Are You Getting the Benefits You Deserve?

Job-seekers tend to focus on salary first and foremost, but your paycheck is only part of the equation. Benefits account for nearly 31 percent of a private-sector employee's compensation package and 37 percent of a public-sector employee's, according to September 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Getting the Benefits You Deserve

It pays to ask lots of questions before accepting a job offer. While you might have little negotiating room when it comes to benefits, the "health-401(k)-PTO" offered by your potential employer might not be as generous as what you currently enjoy. The devil is in the details.

Drill Down on Health Insurance

Make sure you fully understand a company's health insurance benefits and how they will affect you and your family before accepting a position. Ask whether the plan is a PPO or an HMO, and ask how much employees are asked to contribute. A generous employer contribution might offset a lower salary.

Also, be sure you're clear on any enrollment period and waiting periods for health insurance. That way you can make the right decision regarding COBRA coverage from your previous employer.

Consider Dental and Vision Offerings

Not every company offers dental insurance. If your potential employer does, ask whether it covers preventive care only or if there's at least partial coverage for major dental or orthodontic work.

Vision insurance is less common, but if you need glasses or contacts, it's much appreciated. Ask if it's an option and how much it costs.

Investigate the Other Insurance Benefits

If you're new to the workforce, you might overlook the importance of employer-provided life insurance as well as short-term and long-term disability benefits. But if the worst happens, these can mean a lot to you and your family. How much benefit does the group life insurance policy provide? Is there an option to purchase supplemental coverage?

If short-term and long-term disability insurance are offered, what percentage of income is paid as a benefit? How long do benefits last if you're unable to work?

Research the Retirement Program

A company's 401(k) match is a great way to expand your income and save for the future. Ask about percentage matches, required contributions and vesting periods. Also, what educational resources are available to employees?

A pension is a rarity in the private sector, but if you're offered a position that offers one, don't underestimate the value of this benefit. A lower salary now could mean additional financial security later in life.

Pin Down Paid Time Off

The structure and policies surrounding a company's PTO offering can make a huge difference in your happiness on the job. A more traditional policy that distinguishes between sick and vacation time could be frustrating to both parents who needs ample sick time for children and the healthy employee who wants to seek the world. Ask whether you'll accrue PTO from your hire date and how long you must wait to take PTO.

Ask About Paid Holidays

Every day you're not at work but get paid is basically a raise, so find out whether you can expect the basic holidays or some extra bank holidays, too. Nonprofit employers might offer lower salaries, but they tend to shine when it comes to paid holiday leave.

Don't Forget the Extras

Sometimes the "nice to have" benefits make a big difference in terms of your job satisfaction. Wellness benefits, on-site childcare, tuition reimbursement and even snacks in the break room can all improve your quality of life. Consider these as part of the compensation package.

You spend a lot of time at work, and benefits help make work a pleasant place to be. Don't be shy about asking questions, and don't be afraid to accept a slightly lower salary if it's offset by exceptional benefits.

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