7 Places You Might Be Leaving Money on the Table
If you haven’t read the fine print on your employee benefits or bank accounts, you might be missing out on some important savings opportunities. Here are seven places that deserve a closer look.
1. YOUR 401(K) MATCH
Americans leave $24 billion on the table every year by failing to contribute enough to their employer-sponsored retirement accounts to take advantage of their employer match. If your employer matches 50 percent of your contribution for the first six percent of your salary you put away, for example, saving the full six percent can give your savings a nice bump if you can afford it. If you don’t max out this benefit, you’re essentially turning away free money.
2. YOUR 401(K) FEES
Many people don’t realize that their 401(k) accounts charge management fees. While the fees may sound low (they’re often “only” 1 percent of assets managed), they can really add up—by one estimate, the typical worker forks over more than $130,000 during the course of their career. To avoid giving away your hard-earned savings, figure out how much you’re paying in fees; there are online tools available to help you do so.
3. YOUR FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT
Many employers offer their workers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to help cover medical costs. These employer-sponsored spending accounts allow you to put aside pretax dollars to use for health care expenses. Unlike the similar Health Savings Account (HSA), these funds don’t roll over from year to year, so if you don’t use the entire amount by the deadline, you might lose the funds completely. To take full advantage of the benefit each year, use your FSA to purchase items such as prescription glasses (and sunglasses!), try alternative therapies like acupuncture, or stock up on medicine cabinet staples (just be sure to check your policy, as some over-the-counter medicines still require a doctor’s prescription to be FSA-eligible).
4. YOUR COMPANY’S WELLNESS BENEFITS
To encourage a healthy lifestyle, many employers offer discounted gym memberships, cash rewards, or reimbursement for wellness programs (usually through the healthcare provider) as part of their benefits package. Speak with HR to make sure you’re not missing out.
5. YOUR CREDIT CARD REWARDS
Use your credit cards strategically in order to make the most of your rewards. If one card gets you discounts on online purchases and another helps you rack up the points on gas and groceries, make sure you’re swiping accordingly. And most importantly, make sure you know if and when your rewards expire so that you don’t let savings slip through your fingers.
6. YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
If you’re paying a monthly fee for your checking or savings account, it’s time you read the fine print or make a change. Most banks waive the monthly fees if you meet certain requirements, such as maintaining a minimum daily balance or setting up qualifying direct deposits. If that’s not the case for your account, you may want to consider switching banks.
7. YOUR TAX REFUND
If you’re a single non-homeowner, taking the IRS’s standard deduction (of $6300) will most likely yield you the biggest tax refund. However, if you own a home, have dependents, or are self-employed, it may be worth investigating whether you’d have more luck by itemizing your deduction. With deductions available for unexpected things like donating your used clothing or fostering a pet, you may be missing out.