Top employers in today's market offer a wide range of benefits to entice recent graduates. But before you get too excited about Taco Tuesdays or take-your-dog-to-work perks, there are some key employee benefits that add significant value beyond your paycheck you don't want to miss out on. Here are five you'll want to look for during your job search.
- Health insurance and health savings accounts
Even if you're covered by your parents' health insurance, it's still worth looking at plans offered by your potential employer. You'll need your own insurance when you turn 26 and will need to look for in-network doctors (i.e., ones that provide discounted costs) near where you live.
There are few health-related costs to consider: premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.
Premiums refer to the amount you pay each paycheck to maintain your health insurance. High-deductible plans tend to be very affordable month-to-month. Deductibles refer to the amount you have to reach in medical costs before your insurance starts covering a percentage (e.g., 80 percent) of the bill. Co-pays are the amount you have to pay when you visit the doctor (though not all health insurance has co-pays).
If you choose a high-deductible plan, your company may offer you a health savings account. This allows you to contribute pretax income to the account, and your employer may contribute to it, too. You'll have a debit card linked to this account that you can use on eligible medical expenses, such as copays, dental treatments, eye exams, glasses, and contacts.
Plus, money in your HSA rolls over year-to-year and isn't taxed — as long as you use it to pay for eligible medical expenses. Plus, as NerdWallet explains, you can often invest HSAs in mutual funds, stocks and more to generate additional money.
- Student Loan Benefits and Tuition Reimbursement
One in four Americans today have student loan debt, topping $1.5 trillion. And companies are starting to offer benefits to help employees repay that debt faster. For example, Abbott has a first-of-its-kind program called Freedom 2 Save™ that enables employees to pay off their debt faster while the company contributes to their 401(k).
You may also want to continue your education to gain specialized knowledge, build your professional network and increase your earning potential.
Companies may offer tuition reimbursement as an employee benefit. Since employers want to invest in employees who will apply their education to enhance the business, you may have to work at the company for several months or years before obtaining this benefit. You may also be required to remain at the company for a certain time period afterward.
- 401(k) Match
The National Institute on Retirement Security has found that four out of five working Americans have saved less than one year's income for retirement. Employer 401(k) matching (or 403(b) for schools and other tax-exempt organizations) means if you contribute to your retirement account, your employer will add money to it, too.
According to Investopedia, "40% of companies contribute 50 cents for every dollar employees contribute up to 6% of their pay." That means if your salary is $50,000 per year and you contribute 6% ($3,000) to your retirement account per year, your employer would add $1,500 each year.
Maximize this benefit by understanding the company's matching formula and whether or not you have to work for a certain period before owning the matched funds.
- Transportation Benefits
Where you live and where you work aren't always in the same town or city, never mind the same neighborhood. That's why some employers offer transportation benefits, allowing you to pay for transportation costs from your paycheck before federal, state and local taxes are applied.
The amount you can exclude for transit expenses can change annually depending on IRS limits. These expenses include parking, allowing you to potentially save up to 30 percent or more on your commute. This lowers your taxable income and increases your spending potential.
- Flexible Scheduling
Although you're likely to come across an abundance of traditional 9-to-5 positions in your job search, many organizations now allow employees to telecommute or use flex hours. Schedule flexibility allows you to save time and money on commuting costs, while also enabling you to work when and where you can accomplish the most.
The keys to making this policy work are trust and communication.
Although it's tempting to focus solely on the company mission and the specific position you want to apply for, it's important to factor in the employee benefits that may (or may not) come with the job. Free tacos may seem like a cool perk now, but you should ensure your benefits will play a long-term role in helping you achieve your financial goals and grow your career.
This article was sponsored by Abbott. Learn more about Abbott and the Abbott Internship Program, Vault's Best Health Care Internship of 2020, and the No. 4 Best Internship for Compensation & Benefits.
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