Understanding The Benefits That Come With Your New Full-Time Job

understanding your employee benefits


So you landed your first full-time job. Congrats! Your first day is sure to be exciting, as well as filled with lots of paperwork. But don’t stress — here’s everything you need to know to understand your employee benefits that come with your new full-time gig.

Direct Deposit Form

First things first: Make sure you get paid in the fastest way possible by signing up for direct deposit. Direct deposit means your paycheck will appear in your checking account ASAP on payday. All you have to do is fill out a simple form with some pertinent information. This includes:

  • Your bank’s name
  • Your checking account number
  • Your bank’s routing number

You can get your checking account number and your bank’s routing number from a bank statement or a check.

Speaking of checks, you’ll need a voided one to sign up for direct deposit. A voided check is a check from your bank that has the word “VOID” written across the top of it. Yup, just write the word “VOID” in all caps on top of a blank check in black or blue pen and bring it into work with you. The payroll/HR team will need a copy of it to get you set up with direct deposit.

IRS Form W-4

On your first day, or in the days leading up to it, you’ll be asked to fill out a W-4 form. This is a form from the IRS that allows you to pay taxes out of your paycheck to the federal government. It determines how much money is withheld from your paycheck by your employer for taxes. The amount of tax you pay depends on a number of factors, such as if you’re single or married, have children or not and more.

In order to fill out the W-4, you’ll need some information, including:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your social security number
  • Your marital status
  • The number of allowances you’re claiming
  • Any additional money you want to withhold from your paycheck
  • Whether or not you’re exempt from paying taxes

The first four items are pretty standard, but come prepared with that information if you don’t know it by heart. The next few items can be a little confusing.

understanding your employee benefits taxes

Pexels/Christina Morillo

The number of allowances you’re claiming means the number of people you’re responsible for, such as children or a spouse that doesn’t work. The more allowances you claim, the less tax will be taken from your paycheck. So if you are claiming no allowances (writing “0” in that spot), you’ll have a lot of taxes taken out of your paycheck. If you’re claiming yourself as an allowance (writing “1” in that spot), then you’ll have slightly less tax taken from your paychecks. You’ll get some of this money back during income tax season in the spring every year.

The additional money that you want to be withheld from your paycheck is any amount you feel you need withheld and paid to the government. You might fill this part in if you underpaid your taxes until now and want to make up for it. If it’s your first job, you don’t have to worry about this field.

Lastly, you’re most likely not exempt from taxes if this is your first, full-time salaried job and are making decent money. The only way you’d be exempt is if you’re single, under the age 65 and make less than $9,525 per year. Then you’re exempt from paying taxes. If you’re not exempt, you can leave this spot blank.

Form I-9

Form I-9 is used to determine your eligibility of employment. You’ll fill this out for your employer so they understand if you’re a U.S. citizen or not and what the parameters around your employment are, such as if you have a Visa to work in this country. Again, like a W-4 form, you’ll need some basic information:

  • Your ame, address, date of birth and social security number
  •  Your status as a citizen, noncitizen national of the U.S., lawful permanent resident or an alien authorized to work until a certain day

In order to process your I-9 form, you also need to have an approved document with you. An approved document for an I-9 includes a passport, U.S. driver license, social security card, permanent resident card, voter’s registration card and more. You can see the full list and the requirements around each document on the third page of your I-9 form.

Insurance Benefits

If your new job comes with insurance benefits, it can be smart to sign up for the extra coverage. The most common kinds of insurance offered through work include health, dental, vision and life. Even if you’re under the age of 26 and still on a parent’s insurance plans, it might be wise to sign up for the extra coverage just in case of an emergency.

Read through all of the paperwork slowly. You’ll most likely be able to ask questions about anything you don’t understand — many companies have a representative that comes into the office to explain all of the details to new employees. If not, your HR contact can help.

Part of the health, dental, vision and life insurance plan is most likely also paid for by your employer. It might not all be covered (if it is, amazing!), so the remaining amount is your responsibility. You’ll see the breakdown of how much this insurance will cost you per paycheck or per month so you can decide if it’s the right fit for you.

understanding your employee benefits insurance

Pexels/Christina Morillo

If you do sign up for insurance, you’ll also most likely be able to pay for it with pre-tax money. This means that you’ll pay for your insurance with money from your paycheck before any taxes are taken out. Since tax is calculated as a percentage, paying for insurance before taxes causes the total amount of money to be less. This causes the percentage that is taken in taxes to also be less. Win-win.

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for health insurance perks like getting reimbursed for your monthly gym membership!

If your new company doesn’t offer health, dental or vision insurance and you’re in need of coverage, you can sign up for it through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Take the time to learn everything you need to know about enrolling in health, dental and vision insurance.

As for life insurance, every company offers a different policy. Some offer it for free up to the amount of your salary, while others allow you to choose a plan and pay for some of it, which could be as affordable as $1 per paycheck. If you choose to sign up for life insurance through work, you’ll need to also have information for the person who will be your beneficiary. A beneficiary is a person who receives the money if something were to happen to you. You’ll need their name, address, contact information, date of birth and social security number. You can have more than one beneficiary, too, and split the life insurance policy between a few different people.

Retirement Account Information

If your company offers you an employer-sponsored retirement account like a 401(k) or 403(b), then it’s smart to sign up. You might not think that putting money away into a retirement account at age 22 is beneficial, but trust us — your 70-year-old self will thank you.

The paperwork surrounding your retirement account will include information like:

  • The company that manages the account for you
  • How to sign up and when you can start contributing
  • If your employer contributes anything to the account
  • How long until you’re fully vested

Sometimes, as a new employee, there are terms and conditions around the retirement account. For instance, you might not be able to start contributing to the account until 90 days after your start date. Additionally, you may not be fully vested in the money that’s in that account — meaning, it’s not fully yours — unless you stay with the company for at least three years. If you leave before the three-year mark, you could lose out on the money that you gained in the retirement account, only getting back what you put in.

If your employer contributes money to your retirement account, it could happen in two ways. Your employer may have what’s called a “safe harbor” contribution where even if you don’t sign up, they will still put a certain percentage of money into an account for you. The percentage could be something like 3 percent of your salary, for example.

The other way your employer might contribute is through a percentage match. Let’s say you sign up to contribute 5 percent of your paycheck to your 401(k). This money is taken out of your paycheck before taxes like your insurance. With a percentage match, your employer will also contribute the value that is equal to 5 percent of your paycheck to the account on their own. This doubles the amount that enters your account every month. However, you’ll only get it if you sign up.

Pro Tip: Contribute to your 401(k) so you have at least the amount equal to your salary saved by the time you’re 35 years old.

Transportation Benefits

Depending on your company and location, you may also qualify for transportation benefits. You’ll get a form with all of the details on how to sign up, plus everything else you need to know.

When you sign up for this benefit, money is taken out of your paycheck before taxes and is used to pay for parking, public transit or bicycling during your commute.

If your company provides this benefit, you can contribute a maximum of $260 per month from your paycheck pre-tax to your transportation benefits as of 2018. The money will most likely go onto a card, similar to a debit card, that you can then use to pay for your qualified commuting expenses.

Confidentiality Agreement

understanding your employee benefits confidentiality agreement


So you’ve accepted the offer, you’ve filled out all of the important financial documents associated with your full-time job and now you need to set the job role in stone. A confidentiality agreement just states that you can’t share any important information that you learn at work with any other people or companies. You’ll learn a lot of new things in this job that will help you work to move your company forward, and your boss, CEO and employees don’t want that information to be jeopardized.

If you’re nervous about signing this agreement, ask a lawyer or trusted person to review it with you. This agreement is pretty standard, so don’t stress too much, but definitely read everything before signing it.

Emergency Contact Form

Just like in high school or college, employers like to know who to call if something happens to you. This form is pretty simple and standard. Just be prepared to provide the name, relationship and contact information for someone who can be contacted in the case of an emergency.

Paid Time Off Calendar

Now for the relaxing side of work. You’ll receive a form that you can keep — yup, nothing to fill out here! — that states every paid day off that you receive per year. These are most likely the federal holidays, such as New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and more. However, this form may also state the amount of paid time off you can take on your own outside of those company holidays.

For instance, you may receive a lump sum of days, such as 15 business days, that can be used for whenever you want to take a vacation, enjoy a personal day off, go to the doctor or stay home sick with a fever. Some companies break the total down into categories, though, so you may receive 10 days for vacation, five days for sick time and two personal days, or something of that nature.

On the other hand, this form may explain that paid time off is accrued. Accrued means that you need to work a certain number of hours in order to earn your paid time off. For example, you may need to work 80 hours, or two weeks, in order to earn eight hours, or one day, of paid time off.

Pro Tip: During the offer process, be upfront and honest if you have a vacation already planned and paid for. Your boss will most likely understand and they’ll appreciate your transparency. On the other hand, if you want to request time off for a vacation after starting your new job, try to do it at least two weeks in advance of when you’ll need it. It’s common courtesy to give as much advance notice as possible.

Now that you understand the information you’ll receive on the first day of your new job, get those forms filled out so you can jump into the actual work. Impress your boss and — who knows — maybe you’ll be signing a form that says “promotion” before you know it!


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