When embarking on your job search, it can be tempting to focus on position title and salary. These are important factors, but they might not be the most important factors when considering which job to take. For instance, if you have a family and an employer offers to pay for all or most of the premiums for high-quality health plans, this might be worth more to you than an extra $10,000 in annual salary (both financially and for peace of mind). Or what if they offer contribution matching to an HSA? That’s literally free money.
Want to know what else to look for? Here’s a brief guide to the benefits you can find in the job market today.
Health insurance typically covers things like routine doctor’s visits, prescriptions, ER and hospital visits, diagnostic testing like x-rays, CT scans, blood tests, and some surgeries. Some plans will cover specialist visits (maybe with a higher copay), and other types of treatments.
With rising healthcare costs, many employees say fully-funded or mostly-funded health insurance premiums for high-quality health plans are now more important than a higher salary, especially if those benefits are extended to dependents. You’ll also want to make sure the health plans offered by an employer meet your needs. If you have any pre-existing conditions that need to be managed by a specialist or medication, you’ll want to make sure you can continue to see your doctor and your current treatment is covered by the new employer’s insurance.
Another health benefit to look for is access to an FSA or HSA. Both of these accounts allow you to contribute pre-tax money to pay for qualified medical expenses. The difference? You must use your FSA money by the end of the year or risk forfeiting it, but your HSA contributions remain indefinitely. Some employers will even offer contribution matching or simply deposit a set amount into your FSA or HSA every year.
Dental and vision benefits are typically handled separately from your health insurance plan and cover care for your teeth and eyesight. Most dental plans cover one or two teeth cleanings per year, dentures and some basic procedures. Vision plans cover vision tests, contact lenses, and glasses, or some portion of the three. Everyone needs dental care so that benefit is a no-brainer. But even if your eyesight is good, you might still want the option of buying vision coverage in the case things start to get a little blurry.
Like with health plans, some employers will offer to pay for most or all of the premiums for dental and vision insurance. If these needs are important (or necessary) for you, they’re benefits to look for.
No one wants to work forever. But in order to retire, you need to save money. An important aide to saving for retirement is a 401k or other retirement account which allows you to save and invest pre-tax money. Even an HSA can function as a retirement account since once you reach the age of 65, you can use the money you’ve saved on whatever you want.
Many employers not only offer the option to contribute to a retirement account, but they also match your contributions up to a certain amount (very few match 100%). Employer matching is an extremely good benefit - because it’s essentially free money for your future! So if one or multiple employers you’re considering offer retirement account contribution matching, it’s a highly valuable benefit to consider.
Commuter benefits are accounts into which you can deposit pre-tax money to pay for things like public transportation, bridge tolls, and in some cases, parking (depending on your plan). But they don’t cover gas, car payment or car insurance. If you have commuter expenses outside of those items, this might be a valuable benefit for you.
The ability to take a vacation as well as take time off for illness or to care for a loved one is important to your quality of life and longevity at a job. Many companies have moved to an unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) model, while others offer a set number of days you can take off per year or they may require that you earn your time off. Companies without an unlimited PTO plan typically offer a separate number of days for sick-leave. If you value travel or have family that lives out of town, a generous PTO policy might be something that sets one employer apart from another.
If you need to take leave to care for a sick loved one, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. You can’t lose your job and your benefits are covered during this time. However, some employers will offer to pay your salary if you take leave to care for a sick loved one, which could end up being a really important benefit if you have aging parents or another dependent who frequently requires care, so be sure to ask the new potential employer about extended leave.
Paid paternity and maternity leave is another time-off benefit that most employers have started offering. Legally, both parents can take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 18 as long as they’ve been with the company for at least 12 months. In addition, most employers now offer (or are required to offer depending on the state) women at least six weeks’ paid maternity leave after having a baby, on top of which women can get another six weeks of federal disability payments. Some employers have more generous paid leave benefits for both parents (typically between 12 and 24 weeks for mom and up to 4 weeks for dad), so if you’re considering having children in the near future, knowing what an employer offers in terms of parental leave is important.
New Benefits on the Horizon
Two benefits that a handful of companies have started offering are: insurance that pays for fertility treatments and student loan payment programs. These aren’t common yet (as far as we’ve found, they’re only offered by larger tech giants) but if you think you might be in need of these services, consider looking at the benefits of larger companies.
Looking for a new job can both be a stressful and fun process, depending on the reasons for your search. But it can also offer you the chance to see what other companies are offering in terms of benefits and how they stack up against your current situation. You might find a better fit in terms of health insurance, quality of life, or other benefits that make your life “work” better for you.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.