As a student and freelancer, I know how important employer-provided benefits are because I don’t have them. I mean, sure, I still live at home (which, modesty aside, means my working environment’s better than Google’s), the money I make is purely for both my savings account and the occasional whim, and since I’m not yet 26, I still belong to my parents’ health insurance plan.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about benefits because I read up a lot on this precisely so that I’m ready for when I do get a good full-time job. (Because so far the PT jobs I’ve held have left many things to be desired benefit-wise.)
So for this post I set out to find out how attuned my fellow Millennials (ages 18 to 33) were to their employer-provided benefits. Believe it or not, many Millennials don’t even take the time to educate themselves about the benefits options being offered to them–nearly half admit they spent 30 minutes or less preparing for and selecting their benefits choices in 2013, according to the 2014 Aflac WorkForces Report.
To try to debunk this trend, I interviewed two Millennials and I was pleased to find they know a LOT about their benefits. Granted, two members of a sample isn’t representative but it does give our generation hope. My questions were simple but what I enjoyed the most was how thorough their responses were. Clearly, these two spent much more than 30 minutes looking at the benefits their employers offered.
AVA, 25, Verizon
I’ve known my friend Ava since college. The gal graduated either Summa or Magna Cum Laude (either way, it’s impressive) and with an Honors B.S. in Business Administration. She’s been with Verizon for about three years, where she started in retail before moving on to support, where she currently is. She expects to be able to move up the ladder before the end of the year.
Ava receives a multitude of benefits: Sick time, paid vacation days, Flex hours, Holiday pay, tuition reimbursement, discounts (incl. for car rental companies), on-site (non-free) gym, health insurance (+ FMLA) and dental, 401K matching, short-term incentive pay (where employees compensated depending on whether the company met its goals for the year), Employee Assistance Program (incl. Counseling, financial advising, and elderly/child care assistance/info), among many others.
She may get a TON of benefits but she doesn’t see them all as vital. Actually, she considers medical & dental coverage, paid vacation, and sick leave to be the most important to her. On the other hand, she does wish Verizon offered to pay for her phone (which was the norm when she was in retail), a free gym with trainers, and paid time to volunteer.
CHRIS, 30, [Undisclosed employer]
To you all he’s Chris, but to me he’s the boyfriend [and now husband!]. (Which makes this the first time I talk about him on the blog! You should be honored.) Chris moved here from Alabama in March of this year after having gotten gotten a job offer at an IT company headquartered in Japan. The guy knows computers. And finances. And benefits. Read on…
Benefit-wise, NTT and Verizon aren’t very different. For instance, Chris gets a company-sponsored health plan + Health savings account, gym dues reimbursement of $150/yr (which, because he does Crossfit, covers probably just a month), Reebok discounts, free on-site gym, 401(K) matching (though his employer won’t match until he’s there at least a year and then it’s $0.25 for every dollar), eye & dental coverage, paid vacation, the option to work from home a day or two each week, flexible schedule, the occasional fun event, a nap room, and an on-site kitchenette.
A 401K is a retirement savings account that takes advantage of a specific tax code to allow deductions (i.e. deposits) to be made from your paycheck on a before tax basis. Example: If your gross pay is $900 and your 401k deduction is $100, your taxes for that paycheck are calculated on $800 instead of $900. Some employers will also make contributions on behalf of employees (called “matching contributions”). There is a limit set each year to how much can be deposited. Earnings and deposits grow on a tax-free basis until withdrawn. —Gen Y Planning
Like Ava, Chris also considers his health plan the most vital benefit, though he’d also want a nice company car (not that the one he has now isn’t nice b/c it is), a fuel plan, and a stock purchase plan (where the company matches a percentage of an employee’s base salary for stock investment).
However, unlike Ava, who told me she’s taken advantage of the benefits that are most relevant to her and therefore had no complaints, Chris let me know of a couple he thought were unnecessary: The work-from-home option (though he admitted this “might make more sense once it snows” [umm you think?]) and the little gym/workout room that only has machines & dumbbells.
Chris is a big fan of his company-sponsored health savings account, to which he tries to contribute as much as possible. If your company offers a health savings account as part of a high deductible health plan, make sure you contribute as much as the plan allows so you’ll have money set aside to help meet the deductible and other payments.
Like Ava and Chris, you need to educate yourself about how your insurance deductible works. Choosing a plan with a low monthly premium and a high deductible may give you more money in your paycheck, but could also result in unaffordable payments if you need medical care beyond covered preventive services.
Lastly, you need to think of health insurance premiums as an essential monthly expense like rent, rather than a discretionary expense, like entertainment. This way, you’ll be better prepared instead of being one emergency away from financial disaster.
I may be biased, but all the benefits my interviewees–and many others like them–get are definitely well-deserved. After all, today’s millennial generation has a LOT to offer the workplace: They are perceived to be more entrepreneurial, optimistic about the future, and more comfortable with technology than their elder colleagues.
Are YOU well aware of your employer’s benefits? Which are the most important for you and/or which do you wish you could have?
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.