This semester we will be posting a series of short essays based on discussions from the upper-level colloquium. This week we have two entries on the employee benefits workshop conducted by Laurie Ensign, the Assistant Director, Human Resources/Employee Benefits at Fredonia on March 25, 2015.
For those interested, our next workshop open to all honors students is on Wednesday, April 1. Kathleen Gradel from the School of Education will offer helpful advice on shaping your digital identities (Williams Center 204D–Am 7:00-7:50pm).
From Lisa Muldowney, Marketing and Business Administration major
As a senior graduating in May, a large portion of my time this spring is spent thinking about where I want to be, how I’m going to get there, and how I’m going to get a job. Getting a job is the light at the end of this tunnel of uncertainty, and naturally I look forward to starting my career and continuing to grow in a field I love. What I don’t spend my time thinking about however, is the importance of a benefit package. Listening to Laurie Esign speak about how to compare benefit packages and end up with the best one was incredibly helpful, and something I definitely wouldn’t have thought of on my own.
Important benefits to look for are health insurance, either for yourself or your family/spouse. We don’t often think about what might happen if we get sick or injured, but the reality is that accidents do happen, and it’s important to know starting a new job that you will be covered. Health Insurance packages might sometimes include a waiting period or not cover pre-existing conditions, so comparing and carefully looking through what they entail is an important part of taking a job. Premiums, copays, and deductibles are far less scary words once you figure out what they mean for you and your personal lifestyle.
However, Laurie Esign advised not to ask about benefit packages during an interview. During an interview you want to focus on how you fit into the company, not what you might be getting out of them. She suggested calling the Human Resources office and explaining that you are considering a job offer and would like to know more about the benefit packages offered. Another discreet way to gather the information needed is to look up what you can about a company online.
From Sarah Johnson, Psychology
The last thing anyone wants to do when they get their first job or land a new job in a new town is to think about that big packet your new employers hand you about employee benefits, let alone read the entire packet. The reality of this brand new job is not just about your weekly paycheck or your salary over the year. On March 25, Laurie Esign from Fredonia’s Office of Human Resources presented to the Honors Colloquium how thinking beyond your salary will be beneficial to you in the long run.
The first thing Laurie told everyone was to weigh the value of each package option that is available to you. There are health insurance packages where getting two separate plans for your significant other and you are more cost effective. If you have dependents, sometimes a family plan is more cost effective. Some health insurances offer opt outs. Laurie told the colloquium that this is basically where you are paid not to take the health coverage, usually if you have other health insurance. This is a possible option if your significant other has you on their health plan through their work. When comparing cost effectiveness, one should consider premiums, copays, deductibles, and pre-tax options. An example of a deductible would be you covering the first $5,000 of hospital bills out of your pocket and then anything over $5,000 will be covered by the health insurance in full for each year. Other things you need to think about when choosing a health plan are if your doctor/local hospital accept that plan, whether or not there are restrictions on what is covered, do any extra perks come with the plan (gym memberships, massages) and whether there are ramifications of opting out.
Our discussion led to retirement plans, and Laurie could not stress enough how enrolling at the earliest point would be one of your best decisions. She told us all to save for retirement as soon as possible, even if we started saving with a small amount out of our paychecks. When you get your first entry level job, you generally are not making that much in the first place, and parting with your money is hard. Laurie explained that at first it will be difficult, but soon you would not even notice the money was being taken out; you learn to live on a smaller salary. Two things to think about when you are exploring your retirement options are portability and vesting period. Portability is whether or not you can take your pension if you move and leave that job. Your vesting period is a length of time that you must work at a company before you are entitled to your benefits. Laurie stated that if the vesting period is ten years, and you leave the company in nine years, you would not get those benefits. When considering how long a vesting period is, you should think about whether you plan to move within that period or even the possibility that you might meet someone and they get offered a job out of state.
Laurie’s last advice to the Honors Colloquium was to look at the bigger picture, even if you are just starting out. You have to want to be at the job, or you’re going to be miserable and not do as great. When your dream job finally comes along, that employer might not give you a good recommendation. Looking at the bigger picture when you are fresh out of college or grad school with your mind on loans you need to pay while working at an entry level job will be difficult, but beneficial. Laurie told us the earlier we start putting money in, the earlier we can retire. Who wants to retire at age 70+? Starting now is our best option.