No not “that” package! Get you mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about your benefits package!
My First Post-College Job:
Shortly before I graduated from college I signed a lease for an adorable little one-bedroom apartment in Boston. I was excited to begin my “adult” life and to start my first full-time job. The only problem? I didn’t have a job. Brief aside: I wouldn’t recommend anyone rent an apartment without a job or any source of income. But what can I say? I was
confident and carefree young and foolish.
Fortunately, the 22-year-old me was horribly naive about how bad the job market was in 2005. So I moved into my new apartment, bought myself a good suit and began applying to jobs. Shockingly (humor) there weren’t a lot of employers banging down the door to hire me. So when I was offered a temp job at a large hospital I jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t, the job of my dreams, but it was a full-time position with a well-known and well-respected employer (and it paid my rent!).
My First Experience with Packages:
I worked at the hospital for several months before they offered a full-time job. Instead of being thrilled and proud, I was shocked and horrified by how “little” my salary would be. I mean, “I have a bachelors degree! I didn’t go to school for 4 years to get paid this way, right?” After the “shock” and entitlement wore off I started talking to friends and mentors. With a little “adult” input I realized that the pay was actually pretty good and the benefits were great.
I didn’t end up taking the position, but having that experience taught me an important lesson about the value of a good benefits package.
Bottom Line, the Size of Your Package Matters!
Benefits are really important and a benefit package (or lack thereof) can say a lot about your future employer and how they value (or don’t value) their employees. Smaller employers might not be able to offer the “big benefits” like childcare or 403(b) matching, but may offer flextime and work from home options. When considering two similar job offers, benefits are often the deciding factor in which position you will take. Depending on your lifestyle, family composition and financial situation, benefits can really make or break a job.
Types of benefits some employers offer:
- Health insurance. Health insurance is a very important benefit to consider when accepting a job. These days there are a multitude of plans and a lot of them are really confusing (My work just switched to a high deductible plan, which means that I pay for all of my care out of pocket until I reach a deductible). With Obamacare rolling out, it’s not really clear exactly how health insurance in the US is going to change, but having health insurance is obviously important. Without health insurance one bad accident could cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Even if you’re relatively young and healthy, health insurance can be a life saver (literally and figuratively $$).
- Vacation Time. Pay attention to how much vacation time is offered and how it’s accrued. Some employers don’t offer paid vacation, while others offer several weeks per year. Also note if vacation time rolls to the next calendar year (some companies only allow you to carry over a certain number of days each year) and if the number of days you receive increases after a certain number of years of service. All work and no vaca is not a fun way to live your life!
- Personal Time. My current job offers 3 days (accrued) per year. My personal days don’t roll to next year so I have to use them all within the calendar year or I’ll lose them (I learned this the “hard way” when I lost my days during my first year of employment, ask!). Personal days are nice for unexpected emergencies, doctor’s appointments, self-care etc.
- Sick Time. Hopefully you won’t have to use any sick time, but if you do, it’s a very good benefit to have. Nothing is worse than being sick and having to go to work because you can’t afford to stay at home. Most employers I’ve worked for allow employees to take sick days as needed, but don’t “pay out” for sick time when you leave the company, but this varies by employer. My step-dad works for the state and is able to give sick time to fellow employees who need it.
- 403(b)/401(k) & matching. Many larger companies and organizations offer optional retirement savings plans for their employees. If you participate in a 401(k) or 403(b) your contributions are deducted from your paycheck and go directly into your retirement account. If you work for a particularly generous company, your employer may match your retirement saving up to a certain percentage of your salary. For example, If I contribute 3% of my annual salary to my 401(k) and my employer matches my 3% so that I’m actually saving 6% per month.
- Life insurance. Thinking about our own demise isn’t very pleasant, but as adults it’s something we have to do. Planning for the future and making sure that your family would be OK if you pass away is really important. I have a small life insurance policy that’s offered by, and paid for, by my employer. Life insurance isn’t very expensive for a young and healthy 30-year-old, but it’s a nice benefit to have, just in case.
- Dental Insurance. Even if you only have 2 checkups/cleanings per year, inexpensive dental insurance will likely save you money. If you have kids or a spouse you’ll want to ask if you have the option of including them on your plan (and how much it will cost). You’ll also want to ask about the different types of plans offered (my employer has a less expensive networked plan and a more expensive plan out-of-network plan). For me the in-network works just fine and costs me about $2.00 (or something really inexpensive) per paycheck. The insurance covers cleanings (2x a year), x-rays, and all basic dental work. If I paid out of pocket I suspect I’d pay at least $200 for the cleanings alone.
- Vision Insurance. Now that I have 4-eyes, vision insurance is a benefit that’s really important to me. My insurance is paid for by my organization and includes one yearly eye exam and one pair of glasses or a year’s worth of contacts. I have several pair of glasses so I’ve been getting the supply of contacts. If you wear glasses or need a yearly eye-exam vision insurance is awesome.
- Childcare. Can you bring your kids to work? Does your work offer onsite daycare? Does your employer subsidize your childcare costs? Can your work flex hours or work from home during school vacations?
- Free Meals. I’ve never worked at a company that provides regular free meals, but some companies have cafeterias, catering, a fully-stocked kitchen etc. If you can eat for free at work, you’ll save on your take-out or grocery bill. Bf’s office gets bagels for breakfast once a week. It’s not daily free lunch, but it is a nice little perk to have.
Tell me about your package! Are you happy with your benefits? What do you wish you had?