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Health Insurance, Paid Time Off and Student Loan Forgiveness Top List of Millennials’ Desired Workplace Benefits: AICPA Survey

  • Nearly two-thirds of young adult job seekers have student loan debt, with an average of $33,332.
  • Millennials with loan debt value more help with repayment over all other employee benefits.
  • AICPA Employee Benefits Report offers guidance on understanding and utilizing benefits.

NEW YORK (May 16, 2019) – This year, it is projected that nearly two million students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree. As they enter the job market and evaluate the employment opportunities before them, student loan debt is weighing on their minds. This, according to research conducted by MAVY Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) among millennials who graduated from college in the last 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months and are currently looking for employment – referred to as “young adult job seekers.”

When asked to choose the top three benefits that would most help them achieve their financial goals, young adult job seekers top two choices focused on the traditional benefits of health insurance and paid time off. Interestingly, student loan forgiveness was the third most cited option. 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. 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.

Young Adult Job Seekers


Benefit Chosen in Top 3 by:

Health Insurance  54%
Paid Time Off 45%
Student Loan Forgiveness 41%
Working Remotely 38%
401(k) Retirement Fund Match 36%
Tuition Reimbursement 25%
Pension  15%
Paid Parental Leave 13%

The relatively low number (36 percent) that selected 401(k) match may be explained by retirement seeming like it is in the distant future. However, individuals with the longest time until retirement stand to gain the most from this benefit. Those just entering the workforce should aim to contribute enough to get the entire employer match. Otherwise, they are essentially missing out on a 100 percent return on their investment that will continue to compound over time.

“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.”

While student loan forgiveness was the third most popular benefit overall for young Millennials-- among those with outstanding loan debt, student loan repayment was viewed as being a more important use of their benefit dollars than any other comparable benefit. When given a hypothetical $100 to have an employer split between paying a portion of their student loan debt verses putting towards a specific benefit, young job seekers burdened by student loan debt said they would prefer their employer put more money towards paying their student loan debt in all cases.

Young Adult Job Seekers with Student Loans


Dollars Towards Benefit

Dollars Towards Student Loan Debt

Health Insurance $ 39 $ 61
Paid Time Off $ 39  $ 61
Tuition Reimbursement $ 39  $ 61
Life Insurance $ 37  $ 63
401(k) Retirement Fund Match $ 35  $ 65
Day Care $ 21  $ 79

“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.

The full results of the survey conducted by MAVY Poll on behalf of the AICPA, along with further analysis, are available in a free Employee Benefit Report on the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website. The site also features multiple free resources including information about what questions to ask when evaluating benefits as well as a wide-variety of calculators on topics such as 401(k)s, loan repayment and setting a monthly budget.
Additional Survey Findings:

  • It's clear that young adult job seekers understand the value of employee benefits, even if there isn’t consensus among them on which are the most valuable. In fact, they estimated on average, workplace benefits represent 32.7 percent of total annual compensation. This is quite accurate, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits average 31.4 percent of a total compensation package.
  • Despite the majority of those surveyed currently having student loan debt, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of young Millennials said they plan to return to school at some point.
  • A Bureau of Labor Statistics report that found Baby Boomers held an average of 11.9 jobs from age 18 to age 50. Millennials have a reputation for job-hopping. However, when asked, the average young millennial said they expect to work 4.6 jobs throughout their lifetime.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87 percent) young Millennials are confident they understand all the benefits available to them. Similarly, 85 percent are confident they will use the benefits available to them to their fullest potential whenever possible.
  • More than two-thirds (68 percent) of young Millennials expect the value of employer-offered benefits to increase in the future.

This MAVY® Poll was conducted online within the United States from September 17 through September 28, 2018 using The Agency’s proprietary on-line community, supplemented with sample provided from Pegasus™ by InnovateMR. The poll was distributed to 1,984 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, with 547 respondents who have graduated from college in the last 24 months or will graduate in the next 12 months. Of those, 413 respondents indicated they are currently seeking fulltime employment. This report contains the results from those respondents, referred to as, ‘Young Adult Job Seekers.’