Which Employee Benefits Have the Best Value?

By Sarah Szczypinski

| Photographs By Uber Images

Work satisfaction has taken a new form in last few decades, and according to Gallup’s annual State of the American Workplace report, 51% of workers are ready to leave their current jobs. 

When it comes to finding the perfect position, employees want more than a competitive salary. Fractl, a content-marketing agency, conducted an employee-benefits survey that asked 2,000 U.S. workers, ranging in age from 18 to 81, to rank a list of 17 benefits in order of personal importance. Here are the prioritized benefits that carry the most financial weight. Keep these perks in mind during your job hunt. 

1. Health insurance

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, the average cost of employer-based family health insurance reached $18,764 in 2017, and workers pay an average deductible of $5,714. Health and well-being are essential for personal and financial stability, and 88% of employees in Fractl’s survey said that they would give this benefit “some consideration” (34%) or “heavy consideration” (54%) when making their next career move.

The good news is that these averages are negotiable, and many companies are committed to lowering costs for their employees. Twitter, for example, covers all of its employees’ health-care premiums, in addition to paying for dental, vision, prescription drug subsidies, and mental health. 

 

doctor holding chest x-ray

Image source: Getty Images.

Medical insurance should be a top priority, and you shouldn’t hesitate to ask about the benefits provided during the interview process. Learn the particulars and do the math to calculate your out-of-pocket expenses compared to your current job. You may find value that extends beyond your starting salary. 

2. Flexible hours/vacation time

We’ve all been forced to use our “vacation” time for something else: caring for a sick child, waiting for the cable guy, visiting the dentist, etc. An employer who understands life’s challenges is invaluable, especially if it offers flexible hours and vacation time that doesn’t require you to punch the clock. In fact, the majority of respondents to the Fractl survey considered workplace flexibility to be a priority, which includes flexible hours (88%), more vacation time (80%), and work-from-home options (80%). These considerations can offset the consequences of lost wages, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which revealed some harrowing comparisons of unpaid leave for the average family: 

  • Two days off equals a month’s worth of gasoline.
  • Three days off equals a month’s worth of budgeted food.
  • Seven days off equals a month’s rent or mortgage payment.

 

mature man in hammock

Image source: Getty Images.

Work/life balance isn’t too much to expect from your job, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice financial security to get it. If you’re looking for hourly employment, be sure to ask whether paid time off is part of the package. If you’re aiming for a salaried position, ask how the company culture approaches employee needs.

3. Tuition reimbursement/student-loan assistance

The average college student graduated with more than $37,000 in student-loan debt in 2016. Living with significant financial burdens can seriously hinder your life choices, from moving to a new city, taking your dream job (with lower pay), and even starting a family. And while only 3% of companies offer student-loan assistance, 48% of job seekers say they’d be more interested in a position if debt reduction were part of the package.  

 

long woman working on laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

You don’t have to look far to find opportunities: A simple online search revealed that Fidelity Investments offers its employees $2,000 in student-loan assistance each year, up to a maximum of $10,000. It also offers tuition reimbursement for work-related courses, certificates, and degree programs, which means that you won’t need to rely on loans to further your education. If student loans are weighing you down, search for companies that provide this particular perk. An employer’s help could improve your lifestyle.

4. Paid parental leave

Only 12% of non-government employees have access to paid family leave, according to the Department of Labor. As we learned from unpaid vacation time, the average family can’t afford to take time off, and it’s crucial to find an employer who supports you during major life changes. For example, American Express’ parental-leave policy offers up to five months of fully paid leave for both mothers and fathers, and mothers may receive an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave to help them recover. 

In addition to improving your mental and physical health, this benefit will save you an average of $972 a month in child-care expenses, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. If a family is in your future, you can’t afford to overlook this perk. 

 

new parents holding baby

Image source: Getty Images.

5. The missing piece: retirement savings

It’s unclear why retirement savings wasn’t included in Fractl’s list of employee benefits, but it’s important to include it in yours. The current data suggests that retirees need about $1 million to sustain them in their golden years, and tax-free contributions can help you achieve your goal more easily. For example, suppose your gross annual income is $50,000 and your top tax bracket is 25%. You can contribute up to $18,000 to your 401(k) each year, or $24,000 if you’re over age 50. By doing so, you’ll reduce your taxable income to $32,000 or $26,000, respectively, which lowers your top marginal tax rate to 15%.

The table below shows how much you’ll save in federal income taxes by contributing nothing versus maxing out your 401(k) in a single year. 

401(k) Contributions Taxable Income Top Federal Income Tax Bracket Taxes Paid 
$0 $50,000 25% $8,238.75
$18,000 $32,000 15% $4,333.75
$24,000 $24,000 15% $3,133.75

Source: TaxFoundation.org.

Contributing to an employer-sponsored 401(k) can save you thousands in taxes each year, and the perks don’t stop there. For example, suppose your new boss will match 100% of your contributions up to $9,000, which allows you to max out your annual savings with half the out-of-pocket costs. At a 7% return, that savings will grow to $3.8 million in 40 years. 

Finding the perfect job is a tall order, and it’s important to consider the benefits you’ll receive in addition to the job description. Take advantage of marketplace competition by finding a company that is committed to supporting its staff. 


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This article was written by Sarah Szczypinski from The Motley Fool and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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