Your paycheck pays the bills, but the total benefits you receive can have just as big of an impact on how you feel about the work you do and how that work affects life for you and your family. Here are four ways that your benefits can boost your total compensation – and your Return on Life.
1. Max your employer match.
As corporate pensions disappear and Social Security struggles to keep up with increased longevity, folks have to take more personal responsibility for their retirement. In almost all cases, we recommend that our clients who have an employer match retirement plan take full advantage and contribute the maximum every month. One simple commitment strategy is to "pay yourself first" by making automatic contributions. If you've recently changed jobs, you should also look into rolling over retirement accounts from your previous employer into your current plan.
Another powerful wealth-building tool that more and more companies are offering is employee ownership. Participating in your company's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) or any profit-sharing opportunities is a great way to take ownership over your work and grow wealth over time.
Whatever options are available to you, make sure you dig into all the details, such as vesting schedules which determine how long you have to work at a company to maximize the benefits you’ll receive.
2. Understand your health care package.
If your employer’s health care coverage offers multiple plans to choose from, take some time to consider your specific needs. For example, if you're young, single, and in good health, you might opt for a high-deductible plan and contribute what you save in premium payments to that employer match 401(k) or a health savings account (HSA) that could help in case of emergency. It also never hurts to think ahead. Ask how your plan would cover a serious illness or a major life change, such as pregnancy.
Folks who aren't dealing with any major medical issues should also remember that the best medicine is preventative. Annual check-ups, routine dental cleanings, and vision tests are usually covered by health insurance. Problems that can arise when you skip those appointments often aren't.
3. Grab your perks.
As important as your health care package and 401(k) are, don't overlook the value of some smaller employee perks that you might be taking for granted. Cafeteria dining, on-site gym facilities, parking passes, and discounts on goods and services can add up to thousands of dollars of savings every year. Plus, joining your coworkers for Taco Tuesday or pickup basketball before work can build camaraderie and make your 9 to 5 a little more enjoyable.
Another set of benefits you might not be taking advantage of are employee development programs. The best time to start thinking about your next job is while you're currently employed. Tuition assistance and professional training programs can help you develop your skills, strengthen your weaknesses, and prepare to make a move when the time is right.
4. Take your days off.
A previous generation of workers prided themselves on racking up unused vacation days. If you've inherited that all-work, no-play ethic from your parents or grandparents, not only are you wasting a benefit that's part of your total comp package, but you’re also hampering your professional potential. No one does their best work working all the time. Whether your office is on the top floor or in your spare bedroom, everyone needs to get away and do things they love doing with the people they love the most.