Your Friday Frugal Challenge: Review the benefits you have from your job. Sure, you know about the health insurance—you’ve been griping about that high-deductible plan ever since your employer discontinued the PPO you loved. Your challenge this week is to dig a little deeper into your employer’s offerings and to take advantage of those you’ve been neglecting.
Here are some common benefits offered by employers. Are you fully using your bennies?
401(K). Free money—your employer matches part of your contribution to a retirement account. You like free money, don’t you? I do.
Dental and vision insurance. Some policies cover only the basics, others are more generous. Take a look at your company’s plan.
Tuition reimbursement. Want to improve your skills or move toward a better position? Take advantage of tuition reimbursement for professional and personal growth. I’ve used my company’s tuition reimbursement to finance most of the Masters Degree I’m doing. The skills in counseling that I gain will help me in my job as well as opening future opportunities for me.
Adoption assistance. Some companies provide financial assistance for adoption.
Flexible Spending Accounts. These accounts allow you to put pre-tax dollars into accounts that pay for medical or dependent expenses. You can pay for childcare or for a broad range of medical costs from your account. You generally need to use the funds within the calendar year and there are limits to how much you can contribute. We took full advantage of this perk when my son was young to cover his child-care expenses–and it helped.
Health Savings Account. When your employer has a high-deductible insurance plan in place, you may be able to take advantage of a Health Savings Account. This account allows you to deduct from your paycheck to save for expenses that aren’t covered by your deductible as well as other medical expenses. Unlike the Flexible Spending Account, the funds in these accounts carry over from year to year.
Group Term-Life Insurance. Your company may pay the premiums for a limited amount of life insurance for you, and give you the option of paying to increase the coverage. If you’re young and don’t have dependents, your company’s benefit may be enough to pay for your funeral expenses, and that may be enough for you. If you have dependents you may opt to add on coverage.
Accident or cancer insurance. These policies pay only in the event that you have an accident or that you contract cancer, but they include broad coverage that pays for many expenses not covered by health insurance.
Once you’ve reviewed the benefits, take advantage of any perks you’ve neglected in the past. My company allows employees to access tuition reimbursement at any time during the year without waiting for a benefits enrollment period, for example.
You may find that many benefits can only be added during your company’s benefit enrollment period. Keep your notes on file so that during your next benefit enrollment period you’re ready to take advantage of all that your employer offers.