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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

How Not to Take a 32% Pay Cut Because You Didn’t Know THIS

FSA. HSA. 401K. If this sounds like alphabet soup to you — you could be leaving money on the table: up to 32% of your compensation.

Because your benefits can account for nearly of your base salary. You’re ALREADY PAYING to see the doctor; take a vacation or leave of absence; and avoid working until you’re 90 years old. The problem is, you might NOT know it.

Use benefits equity expert Cassandra Rose’s 3-step process to understand and use all 100% of your compensation now.

Step 1: Become Benefits Literate

First things first: if you don’t understand your benefits, don’t feel bad. Rose didn’t either. And she’s had people making a million dollars a year and people earning $35,000 a year asking her the exact same questions about their benefits packages. Even I had to ask my Uncle Chester at the beginning of my career to explain my 401k to me. It’s confusing.

Your first step then is to fully understand your benefits. Now, this doesn’t have to all fall on you. You can ask for help. And if you don’t have an Uncle Chester like I did, ask your HR person to explain them to you. Benefits equity is their job.

What is “benefits equity”? While “benefits equality” means everyone gets the same access to benefits, “benefits equity” is defined as everyone having the same resources with which to understand and use their benefits. Remember that. Because if your HR department doesn’t support you with benefits literacy, you may have a bigger problem on your hands — one upper management needs to know about.

Step 2: Advocate for Yourself

There’s no better advocate for you, then YOU. Don’t think just because your company doesn’t offer the benefit you need, that you shouldn’t ask for it. Sometimes they will change their policy for you.

That was the case with my previous colleague. She reached out for my advice because her son had a special need her company’s benefits package didn’t cover. It was a common special need among children too. So I encouraged her to start the conversation about changing their policy.

I’m so glad I did because you know what? They did. Now everyone is entitled to that benefit. And that’s what’s so important about advocating for yourself: you’re not just helping yourself; you’re helping your coworkers. You’re effecting changes that benefit everyone.

Just ask, even if you’re nervous or scared. What’s the worst they can do? Say, “No,” right?

Step 3: Appeal Decisions that Don’t Serve You

Sometimes HR or management will say “No.” Then what should you do?


“People don’t realize you can appeal,” explains Rose. “Just say, ‘Why are you denying that?’”

Say, for example, an employee requests to take a short-term disability leave for a documented mental health condition, and she’s denied. Rose says it’s your HR representative’s responsibility to get creative: first by investigating if you’re being denied due to a technicality, and then exploring if there’s another type of leave you could take and which coworkers can cover for you.

“Policies are there to stop people from abusing the system, not using the system. So if people are attempting to use the system and are getting a negative outcome, advocate and also make sure that you're going back to the system and saying, ‘what else can we do to support this person?’” says Rose.

Get Support with Your Benefits Equality & Equity

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at your company, who you know, or even how much you make — understanding (& advocating for) your benefits equality and equity can be daunting. But your health and well-being is at stake. This is critical.

If you need support, I’m here for you. Book your 1-on-1 today, so we can make sure you’re using 100% of your compensation tomorrow.

Of course, if you want to share your experience or questions about benefits equity, I welcome you to comment or DM me on Facebook. And I encourage you to stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Cassandra Rose. We’ll be discussing Generational Wealth Benefits Literacy, something EVERYONE needs.

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