Eileen McDonnell: Another Day, Another Student Loan Payment

June 10 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Your Retirement Fund

News has been rolling out that millennials will be working well into their 60s and probably 70s. While our rent and student loan payments rise, our income isn’t. That means we can’t afford to save enough for that double knee replacement or that river cruise four decades from now. There’s almost too much information about how much you should save for retirement: Save 10 times your annual income. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about a separate emergency fund. Buy life insurance and disability insurance. Don’t forget you need to eat a balanced meal every once in a while. It’s overwhelming. When you’ve mentally prepared to tackle the future, use the tools available for free online, like a retirement calculator. You need that river cruise, girl.


You don't need an Internet connection to take a good, hard look at what you’re bringing and what you’re dishing out. I’m not just talking about the occasional Postmates order; I’m talking debt payments. For the class of 2018 graduates, 69 percent took out loans, bringing the total of student loan debt to more than $1.5 trillion.If you feel like you’re being undervalued or underpaid, ask for more. It’s not shameful to ask for what you think you’re worth and what will be enough for you to live comfortably now and later. Your employer is never too big or small to at least have a conversation about it.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Eileen McDonnell, Chairman & CEO of The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company

Life insurance. It’s always a major factor in enough true crime docu-series but, honestly, do you know much about it? It’s something you don’t consider until sadly, you’re faced with what it all means. It can be a solace for anyone who relies on you financially. Eileen McDonnell is leading a 172-year-old life insurance company called The Penn Mutual.

The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company is one of only seven Fortune 1000 companies to have both a female CEO and female CFO. The firm has received some attention for its enthusiasm to engage with an agile IT model. Eileen says most companies in this industry adopt only 15 percent of front-end development of policies, whereas The Penn Mutual uses technological advancements to instruct and model more than half their policies.

Mostly, though, Eileen’s navigation of this historic company comes from fostering a team that collaborates happily. She surveys employees and, as she describes, takes their “temperature,” so-to-speak. If investments and stocks can be carefully considered, so, too, can a workplace culture.

Eileen didn’t always think she’d hop into the insurance biz. Instead, she grew up believing nursing was her calling. After studying math and computer science, she took a leap and enrolled in an MBA program. As Eileen developed a greater sense of finance and investments, it proved to be a good fit.

All of Eileen's grandparents came to the states from Ireland, meeting in New York and hoping for a better life for generations to come. They got their wish, as Eileen chose St. Patrick's Day to be appointed CEO to The Penn Mutual. We're wishing all the women, like Eileen, in groundbreaking leadership "adh mor."


If you happen to be the barista serving a CEO like Eileen McDonnell and hope to one day be in a corner office, don’t forget that your work today is important, too. Financial analyst Nethra Murali said:

"You are the CEO of your life. You have the power to stage and compose it the way you want it to be."

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