Jeanine “JT” O’Donnell and Dale Dauten
Dear JT & Dale: I’m turning 25 this year, and my parents have told me that this means that I can no longer be on their health insurance. I do have some pre-existing conditions, so I definitely need health insurance, but the job I have doesn’t offer any. How can I figure out which companies will offer me health insurance and get hired by them? —Derrick
DALE: First, some good news: Your parents are wrong about the age limit — it’s when you turn 26, not 25. That was part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and if your folks get their insurance via the ACA marketplace, then you won’t be booted off until Dec. 31 of the year you turn 26. For other insurance, it’s usually just your 26th birthday; however, there are state laws that might give you even more time — for instance, in Wisconsin, it’s 27, Florida and New York, it’s 30, and in New Jersey, it’s 31. (Although, it’s like the old line from TV commercials , “Conditions apply.”)
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JT: But give yourself plenty of time to find a job with insurance. Most companies like to share all the benefits that they offer in the job descriptions they post, so you should easily be able to see which ones are offering medical insurance. Now, once you get to job interviews, you don’t want to ask about this until you get the job offer. Asking about benefits too soon in the process can make you look greedy — the goal is to get the job offer first and then get some clarification on the benefits. And I definitely would get clarification because insurance can be expensive. Just because they offer health coverage doesn’t mean they’re paying for everything — you’re probably still going to have a pretty large copay, along with your contribution to the premiums.
Dear JT & Dale: I just got laid off from my job, which I didn’t really care for anyway. I was thinking about going back to school and getting a degree in a different field. Given how bad the economy is right now, do you think that’s a good idea? —Sloane
JT: If you can go back to school and don’t incur any debt (or very little debt), then it’s something you can explore. But I will caution you that these days getting a college degree does not guarantee achieving a career change. Unfortunately, a lot of people mistakenly think that as long as they get the degree, they’re hiring, but most companies also require work experience. So, if you do decide to get a degree, please make sure you know what career path you want to go in and make sure you can do some internships so you have the work experience needed to successfully pivot.
DALE: First, let me back up and question your statement about how bad the economy is. It’s a great job market, maybe the best you’ll see in your whole career. Don’t let that become an excuse to go back to school. Next, changing careers probably doesn’t require a different degree. One study put the percentage of people working in the same career as their degree at just under half. Another study puts the number of college grads working in jobs that don’t require a degree at 41%. My point is that degrees and careers don’t always form a tidy dovetail. So, before you go back to school, meet the people working in the field you want to pursue and ask them the questions you asked us. It’s great networking, and you might find yourself getting a job offer .