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Student loan help is more important than 401k contributions for younger workers

Student loan help is more important than 401k contributions for younger workers

By Sara Sosnowski, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

It seems like a never-ending quest for employers to figure out what young workers are looking for and what they value.  With nearly two million students projected to graduate with degrees this year, they are having to evaluate their employment opportunities and the benefits that they offer.

When you consider that nearly two thirds of young job seekers have over $33,000 in student loan debtIt seems like a never-ending quest for employers to figure out what young workers are looking for and what they value.  With nearly two million students projected to graduate with degrees this year, they are having to evaluate their employment opportunities and the benefits that they offer.

When you consider that nearly two-thirds of young job seekers have student loan debt averaging $33,332, it is no secret that those two million graduates (as well as most young adults) have student loan debt at the forefront of their minds. 

A recent poll conducted by MAVY Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs asked millennials who graduated from college in the last 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months and are currently looking for employment to choose the top three benefits that would most help them achieve their goals financially. 

They concentrated on traditional benefits (health insurance and paid time off) for the top two choices, but the third most cited benefit chosen by the young adult job seekers was student loan forgiveness.  These job seekers are not only faced with finding a job to support them, but they are also trying to figure out how to pay off the largest debt they currently have.

Since student loan payments start within six months of graduation, and retirement is nowhere on the horizon, only 36% selected 401k fund match as a top benefit, potentially hurting them in the future.  “Early career decisions often have a major impact later in life,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, 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.”

Even though student loan forgiveness was the third most popular benefit overall, student loan repayment was viewed as the most important use of benefit dollars.  In a hypothetical situation, if given $100 with the option of paying their student loan debt versus putting it towards a specific benefit, the young job seekers said they wanted their employer to put more money towards student loan debt in all situations.

“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. 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,” added Anton.

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