New job? Make the most of your benefits with these steps.
Review your benefits carefully.
Your first few days will be admittedly busy, but be sure to take some time to look through the paperwork human resources gave you. Take time to understand what’s included, what’s covered by your employer and what expenses are your responsibility. For example, if you want to attend your cousin’s destination wedding next year, understand in advance how vacation hours are accrued.
“Starting a new job can mean information overload,” says Brett Perkins, senior talent management business consultant at Commerce Bank. “It’s important to take time to review and digest the information you’ve been given, since many benefits can help you save money and reach your financial goals.”
To get the most value from your benefits, Brett adds that it’s important to know where to go if you have questions. Start with your HR department if you’re unsure, and they can guide you to the right point of contact.
- Don’t leave free money on the table.
Whether it’s making use of discounts offered to employees of your company, saving on a healthcare plan or signing up for employer contributions, there are many ways to seize your employee benefits. Here are some key perks to watch for:
Sign up for a company-sponsored plan where your employer matches a percentage of your contribution. They may match up to a certain percentage: If you contribute five percent of your paycheck, they’ll also contribute five percent to your plan. If you can manage it, sign up for the highest percentage they’ll match to make the most of the benefit.
You may be hesitant to dedicate a chunk of each paycheck to a 401(k) plan. After all, that’s less money in your pocket you could use for other expenses. But if your company offers 401(k) matching, they’re essentially giving you more money. You just won’t see it until you retire, but your future self will appreciate it. The sooner you sign up for 401(k) contributions and matching, the more money you’ll earn through the program – and the better prepared you’ll be for your retirement years.
- Healthcare and insurance.
Find out if your employer makes a yearly contribution to a health savings account or pays for a life insurance policy equal to your annual salary.
When choosing a health plan, consider your history of out-of-pocket medical expenses as well as financial goals. If you’re generally healthy, you may be able to save money by selecting a high-deductible plan, which will typically have a lower monthly premium. You could put the savings toward goals like moving out of your parents’ house or buying a new car. You may also be able to set up a Health Savings Account (HSA) to help cover healthcare costs, earn tax deductions and possibly take advantage of HSA contributions from your employer. (Learn more about how to save on healthcare with an HSA.)
Take advantage of free programs like on-site fitness centers, gym membership reimbursement or free flu shots. You may also be able to save more on your healthcare premium by participating in company wellness programs.
- Career development.
Make the most of company-paid training to boost your skills. For instance, your employer may pay for you to attend conferences or seminars, or reimburse you for certifications or even tuition if you’re pursuing a degree related to your current job.
Maximize your company’s investment in you.
In addition to salary and benefits, there may be other opportunities to seize at your company. “Look at how the company is helping you achieve your professional and personal goals,” explains Brett, who stresses that it’s important to look at the company culture and how they’re investing in you overall. The key is to take advantage of opportunities to boost your career and your long-term strategy.
“If you’re starting out in your career, network within your company and get to know the other departments in the organization,” suggests Brett. Often, mentoring and leadership development opportunities are available to help you find your best fit in your current department or perhaps another role in the company. Look for professional groups within the company you can join, as well as volunteer opportunities and social groups like the company softball team.
Leverage your benefits to build your long-term strategy.
Participating in company benefits that offer tax advantages can be a smart financial move. Contributions to retirement, healthcare and flexible spending accounts are often deducted from your paycheck pretax, ultimately lowering your taxable income — meaning you keep more money in your pocket.
Overall, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure you know what benefits are available to you. The more informed you are, the better equipped you’ll be to make decisions that positively impact your career and your financial future. And good luck with the new job! Interested in working at Commerce Bank? View our current openings here.
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