018. In all, 547 respondents — who have either graduated from college in the last 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months — responded, with all currently seeking employment. For the full results of the survey, head to the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy site here.

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