When I was working as an employee in the financial services industry, I was always searching for creative ways to make or earn more money at my job beyond my normal paycheck. This was a little on the tough side, as I was paid a salary – a set amount whether I worked 40 hours or 60 hours.
However, one area I think people miss on a lot regarding their financial picture is in employer benefits. Although it may not seem like it at first glance, employers often do a lot to help your financial picture through the benefits they offer. Are you taking advantage of these money-saving/money-making options that your company might have to offer?
A 401k is a Great Option to Look at
Even in tight times you should strongly consider contributing at least up to your employer’s match amount for the company’s 401k plan. Why? Because the fact that the money is taken out of your check on a pre-tax basis means that you’ll likely not even notice it missing. What’s more is that this step will reduce your taxable income, meaning you’ll be claiming less income when you meet with Uncle Sam at tax time. To even further boost the money saving/earning benefits of this option, if you get an employer match that means you automatically get a 100% return-on-investment when contributing up to the employer match limit. These valuable employee benefits will help make sure you’re paying less in taxes and cushioning your pocketbook for your retirement years all at the same time.
I know that it’s sometimes hard to imagine taking less money home, especially if you’re on a super tight budget, but I’m betting that dollar for dollar you can find at least that same percentage of waste in your budget. Trade in the waste by cutting down on restaurants or reducing your cable or cell phone package options, and put the difference into your company’s matching 401k plan. You’ll be glad you did.
The Health Savings Account
When I was working for my former company, this one was huge for us, and can be huge for you too, especially if your employer also contributes money to your HSA. My former employer contributed up to $1,200 annually to an HSA account for qualifying employees. This $1,200 was free money for our family. Almost all families have some sort of medical expenses during the year, even if it’s for braces or a chiropractic visit. Taking advantage of the employer contribution part of your HSA, along with the pre-tax donations you can make yourself to the account, will ensure you have help in paying any medical costs that might come up, and lower your tax base at the same time.
Does your employer offer a good vision care plan? If so, that is another option to maximize the benefits your employer provides. When I worked for one particular employer, vision care was an overlooked benefit they offered. My employer offered vision coverage that not only paid for annual eye check-ups for everyone, but also gives a yearly allowance to go towards either glasses or contact lenses. At a cost for us of just over $7 a month, we easily saved several hundred dollars a year by taking advantage of his company’s benefits in this area.
These are just a sampling of the benefits possible through an employer. With a little creativity you can use them to your benefit and save some money while you’re at it.
Photo courtesy of: JMR_Photography