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Voluntary Servitude

October 5, 2015

Eric, I thought you were moving to Arizona?

I was going to, but when it came down to it, my family didn’t want to leave Utah. So now I’m looking for a job back up here. That’s rough, being out of work.

Oh, I’m still working down there. I just fly back and forth on the weekends. I’ll tell you, maintaining two households is killing me.

Well, why. . .?

Can’t give up the health insurance.

My friend Eric is not unique. I know several people who are in jobs they don’t like. They could forgo the salary, but health benefits are keeping them tied to their current employer. 

I worked for Microsoft during the glory years. The stock price was climbing 20-40% per year. We all had unvested stock options. That means we had tens of thousands of dollars that we could only collect if we stayed long enough for the stock options to vest. However, we got new options every year with a new vesting schedule. So, while the old grants would vest, there were always new ones with their untapped value. Within the company they were called “golden handcuffs.” Many people who might have otherwise retired or left for other companies could bear to walk away from their options. 

The heady days of Microsoft’s soaring stock price are gone. Sure, Google or Apple have taken Microsoft’s place as the high flying tech stock darlings. But, stock options are no longer the handcuffs they once were. Gone are the days where we made decisions based on what we would get. Today our choices are based on what we would lose.

As the major breadwinner for a large family, I have a responsibility to not only feed and clothe my brood, but to make sure they can go to the doctor when needed. Two years ago my health care choices were pretty simple. I chose from three or four options that my employer offered. They took the money out of my paycheck and that was it. Last year that all changed. Because of new health care requirements, my employer options were no longer simple. In fact, during the open enrollment period, my wife and I spent weeks evaluating the different options. All of them were more expensive than previous years with less coverage. Finally, we ended up on three separate plans; one for me, one for my lovely wife and a separate one for our kids. 

We now have three times the paperwork to keep track of. We get three times the mail from our insurance providers. We’ve had at least one long term health care provider inform us that he will no longer be working with one of our insurance providers. Managing our health care paperwork has become a second job for my lovely wife. Didn’t they tell us this was going to get easier?

Like many people, I’ve considered other employment options. I’ve asked myself, is this the right company for me? Should I look at a different company? But, now, rather than salary the major consideration is “What are their health benefits like?” 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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