But employers are getting creative with the extra perks they provide to entice people to come on board. These include everything from onsite childcare to free pet health insurance to on-site gourmet coffee. While some of these perks are funny little extras, others can add up to serious savings.
Here are some of the more common creative employee perks that could save you big money:
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We all know how expensive school is nowadays. Especially as you advance into higher levels of education, scholarships and grants become less available. But some employers mitigate these expenses through tuition assistance.
To qualify for tuition reimbursement, you may have to meet certain terms. Some employers, for example, require that you stay with the company for a certain number of years after completing your degree, or you have to pay back the reimbursement. Other employers may restrict the fields of study you can pursue. But if you meet the conditions, tuition assistance could save you money while helping advance your career.
A few companies that offer tuition assistance include:
- Bank of America – reimburses employees up $5,250 for job-related degree programs
- Capital One – reimburses up to $5,000 per calendar year for any courses taken by full-time associates and up to $2,500 per calendar for any courses taken by part-time associates
- Starbucks – offers 100% tuition coverage to Arizona State University for all benefits-eligible employees
- UPS – offers $5,250 per calendar year in tuition assistance to part-time employees with a maximum benefit of $25,000
Paid Child Care
Though not a common employee perk, onsite or other employer-paid child care is a benefit that some employers offer. In past few years, access to employer-sponsored childcare has remained relatively unchanged. About 10% of private industry employers offer this benefit. Employees with children miss an average of 8 days per year due to conflicting child care arrangements. So employers have an incentive to offer onsite childcare to increase productivity and improve the company’s bottom line.
For employees, having an onsite childcare facility reduces the need for employees to cut work days short or miss days altogether because of childcare issues. It also means a lot of savings in child care expenses, as nanny and babysitter costs can take up a large chunk of your budget. The average family spends $18,000 on childcare in a given year.
Companies that don’t offer fully-paid on-site childcare may offer other childcare benefits. For example, some companies that offer dependent care reimbursement accounts may fund or partially fund those accounts to help employees cover the costs of childcare. Other companies, such as Patagonia, allow parents to bring their kids to work with them.
401(k) Match/Profit Sharing
More and more companies are offering a 401(k) match or profit sharing these days. With a 401(k) match, your employer will add money to your 401(k) plan in tandem with your own contributions, up to a certain cutoff amount. With profit sharing, your employer contributes a discretionary amount of money into your 401(k) plan, regardless of how much you contribute. Either way, it’s free money!
If your salary is $50,000 and your employer contributes 5% of your salary into your 401(k) plan, that’s a benefit of $2,500. In other words, that’s $2,500 less that you have to contribute to meet your 401(k) investing goals in a given year! And if you’re flush with cash to invest, you can still invest up to your personal limit of $18,000 (or $24,000 if you’re age 50 or over).
A few companies that offer 401(k) match or profit sharing include:
- ConocoPhillips – contributes a matching 6% to employees’ 401(k) plans when they contribute at least 1% of their salaries
- Amgen – matches 100% of employees’ contributions to their 401(k) plans up to 5% of their salaries
- ExxonMobil – contributes 7% of employees’ salaries to their 401(k) plans
- SouthWest Airlines – offers a profit sharing plan based on company profits; contributions have ranged from one to eight percent of employees’ salaries
If you take mass transit to work every day or pay for parking, commuter benefits can save you some cash. Some employers allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to cover mass transit passes and parking. You don’t have to pay income tax on this money.
For example, if you set aside $100 per month pre-tax for commuting and your normal income tax totals 30%, you are essentially saving $30 per month—or $360 per year. Over the course of a few years, your savings could add up to thousands.
Employers can offer commuter benefits in a number of forms. One way is pre-tax employee payroll deductions, as mentioned above. Some employers offer tax-free subsidies instead by providing a certain amount per month on a tax-free basis that can be used for parking or commuting costs. Some employers offer both tax-free subsidies and the opportunity for employees to contribute pre-tax dollars to their commuting costs. Moreover, some employers pay for their employees’ parking or commuting costs outright, without the employees paying a dime out of pocket.
Free Life Insurance
Life insurance is not reserved solely for people who have children or a large amount of wealth. It’s great financial protection for your family members, regardless of your life situation. But the older and less healthy you become, the higher your life insurance premium will be. If your employer offers free life insurance, you don’t have to worry about that premium.
Generally speaking, employers tend to offer group-term life insurance. Term life insurance remains in effect for a certain amount of time only. In the case of employer-sponsored term life insurance, the timeframe is as long as you are employed.
On top of that, some employers offer accidental death and dismemberment (or “AD&D”) insurance. This benefit pays out when the employee dies because of an accident or loses a portion of his/her body.
As an employee, you may have the option to purchase additional life insurance should the employer-sponsored term insurance and AD&D not completely meet your needs. You would likely have to pay out of pocket for the increased coverage for you and any dependents. But even so, having this benefit is typically much cheaper than having to purchase life insurance on the market on your own.
Many companies offer reimbursement for gym membership fees. For the company, it is a way to encourage healthy habits in employees in order to save the company money in the long run. For you, it can mean saving a few hundred dollars each year. With gym memberships costing anywhere from $15 a month into the hundreds of dollars per month, this benefit could easily save you hundreds each year.
A few companies that offer gym membership benefits include:
- Kaiser Permanente – offers a 10% discount on participating fitness facility memberships
- General Electric – reimburses 50% of the cost of employees’ annual gym membership up to $300
- Costco – offers a 20% discount at Curves fitness clubs and preferred rates at a network of facilities through GlobalFit
Employee Assistance Program
The Employee Assistance Program is a little-known employee benefit that is being offered by more and more employers. Employee Assistance Programs provide confidential referrals and free resources to employees. These referrals and resources can be anything from legal assistance to mental health services.
Many Employee Assistance Programs offer short-term emotional counseling to help employees deal with work stress, divorce, depression, substance abuse, and much more. This can save you trips to a therapist, which translates into financial savings.
Another feature of many Employee Assistance Programs is financial counseling. Programs like these provide educational resources to help increase financial literacy. If you need help dealing with creditors or creating a budget, an Employee Assistance Program can help. Financial literacy leads to better decisions, which leads to eventual savings.
This list provides just a few examples of employee perks with a large monetary value. Employers are getting more and more creative with the benefits they offer to attract and satisfy employees. It’s important to consider these additional benefits when evaluating a job offer since they can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
What cool perks does your employer offer? Let us know in the comments.