Are You Taking Advantage Of These 5 Employer Benefits?

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Plate of bagels

Bagel Friday!

A little while ago, my fellow SALT™ blogger Bridget wrote a great piece about considering total compensation when comparing job offers.

I’d like to take it a step further and talk about maximizing those benefits after you’ve started your job. After all, just because they offer the benefits doesn’t mean your employer will remind (or require) you to use them.

Here are five you’ll want to make sure you take advantage of.

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1. Retirement Contributions And Matches

Many firms offer some type of retirement compensation, typically in the form of direct or vested contributions. At some companies, this will happen “automatically”; you’ll notice the deduction directly from your gross pay. Others, however, may require you to contribute a certain amount (say 5%) before they contribute (most likely less than or equal to your personal contribution, percentage wise).

If you’re struggling with how much to contribute to your retirement plan, selecting the maximum your company matches is a good idea. I mean, if you take nothing else from this article, remember this: If your employer offers a matching contribution, take it … all of it. It’s literally free money. No joke.

2. Tuition Reimbursement

Many companies offer some level of tuition reimbursement to further your education. Sure, maybe you just got out of college, but what else are you going to do with all your new “free time”?

The rules and amount reimbursed will vary greatly. To take advantage of this benefit, start by checking if your employer offers tuition reimbursement, how much notification they need beforehand, when they distribute the reimbursement (either directly to you or to your school, which could affect your decision to borrow student loans), and which courses/programs the benefit includes.

Also, check if there are restrictions placed on the reimbursement. The most common of these is committing to work for your current employer “x” number of years after receiving the benefit.

3. “Other” Reimbursements

If your job requires travel, check your company’s travel reimbursement policy to know what you can/can’t expense and any limits.

Some “lesser known” reimbursements? Your cell phone (the portion used for work), home utilities (the portion used during work hours if you work from home), and commuter expenses. Not all of these will apply to each company, so make sure and check.

Most important, have a system for tracking and submitting your expenses. Personally, I save receipts and dedicate every other Friday (with a reminder on my calendar) to submit my expenses.

4. Vacation

Might seem like a “no brainer”; however, according to Glassdoor.com, the average U.S. employee only takes half of their vacation time. Can you believe it? Not this guy—I love vacation!

Make sure you understand your company’s vacation policy. How much advance notice do you need to give? Do vacation days rollover each year? What are “peak times” for your industry (FYI … asking for time off during these peaks might be frowned upon).

I try to submit my vacation as early as possible. This helps me avoid any last minute requests AND ensures I maximize my time off.

5. Freebies

From pizza parties, ice cream socials, and bagels on Fridays to the more extreme (wheeee!!!), free perks around the office are awesome. Seriously, they are.

Not to mention, these “freebies” typically accompany some type of event (e.g., a “lunch and learn”) or networking opportunity. Looking to move up in your company and meet some “higher ups”? Attend these events.

And unlike college, don’t show up just for the food. Interact with people and ask questions. You are a professional, after all. (Don’t let that stop you from snagging a cookie for later, though.)

What benefits does your company offer that surprised you? 

(Photo: dearbarbz)

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