Most companies offer a wide range of benefits because they help attract and keep the best people. If you don’t know your company’s benefits, or are not using them to their maximum advantage, you could be losing out big time.
Most companies offer a 401(k) plan and will match a percentage of your contribution. For instance, the most common match offered is 50% of your contribution up to 6%, or 3%. If you are not contributing 6%, your company will match 50% of the amount you designate, but you are losing what is essentially free money that will help grow your retirement savings without costing you a penny.
If you’re not enrolled in your company’s retirement plan (and many young people think they have plenty of time to save for retirement) you should consider to do so immediately. The sooner you start, the longer time your money has a chance to grow.
No one can predict the future, so if you have retirement benefits in your current job, you may want to consider using them. If you think you can’t afford it, take a hard look at your monthly expenses and determine whether you can afford to set aside that sum, or look at what you need to give up in order to free up that amount. A few less lattes or dinners out may feel like a sacrifice now, but you’ll be very happy later as your retirement funds grow.
Know all your benefits—you may be surprised at what you find
There are some employee benefits in which you are automatically enrolled by your company (because they pay for them, so you don’t have to opt in). These may include disability benefits, travel accident insurance, and/or life insurance, commonly set at 1x your annual salary. Benefits for which you do have to opt in, usually called “voluntary benefits,” may include the ability to purchase individual life insurance at a reasonable rate; low-cost legal services; pet insurance; and tuition assistance, should you want to continue your education. Some companies even offer the ability to save for your child’s future education expenses, and may even provide matching funds. Read over your company’s benefits guide carefully so you’re aware of all of your choices.
Health insurance—know your options
Almost all companies of a certain size are required to offer health insurance, which usually includes not just medical plans, but also dental and vision coverage. Get familiar with your company’s plans and their costs. The cost to you and the amount of well visits or preventive care they cover may vary, but just having medical insurance is critical, no matter what your age. Also, choosing the wrong plan can cost you for benefits you may not use, so carefully consider what they cover and what premiums and deductibles you will pay. If you are under 26 years of age, you may find it cheaper and easier to stay on your parents’ insurance. If you’ve been using the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and your costs are lower than your company’s plans, you may choose to continue it, but be aware that the ACA may be changing, so you should seriously consider joining your company plan while you can.
Other ways to save money and stress
Taking advantage of flexible spending accounts can help you pay for health and childcare expenses, and even commuting costs, on a pre-tax basis. Some companies encourage employees to create their own flex-time schedules, or to work from home on certain days, or compensate for cell phone costs or other business expenses. You should take advantage of the ones that apply to you.
Take your paid vacation time (all of it!)
Americans’ vacations having been shrinking for decades. While that can be attributed to our increasingly connected culture, peer pressure, or countless other reasons, it’s important to note that employees who use more of their paid vacation time report coming back to work feeling renewed, refreshed, and ready to focus on work. Conversely, when people don’t take time off to reset, their resulting stress and burnout can be detrimental to them, and their company. Also, if your company does not allow you to rollover those days, or doesn’t compensate you for them, they are lost to you forever.
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The information mentioned in this article is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Each person’s situation is unique and may materially differ from the information provided herein. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant and/or legal counsel to address your specific needs before any financial or other commitments regarding the issues related to your situation are made. Banco Popular North America does not make any representations or warranties as to the content contained herein and disclaims any and all liability resulting from any use of or reliance on such content.