It’s easy to zone out on benefits communications, especially when it’s not open-enrollment time. After all, you’ve filled out your health insurance forms, so what else do you need to know?
Turns out, quite a bit. Chances are your employer offers benefits that you might not know about, or know how to use to your best advantage.
“Employees must do more than pay attention once a year at an open-enrollment meeting,” says Chris Costello, principal and founder of CBG Benefits. “They should actively look for these details in their Plan Summary documents. They should log on to their employee portal or health insurance carrier’s website to see what’s listed. By taking that action, they’ll be able to experience financial savings, achieve wellness goals and fully utilize their employee benefits program.”
You can start by considering these five benefits you may be missing out on.
Some companies offer discounts through vendors, partners, clients or other organizations. Taking advantage of these can help you save money on a variety of purchases, such as travel, car rentals or other goods and services.
“Understand what discount schemes your business has in place with other suppliers,” says HR expert Malcolm Louth. “Whether it be discounted gym membership, season ticket loans or even discounts at your favorite store, it all adds up.”
Speaking of gym memberships, your health insurance may offer rebates you don’t know about. “Many health insurance companies are building in rebates and reimbursements related to fitness and nutrition efforts,” Costello says. “These details are included in the plans that are offered as part of an employee benefits package. However, we find that many employees are failing to take advantage of these. This may include reimbursements for gym memberships or fitness classes.”
In addition to get-fit efforts, your employer may offer annual reimbursements or discounts for other health or safety programs. “There are also programs that offer major discounts on eye and ear care, athletic footwear, nutritional programs or alternative treatments,” Costello says.
3. Pre-Tax Spending
“Taking money out before taxes for a dedicated use is a frequently overlooked or underutilized benefit,” says Lauri Tenney, director of benefits at EMC. This includes health and dependent-care flexible spending accounts.
For health accounts, “employees are permitted to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible medical, dental and vision care expenses,” Tenney says. Depending on the policy, dependent-care monies can be used for child care, elder care, nursery school, summer camp and other eligible expenses.
“I would recommend employees inquire within their respective benefits department about the availability of these accounts,” Tenney says. “Pre-tax dollars means more money for the employee, and less for the IRS.”
4. Retirement-Plan Contribution Matches
“Any retirement plan that includes an employer match is something you should sign up for,” Louth says. “It’s often tax efficient and is essentially free money – take it.” Read up on your retirement plan to figure out how to get the most out of it.
You probably know exactly how many days you get off in a year, but do you know what happens if you don’t take them? In some cases, you could be missing out on time off if you don’t use the time. Some organizations will let you carry over unused vacation time from year to year, but others discard the unused time and start the clock over at the beginning of the year.
“Be selfish,” Louth advises, and take the vacation you’re entitled to. “A good rest from work will make you perform better when you return, so everyone’s a winner.”