Free money. That’s what financial experts call a 401(k) match, because for every dollar you sink into a retirement account, your company will pony up some money as well. If you’re not signed up for your employer-sponsored retirement plan, you’re missing out on that moolah.
But even if you’re savvy enough to pounce on that work perk, you might be overlooking others. “The average company has an onboarding process, where benefits are explained, but might only focus on big-ticket items, like retirement planning or health insurance,” says Lenny Sanicola, a certified benefits professional and senior practice leader for WorldatWork. “Smaller programs tend to get lost.” Here are four possible perks to seek out:
1. WELLNESS PROGRAMS
Fill out a health questionnaire and get a gift card. Finish a smoking-cessation program and score a discount on your health plan premium. Earn some cold, hard cash for attending a weight-loss seminar. More companies are using financial incentives to get employees to participate in wellness programs, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Roughly two-thirds of participating companies offer cash, gift cards or other merchandise, while 34 percent offer cost-sharing discounts on health plan premiums and 19 percent offer paid time off.
2. FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS
A healthcare flexible spending account lets you put pretax money into a separate account to cover insurance co-pays, deductibles, and medications. If you’re in the 25 percent tax bracket, using those funds pretax is like getting a 25 percent discount. The only hitch? You have to estimate your contributions for the year, and if you overestimate your expenses you could lose any money you don’t use. “The use-it-or-lose-it rule sometimes scares people off, but if you take the time to anticipate your out-of-pocket expenses, it’s a great benefit,” says Sanicola.
3. STUDENT LOAN ASSISTANCE
Companies that expect to hire legions of debt-saddled college grads are starting to use this perk to set themselves apart from the pack. And while only 3 percent of companies offer this benefit, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, it’s a trend that’s expected to spread [PDF]. PwC, for instance, rolled out student loan assistance last summer, offering $1200 a year for up to six years. No surprise, 80 percent of people would like to work at a company with student loan repayment assistance, according to a survey by Iontuition. And 49 percent of respondents said they’d pick that perk over 401(k) contributions.
4. VOLUNTEERING TIME OFF
Consider yourself a do-gooder? You’re not alone. Nearly two-thirds of Millennials donate to charities and 43 percent volunteer or belong to community organizations, according to a recent Deloitte survey. But you might not realize you might be able to do that good work on the company’s clock. “Younger employees want to know that their values align with the organization’s values,” says Sanicola. “So one thing employers are getting better at is spreading the word about volunteering sabbaticals and paid time off for community involvement.” Volunteering can also buoy your career (and income) long-term, by helping you build new skills and expand your professional network.