Landing a Job and Getting Paid Well For It [Part 3]

As I mentioned in my last post, cybersecurity pays well and the cybersecurity industry is woefully understaffed. Professionals predict there to be 3.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs by 2021. This means applicants have a great opportunity to get paid well and negotiate their compensation.

When you apply for a position in tech, you should, at a minimum, be offered the following benefits: health insurance, life insurance, a 401k, and some amount of paid time off. Other incentives are pretty common in the workplaces as well, but these are the big three you should understand.

Benefits

Healthcare

Even at the best of times, health insurance can be confusing. I am not an expert, and won’t claim to be. However, I will give you a few items you should know about when trying to understand options with your company’s health insurance plan(s).

A deductible is how much you must pay towards your own healthcare before your insurance will begin to cover the costs. For example, if you have an insurance plan with a $1,000 deductible and get in an accident needing an expensive surgery, then you will have to pay $1,000 of that out of pocket and the remaining costs will be covered all (or in part) by your insurance provider.

A copay is the flat fee charged for certain medical services like routine checkups, therapy sessions, or receiving prescription drugs. These fees may apply before or after you hit your deductible– it all depends on your plan.

Coinsurance is the percentage of your medical costs you have to pay once you’ve hit your deductible. Let’s say you hit your deductible and need regular physical therapy as you’re recovering from your previous accident. If your plan has 35% co-insurance and each physical therapy session is $125 dollars, you should expect to pay $43.75.

Health insurance isn’t actually designed to cover all your run of the mill expenses. Up until a plan’s federally mandated out-of-pocket maximum, you will typically share the costs of medical visits, prescriptions, and other incidentals. After that point, your insurance will start to cover 100% of your medical bills. Your annual deductible, co-payments, and co-insurance all count towards this maximum, your monthly premium (cost to have health insurance each month) does not. This out-of-pocket maximum resets annually.

Insurance plans will usually have these features with different limits. Higher deductible costs may be paired with a lower co-insurance and monthly premium, or vice versa. Choosing a plan that works for you could depend on if you need regular medical services like mental or physical therapy, medications, or regular checkups for familial health concerns. Do your research as to what you are being offered before choosing a plan at random.

As an additional note: any tech company worth their salt trying to keep their employees for a long time will be offering you medical, dental, and vision insurance. You shouldn’t be settling for less.

Retirement Plans

Just because you’re just starting your cybersecurity career doesn’t mean you should forget to plan for the future.
Don’t be like me, who just found out that after 2 years of working for the same company that I never set up my 401k contributions.

Yes, I know. Let me go cry in a corner now.

A 401k is an account that you contribute a portion of your paycheck to before taxes. You do not initially have to pay taxes on this money or it’s interest, dividends, or investment gains. This money is subject to Federal and most State income taxes when it is withdrawn from the account, generally at retirement.

Many companies offer to match your contributions to a 401k up to a certain amount. For example, if their contribution limit is $100 a month and you contribute only $50 of each month’s salary, they will match you $50 and you’ll have saved $100 total towards retirement. If you contribute $200 a month, your company will still only contribute up to their limit of $100, making your monthly savings $300.

(Without getting too deep into it, there is another type of account called a Roth Deferral. The money from the Roth savings account comes from your already taxed paycheck. The main difference between these two options is withdrawals of contributions and earnings from a Roth are generally not taxed on or after age 59½. The long and the short of it is: it all comes down to taxes, and who really understands taxes?)

The advice that I have personally received about 401Ks is that you should contribute exactly what your company is willing to match. It’s generally an amount that doesn’t bite too deep into your paycheck and you’re getting the maximum out of your company’s contributions. Sometimes you do have to ask yourself not what you can do for your employer, but what your employer can do for you.

Paid Time Off

There’s a lot of different types of time off and a lot of different ways a company might offer it to you. Here are some of the basics you’ll come across in your hiring packet:

Since we live in America, most folks can probably name off a handful of common paid holidays off: 4th of July, Christmas, Easter, etc. Unfortunately most companies only offer paid holidays off for Christian/Catholic holidays, so asking what a company’s policy for other holidays might be important if you are a practitioner of any other major religion.

Sick leave is what it sounds like. If you’re so ill that you are unable to come to work, you can take sick days to recover. Companies might have different policies on how many sick days they offer a new employee. On average, you’re looking at about 5-9 paid sick days per year.

Sometimes, vacation time, sick leave, and personal days are all lumped under the umbrella of Paid-Time Off (PTO) and all time off is pulled from that number of allotted days. This does have the downside where you might lose vacation time if you were particularly ill one month, or if life came at you in a way you weren’t expecting.

If you’ve gotten into an accident and are left physically or mentally unable to do your job, that would fall under short term or long term disability.

If a family member has died and you need a few days to go to their funeral or get their affairs in order, that’s what bereavement leave is for.

If you or your partner are about to have or recently had a child, you can talk to your company about taking parental leave (otherwise known as maternal or paternal leave) to take care of the kid.


Summary

Tech companies make a lot of money, and when they’re hiring on employees they should be offering all of these benefits in an effort to keep you on as a new hire. A lot of these items require some research and understanding of what’s best for you. If you’re ever confused about how any of the above items are talked about in your offer letter, always reach out to HR. They’re there to answer questions, and they know that insurance or investment accounts can be confusing. Use the resources you’ve been given!

Much love to those who are also confused when calculating taxes,
WebWitch

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