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College Grads - Maximize Your Benefits

Aug 17, 2007
So you've graduated from college. Congratulations, that's no small feat. Now it's time to roll out the resume and dive headfirst into the job market. Chances are you'll endure your share of interviews and meet a few nice and not so nice people along the way before you get that first job offer. When it comes, it's time to celebrate. Your four (or more) years of hitting the books have finally paid off. The company will likely hang an enticing salary number in front of you.

However, before you bite, make sure to look 'under the hood' of that company. Sure, the salary might look nice, but make sure to pore over their benefits package before signing on. A lucrative package can be worth thousands more to you in the long run than just your salary. Meanwhile, a healthy pay rate with shoddy benefits could cost you dearly.

Generally speaking

Start by talking about generalities. Do you have to sign up for the entire package or can you pick and choose your benefits? Who's covered? Is there a monthly fee? When do benefits kick in? Are they taxable? All questions you should ask before signing up for anything.

Medical, Dental & Vision

These are undoubtedly the biggest features of a benefits package, as they can save you thousands in medical care. For medical, weigh your options carefully. Find out what types of plans are offered (indemnity, managed care), who will be covered, what your premiums, deductibles and co-pays will be, and if there are any exclusions. For dental, learn if the plan covers preventative, surgical and orthodontic care and to what extent. When looking at vision care, find out exactly what the plan covers and what the maximums are. Vision care might not be a big deal to you now, but down the road you'll probably need it.

Life & Disability

Life insurance probably isn't a top priority for you, and it shouldn't be. But in case something should happen to you and you have a family to care for, life insurance is an excellent benefit to have. If you can get a good rate - some employers even offer a set amount for free, look hard into signing up. As far as accidental death and business travel insurance, if they offer it free of charge, why not?

Disability insurance is also something you should look into, especially if your employer is offering it at a cut rate. Accidents happen, and if you're put out of work for any amount of time, disability insurance could save you.

Vacation, Holidays & Time off

Take a look at what the employer offers first-year employees for vacation time. Many times it's little to nothing. Find out how you can accrue vacation time, the maximum you can have, and if you can cash in unused days. Look into the company's paid holiday schedule. There should be at least six, and anything above that is to be considered a bonus. Also find out if they offer 'floating' holidays. As far as sick or personal days, look into how many you get per calendar year and if you can use them for vacation time as well.


Most employers offer 401(k) retirement plans. Check to see how much of your contribution the company will match a percentage of and when you will be vested in that money. If you're lucky, the company will also offer a pension plan, though these are becoming endangered. A pension plan is where a company will put money into a retirement account, with no contributions from you. You'll surely have to work a set amount of time to receive any pension dollars, but it's an excellent benefit if you can get it.

Stock Options & Profit Sharing

If you're being wooed by a publicly traded company, chances are they'll offer you their stock. They'll sell it to you at a discount of 10 to 15 percent with no broker fees. This is huge. Often times you'll be able to sell or reinvest your dividends without incurring a commission fee. It's a fabulous benefit and one you should definitely take advantage of. Often times a company will reward their employees through profit sharing plans. It's not guaranteed every year, and the amount fluctuates, but hey, it's free money.

On the fringe

In a never ending quest to retain employees, many companies today are going above and beyond the run of the mill benefits package to keep their workers happy. These fringe benefits include employee assistance programs, parking reimbursement, commuting cost reimbursement, tuition reimbursement, health clubs, and even on site child care.
About the Author
Joseph Kenny writes for the Credit Card Guide, offering views on credit cards in the UK, visit them today for some great 0% balance transfer offers and start clearing credit card debt today.
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