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Great Job! Good Benefits...?
CampusCareerCenter.comBecoming ill, retiring, and looking for tax breaks may not be on the top of your mind, but benefits can be an important part of your compensation package.

As you consider job offers, pay attention to the benefits offered by prospective employers. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation!

Here is information about some commonly offered benefits:

Health insurance

This is important for three financial reasons:

-Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s far cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own.

-Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—the average cost of providing health insurance is about $3,500 to $4,000 per year per employee. If you were to purchase health insurance on your own, you could expect to pay around $5,000 per year, which would come out of your pocket after you’ve paid federal, state, and local taxes on it.

-The third advantage, of course, is if you get sick or have a roller- blading (or skiing or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is covered.

401(k) plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. You might not believe it, but you should start planning for your retirement now! In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into certain types of investments offered through your employer. And, this plan is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs.

Flex spending account

Also known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent care costs. Like a 401(k), this can be a handy way of trimming your tax bill.

Childcare assistance

Some employers subsidize the cost of childcare and/or offer information and referral services for daycare facilities in a community.

Employee assistance program (EAP)

An EAP typically involves confidential counseling to help you resolve personal concerns that may affect job performance. EAPs deal with situations such as substance abuse and marital or family problems.

Flextime

This arrangement allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.

Paid time off (PTO) bank

The idea of getting a certain number of days for vacation and a certain number of days for illness each year is fading. PTO banks group various paid time off options (e.g., vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days) into one bank from which you withdraw days. You are given an allotment of days for the year, which you allocate as you wish. In some instances, you may also purchase additional time off from the bank, but the number of additional days you may purchase is usually capped.

Retirement benefits

Fewer employers are contributing to pension plans that pay out a guaranteed fixed amount monthly to retirees. What you may find available to you instead: individual retirement accounts, profit-sharing plans, stock ownership plans, or 401(k) plans.

Stock ownership plans

You are given or are allowed to purchase shares of your company’s stock. The amount is usually based on length of service or earnings.

Telecommuting

You may work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide the office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Tuition assistance/reimbursement

Hate to think about going back to school? Never say never—especially since lifelong learning is the way to increase your job security. Returning to the classroom is easier when your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for nonbusiness-related classes and for supplies such as books.

Wellness programs

Wellness programs consist of activities and courses designed to encourage workers to adopt healthy lifestyles, and can help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and keep healthcare costs down. Typical offerings include smoking-cessation courses, stress-reduction courses, exercise classes, nutrition information, and information on common health problems such as high blood pressure.

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