“Ha!” I thought as I surveyed the eight other people in the room seated around me. “They have no idea what they’re in for.”
I remember the first time I did this, twenty-seven years ago. Newly hired by the school district, I was told to show up at the Central Office on a specified date and time “to sign the paperwork.”
I envisioned signing a contract and moving on. No one told me that “sign the paperwork” meant that I needed to make twenty-thousand decisions about my benefits during the course of three hours.
Now I’m starting over in a new school district. I know better. “Sign the paperwork” is code for “choose how much money we are going to take from your paycheck each month.”
“Here we go.” Thick packets get passed to each of the new hires, almost all of them thirty years younger than me. I watch them frown as they start leafing through all of the pamphlets, brochures, and multi-page documents.
I start tuning out the person guiding us through each page. Health insurance is first, and with a quick glance I can see that the plan that costs the least is about as worthwhile as burying my paycheck in a deep hole in the backyard once a month. The new hires start asking questions as I start shuffling through the rest of the papers. I’ve been through this before, albeit 27 years ago. I got this.
“Wait. What did you just say?” I suddenly blurt out. My brain screams, “You just missed something important!”
“You can get this accident insurance, which will give you money if you have an unexpected accident and get hurt.”
“Isn’t that what health insurance is for?” I ask.
“Well this might cover what the health insurance doesn’t.”
“Insurance for the insurance.” I thought. “This is new.”
And there is critical illness insurance. Also to cover what the health insurance does not.
Whole Life Insurance, Term Life Insurance, Workman’s Comp, Disability, Sick Leave Bank.
I look around the room. Everyone’s eyes are glazed over. The woman who is starting her first job, getting married in December, and possibly having a baby in the next year or so, seems ready to bolt. The one man in the room looks relieved that he has no dependents, and I’m close to hyperventilating because I’m pretty sure my paycheck will be about $10 each month – but that’s okay, right, because one of these things I just signed up for surely insures people who have a tendency to overindulge on their benefits.
“There is no way I am ever going through this process again,” I think to myself.
“No worries if you’re having a tough time making decisions, everyone,” says our guide. “This is only for the next three months, and then we have Open Enrollment so you can change whatever you want.”
I’ve signed so many papers that I half expect someone to hand me the keys to a new house.
The guide tears off my copies from the paperwork, and hands them to me. “Great! You’re free to go.”
I numbly head back out into the bright sunlight. Halfway to my car, I think, “Did I just put my dog’s name down as my Primary Beneficiary?” I turn around to go back. I stop.
“Eh, it’s only for three months.” I shrug. “I just wish I signed him up for the Dental Insurance instead.”