How is your employer treating you? To celebrate Employee Appreciation Week, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 plush benefits offered by many companies. From commuting discounts to free training, many employers offer more than day-old donuts.
Free Money for Retirement!
Some employers offer a 401(k) retirement matching program, which is essentially FREE MONEY! In a matching program, your employer contributes a fixed amount for every dollar you put into your 401(k). In a common matching program, your employer will contribute 50 cents for every dollar you put into your account, and up to 6% of your salary. If you make 50k a year and you contribute the maximum 6%, your employer will match $1,500 a year of free money! Even Walmart has a matching program. So the next time you’re tempted to pity the woman scanning Snickers bars at the checkout, don’t: she probably has a better retirement plan than you do.
If you’re anything like me, you worry constantly about unforeseen medical expenses, falling off my bike, and let’s be honest, even hurting myself as I walk to the store. Thankfully, many companies sponsor health-insurance plans for both full- and part-time employees.
Twitter pays 100% of employees’ insurance premiums. 100%! This means Twitter employees pay nothing to know they’re covered if disaster strikes. Even those of us not lucky enough to work in the tech industry can find ways to reduce our health care costs. Many employers now offer health insurance discounts when you complete an annual health care screening. Discounts range from 10% off to $25 back a paycheck! That’s up to $600 in savings a year! Don’t forget about gym memberships. Hershey’s employees even receive free gym memberships and discounts to Weight Watchers. That makes A LOT of sense if you work at Hershey’s. I’d weigh 300 lbs! Gym membership incentives are a great idea for any employer: a healthier, happier you is more productive.
If you take the subway or bus to work, check out if your employer offers “commuter benefits,” which reduces your commuting costs on average by 25% plus! How it works: Your employer allows you to pay for your commuting costs pre-tax (the money you earned before your taxes are taken out). The added advantage of “commuter benefits,” is they transfer over to non-work transportation. In New York most of us get the monthly subway passes. For me the pass serves a dual purpose: to be used as a monthly pass to get to work, and to meet up with friends! If you live in a commuter city like Los Angeles or San Francisco, keep a lookout, as well, for employers offering reimbursements on Muni, Metro , and bus passes. Even carpooling incentives, such as: reserved parking spaces, reimbursement for gas and ride share opportunities are available. Soon you’ll get to enjoy gossiping with your co-workers during the commute instead of wondering where to park.
Improving your skills
It’s clear that tuition at four-year universities is rising. Some employers actually help you pay for college. Recently, Starbucks announced that it covers full tuition for all eligible employees who earn degrees online through Arizona State University.
Even if you aren’t seeking a degree, look into training classes! Want to improve your Excel skills? Need to take certification test for work? Want to learn a new language? If learning a new skill will improve your job performance, many companies will pay for all or some of the cost! Most employers don’t advertise this benefit, so you need to inquire about them. If your department doesn’t have a training budget don’t lose hope, money may still exist on another company level. Always ask Human Resources (HR) first about training and eligibility.
Your Kids Education
Don’t miss out on employee-only scholarships. The US Federal Government is particularly generous, distributing 400 scholarships annually. Private companies such as, Verizon and Costco run similar programs, where only employees’ children may apply. Look into company sponsored 529 college savings accounts for employees’ children. These are similar to your 401(k). Instead of putting money towards your retirement, you’re saving for Mateo’s biochemistry textbooks and daily diet of arroz con pollo.
Workers across America are staying healthy and saving money with their employers. You can (and should) too!
Writer: Tamara Moellenberg
Tamara Moellenberg is a graduate student working on her thesis from a cozy northeast apartment. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping the sales, tinkering with budget apps, and whatever else will stretch her modest stipend.