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My Financial Independence Journey » Career » 13 Ways to Maximize Your Employee Benefits

13 Ways to Maximize Your Employee Benefits

570781_generic_pointCareer development and management can rapidly accelerate your path to financial independence, by both increasing your income and decreasing your expenditures.  Today, I’d like to cover some of the more and less obvious ways that I (and others) leverage my employer to get far more than just my base salary and bonus.

1. Retirement Savings

Why not start at the beginning with the good old fashioned 401k match.  Most  non-lame employers offer to match some portion of the money that you choose to invest in your retirement plan.  My employer matches the first 6% of my salary dollar for dollar.  So that’s a 100% return on my investment just for agreeing to contribute.  The catch is that I have to stay with my company for 3 years in order for the contributions to vest.  Even though I’m trying to hit financial independence early, I don’t pass up free money so I grab the match.


2. Cell Phone

Part of my job involves being on call at all times everywhere. It’s not nearly as onerous as it sounds.  So my cell phone is reimbursed by the company.  Not only did I get a super nice yuppie phone for free, I also get all of my monthly bills paid for by the company.  And they’ll even cover additional tablets and mobile devices if you can get them all on the same account and you are the primary user.


3. Travel

I am occasionally charged with traveling to other areas of the country (and possibly the world as I grow in my job) for various reasons.  Not unsurprisingly, all the travel costs are paid for.  Sometimes I even get sent to some place nice.  Should that occur, then I can take a vacation day (or two).  Of course, I have to pay for the hotel and food when I’m not on business, but my airfare gets picked up by the company.  So it’s kind of like a discount vacation.


4. Professional Development

Given the highly technical and complex nature of my day job, I need to stay up to date with the latest science.  The best way to do this is to be a member of a professional organization and attend the annual conference to present, network, and learn.  My company takes care of my membership dues and my conference expenditures (flight, hotels, registration, and meals).  There are also smaller conferences and training programs that come up occasionally and are beneficial for me to attend.  If I can make a good case for going, my company picks up the tab.


5. Office Supplies

Let’s not kid ourselves.  We all occasionally liberate some pencils, pens, paper, sharpies, or sticky notes from the office.  Since I work from home, I figure that this is entirely justified.


6. Laptop

Another perk of my employment is that I get a laptop.  Now, it’s not the greatest laptop in the world, but it works.  I do have a laptop of my own, but it’s very old an in need of replacing.  But now that I have a laptop from work, I feel much more comfortable with putting off the replacement date until my laptop becomes even older.

Personally, I prefer to keep as much of my personal life as possible off of my work computer.  If I didn’t have that particular hang up, I would put off replacing my laptop indefinitely.


7. Gym Membership

My company doesn’t have it’s own gym.  Instead it offers us a rather sizable gym reimbursement.  Every year, I can send in a list of my dues and get money back.  Most, but not all of my membership fees get reimbursed.  I figure this is good for me because I get to save money.  Plus, it’s good for the company since I actually use the gym regularly.  Meaning that I will likely cost the company less in terms of health insurance, and be a more productive employee due to increased energy levels and decreased absenteeism (both benefits of being healthy).


8. HSA Contributions

This year, I signed up for a Healthcare Savings Account, or HSA.  This is a new health insurance plan that my company is promoting and it’s also the cheapest one out there.  As part of the plan, we each get a special healthcare savings account that we can deposit pre-tax money in if we want.  This account exists in addition to my normal health insurance, and is supposed to pick up some of the costs not covered by the insurance.  I’m in relatively good health, so I didn’t see any reason to contribute any money of my own to the account, but the company kicked in $500 this year.  And they will keep throwing an extra $500 into the account every year.


9. Food

Our company is a veritable smorgasbord of food.  Morning meetings get breakfast.  Any meeting that in any way, shape, or form touches the lunch hour gets lunch, and there are even occasional dinners.  Not to mention all of the snacks.  You can, quite easily, get 2-3 free meals per week.

There is one guy here (not me) who is an expert at gaming the free lunch system.  He doesn’t just get the free lunch, he also takes the leftovers for dinner later in the day or lunch tomorrow.  Just cause you’re banking an impressive high six figure salary doesn’t mean you should stop living like a grad student.

Note: Trying to resist all this food is incredibly hard.  It’s amazing that I haven’t completely blimped out yet.


10. Employee Discounts

Many employers have discount programs in place with local and national businesses.  Reduced rates on cell phones are very common, as are discount tickets to many local events.  Employee discounts are often buried somewhere in the corporate intranet, so expect to have to dig around for them.  And don’t  be surprised if many of them aren’t really much of a discount.  But there’s always a few gems in every employee discount program.


11. Rewards Programs

Our company has a very cool program where each year, everyone is provided with a pool of rewards points.  Over the course of the year we can give these points out to other employees to recognize their efforts in helping our projects move towards completion.  Every point is the equivalent of a $1, but instead of getting money, you get to shop in this rather large rewards catalog.

I really think that this system is a great way to provide instant recognition for a job well done.


12. LinkedIn

The social networking site LinkedIn is being used more and more heavily by employers for recruiting.  The fact is that headhunters (otherwise known as recruiters) are very costly, but employee referrals are very cheap.

So how does an employer increase the number of employee referrals? By encouraging all of their employees to up their game on LinkedIn, and providing them the tools to do it.  We got an entire training on how to use LinkedIn and had a professional photographer come in and take pictures of us for our profiles.

Note:  Everyone realizes that this is a bit of a double edged sword, since teaching employees how to improve their LinkedIn profiles also helps them find another job.


13. Tuition Reimbursement

Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs if you want to go back to college in order to pick up an advanced degree that would be related to your job, or otherwise advantageous to the company.  Because so much money is on the line with tuition reimbursement, you can expect that your company will want  you to remain in employment with them for some period of time after you finish the degree otherwise you’ll have to pay back some part of the money that they covered.  And you still have to do your job, so expect to have to pull this off almost entirely with weekend and evening courses.

Readers:  How do you maximize your employee benefits?  Does your company offer anything not listed about?

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