How to Maximize Your Employee Benefits
If you are looking to make the most of your personal finances, chances are you have taken steps to pay off debt, increase your savings, and learn about investing. But one often-overlooked way to make personal financial gains is to look more carefully at your employee benefits and take full advantage of everything your benefits package has to offer.
Most people are familiar with common benefits offered by their employers, such as health insurance, 401K retirement plans, and paid time off. However, you may be less familiar with other available employee benefits and perks that could be worth exploring.
Here’s what you might find if you look beyond retirement fund matching to fully maximize your employee benefits.
Employee Benefits to Boost Your Bottom Line
Health Care Spending Accounts (HSA)
A health care spending account is like a personal savings account created specifically to allow you to put money aside to pay for qualified medical expenses, tax-free. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), an HSA will help you cover your out-of-pocket costs on a pre-tax basis.
By using your HSA strategically, you can lower your overall expenses for things such as prescription drugs, copayments, and deductibles. The amount you can deposit each year is limited, but you can roll over any remaining balance to the following year, allowing you to plan for major expenses in the future. Plus, all interest or other earnings on the account are tax free as well.
Employee Stock Options
Employee stock options are not as popular as they were at one time. But if your employer offers stock options, you could benefit from participating in the program. As an employee, you would get access to purchasing company stock at a set price and potentially profit even more than other shareholders, depending on the market.
An employee stock option gives you the opportunity to buy shares in the company within certain guidelines. The benefit of taking advantage of employee stock options is the company sets a particular grant price and specifies the number of shares over a specific number of years. If the stock goes up within that set period of time, you can purchase the shares at the original grant price and either sell or hold.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Employee assistance programs are a popular benefit, but many employees are either not aware they exist or are not taking advantage of it.
An EAP is a service offered through third-party providers to support employees with issues outside of work in their personal lives. This may include substance abuse treatment, legal services, marriage or individual counseling, adoption assistance, and more. Everything is confidential and nobody at your company will know what services you’ve used. You’ll have access to well-vetted quality providers at a special negotiated rate.
With student debt soaring, a growing number of employers are adding student loan perks to their employee benefits package. Although this is not a common benefit, it is on the rise and you may want to look into it if you still have loans to repay.
Many employers also offer tuition reimbursement for employees who want to further their education or professional development stipends to cover the costs of training, conferences, books, and certifications. Taking advantage of employee benefits that can enhance your skills, make you more marketable, and potentially boost your income is a smart move for your career and your finances.
Flex Benefits, Discounts, and Perks
When working towards financial goals, every bit helps. Look at your full employee benefits package to make sure you are familiar with all the ways it can help you save money or enhance your lifestyle.
Many companies offer discounted gym memberships, travel discounts, tickets to local sporting and arts events, special pricing for home office equipment, subscription services, auto insurance, childcare, home cleaning services, access to an employee credit union, and much more. You can potentially save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year by using the discounts your employer has negotiated.
Flexible and Remote Work Options
Not only is working from home a matter of convenience and a welcome perk for many employees, but it is a benefit that can also save you money.
Employees who work from home spend less of their income on gas and put less wear and tear on their car. They can save money on childcare by picking children up at the end of the school day, rather than paying for afterschool programs while sitting in traffic. They also tend to spend less money on food by eating lunch at home and cooking at home during the time they would have been commuting. Plus, they tend to spend less money on clothing if they do not need to go into the office as often. Overall, the savings from flexible remote work options can be significant.
Financial Planning Resources
If you are not yet ready to hire an independent financial advisor, you may be able to take advantage of financial wellness resources through your employer that will put you on the right path.
Some employers offer training on debt reduction, saving for a home, financing education, and retirement planning. Whether you have access to one-on-one advice, classroom training, or online resources, make the most of what you have available to you until you are able to work with a financial planner of your own.
Your employee benefits are yours to use, so use them to their full advantage. Take the time and make the effort to maximize your employer benefits because you work hard and deserve every bit of your compensation plan.
John J. Diak, CFP® is the Principal & Client Wealth Manager at Oatley & Diak, LLC in Parker, Colorado. He assists clients through many difficult lifestyle changes such as business downturns, retirement planning, divorce, the death of a spouse, and family estate issues among others. Oatley & Diak, LLC is a family-run registered investment advisory (RIA) firm that provides clients with investment management and financial planning services in a hands-on, intimate environment. Learn more about them at oatleydiak.com.