Remember the days of steady raises, big promotions and guaranteed pensions?
Yeah, me neither.
In order to keep up with stagnating wages and decreasing benefits, workers need to get creative and make sure we’re maximizing all our work benefits. There are some things we can do to improve our own lives, like getting the most out of our daily commute or staying alert for signs that we're burnt out, but there are also ways to maximize what our companies can offer us, too.
In order to keep up, you may need to reframe how you approach the idea of compensation.
You may not be able to do anything about your company’s skimpy payroll budget -- but you can maximize the non-monetary benefits you’re receiving.
Chances are, your company currently offers some form of compensation you’re not taking full advantage of.
Read ahead to learn about some common benefits you might be ignoring--and how to use them effectively.
Not sure if you’re maximizing your available benefits? Here are the most common perks you could be missing out on:
Everyone knows about paid vacation and personal time, but what about unpaid vacation days? Some companies allow their employees to buy extra vacation days or take time off without being reimbursed.
Both large and small companies offer tuition reimbursement to employees, ranging from full semesters to one class a year. Classes and degrees usually have to be related to your current position and most jobs ask that you stay above a certain GPA to qualify.
The current average cost of a credit hour is almost $600, so even taking one class for free could save you $1,800.
Most companies want you to stay abreast of the latest trends, so talk to your boss about any conferences or classes you want to attend to help you stay current.
If your supervisor seems wary, show them how learning the newest strategies can improve the company’s bottom line.
If you regularly donate money, you might be missing out on a huge employee benefit: matching charitable donations. Just as many firms match your 401k contributions, they can also match what you give to charity. BP matches every dollar up to $5,000 total while General Electric matches up to $25,000, for example.
Some companies offer a few free sessions with an approved therapist. Improved mental health resources helps with employee retention, since a staffer who’s dealing with depression may be unable to perform at his or her peak.
If you’ve been at your company for a while, it’s probably been a long time since you’ve talked to your HR rep. Emails and memos about benefits often go unnoticed, which means you could be missing out on key perks.
Find the latest copy of the employee handbook and go through it diligently, even if it’s mostly full of information you already know. Then, schedule a meeting with HR to discuss all your benefits and make sure you understand them.
Also, talk to your coworkers about any benefits they’ve found like discounts with hotels or car rental services, museum admission and more. Private businesses can sometimes offer discounts if you work for the government or a nonprofit.
Many health insurance companies provide their own secret benefits if you poke around.
Providers save money when you’re healthy, so many offer free or inexpensive wellness programs to entice customers into adopting a better lifestyle. These can range from free pedometers to one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer or nutritionist.
For example, some offer wellness education, reimbursements for bike helmets, including phone access to a registered nurse and discounted gym memberships.
Other insurance companies dole out gift cards as perks. I’ve earned everything from a $25 movie theater gift card because I don’t smoke to another gift card for providing proof of my gym membership.
“My insurance company gives card rewards for doing things like getting a check up, completing an online health program or doing coaching with a nurse on the phone for things like weight loss” said money expert and Smart Family Money blogger Cindy Scott. “Between my husband and I, we usually make around $200 a year in gift cards through this program.”
Contact your insurance company directly to see what you’re eligible for--you might be surprised.
Zina Kumok is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Learnvest, DailyWorth and Investopedia. She is a former newspaper reporter and writes a blog about paying off her student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two rescue dogs.
This material is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide any specific legal or investment advice or to serve as the basis for any decisions.
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