Sure the numbers in the initial offer may
sound good, but as the costs of providing benefits rise, many companies
are looking to have the employee (A.K.A. you) pick up more of the cost.
Companies are doing many things to "control" (read as off load) such
A new employee should always ask what the benefit
plan will be for someone entering a certain position at a certain time.
Asking the person who had that job before is by no means an indication
of what you may get. In trying to control costs while retain some of
their senior employees companies may grandfather (allow a certain group
to be included) employees hired before a certain date (read as
"nah-nah-nah" we were here first) in the older (and better for the
employee) plan. When starting a new job, especially near a holiday, ask
when you become eligible for holiday pay. Many salaried positions give
holiday pay to employees day one, notice I did NOT say all. For hourly
paid positions, many companies feel it's a benefit for regular
employees, not probationary employees, so you may not be eligible for
such benefits until your review.
Cafeteria style benefit plans tend to be great for
the employee at first, but are to the company's benefit in the long
run. At first the plan covers the customary benefit costs and allows
employees to pick additional benefits or take home money not spent on
the plan. Single employees are given a certain amount to spend, while
those with family obligations are given more as to cover the cost of
family benefits. Other benefits may be added enriching the buffet, such
as additional vacation. Such a vacation benefit gives employees time
off beyond company's traditional paid vacation plan. But like the slop
you got in your high school's cafeteria, there's a price, you have to
"buy" additional vacation. For every day off, a certain percentage of
pay is deducted; retained by the company as to be used as pay during
your "paid for" vacation. With such a benefit, even a new employee may
be able to get two weeks off their first year, for a pay cut.
Retirement If you plan to stay with that company for a while look into
Some companies require a certain tenure before one
can participate usually ranging from 90 days to 1 year. Such companies
may further complicate the issue by having periods when one can join.
If you thought getting into the retirement plan was tough, getting out
before retirement may be tougher. Most plans will allow you to take out
the portion you contributed, but may tier company and interest
contributions based on tenure or plan participation time. Thus an
employee who has worked at a company 3 1/2 years, participated in the
plan for 2 years may only be entitled to 40% of the company portion of
the contributions. Keep in mind a plan can not only not make interest,
but may lose principal as well. Before putting a penny into the plan:
insider the company may set up many rules as to inhibit your use of
your position within the company for personal gain. You may be allowed
to only increase or decrease a certain percent of your investment at a
time. You may not be allowed to buy or sell stock for a month before
the annual report comes out, before a stock split, a merger, etc... In
short because you will be in control of the company (haha), you may not
be allowed to control any of your money invested in the company.
Many companies offer three benefit levels --
insurance benefits there may be more hidden expenses.
Some jobs require uniforms or may have some minimum dress code. Companies that require specific uniforms usually provide them, but may not let you start until they have your size in stock. Such items are usually a shirt or jacket with the company logo or other such item that mark you as an employee to customers.
If instead of a uniform you are told about certain standards of attire expect to dress like you're interviewing every day. Because there is nothing special about such clothes, your new employer will expect that such clothes are already part of your wardrobe. "Business casual" usually excludes jeans, t-shirts, sweats, sneakers, boots and other types of really comfortable clothes.
job is expensive. Another big expense to many in both time and money is
Even if your car is 99% dependable, consider the other 1%
Coworkers, friends, spouse or mass
transit are other options to be considered.
Most interviews are conducted within business hours
or well after business hours as to accommodate the working applicant.
As a result the applicant misses the real killjoy of the day -- the
rush hour commute. During this period of the day, 55 mph road ways
crawl at 30 mph or less, while commuter railroads and busses charge
peak fares (read as max screw).
People who live in the city
where everyone works and work in the suburbs where everyone lives are
able to zip along empty lanes while looking at everyone else sitting in
what looks like a parking lot. Commuters going from one suburb to
another may wish to drive around a big city than try to drive through
Unless you are either telecommuting, close to home or are on a
starvation diet, you are going to need to eat at least one meal away
from home. If the company has a refrigerator and a microwave, then you
may get off cheap by eating last night's left overs for lunch. Large
cost conscious companies (read as cheap) may have cafeterias, so they
do not feel the need to provide access to refrigerator and microwave
for every employee. Employees at better companies or more privileged
departments may have access to both a kitchenette and a cafeteria. On
the way to the site keep a lookout for nearby restaurants and which
make the three working food groups
If items 2 and 3 are in the area, keep $20 at all times, in case you
are "asked to participate in a working lunch" (read as if you want to
stay in the real loop....).
If the job you are seeking requires special
tools, will the company provide them or are you expected to have them
because you are a "professional"? Many companies will provide some of
the bigger tools as part of the company's facilities, but may nickel
and dime the employee to death requiring the employee to purchase small
items that have a tendency to walk off. Wire cutters, screw drivers,
etc... do have a tendency to disappear in even the most honest work
environments, especially in cases where the employees frequently travel
to client sites. If the company says that you are responsible for
providing your own tools ask about materials. A computer technician may
be required to purchase their own soldering iron, but who is going to
foot the bill for the solder itself? Yet again you may be nickeled and
dimed from your paycheck.
If you seek a job that allows you or expects you to
work at home, do you have the facilities? If you don't then who foots
the bill? Even if the company says that they will offer certain
allowances, you may have to wait before they'll reimburse you of any
such expenses. Once when the company pays you back for anything that
you received to do your job, what other strings are attached? Some
companies will ask for all physical materials back when you leave.
Other companies may offer to sell such items to you at a reduced price,
depending your service time and the age of the equipment at the time of
Education is a touchy item; there is no
legal and ethical way they can take that back from you. However, most
companies may deduct any monies they feel due from your next check.
Once again, ask how will the company determine what I may owe? Will I
be responsible for the costs of all classes I took during a certain
period, or for the classes that I specifically asked to attend? The
company may also require you to attend classes to acquire skills that
will be of little use to you elsewhere. Ask about your pre-employment
agreement, as such classes could make your resignation a very expensive
Becoming part of some company's work force means that
you have to join other organizations that will take both your personal
time and your money. Unions are quite common among blue collar workers,
and at some companies include office (white-collar) employees as well.
The union will get a piece of your check as they represent you, like it
or not. Additionally unions may require your presence at meetings that
may be held during non-working hours. Unions can also call strikes or
encourage your company to lock you out due to stalled talks. Such
events can be expensive, as union strike pay is only a fraction of your
Larger companies may have
certain employee services in house while smaller companies may have
deals with local service providers. Large companies may offer in house
childcare services as to attract and retain employees who are starting
families. Other personnel service companies looking to attract business
may offer discounts to employees. A restaurant within walking distance
may offer a discount to employees as to encourage you to stop in. An
insurance agent may do the same, hoping you'll bring your business to
the work area rather than keeping it near home.
Some companies have highly specialized and expensive tools
required by their industry, which you may have a use for in your
personnel life. If what you intend to do does not interfere with
company business, you may be able to use them on your own time. Ask, do
not assume. Once again, depending on your situation, this could be a
perk worth considering. Many companies, especially ones that target
consumers (as opposed to those who target other companies) may offer
discounts on products or services that you either use daily or may be
of some interest to you with the discounts. A beverage bottler may
offer employees the product at wholesale or distributor prices, a deep
discount from retail. Figure how much of that product or competitor's
your family buys and how much you'll save with that discount. Other
companies may make or offer services that you'd normally not buy or use
because of the price or your lifestyle. Membership at a health club is
an expensive item, but as a perk, can enrich your life.
saved is worth about $1.50 earned. Back when Benjamin Franklin
penny saved is a penny earned" there were no income taxes.
government can only tax you on the money you earn and spend, they have
not figured out how to tax you on the value you get from your money.
In short, benefit plans are confusing and comparing one company's benefit plan to another is like comparing apples to oranges -- don't. Instead ask yourself which one is better for you. When someone asks you if you like apples or oranges better, do you compare the two? Most likely not, but instead you choose based on what you feel about each fruit then compare that feeling you have on each one. In short you must see what benefits, responsibilities and perks come with your paycheck. A family breadwinner may do much better at a $35K/year job with a good benefit plan than at a $40K/year job with fewer benefits and/or more professional responsibilities