It’s your first full-time job. Congratulations! Besides your daily duties, what else should you know? Your new HR department may not explain some of the finer points of your workplace contract unless you ask. Here are four key elements you may not understand fully. Learn as much as you can about these offerings before you sign on and start to working.
A 401k is a retirement savings plan that’s usually offered by an independent investment firm (Fidelity, for example) and sponsored (or provided by) your employer. You can use this retirement plan to sock away a portion of your paycheck every year. You won’t pay taxes on this money until you remove it from the account. Some employers “match” the savings you put into the account. That means that if you were to put away 5% of your income, they deposit an equal amount each year or month. Aim to select the highest percentage you can put away.
Your employer at your first full-time job may also provide a company sponsored insurance plan that covers health care costs for you and your family. Some companies also offer life insurance plans as well. Companies do this for several reasons.
1.) It’s mandated by law for large employers
2.) Offering strong healthcare benefits helps companies attract top candidates
3.) The company can gain tax benefits by making health insurance available to employees.
The company usually doesn’t pay your insurance premiums. Instead, you will pay them directly to the insurance provider (or have these payments taken out of your salary). But since your company can obtain discounts by sponsoring large numbers of policyholders, you may pay less for company-sponsored insurance than you would if you bought a plan on your own.
Every year, you’ll have to file your taxes. This means that you’ll send a report to the IRS that shows how much net income you collected that year. Do this on or before the due date (April 15). You will pay an annual tax rate that’s based on your total income minus “deductions,” such as charitable donations you made that year and the family members you provide for (or, “dependents”). Tax time simply means reporting your previous year’s income minus your deductions and paying the IRS a specific percentage of the remainder. Your employers will report the amount they paid you. As the year goes by, the amount you’re likely to owe will be incrementally extracted from your paycheck. So when April comes around and it’s time to settle up, you (most likely) won’t have a big bill to pay. If you paid too much during the year, you’ll get the overage back. You may have done this with part-time gigs already, but try to prepare taxes early for your first full-time job to avoid errors.
Your first full-time job may involve a union that you may join. In some workplaces, union membership isn’t optional — it’s required. In other instances, no union exists. Union membership usually involves paying dues each year that are used to maintain the organization and take care of administrative fees. The membership may also mean mandatory attendance at union meetings. This may sound like a hassle, but union membership can protect you from exploitation by your employer, which may take the form of mistreatment, unsafe work conditions, baseless termination, or unfair pay. Before you decide to join or not to join your union, ask some questions and make sure you fully understand what you have to gain or lose.
If you need to know more, just ask! Take your questions to your company’s HR department, or contact the company that provides your insurance plan or 401k. Meanwhile, use the career development resources on MyPerfectResume to find an employer you can trust.