Help your children get the most of their first post-college job

Finances

Your child finally graduated from college and is starting her first job. College probably did a great job preparing her for the technical aspects of her new career. But she may not be thinking about the softer skills of the work world like accepting feedback from her boss, networking with peers or taking best advantage of employee benefits.

Not all adult children welcome advice from their parents, but if your kids are open to your guidance, here are a few tips to share:

Learn your boss's style. A good relationship with your leader is key to getting the most out of your first job. Find out your boss's preferences and expectations, provide him or her with frequent updates on your projects, ask for occasional feedback if your boss doesn't provide it and respond positively to constructive criticism.

Be professional. In college you may have been used to sliding into class a few minutes late or wearing yoga pants every day. But once you enter the work world, a professional approach can go a long way. Pay attention to your office's culture and follow your boss's and coworkers's leads regarding start and end times, lunch breaks and your wardrobe and overall appearance. Be mindful not to overuse your personal cell phone — and if you feel compelled to check social media or text a friend, try to do so in a private space away from your desk.

Network. Set up brief meetings with each member of your department to find out what their role is, what they're working on, how you might be able to help them and what they’re interested in outside of work. Also seek out mentors — people with more experience who can help guide you toward success.

Create a professional development plan with concrete goals and action steps. Many companies will provide you with a development plan framework, but if yours doesn’t, create your own plan. Talk to Human Resources, your leader and others in your field to find out what certifications, courses, degrees or professional groups might help you advance your career.

Make the most of your company’s benefits and compensation package. (Parents, here’s an area where your guidance can be invaluable, especially if you’ve footed the bill in the past and your kids haven’t had to think much about finances.) Here are a few key things to keep in mind: 

  • Know what to expect from your paycheck. If you haven’t started your new job yet, be aware of the deductions that will be taken from your paycheck. Deductions will include federal income tax, federal and state insurance taxes, Medicare taxes, state income taxes, contributions to your 401(k) and benefits such as health insurance or disability insurance. If you want to know approximately how much your first paycheck will be, here’s a helpful Paycheck Calculator.
  • Save for your future goals and your future self (retirement) — contribute to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored savings plan. A specific percentage of your salary will be automatically withheld from your paycheck using pre-tax dollars. About 75 percent of employers offer a matching program, with a typical employer match of 50 percent of your contribution, up to 6 percent of your salary. Be sure to take advantage of this free money! Your 401(k) will grow tax deferred until you withdraw it in retirement.

    When you’re still paying off student loans and have other expenses to think about, it can be hard to prioritize saving for retirement. But start saving now while time is on your side! For example, if you save 6 percent of a $45,000 salary at age 22 with a 50 percent employer match (3%), you’ll retire with more than a million dollars at age 65. But if you don’t start saving until age 35, your retirement savings will likely be less than half that amount! To figure how much you should save, try a 401(k) calculator.
  • Enroll in employer health insurance. If your employer doesn’t offer health insurance, federal law allows you to be insured as a dependent on your parents’ health insurance plan until age 26. If your employer does offer health insurance, they’ll usually pay a percentage of the monthly premium. Employers pay an average of 82 percent of the monthly premium for single coverage, and deduct the rest from your paycheck.

    If your employer offers multiple health insurance options, consider the following about the various plans: What services are covered (especially important if you have a health condition)? What providers are covered? How much will it cost, considering both your monthly contribution toward your premium, as well as any deductible and copayment amounts you pay out-of-pocket toward your care?
  • Take advantage of education assistance. More than 90 percent of employers offer some level of tuition assistance for advanced studies that will help you in your job. Some employers will even help employees pay back their existing student loans.
  • Use employee discounts. Many employers offer discounts toward things like cell phone plans, gym memberships, tickets to local sporting events or company products.

Need a little extra help? Here’s a useful checklist to help them stay on track.

This information is brought to you by Athene — where unconventional thinking brings innovative annuity solutions that can help make your retirement dreams a reality.

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