By Andy Rombach
When it comes to finding a new job or joining a new employer, you can’t think about your pay and benefits just in terms of salaries. While salaries certainly are important, there are many other types of benefits that could have a big impact on your personal finances. Employers have gotten creative when it comes to offering benefits to employees and potential hires, and now there are a number of unique programs. When evaluating your benefits package, you need to make sure that you are looking at the “whole” picture and considering the entire range of things being offered.
You’re likely already familiar with many of the more traditional employer benefits, such as retirement assistance. In the past companies offered pension plans, which guaranteed a certain percent of your salary month-per-month after you retired. Nowadays, pensions plans have largely fallen to the wayside, and many employers opt to contribute to 401K accounts instead.
In the United States, employer-provided health insurance has also become extremely important. You need to pay attention to deductibles, copays, access to types of medicine and treatments, and various other aspects to fully understand the financial value of an employer’s health insurance package. However, there are many other types of employer benefits, some of which are more unique. Let’s dig into some of these unique programs, and see how they could help you.
1. Student Loan Repayment Assistance
Some organizations will help you repay your student loans, including PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) and Natixis Global Asset Management. Student loan repayment programs are still somewhat novel, but they are becoming increasingly popular for employers and employees alike.
Companies have been launching these programs for a few reasons. First, it’s a great way to attract recent graduates, many of whom are worried about their student loans as 44.2 million Americans struggle to pay their student loan debt. Second, helping employees reduce personal burdens, such as debt, can help them become more productive and be better employees. Third, by helping employees expedite repayment it can help employees meet the qualifications necessary for refinancing.
Programs can vary substantially from company to company, so make sure you visit company websites to see what options they offer and don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need more information.
Also, people who work in certain careers, such as the non-profit sector or public service, are actually able to have their loans forgiven by the government. This is a little bit different than student loan repayment assistance, but it’s a benefit that could potentially be very valuable.
Further, some volunteer programs, such as the Peace Corps, will offer you scholarships that can be used to pay down student loans. Also, there are certain tax benefits (USA) that come along with paying down student loans. For example, you can deduct payments towards student loan interest while filling out your taxes.
2. Death Benefits for Your Spouse and/or Family
Most of us don’t want to spend a whole lot of time thinking about death, but it’s a fact of life. We’re all going to pass at some point, and sadly, some of us are going to die at an early age.
Death is a fact of life, but you shouldn’t dwell on it. However, you should make sure that your family is prepared for tragic circumstances. Life insurance is a pretty commonly offered benefit at many workplaces, but policies can vary dramatically, so examine them closely for things such as length of coverage, premiums, and cash value.
Some employers go above and beyond life insurance. Google is one such company, and they have perhaps the most generous “after life” policies in the world. A deceased Googler’s spouse or domestic partner will receive 50% of the employee’s base pay for ten years. In addition, children will receive $1,000 a month until they are 19, or 23 if they go to university full-time
3. Travel Stipends & Travel Benefits
While you should pay close attention to paid vacation time and look for perks such as company retreats and sabbaticals, employers who value the importance of vacation and travel for employee wellness and productivity are offering far more generous travel benefits. Take Airbnb, for example, they offer employees a yearly $2,000 stipend to spend at Airbnb listings around the world.
Not only do employees get a great benefit, but hosts get some extra cash in their pockets. While some people might rather have $2,000 in cash, for Airbnb this benefit adds far more value. It ensures that employees are using the system and thus have maximum familiarity with it. Further, if you’re going to be a travel-based company, it makes sense to have well-traveled employees.
Other companies also offer travel benefits. For example, United offers unlimited standby travel to anywhere United flies. Often, children, family, and even friends can also take advantage of these benefits!
Andy Rombach is a personal finance reporter covering everything,
from credit reporting to student debt.