Knowing What You Have: My 10 Favorite Employer Benefits

Are you taking advantage of your employer benefits? I’ve spent the last three years working for a non-profit benefits organization, and one of the key things I’ve learned is most people — even people who work at my organization — don’t understand all of the benefits their employer offers.

Keep in mind: These benefits are already yours; they are part of the package your employer offers you. Take full advantage of these benefits — otherwise you’re leaving resources untapped. Who doesn’t love a freebie or a deep discount? Plus, you may even be paying for resources your employer offers for free, like life insurance, disability insurance, or financial planning services. This is a great way to save money on items you already purchase.

Today, I want to take a look at my ten favorite employer benefits. If these benefits sound interesting to you, ask your company if they offer them. If not, request that they consider starting to offer these benefits. This is also a good list to keep in hand when you interview for future jobs:

1.     Employer Retirement Contribution or Match: Know what money is available from your employer for your retirement — especially if your company offers a matching contribution. There’s no reason to leave free money on the table. Make it a priority to at least meet your employer’s match.

Tip: Wondering if you’re saving enough for retirement? Check out this NerdWallet calculator. Be sure to include the money coming in from both your own and your employer’s contributions.

2.     Health Savings Account (HSA): If you have a high-deductible health plan, chances are you also have a health savings account (or HSA) available to you. This is one of my favorite health benefits because the money you save doesn’t expire at the end of each year — unlike its Flexible Spending Account (FSA) counterpart. A HSA can be invested and even move with you from job to job. For those who don’t have many health expenses right now, this is another great way to save for medical expenses in retirement.

Tip: Need help framing up your HSA strategy? Check out this Fidelity article.

3.     Employee Assistance Program (EAP): EAP is a confidential workplace service designed to help you deal with a variety of issues, from work-life stressors to family issues to financial concerns or even legal concerns. I’ve used EAP twice for short-term grief counseling over the phone, and both times it was incredibly helpful.

Tip: Your EAP may be able to help you find a counselor or a child or elder care provider, and may even help you pay for some or all of the service.

4.     Life Insurance: Many employers offer term life-insurance, meaning you have coverage during the time you work for your employer. Some employers even offer the option to buy supplemental insurance for your spouse or children at a discounted rate.

Tip: Check what your employer has before you take on a policy elsewhere. Wondering how much life insurance you need? Check out this NerdWallet life insurance calculator.

5.     Financial Planning Services: More and more employers seem to be offering financial planning as part of their benefits suite. They might partner with a vendor to offer you these services at a discount or at no out-of-pocket cost to you. Looking for help with investing? More than likely your company — or the vendor they use for your retirement plan — offers that service, too.

Tip: As with any financial planning service, you want to make sure the person you are speaking to has your best interest top of mind. How are they paid? What financial planning designations do they have? Check out these 10 Questions to Ask a Financial Advisor from Forbes.

6.     Student Loan Repayment: Who wouldn’t like a little help paying off their student loan debt? In this benefit, employers may contribute directly toward your loans, match part of your contribution, or offer you additional matching dollars to your retirement plan for paying off your student loan debt.

Tip: This is a relatively new benefit, but it seems to be gaining momentum. If your employer doesn’t currently offer this benefit, they may consider it if there’s enough interest. Learn more about this benefit and how employers can implement it in this Forbes article.

7.     Disability Insurance: I realize this benefit doesn’t sound too lucrative on the surface, but it’s vital when you need it. How will you pay your bills and get the health care coverage you need if you become disabled? Often times, we only think about long-term disability, but short-term disability is a lot more common. And more than one in four 20-year-olds will experience a disability for 90 days or more before they reach age 67.
Tip: Review what your employer offers: Does it include both long-term and short-term disability coverage? If you’re not sure if you have what you need, check out this NerdWallet article for more information about why you need disability coverage and how to get it.

8.     Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA): Did you know that one in three families now spend 20 percent or more of their annual household income on child care? Child care is expensive, so every little way you can reduce the cost is helpful. A DCFSA is a pre-tax benefit account used to pay for eligible dependent care services such as preschool, summer day camp, before or after school programs, and child or adult daycare. By contributing to this account, you can reduce your tax burden and save money on childcare.

Tip: You can learn more about this benefit in this FSA FEDS article.

9.     Discount Programs: One benefit you may have but likely don’t hear much about is a corporate discount program. My husband and I discovered a few years ago that we both receive discounts from our employers for things like cell phones services, theater tickets, the state fair, and more! You could save money on things you already buy.

Tip: Information about discount programs can usually be found on your company’s HR site or in your company’s handbook. If you can’t find it, ask an HR professional in your company if employees receive any discounts … you may be surprised.

10.  Tuition Reimbursement or Development Dollars: If your company is anything like mine, this benefit is sorely underutilized. Take a look at your company’s policy. They may only offer tuition reimbursement, or they may offer money toward employee development opportunities like workshops, certifications, etc. This is a great way to invest in your skills with minimal financial investment.

Tip: Make sure you understand all of the details of this benefit before you pursue it. If your employer does not reimburse you until your education is completed, be sure you are ready to make the upfront investment.

As you connect your money and values to create a more fulfilling life, your employer can be a key partner. Don’t miss out on any important benefits that could save you time and money as well as improve your well-being!

What are some of your favorite employer benefits?