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Use your benefits...Don't be leaving money on the Table!


As you get close to the holidays, I understand things are going to get crazy and just when you thought you had all you could handle for a workload, there come some more.

I like to think that I'm pretty busy but this month I signed up for an 18-credit hour graduate certificate program for Cybersecurity Foundations The course cost $4160 which I don't have but one of the benefits of teaching can be either a deep discount or a scholarship award that will pay for the course.

Often times we get too wrapped around the bi-monthly take-home pay. That's all good and well but when we take a job we also have to look at the benefits. These benefits can add up to tens of thousands of dollars on top of our salary. For example, in 2005 I took a full-time job with a huge nationwide firm starting out at $51,000 a year but the benefits package totaled an additional $26,000 on top of that.

Granted, most employers don't think their employees will take advantage of most of the benefits especially the educational. That's where they were wrong with me. I was able to get reimbursed for the cost of my education at $14,000 a year. I was also allowed another benefit of $4800 for technical training. Finally, I was also reimbursed for every certification exam I took and passed.

I was the only one working on the entire third floor that took full advantage of this benefit. The senior partners mentioned to my senior manager that they had noticed the amount of money I was costing the firm. I'm not the person to be told I can get my education, technical training, and my certifications reimbursed.

When I have benefits like this, I make sure I sign up for as many courses as it takes to squeeze every last dime from that benefit. Not taking advantage of benefits that reimburse you for going to school, getting certified and pay for your technical training is like throwing money away and once it's gone, you can't go back and get it, it's gone forever.

Of course, the ideal situation is being offered a fat salary and a great benefits package. But when you're starting out, you're looking at an hourly wage of somewhere between 11 and possibly $15 an hour to start. But as I've shown you, there are additional ways you can squeeze money out of your employer by just taking advantage of the benefits package. With that being said, you also need to be able to do the math and realize it's not just the bi-monthly take-home check you need to consider when taking a job.

Back in 2001, I took a job as a technical trainer. The job started me out at $35,000 a year which was a good jump from my previous salary of $32,000. What made me take the job was the benefits package. For every new course I taught, I received an additional $1500 a year toward my salary. To teach a new course, I had to be certified but the company also paid for all my certifications and again, I had the opportunity for additional technical training at no cost to me.

One year later, I was making $51,000 a year as a trainer and I had an "I love me wall" full all kinds of certifications that didn't cost me a dime. I stayed with the company for four years until they finally had enough of me and showed me the door. Took me an hour to take down all my certs.

Make sure you check out the benefits package and not just the bi-monthly take-home pay. You could be leaving money on the table.

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