How to Compare Employer Benefits Packages

Tips for Comparing Job Benefit Plans When Evaluating Job Offers

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Employer benefits packages are often overlooked by job searchers. Once you have found your dream job or your dream salary, the questions pretty much stop there.

But what if you are considering more than one job offer, or deciding whether to leave your current job for a lateral move? In those cases, employer benefits may factor heavily into your decision.

What Benefit Packages Include

Benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, vacation and sick leave, and life and disability insurance can represent up to 30 percent of your compensation.

How to Compare Employer Benefits Packages

Great benefits can help increase job satisfaction and can help you make or save more money over time. Here’s what to pay attention to when comparing employer benefits.

Retirement plan. There are different types of retirement plans, and companies may offer a combination that includes more than one. You can start to evaluate them by defining your terms.

Some companies offer what are known as defined benefit plans, which most people would call traditional pensions. Employers offering defined benefit plans make regular contributions to the plan, and the plan guarantees a certain amount of monthly income for the employee in retirement.

The other common option is a defined contribution plan, which includes plans like the 401(k). In this type of plan, employees make regular contributions to the account through their pre-tax paychecks. The money is invested and may grow over time, but there is no guaranteed return and the employee manages both the investment and the distributions.

Small companies may instead offer an individual retirement account (IRA), SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA. These work like a 401(k), but may have different contribution limits. Roth IRAs may also be offered, into which you put after-tax dollars but the money is not taxed again when the money is withdrawn at retirement.

An employer offering a defined contribution plan or IRA, the employer may also match contributions, which is an added benefit. Some employers will match 50 percent of the amount you put into the account, up to six percent of income. The plan also may be vested, which means that the amount of benefits you receive accrue over time.

Health insurance. If you are considering a full-time job at a mid-size or large company, health insurance will likely be part of the benefits you are offered. A full 84 percent of full time employees at US companies with more than 100 workers have health insurance through work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average employer pays about $6,025 for individual coverage, with the employee contributing about $1,081 in 2014. Employers pay an average $16,834 for family coverage, with workers contributing about $4,823 per year, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. Numbers like those explain why employer health coverage is so valuable. If you have an option, look for the coverage you need, check if your doctor is in-network, and compare how much each plan costs in terms of monthly paycheck deductions as well as deductibles, copayments and prescriptions.

Dental and vision coverage. Around 60 percent of Americans still get dental coverage through work, and around the same number have private health insurance that includes vision. Dental and vision coverage will not likely sway your job choice, but if you are considering two offers, check to see if your providers are in-network and how much you will pay in annual premiums, copays and deductibles.

Life insurance. Nearly two-thirds of full-time employees are offered life insurance through work, and it’s one of the most popular benefits around. About 97 percent of people participate in the company’s life insurance benefits. It’s inexpensive, and often available without any physical tests, and typically pays at least a year’s worth of salary should something happen to you. Find out if the company pays for coverage and how much, and if you as an employee can purchase additional coverage at a discounted rate.

Disability. Companies with more than 100 employees will probably offer some sort of disability insurance benefit.  But most of it is short-term disability, which covers a percentage of your salary if you are out of work for a period of time that goes beyond your allotted vacation or sick time. The less common option is long-term disability, which is offered by less than half of US employers according to LIMRA. Since an estimated one in five employees will miss work due to disability, insurance that covers months or years of missed work if you become ill or injured outside of work is a valuable benefit. 

Vacation time. Vacations are not guaranteed in the US but we get an average 13 days of paid vacation time per year. An offer that includes more than that may be worth considering if time off is important to you. Remember to verify if sick days and holidays are included in vacation time. Some companies now offer “paid time off” (PTO) days that can seem very generous on the surface. Remember PTO can include all vacation, personal, sick and holiday time.

Daycare. Whether you have kids now or not, on-site or company-sponsored daycare is a valuable benefit. Study after study has shown that daycare increases employee retention, productivity and referrals, and the availability of on-site daycare is a big influence on prospective employees. When considering a job at a company offering daycare, you can ask to take a tour of the daycare facility.

Work-life balance. Quality of life is more difficult to quantify, and it may be difficult to get a clear picture from a prospective employer. Along with the benefits listed above, you can learn about the hours you are expected to put in each week. Remember, your time has a value. If your workweek is 40 hours you make more per hour than if it’s 80 hours. If a company extends a degree of schedule flexibility to hard-working employees, the job may be worth more than another offering a few thousand extra dollars in salary.

Read More: What to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer

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