New college grads see health insurance as best employee benefit at job, survey shows

Paid time off, a 401(k) match and help with paying off student loans are nice work perks, but the majority of new college grads say health insurance is the best employee benefit, a recent survey showed.

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About 54 percent of new grads said medical coverage is the top workplace benefit when it comes to looking for a job, according to a survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs. The association conducted the poll in September 2018 on more than 500 people who recently graduated from college.

The respondents said paid time off was the second benefit they most desired, followed by student loan forgiveness — a surprising statistic considering nearly two-thirds of young job seekers have student debt, the survey revealed. Another 38 percent of young job seekers said working remotely was a work perk they looked for.

“This goes to show employers that along with health and work-life balance, student loans are a primary concern for young adults entering the workforce,” the survey results stated. “This priority placed on paying off student loans may lead some new graduates to pursue careers in public service where student loan forgiveness is a more common incentive.”

A 401(k) match ended up in the lower end, with only 36 percent of new grads choosing it as a top work benefit. The low desire may be due to the younger generation putting saving for retirement on the back burner because they feel they have time to do so later. Experts, however, said new college grads should start early and contribute enough to reap the benefit of the employer match.

“Early career decisions often have a major impact later in life,” said 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,” he said about the survey results.

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The survey also showed that new grads would rather allocate more benefit money to paying off their student loans than to other perks, including their 401(k). When given $100, respondents said they would put $35 toward their 401(k) and the rest toward paying off their student debt.