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I work for a large government employer - a community college district in the US with thousands of employees. I received an email from HR saying that all employees were required to meet with a salesperson from an outside financial services company in order to "make informed decisions regarding the Section 125 Plan and other pre-taxed options."

I resent their approach for several reasons:

  • It's an inefficient use of my time, since I could figure out my options much more efficiently by reading something written down rather than sitting through a powerpoint presentation.
  • I also don't like the idea of being shoved into a room with a salesperson against my will -- it doesn't seem likely to put me in a position to deal intelligently with the sales pitch.

I probably do want to participate in the plan, but I don't want to be marched through the process by a salesperson without prior access to any information.

Is this a normal thing for an employer to do? Any suggestions for how to protect my time and avoid being forced into a hasty decision by a salesperson whom I have no reason to trust?

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    @KentAnderson: Interesting info, thanks. But BTW this is not a retirement product. It seems to be something meant to shield health-care benefits from taxation. – Ben Crowell Nov 5 '15 at 22:47
  • Is this on company time? If so what is your problem? – paparazzo Nov 5 '15 at 23:22
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    @Frisbee: I'm not punching a time clock. There is no concept of "company time." – Ben Crowell Nov 6 '15 at 0:32
  • I could figure out my options much more efficiently by reading something written down Sure, but your employer doesn't know that. How are they supposed to prove later, when they inevitably have someone complaining that they didn't wholly understand their benefits, that the employee was given all available information? They can't unless they make everyone go to one of these meetings. – BSMP Nov 6 '15 at 14:42
  • If you really aren't interested, take a one-hour paid nap in the back of the room, or play a game on your phonem or something.. Management wants to be able to truthfully say this info was made available to all employees, not just "all who wanted it", and since they have directed you to do this, they have already made the decision thag they're willing to accrpt the cost; that's a policy decision (possibly driven by the legal dept. or terms of their contract eith the benefits provider), not inefficiency, even if you don't feel you need it. Heck, you might even pick up a useful tip. – keshlam Nov 6 '15 at 19:45
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This is obviously something they are mandated to do for some reason. The best thing to do is go to the meeting, listen to the information, collect the literature, then get on with your day.

It's not really a salesman that you'll be talking to. The sale is already done. Your organization hired the company to administer the plan. You are given some choices to make, and the meeting is to help you make those choices. But you do not have the option to have someone else administer your plan. This is a take it or leave it type of deal.

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    +1 The sale is already done. This is most likely the case, especially given OPs comment that it's a seminar about shielding health-care benefits from taxation. – Kent A. Nov 5 '15 at 22:59
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This is one of those times where you need to learn to pick your battles. Whenever there is a mandatory meeting, I always go through the same thought process:

  1. What do I lose if I go?

Normally this is just time and for something like a benefits presentation I may actually discover something useful. If you know going in that you are not going to sign up for whatever it is, you can always sit in the back and not pay too close attention.

  1. What can I schedule to get around this?

After I have figured out what I lose if I go and I think it's too much, I see if there is a way I can schedule some work that is a higher priority than the meeting at the same time. This gets me out of the meeting in a way that no one can question since this HAS to get done at the same time. This is usually a slightly hard sell, but it has worked for me in the past.

  1. What do I get if I win?

This has to be very good. If it's just getting out of one meeting every 6 months there is not much use to fighting. If it is getting out of a meeting once a day for the next three years saving an hour of time then it is worth looking into.

  1. What do I lose when I fight this?

This can range from looking like a problem employee to getting fired. The situation will depend on the workplace and your specific managers.

Coming from a US perspective most of the time these mandatory meetings come up it is better to just go along with what the company wants. At the end of the day, as long as you are paid for the meeting, the company has decided attending the meeting is more important than what ever your job is.

I have found that as long as the company is OK with the new delivery date taking into account the mandatory meeting, even if the meeting is a complete waste of time, I will attend the meeting like a good worker bee. If they insist on the original delivery date, then and only then would there be push back on attending.

  • Thanks for your answer, but this reads like sort of a cookie-cutter response. A lot of this material doesn't have anything to do with my specific situation. – Ben Crowell Nov 5 '15 at 22:47
  • That's because there really isn't anything special about your situation.. It's a mandatory meeting, just like any other mandatory meeting. Half of those are pretty worthless, but sometimes even those have a useful nugget or two. Same here. Fighting it is not productive, and is likely to hurt you both with Manglement and in the effects stress has on your body. Some tjings just aren't worth taking a principled stand on. Pick your battles – keshlam Nov 7 '15 at 21:09
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The best way to respond is to go to the meeting, ask good questions and try to learn something.

It is normal for employers in the US to require attendance at meetings pertaining to employee benefits and financial plans. If you're concerned about the "dealing intelligently with the sales pitch", simply don't sign up for any programs at the meeting. These meetings are typically conducted under the assumption that you will take paperwork home and fill it out later anyway.

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