Employee benefits should not be overlooked

In 1999 I took a job fresh out of college with a large company with unbelievable employee benefits. I definitely think people undervalue the benefits a company can provide. There are the common benefits like medical insurance, a certain number of vacation days, flexible work schedules, etc. But then there are the big perks like free day care for your child, free continuing education, and in my case free money towards my very first house. These benefits should never be overlooked.

In August of 2001 my boyfriend and I purchased the house he had grown up in, through the help of my company’s Employer Assisted Housing benefit. My husband and I were only a year or two out of school when we began researching the possibility of homeownership. We each had a few thousand dollars stored up, from years of working in college and internships but not nearly enough for a down payment. So I turned to the EAH program. In 2001 the company granted me a loan for $12,600 to be used as a down payment. The rules were simple. As long as I continued to work for the company they would forgive the principal of the loan, leaving me to pay only the interest. The interest payments are deducted along with every paycheck. The interest rate at the time was 6.02%, (unfortunately the loan could not be refinanced), so I pay approximately $18 each payday. And at the end of five years the loan will be completely forgiven.

Now it’s true that $12,600 is not a lot of money over five years. It equals only $2,520 each year. The real value is that the company offered $12,600 all at one time. Why do I think employee benefits are so important? Well in 2001 my husband and I were able to purchase a good-quality home for $260,000. Today our home, (according to Zillow.com), is worth $490,000. If we had not received the EAH loan, the prices of homes would have continued to rise and it would have taken us years to build up enough money for a sizeable down payment.

My loan will be entirely forgiven October 2006. Since graduation my friends have all had many, many jobs. But I have remained at the same company I started working for two months after graduation. A big part of that decision was the EAH loan. The benefits have clearly kept me at the company. So when looking for an employer don’t dismiss the employee benefits. You never know when you may need them. Recently with my unexpected illness my company has paid me to recuperate at home for four months.

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