At one time, employers referred to an employee’s fringe benefits as their ‘ hidden paycheck.’ This meant that up to 32% of an employee’s compensation is paid out in the form of benefits. Healthcare coverage, retirement matching funds, as well as life and disability insurance are critical components of an employee’s financial security. Good employee benefit plans have three pillars of financial security: immediate, short-term, and long-term. These pillars all play a role in an employee’s present and future financial wellbeing.


The Pillars


Your Immediate Financial Security

The most important aspect of an employee’s immediate financial security is having a good healthcare plan. Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, there are now “essential health benefits” that protect an employee and their dependents from any surprise charges. Under this act, health plans provide pre-existing condition coverage. Without proper healthcare coverage, expensive medical treatments can cause real financial harm, sometimes even bankruptcy. Having the right health plan is crucial for a family’s quality of life. 


Your Short-Term Financial Security

A good employee benefits plan should have a disability and life insurance plan with reputable insurance companies. The financial protection of your income and assets is critically important especially if you have dependents. If something unexpected happens, the ability to earn an income could be lost, and there should be a disability contract to help replace that income. If there is an untimely death, then an employee’s family should be protected by having adequate levels of life insurance coverage. Having a good disability and life insurance can help when the unexpected occurs.


Your Long-Term Financial Security

This is the third pillar of a benefit plan that should help you plan for the future when you no longer want to work (or not work full-time). A good benefit plan makes it easy for you to save for retirement through a 401(k) plan or other savings vehicle, by building up your net worth paycheck after paycheck. A good plan should have solid investment offerings, low fees, and be properly managed.


Because the cost of employee benefits does not typically show up in an employee’s W-2, it is easy to forget that they are a significant part of the overall compensation package. They should be taken seriously when an employee looks at his or her overall compensation.


Every good benefits plan should consist of these three pillars. These pillars should provide for immediate, short-term, and long-term financial security. If your benefit plan is not performing in one of these key aspects, there is likely a problem. If you have concerns or are denied benefits for which you are entitled, call us, we are here to help


Occasionally, someone will ask, ”why is there a mountaintop in your logo,” or “where did the trademark ‘Conquer Tomorrow’ come from?” The spirit behind our brand comes from a desire to help our clients conquer their legal challenges. In helping our clients reach their goals, we take some inspiration from the mountains.  


Looking to the mountains for inspiration

The mountains provide a kind of wisdom that comes through reflecting upon the unarguable laws of nature. For years, I have been fortunate enough to escape to the mountains for a little perspective and reflection. When you climb in the mountains, you spend a lot of time thinking. You think of how to navigate and overcome obstacles. Mountain climbing is sometimes called a ‘thinking person’s sport’ because it involves such intense concentration.


So many lessons of the mountains are transferable to a litigation setting.  A successful summit requires plenty of advanced training, just as a case requires significant preparation. Our clients and firm share a common goal, to be successful in litigation, which when you look at it, is similar to obstacles you overcome when you summit a mountain. as in the mountains, in litigation, nothing ever goes exactly the way you hope. Obstacles will appear, some you expect, and some you do not. Yet, you have to keep climbing if you want to reach the top. The same is true in litigation, you just have to keep pressing forward. 


Called to climb

My first trip to the summit was in East Africa to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. ‘Kili’ is called the ‘Roof of Africa’ because it is the highest mountain on the continent and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. It was a great introduction to the sport. I enjoyed being around the local guides and learned a great deal from them about professionalism. Mountain guides refer to visiting climbers as “clients” and treat them with the utmost care. In addition to other lessons from mountain climbing, I learned just as much by watching how professional mountain guides care for their climbers. I try to emulate that same level of care when it comes to working with my clients. 


Mountain climbing takes people to places around the world and brings them together with many cultures. Years ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Nepal to climb in the Khumbu region, home to Mount Everest. Like so many, I went to Nepal to see its many mountains, but I returned home mostly remembering all the wonderful people I met along the way. I spent a lot of time with my Sherpa guides where I was invited into their homes and met their families. When an opportunity to join a charity climb to raise funds to support Nepali schools presented itself, I wanted our law firm to be a part of this effort. 


Becoming part of our mission

In August of this year, I participated in a charity climb to the top of Mount Baker in Washington state. Our law firm was a sponsor of the Alpine Ascents Foundation’s Third Annual Nepali Charity Climb. The climb to the top of Mount Baker in the Northern Cascades was led by an all-Sherpa guide team headed by Lakpa Rita Sherpa. He is an acclaimed veteran of Mount Everest. He summited 15 times, along with two other accomplished Sherpa climbers, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Jangbu Sherpa, each having summitted Mount Everest several times.


The charity climb raised tens of thousands of dollars to fund the education of Nepalese school children, where the law does not require attendance in public education. The entire group reached the summit after a 12-hour climbing day under challenging weather conditions. The opportunity to climb with an elite team of Sherpa guides was a remarkable experience. More importantly, reflecting on the educational needs of a country that has given us so much was even more remarkable.


At J.J. Conway Law, we continue to incorporate the wisdom we gain from mountain climbing into the work we do for our clients. Whether it be unexpected challenges or taking time to reflect, the lessons we learn are applicable.