While the past was filled with healthcare, dental, and vision options, 2020 may be the year your employer begins to expand their offer with more options that contribute to your personal and financial well-being, not just your health. Not all benefits need election before the New Year. Some you can take advantage of as the need arises. Here are six ways you can take advantage of maximizing your well-being as you look to the new year.
A 2019 Employee Financial Wellness survey by PwC found that financial worries are the No. 1 cause of employee stress, accounting for 59%. The second highest was “my job,” accounting for only 15%1. Make sure to take advantage of these benefits to reduce the negative impact of financial challenges:
- Tuition Reimbursement - This is a benefit where the employer pays up to a specific amount, by way of reimbursement, for continuing education or college coursework that can be applied to a degree. With the average student loan debt at $31,172 in 2019, the benefits of tuition reimbursement become clear very quickly.2 The IRS allows an employer to reimburse up to $5,250 for education without tax implication to you. You must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250.3
- 401k Contributions - 401k contribution limits will go up by $500 from $19,000 in 2019 to $19,500 in 2020. For employees age 50 or over, the IRS allows for an additional catch-up contribution limit of $6,500 (compared to $6,000 in 2019). Someone who is 50 or over then can contribute up to $26,000 in 2020. The 2015 National Compensation Survey found that 41% of employers match contributions between 0%-6% of salary, and 10% match employee contributions of 6% or more.4 For example, someone earning $120,000 with an employer match of 5% would have up to $6,000 of employer contributions available to them, fully dependent on their own personal contribution amount. Make sure not to leave any of this money on the table.
- Student Loan Repayment - With the national student loan debt well above the $1 trillion mark, this benefit becoming much commonplace amount employer offerings. As this trend is relatively new to the workplace, there isn’t yet consistency in the amount of benefit or the upper limits. Aetna provides $2,000 in matching student loan payments with a lifetime maximum of $10,000, whereas another health care company Abbott will provide a match of up to 5% into a 401k plan if employees contribute 2% of their paycheck to student loan repayments. Check with your employer to see if a benefit is offered, then do everything necessary to capture their reimbursement.
While work-life balance is something to strive for, the reality for most of us is that it's not fully attainable. Sometimes you feel present in all aspects of your personal life, other times it's simply a blur. Personal health affects your performance at work, and work can often affect the quality of your personal relationships. Here are some more common benefits offered by employers to help move towards harmony between the two areas of your life:
- Stress Management Seminars - The American Institute of Stress identifies 50 common symptoms of stress, including frequent headaches, difficulty concentrating, and trouble learning new information.5 This can lead to lower compensation opportunity, higher medical costs, and lower overall productivity. As a result, many employers are offering training programs and stress management seminars to their employees at no cost, and most will allow participation during your normal business hours. While this has a positive effect on your productivity, it will also carry into your personal relationship and overall well-being.
- Fitness Challenges & Reimbursement - According to the Dept. of Health & Human Services, nearly 80% of adults are not getting an adequate amount of exercise. This is linked to approximately $117 billion in annual health care costs and about 10% of premature mortality.6 To help combat this, your employer may offer a variety of programs to encourage more physical exercise. These programs may include tracking your steps as an individual or group, nutrition challenges, as well as gym reimbursement. I previously worked for a company that provided up to $1,000 in reimbursement for everything from gym membership to an annual ski pass to karate dues.
- Smoking Cessation - You don’t need to be told the risks of smoking, and any statistic I could provide to you would likely not be a surprise. What you may not know though is that many employers offer programs to help their employees finally quit the bad habit. Many companies will offer discounts on the health care premiums for employees that don’t smoke or take up a smoking cessation program throughout the year. In 2005, GE participated in a program by which they paid employees $100 to participate in a cessation program, $250 for staying smoke-free for the first six months, and another $400 for staying smoke-free for a second six months.
While work-life balance may be a dream of many, chances are it will remain just that. Employers are beginning to recognize the challenges their employees face in both work and life, and continue to provide wellness programs that deem to be mutually beneficial. While the employer can rely on less sick days taken and more productivity by the hour, you can equally relish in the benefits of reduced stress and improved fitness. If you're interested in learning more about trends in employee benefits, or have an interest in proposing future elections to your employer, read the full Executive Summary from the Society for Human Resource Management. You will find wellness trends beyond those listed here, ranging from mindfulness training to dry cleaning services, and everything in between.
Have any additional questions about maximize your financial well-being? Drop us a line!
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