Do benefits really matter? The answer to that question isn’t as simple as you think. Let’s say you’ve found a rockin’ position with the perfect firm at a salary that allows you to meet your financial obligations. You can make due with whatever benefits they provide, right? Wait… is “making due” really your life objective?
From a personal standpoint, the importance and value of benefits depends on several things.
- Do they matter to YOU – do the structures and costs associated with the benefit provided real value to you from the standpoint of financial benefits, risk reduction and/or lifestyle enhancement
- Do you have enough information about the programs to judge their value, for example:
- Does the healthcare plan provide: reasonable reimbursement for the costs you are likely to incur (ski much?), an appropriate selection of physicians, services and locations, a better set of benefits than you can get elsewhere (parents plan, spouse benefits, etc.)
- Will company contributions to your 401(k) plan vest before your planned exit date?
- Are there features of the plan that are portable and if so, what is the cost/benefit for them (you’re going to work for the same firm your entire life – right?)
- Do you have other options – benefits are not “flexible” even if they are billed as part of a “flexible benefits” program. The primary source providing you with other benefits options is a job with a different firm and perhaps a different industry. Here is why that is often the reality of the marketplace:
- Companies don’t design benefits for you – they design them to attract and retain the best qualified workers while staying within their financial targets
- Market, Investor and Executive expectations re: results and returns matter just as they do with salary
- Industry benchmarking is provided by a host of consultants – adjust your expectations accordingly
A huge disclaimer in all of this – THERE WILL ALWAYS BE TRADE-OFFS! Why? Because your life won’t be a steady state and you can’t rely on life changes being pre-programmed events. #Adulting
While there is a wealth of information about particular benefits on the web, the best strategy for determining the anticipated value of benefits is to research your career targets and determine the lay of the land before you get the offer in hand.
Tell me more …
- The definitive information source for the US – American Benefits Council
- The unexpected basics – Employee Benefits: 10 Things You Need to Know | Forbes
- It’s all about optimization – How to Maximize Employer Benefits | CNBC
Following is a list of various benefits by type/topic just to give you a preview of options.
- Health & Wellness: Medical, Dental, Vision, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Saving Accounts (HAS), Health and Wellness Programs, Employee Assistance Programs, Health Club Memberships and/or Reimbursement,
- Insurance: Life, Accidental Death, Short and Long-Term Disability, Business Travel
- Time Off & Leaves: Vacation, Holidays, Sick Leave, Maternity/Paternity/FMLA, Personal Days, Volunteer Time, Comp Time, Purchased Time Off
- Retirement & Deferred Comp: 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, Pensions, Stock Options/Restricted Shares/ESOPs
- Non-Salary Comp: Dependent Care, Overtime, Travel Premiums/Per Diems/Mileage, Parking/Commutation/Public Transport, Cell Phone subsidy/reimbursement, Tuition Reimbursement/Executive Education, Adoption Assistance, Prepaid Legal/Financial Services, Family Education Assistance/Scholarships, Severance Packages
- Other Intangibles: Access to kitchen/cafeteria, Flexible Work Schedules, Training programs, Dress requirements, Telecommuting Options
By: Jeff Woods, Associate Director and Career Coach