A few days ago, I was meeting with a friend that just changed jobs. She was excited about the pay, her new co-workers and the shorter commute to work. As she started talking, I mentioned that she should take advantage of all the benefits her company offers and not leave any extra money on the table.
Curious, she asked me for more information. I told her I was talking to my colleagues at Financial Finesse and one mentioned that it is estimated that a many employees leave somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million dollars on the table over a lifetime by not taking full advantage of their companies’ benefits. Here are some of those free dollars:
Paid time off (PTO): An article by BenefitsPro mentioned that Americans give up $52.4 billion in benefits by not using their full vacation benefits. Also, those leaving more than 11 available days unused reported being more stressed. So take some time off. You earned it.
Your 401k match: At a minimum, contribute enough to get the match in your 401k plan. If you find this difficult, start slow, even if it is at 1%. You can use a 401k plan feature (if available) called an automatic escalator that automatically increases your contributions by 1% or more per year until you get the match and hopefully beyond until you are fully contributing to your 401k plan.
Prepaid legal benefits and EAP programs: One of my friends was involved in a car accident and had just consulted with an attorney. When she explained the situation to me, I immediately asked her if she contacted her company’s EAP program for legal guidance. It turns out that she paid hundreds of dollars for a consultation with an attorney that she could have gotten at little to no cost through her EAP program. Before contacting an attorney, first contact your company’s EAP program or pre-paid legal benefit for assistance. Many programs also extend the services to spouses, children and even in-laws.
Healthcare advocate programs: Some companies offer a program, often called healthcare advocates, that will help you resolve claims and billing errors. Years ago, I had dental work done that should have cost $100. I called my dental insurance provider based on the information received from the dental office to verify my coverage. It turned out that they gave me the wrong procedure and codes and I verified the wrong information so I got a bill for $1200 that no one could explain, but everyone expected me to pay. I called the healthcare advocate program at my then employer, sent them all of my bills and asked them to help.
They investigated and found out that the bill was due to an error made by the dental office. Once the error was discovered and the dental office had proof of the error, I was no longer responsible for the bill. This benefit saved me over a $1,000.
Discount programs: If you work for a larger company, contact your benefits department about discount programs. Many large companies offer discount programs for cellphones, auto and home insurance and even vacations.
What are you missing out on? Take the time to explore your benefits website and contact your benefits department to take advantage of all of the benefits available to you. You may be surprised by what you find.