Bryant hosted a panel discussion “Understanding Employee Benefits” last semester to provide early career guidance for seniors. Financial Planning Program Director Mara Derderian invited senior finance and retirement industry executives to present data and advice for comparing job offers beyond salary and vacation days, to include retirement plans, medical benefits, and other useful perks that impact a student’s financial future.
The SPARK Institute, a non-profit organization widely considered to be one of the most effective advocacy organizations in the country for the retirement plan industry, sponsored the event, which was co-hosted by Bryant University’s Financial Planning Association Student Chapter, Smart Women in Finance (SWIF), and the Finance Association.
Retirement experts Krista M. D’Aloia, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Fidelity Investments, and Joan C. McDonagh, Senior National Regulatory Policy Director for Empower Retirement, shared perspective and wisdom on the key components of financial literacy, especially for those who are just starting out in their careers.
“A lot of students come to me having a hard time navigating their job offers beyond salary. We wanted to help them feel comfortable evaluating their offers and selecting the best benefits.”
Preparing for the financial future
Derderian, a member of the Certified Financial Planning Association and the Financial Planning Association of Rhode Island, understands the challenge seniors face upon receiving their first job offer: calculating its effect on their financial future. “A lot of students come to me having a hard time navigating their job offers beyond salary,” she said. “We wanted to help them feel comfortable evaluating their offers and selecting the best benefits.”
In addition to offering career education, coaching, and corporate recruiting programs, Bryant ensures its students know how to critically evaluate the job offers they receive. The ability to develop marketable, real-world skills, is why many seniors secure jobs ahead of graduation. According to a recent comprehensive research study, 99 percent of Bryant University’s Class of 2018 were employed and/or enrolled in graduate studies within six months of graduation.
Retirement: when and how much to contribute
After salary, it’s important to look at the types of retirement plans offered by the company. Students should examine whether the employer will contribute towards retirement automatically or if their commitment is fixed verse having the discretion to not contribute.
At the panel, graduating seniors at Bryant shared the same concerns: can I afford to start saving for retirement right away and if so, how much should I be saving? “I’ve worked in Human Resources for many years and I’ve never come across a single person who regretted starting their retirement savings early,” said Timothy Paige, Vice President for Human Resources at Bryant, who moderated the panel.
“As recent graduates enter the workforce, their first thought isn’t retirement, but it should be. Starting to save for retirement as early as possible will pose beneficial.”
According to D’Aloia, students can’t afford “the cost of waiting.” Due to the power of compounding, saving $100 per month for 40 years will pay off much more verse delaying, then saving $200 per month for 20 years. “Start to contribute toward retirement right away,” she recommends. “If you never see the money in your paycheck, you won’t miss it.”
“As recent graduates enter the workforce, their first thought isn’t retirement, but it should be,” says Anna Brodeur ‘20, co-founder of Bryant’s Financial Planning Association Student Chapter. “Starting to save for retirement as early as possible will pose beneficial.”
In deciding where to invest your retirement money, McDonagh points out we don’t have to make a blind decision. “There is an explosion of planning tools that help you with these decisions. Don’t ignore those resources,” she says.
Medical benefits: what type of plan is best
After explaining the many different types of health insurance plans, the panelists had one main piece of advice: don’t overspend. “I see people overspend on health insurance all the time,” adds Paige.
“You get to make a decision about your health insurance plan every year. If you are healthy, go with the less expensive plan,” says D’Aloia. As your health changes, and perhaps as you start a family, you can go with a more expensive plan if needed.
Work perks: benefits to your financial planning
In reviewing a job offer, D’Aloia suggests you take other benefits besides the retirement and medical options into account, such as life insurance, disability insurance, tuition reimbursement, gym memberships, pet insurance, and travel discounts. Even if some of these don’t influence your decision, lifestyle benefits can be very helpful in your financial planning once you accept a job.
“This is an important decision and there is a lot to think about,” says McDonagh. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help evaluating an offer or selecting benefits.”
“Something I found valuable that D’Aloia and McDonagh touched on is the importance of being informed about benefits offered by an employer when applying for jobs,” said Lindsey Coe ’21, co-founder of Bryant’s Financial Planning Association Student Chapter. “It’s important to seek benefits and take advantage of them as soon as possible to receive their full value.”
Graduates face a tough decision and have a lot to consider when receiving their first few job offers. In addition to an integrated business and liberal arts education, experiential learning opportunities, and promotion of values-driven decision-making, Bryant utilizes panels like “Understand Employee Benefits” to ensure every student is well prepared for their future, including their financial future.