9 Workplace Benefits You Should be Paying Attention To
Ethan Miller, Financial Planner
August 21, 2017
Imagine you’re looking for a new job and are comparing two different offers (may we all be so lucky). One is offering you a $70,000 salary and the other is offering you a $73,000 salary. Which one would you pick? This might seem like an easy choice, but compensation includes a lot more than just your yearly salary.
To fully evaluate a job offer – or make sure you’re taking advantage of the compensation package at your current job, make sure you dig into your benefits package and understand all the details. While they might be called “fringe” benefits, they can still be significant to your life and make a big difference financially.
Here’s what you should be paying attention to:
1. Considering healthcare coverage can cost you many thousands of dollars on the individual market, health insurance coverage is a key part of any benefit package. Make sure you pay attention to what kind of plan(s) is/are offered at your job. How much of the plan premiums do you need to pay and is it a PPO plan or an HMO that requires in-network referrals? What is the plan deductible and out of pocket maximum? What kind of medical and prescription co-pays does the plan require? While all these details can make your head hurt, differences in these plan components can make a difference of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year, depending on your medical needs.
2. Will your job take care of you when you’re done working? Depending on the retirement benefits offered, you could be able to retire worry-free or may have to put away significant extra savings outside of work. If you’re fortunate enough to have a defined-benefit pension plan at work, do you know how many years you need to work before you are fully vested, and what formula is made to calculate benefits? If you have a 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan, when do your employer contributions start, how much do they put in each year and contingent on your contributions (a match)? There are many more questions you could ask, but these basics should help you evaluate the value of this critical benefit.
3. When you don’t feel well and can’t go to work, how much sick time do you have access to each year? How many vacation days and paid holidays do you get each year, and are there any other kinds of time off provided like comp time, personal days or community service days?
4. What kind of family and medical leave policy is at your job? Especially if you are considering starting a family or are caring for parents or other family members, these kinds of policies can make a big difference in ensuring work/life balance and providing needed time off during otherwise stressful times. And while paid leave is still unavailable to a majority of working people in the US, it accessible to many more people today than even a few years ago.
5. Tax-Deferred flexible spending accounts can make big medical expenses or childcare costs slightly more affordable by enabling you to defer income each year specifically for medical and dependent care expenses. These accounts are time-bound, meaning whatever you don’t use each year is lost, so plan carefully!
6. Does your job help you learn new skills? Many employers provide funds for professional development or educational expenses to cover expensive costs for conferences, seminars, classes or even entire degree programs that could advance your career to the next level.
7. A lot of cities and transit agencies offer transit benefit programs that allow you to defer pre-tax earnings from your paycheck and automatically deposit them on a transit card. While not all employers participate in these programs, some cities may have laws that require it for companies of a certain size. And, transit-conscious employers may also contribute or match your contribution, so make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.
8. Do you want to get fit at you next job? Fitness and wellness programs differ from place to place, but ask if your office building has a gym or if your company will pay for a gym membership or fitness classes. An increasing number will!
9. Are there any other perks that come with your new job? If your lunch, coffees or snacks are regularly paid for or provided, that definitely counts for something. Is the office closer to where you live, or are the hours better? When evaluating a job offer, don’t forget the smaller details!
While these benefits might seem “fringe” to some, an excellent package can make a big difference not only for your quality of life, but in your wallet as well. By asking the right questions, you can make sure you take full advantage of the benefits that you earn every day at work. And if you need help evaluating a benefits package or making a decision about saving for retirement, be sure to get in touch with us and schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.
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