These 4 Work Perks Are Basically Free Money
Here’s how to take advantage of them.
It used to be that a solid stock option was the best perk your potential employer offered. But as the younger generations filter into the workforce, perks such as free lunches, pet insurance, and the option to work from home are the new bargaining chips. Unlike health insurance or investment options, you might not get a formal rundown from HR on these benefits. So here’s what to ask about as you apply to new positions or look to capitalize on your current one.
For recent college grads, education perks are high-dollar benefits, says Lauren Anastasio, a wealth adviser for SoFi. She typically sees employers offering to pay for a portion of tuition costs for employees who opt to go back to school. This usually does not apply to courses you were taking at the time of your hiring. And after you’re hired, it’s one of the benefits that becomes available a bit later; once you’ve been with the company for a few months or a year. Some will even take it a step further and offer educational sabbaticals. “Employers offer these to their longer-tenured employees to increase employee satisfaction and provide their employees with the opportunity to pursue personal passions without leaving the company to do it,” Anastasio says. “This is a way to increase retention as well as allow employees to develop knowledge and experiences that they can then bring back to the workplace.”
Anastasio said the companies that are most inclined to provide educational assistance are the ones that are committed to developing and retaining their people, so that spans various industries. “Employers are often able to promote employees who have gone through additional training or allow them the opportunity to become skilled or certified in other professions employed by the company,” she says.
These programs are one of the newer types of programs employers are offering. Anastasio says that these programs benefit employees in the same way that offering a discounted gym membership would. “It keeps employee satisfaction up and also helps the company stay competitive as an employer,” she adds. “By helping reduce the stresses associated with financial woes, employers also benefit from increased happiness and productivity among their workforce.” These programs are usually offered by a third party group of industry experts, but Anastasio said you can find out about them through your 401k plan administrator.
Expecting a baby? Check company policies to see if they offer paternity leave, says Palmer. Some companies, take Microsoft for example, will give you six months off and $20K for the first year of child care. Also check if your employer offers concierge services when you have a new baby which could take care of tasks like laundry service to lunch delivery. “Organizations are shifting their benefits offerings and perks to attract and engage a younger workforce,” Anastasio says. She has also seen a growing trend in pet insurance packages and monthly subsidies, up to $30 a month to keep your dog healthy and happy, so check for those, too.
Flexible spending accounts or FSAs take pre-tax money from your paycheck and set it aside for use on out-of-pocket expenses like child care, health care or your commuting costs. “You’ll decide what you want your elections to be during open enrollment and you can put up to $5,000 in that account,” says personal finance expert Kimberly Palmer of NerdWallet. “If you have a 40 percent tax rate, you’re saving 40 percent on those costs.”
Some employees skip this offering because they’re not clear on their tax benefits. But if you’re willing to track your receipts for the year, Palmer said it can add up to hundreds in savings.