A Crash Course in Employee Benefits

by Jhonell Campbell 20. August 2015

Employee Benefits

As graduation season comes to a close there are many young adults such as myself, getting ready to enter the work force. As a recent graduate it can be difficult to decipher the various types of benefits offered by employers and whether or not you are getting a fair offer.

The following is a list of some of the benefits traditionally offered by employers to help give you a head start on understanding your benefits package:

Pension Plans

You may choose to contribute a portion of your income (usually pre-taxed) towards your retirement through a pension plan. The most well-known type of pension plan is a defined contribution plan, which is often in the form of a 401(k). A defined contribution plan allows you to invest a predetermined amount of your income in a mutual fund, and if you are lucky, your employer may even match your contribution.

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is another option if you would like to invest in your retirement. Unlike a 401(k), an IRA is set up between the account holder and a financial institution and controlled by the account holder.

Tuition Reimbursement

Young professionals who want to further their education should inquire about whether or not their employer offers tuition reimbursement. If your employer offers tuition reimbursement, be sure to pay close attention to conditions of the reimbursement - there is often a catch. An employer may offer to cover a percentage of your tuition based on your grades or require that you remain an employee for a specified amount of time after completing your education.

Health Insurance Plans

Looking through health insurance plans can be very overwhelming. There are various types of health insurance options such as: Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) and Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)

The type of health insurance plan you choose should reflect your current lifestyle and health needs. Young professionals with low health care needs might find a health savings account (HSA) to be most beneficial. An HSA is a savings account that is not taxed and is strictly used for health care expenses. Consumers who use these accounts are usually covered under a high deductible health insurance plan.

Another option for professionals under the age of 26 is to opt out of your employer’s health insurance plan. Since the health insurance benefit offered by my employer is comparable to the health insurance plan I’m currently covered by under my parents’ plan, I have chosen to save some money and stay covered under my mother.

Signing Bonus

Some employers offer their new employees a signing bonus. This is especially beneficial for young professionals who might need the extra money to get started with furnishing a new apartment and upgrading their closet with professional attire.

Vacation Time

It varies with employers, but employees can generally expect approximately two weeks of vacation time per year. While not common, that vacation time might roll over to the following year if not used.

Sick and Personal Time

We all have those days when we are not feeling well at all. Luckily, most employers offer paid sick time. When negotiating your employment contract or deciding between job offers, a good question to ask is whether or not your sick time rolls over from year to year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average amount of paid sick time offered by employers in 2012 was 10 days. The number of sick days offered can differ between employers, industries and employee tenure.

Commuter Benefits

In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, some employers offer compensation to employees who use public transportation to commute to work. A previous employer of mine provided $40 as compensation for our weekly metro fares.

Now that you’ve been briefed about the variety of benefit options offered by employers you should be well on your way to understanding your benefits package.

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Our Visit to Kennedy Krieger Institute

by Stacy Tharp 18. August 2015

Kennedy Krieger Institute

In celebration of our 20th anniversary, 1st Mariner Bank is giving back to Baltimore through a Random Acts of Kindness campaign. We are participating in random acts of kindness around the city throughout 2015 as a way to thank the community for helping us reach this milestone.

As part of this campaign, 1st Mariner Bank invited children from the Kennedy Krieger Institute to attend a TV commercial shoot with Joe Flacco. After the shoot, Kennedy Krieger contacted us to see if we’d be interested in volunteering. Of course, we were thrilled to accept the invitation! I sat down with Erica Starr, Director of Marketing, and Andrew Schreiber, Retail Product Manager, to ask them about their visit to Kennedy Krieger.

Q: What did you do at Kennedy Krieger?

Erica Starr: We played different card games, made a magnet craft and even played a few games on the Wii with the kids. They rotated in and out of “activity time” depending on their treatment schedule for that specific day. We were on the inpatient side so all of the kids we interacted with were there for longer than a 24-hour period. Depending on their treatment plan, some were there for just a few days, while others were there for weeks.

Q: What were the children like that you met?

Andrew Shreiber: The children all had different types of needs for various developmental disorders and injuries. Every activity we did with the kids proved to be very therapeutic for them. Some were shy at first, but as the day went on I could tell they were coming out of their shell. The children had unique personalities that each stood out in distinctive ways.

Erica: The boy I was doing arts and crafts with was dressed up like Superman. We decided together to name his magnet “Super Dolphin.” He definitely made a lasting impression on me.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned from this experience?

Erica: These children have to deal with incredibly hard things at such a young age. Yet, they are some of the most optimistic, pleasant, authentic individuals that I’ve ever met. Their innocence and drive really made me realize that the stress in my life really isn’t something that is worth stressing about. I went home extremely grateful for my healthy family and friends and eager to come back and play with the kids again.

Andrew: This experience made me realize the small things in life that I take for granted. There are so many things that seem mundane and second nature to me that some people can’t do. Regardless of the obstacles these children face, they don’t let it define them on any level or stop them from being happy. Volunteering at Kennedy Krieger made me want to have a more positive outlook on life.

Q: What do you think the children gained from the experience at the shoot and when you visited?

Erica: I think getting interaction with different people on a normal basis is great for the kids. It was great to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as soon as Joe Flacco walked in the room. They really responded well to meeting new people and seemed to light up whenever they got a chance to talk or interact with a new face.

Andrew: At the commercial shoot with Joe Flacco, I had the opportunity to speak about the children’s experience with some of the Kennedy Krieger staff. In the week leading up to the shoot, the staff had seen a major boost in morale among the kids. The children were so motivated by the visit with Joe Flacco that they showed a huge improvement in motor skills and efforts in therapy. The occupational therapists and speech pathologists that were at the shoot said the kids did things they have never done before and made leaps and bounds just in the 20-30 minutes they spent talking with Joe.

Q: Why is community service like this so important to 1st Mariner Bank?

Andrew: As a community bank, it is important to be active in the community that you’re ultimately trying to help. Service has been a priority for 1st Mariner Bank these past 20 years, and I know will remain as important in the next 20.

Erica: 1st Mariner has always prided itself with being a community focused institution. It’s one of our core values and one that we take very seriously. Everyone from senior management to back office is encouraged to get out and contribute in some way to community initiatives. We’re firm believers that a rising tide raises all ships. It’s up to both Baltimore’s businesses and citizens to make sure that tide continues to rise.

Identity Theft and Social Media: Are You at Risk?

by Stacy Tharp 22. July 2015

Social Media and Identity Theft

When you think of social media, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably something along the lines of 100 supposedly different photos of your friend’s newborn baby (just don’t tell your friend that every photo looks the same), or the daily exercise routine of your health-nut coworker, or maybe a YouTube video of the unlikely friendship between a kitten and a bird – you know the one I’m talking about.

I bet one thing that doesn’t come to your mind when you think of social media (unless you read the title of this article) is identity theft. But if you think about it, based on all of the personal information people share about themselves, social media sites are an identity thief’s delight. As innocent as it may seem, posting a photo and caption of you with your dog Wagner, for example, could reveal the answer to one of your Online Banking security questions.

You should always be monitoring your accounts to ensure all transactions were authorized by you. This includes your checking, savings, credit card and line of credit accounts, etc. and can easily be done through Online and Mobile Banking. But there are measures you can take to mitigate your risk of being a victim of fraudulent activity to begin with.

Here are some best practices that allow you to balance being active on social media and being smart about protecting your identity:
  • Use unique user names and passwords for each profile, and change your passwords regularly.
  • Utilize privacy settings, and only connect with people that you know – I mean really know, like in real life.
  • Minimize the amount of personal information you include in your profiles. When possible, try to avoid including your full name, birthday, address, hometown etc.
  • Be smart about what you post. Do not give away personal identifying information that someone could potentially use against you.
  • Be cautious of what you download. I know that a link promising a video of a turtle on roller skates seems irresistible (what is it with those animal videos??), but try to muster up some self-control and make sure to verify the source of a link before clicking on it.
  • Use common sense. When in doubt, don’t do it.

Have I officially scared you away from ever using social media? I hope not. When used smartly, it’s a great tool that allows you to easily stay connected with your friends and family. You just have to use that noggin of yours and think before you post.

What to do if you are the victim of identity theft

The Federal Trade Commission has recently announced the launch of a new website, IdentityTheft.gov, a resource that makes it easier for victims to report and recover from identity theft. The website includes an interactive checklist that walks you through the recovery process. It also includes sample letters, specialized tips for specific types of identity theft, and advice for people who have been notified that their personal information was exposed in a data breach. See? The internet isn’t all bad.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

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How Identity Thieves Steal Your Information

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