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Yay! You Got the Job Offer. Now, About Those Benefits...

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POS and EPO and HSA... oh my! What does it all mean?! With so many choices and legal lingo we're not familiar with, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Stepping into your first job, (or new job), is a daunting task in itself and the last thing you need to do is worry about picking the wrong benefits plan after you've taken the job. But no need to fear, 24 Seven is here with 5 questions you should ask about benefits before taking the job.

What is your personal benefits plan?

It's always good to ask what plan your person of contact is on because odds are, they did their research and found the best benefits plan so you don't have to. HOWEVER, what works for one person may not work for you, so it's best you ask for several opinions if possible. For example, some companies might offer Aetna with different plan options such as POS, EPO, and HSA. Upon being hired I immediately asked HR (human resources), "Ok, what plan do you have and why did you choose it?" because it's important to see what those around me had done. An answer that may surprise you might be a benefits plan that doesn't even fall under the umbrella of what the company offers. With more and more options becoming available, health care plans like Obamacare or Oscar may work best and be more affordable for you.

How do I know if something is in-network or out-of-network?

In-network, out-of-network, potato, patato same thing right? Wrong. If your company's benefits only offer an in-network plan, that means you need to find doctors, specialists, dentists, etc. that are covered under the umbrella of your provider, (i.e. Aetna). This can be especially confusing for those of us who just moved, (like me). Luckily I'm not tied to any particular doctor in my home state so I'm open to options. If you do have trusted doctors from your home state or your current state you will need to check to make sure they're in-network so you're covered. Now the big question, how do you figure out what's in and what's out? You call. Not the answer you were hoping for I'm sure, but unfortunately that is the only way as of now. You can also Google your health care provider to find any helpful bits on their website but cross reference the information to make sure it's up-to-date. Blue Cross Blue Shield provides great insight on their FAQ page.

Does your company offer any soft perks?

"Soft perks" are words I had never heard of before 24 Seven. If your company already offers them, welcome to the club, it's a really nice club to be in. If not, read on...Soft perks are added bonuses the company offers like discounted transit, in-house yoga, free lunch, pet care, etc. The real benefits of soft perks, (no pun intended) are happier work environments, additional compensation, and incentive to work harder. I mean who wouldn't love to take a yoga break from keeping their dog company while eating free lunch... all at work?! If you can't get the salary you desire, the next thing to look into is benefits and soft perks. If your company offers free lunch, that's a necessary expense you no longer have to pay. The same goes for a gym membership, that's something that will no longer cost you or something new to look forward to, for free!

Is there a 401K plan and does the company match the contributions?

This is HUGE. Many young people don't take retirement seriously and why would they? They're young! Eventually, all good things come to an end and we need to face the reality that while we're young we need to save, save, save. As we get older the risk of health issues increases along with countless other joys, all of which need to be covered by money. In brief a 401K plan is basically a retirement fund your company offers that you pay into but can't touch for a certain amount of time. The best case scenario is your company offers a 401K and matches your contribution. This means whatever percent of your paycheck you choose to contribute, the company matches some if not all of it. There may be limitations so be cautious. (Don't worry we'll get into more financial advice next month, so stay tuned!)

How did the company choose the current benefits plan?

This is a great question that not many people would think to ask because why would it matter, who cares? Well, you should! For all you know your potential employer may have picked the cheapest plan for the company which doesn't necessarily mean the cheapest for you. On the other hand the company may have picked this particular plan because the founder uses it personally, then transferred it over to the business. Word to the wise: whatever the founder is doing is what you want to be doing, (not only in regards to benefits packages). The reason why a company chose a particular benefits plan is just as important as actually picking a plan. It says a lot about who you're working for and it may foreshadow how your future with the company will look.