If you are employed, especially in these tough economic times, it behooves you to explore all of the employee benefits that your company has to offer. You definitely don’t want to leave anything on the table as far as work benefits are concerned. It always amazes me when coworkers neglect to do their research when it comes to their compensation package. I certainly understand that there are many workers out there who don’t get any benefits from their employers. But if you do, make it a point to stop by your Human Resources department and read up a little on your employment benefits. You just might be surprised at what you may potentially be “leaving on the table”.
401K and Matching Funds
Fortunately, my company offers a matching 401K. What this means is that my company will match 50% of what I put into my tax-deferred 401K, up to 6% of my salary. In other words, if I put 6% into my 401K, my company will add an additional 3%. This is basically “free money” – bvt you must contribute at least 6% to get that matching 3%. I am amazed that there are coworkers of mine who don’t put, at a minimum, 6% of their salary into their 401K. Granted, if they save 4% of their salary, the company will match it with an additional 2%. But, in actuality, they are leaving an additional 1% of a company match “on the table”. Find out what your company offers in the way of a 401K match and make sure you save enough to get the full match.
High Deductible Health Plan and Health Savings Account
Previously I wrote about the Health Savings Account (HSA), which is included in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). To say that it generated some controversy and varied opinions, would be an understatement. But I am now 9 months into my HDHP, and I’m still a staunch supporter of this type of progressive health plan. To be honest, this year has been a busy time for my family in terms of visits to the doctor and the dentist, for that matter. I have already reached the $3000 deductible which, with my plan, is the plateau where my traditional health coverage takes over. After the $3K, I only have to pay 20% and my health plan pays 80% of my medical bills. I still have some money in my plan savings account and I’m hoping at the end of the year that I will be able to roll over what is still in the account. This is the true benefit of this type of plan. If you don’t use all of the pre-tax money that you have been contributing to your Health Savings Account, it stays in your account and you can use it the following year. And, if you had to pay for any eligible services or items during the year out of your own pocket, then you can “pay yourself back” with any funds that are left in your health savings account. Also, you should make it a point to check with your health care provider to see if they offer “prompt pay discounts” because these discounts could be significant. For example, my health care provider offers a 20% discount if the bill is paid within 30 days of the statement date. For one of my latest bills of close to $500 I was able to save $100 by paying within that 30 day window. That is significant savings.
Health Club and Wellness Benefit
A lot of health insurance plans offer a benefit if you work out regularly at a health club. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense for an insurance company to offer this benefit. The healthier you are, the less you will be visiting a doctor and the smaller amount of money the insurance company will have to delve out. I used to have a plan that gave me $150 per year if I belonged to a health club. All I had to do was get a receipt from the health club showing what I paid for a particular year, send it into the insurance company, and a $150 check was sent to my house. I really loved that benefit because it really helped defray my workout club costs.
My company offers a free service that allows each employee to meet with a financial consultant on a periodic basis. I’m sure that a lot of you out there are like me. You simply don’t have enough time in the day to follow the financial markets and have a good sense of where to invest your 401K dollars or any extra money that you may have to invest. Recently, I was able to meet with a financial consultant who performed a detailed analysis of my financial status. I had to supply him with a wealth of personal financial data and, as a result, he was able to project whether I was on track financially to eventually retire at a reasonable age. Let’s just say that the verdict wasn’t pretty, but at least it shook me up a bit to get myself on track and boost my savings. This consultant was also able to help me choose funds that were available through my work and strategically allocate a certain percentage of my savings to each fund. I was also told that due to the volatile nature of the financial markets that I should revisit this breakdown on a quarterly basis. So, in another few months I will sit down again with this advisor, at no cost to me, and review my fund allocation. If anything, it certainly gives me a better feeling about my current holdings and my potential future earnings. At least I have a plan in place that was put together with the help of a financial planner, rather than throwing darts at the fund choices offered through my employer.
Fortunately, my company offers discounts related to a number of different items. These days, cell phones are ever present and in my family, we all own a cell phone. My employer offers discounts with one particular cell phone provider. So, I bought all of our cell phones with this provider and save roughly 20% per month on our bill. Also, due to the fact that my employer has this benefit, we can get upgraded phones basically for free each year. Another discount that my company offers is a discount on all Dell computer products, even if I am buying a home computer. I have taken advantage of this in the past and the savings were significant. My company also offers other discounts on items such as movie tickets, restaurants, museum passes, and car rentals.
So, take a trip down to your Human Resources department. Get familiar with the perks that you may have been overlooking. Take advantage of what your company offers in the way of benefits and discounts. You just might start picking up what you’ve been “leaving on the table”.
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