Fringe and Other Workplace Benefits

I feel like at least one of my friends is always looking for a new job. Reasons range from hating their bosses, to being bored out of their minds, to working too much, to the most frequent reason which is seeking more compensation. A mistake I see a lot of people make is they only concentrate on their salary and potential cash bonus, but don’t factor in other benefits which their employers may provide. Not all of these benefits are monetary, but should definitely be weighed when determining if you are fairly compensated or if it is worth your while to seek other employment.

Below I’ve put a list together of fringe and other workplace benefits that need to be considered when determining total compensation, including non-monetary benefits.

  1. 401k – This can range from small companies who offer no 401k at all, to an oil services firm offering an 8% match, to government contractors contributing 25% of your pay into your 401k, even if you don’t contribute. Personally my match stinks, but my employer’s plan is with Vanguard which is awesome.
  2. Pension – I bet you’re all thinking “ha!” but they actually still exist. I even have a small one with my current employer. Some unions who have a decent amount of bargaining power still are able to get their union members some pretty lucrative ones.
  3. Employee Stock Purchase Plans / Stock Options – I’ve never been offered a plan like this, but I’ve helped others with theirs. Depending on the discount given by the employer, these can be no-brainers to max out just like your HSA or 401k. But you have to be careful, because if the discount stinks or the stock of your employer hasn’t appreciated in 10 years, they can be worthless.
  4. Health – This one is huge. As people know, healthcare in the U.S. is NOT cheap. Luckily my employer offers a cheap HSA plan in which they even throw in a biweekly contribution. I’ve known employees at small companies and startups where health insurance is fully paid for by the employer, which is a huge benefit. Other companies usually just pay for a certain percentage of your premiums. Employers may also offer onsite gyms or will chip in to your monthly gym membership. Healthy employees are happier employees, and cost less to insure.
  5. Life insurance – Many employees don’t even know they have employer paid for life insurance. From what I’ve seen a common “freebie” is a 1x your annual salary deal benefit.
  6. Food – Some in the tech world get all their meals provided at their jobs in Silicon Valley. Others, like myself, will get free food if they work late or on the weekends and for work travel. Also I seem to be invited to random work sponsored fancy dinners for the hell of it as well, which I don’t complain about.
  7. Travel – If you like to travel, what’s better than employer/client paid travel? Free hotel points, airfare loyalty programs, and meals at nice restaurants in destination cities. I don’t travel that much for work but I enjoy when I do. If you work for a large employer, they potentially have preferred hotel affiliations where you can stay at the ritzy joints for cheap. Whenever I travel to a big city I stay at some pretty nice places I would never pay for out of pocket during personal travel.
  8. Flexibility / Remote Work Arrangement – My buddy Steve at Think Save Retire has no commute whatsoever, and neither does Mr. 1500. They both get to work from home and never have to worry about commutes or traffic or public transportation. I don’t have this luxury but I do enjoy the flexibility to work from home some Fridays or work remotely if I’m visiting out of state.
  9. Computer / Cell phone – My laptop and iPhone 6 were both paid for by my employer and so is my cell phone bill with unlimited data. Some employers even supply tablets if you’re lucky.
  10. Vacation / PTO – This varies greatly due to industry, experience, and employer. Personally I get a pretty sizable amount of PTO which is a great benefit. Even if I don’t go on vacation or fly somewhere to visit people, it’s great to take this time to recharge and get motivated.
  11. Maternity / Paternity Leave – Not a topic which I’ve researched in detail, but I know it is important to a lot of people, and I’m sure I’ll research it more down the road. We all heard the stories about Netflix instituting a ridiculous maternity/paternity policy, but this also highlighted how poor many other employer’s policies were.
  12. Education – Some employers will pay for you to further your education, get more credentials, and expand skill sets. I know in banking it is possible to get your MBA fully funded which can be an almost $200k benefit. Personally my first job pitched in ten thousand bucks for my master’s degree.

For me the most important workplace benefits are flexibility and PTO. I’ve considered leaving for more money, but then I think about the time off I’m allotted now and the ability to have a flexible work arrangement when I need it. These are definitely not guaranteed if I left my current employer, and I think a hefty PTO allowance is something I couldn’t backtrack from.

Next time you’re considering a new job opportunity or helping a friend or family member, make sure to think about these 12 potential workplace benefits.

Does your employer offer you any benefits which I did not discuss? Which ones are the most important to you personally?

50 thoughts on “Fringe and Other Workplace Benefits

    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Last time I went for a physical the doctor told me to come back in three years or so. Got to love being young!

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Haha I get excited talking about 401k’s as well Bryan! I wish my employer would ditch their crappy pension and just up our match.

      Reply
  1. Mr. SSC

    I have to say the schedule and 9/80 workweek with every other Friday off was big in my decision when I changed companies. My current supervisor told us about when my company retracted it a few years back and people left in droves, so they reinstated it. 🙂
    I had a check list of what it would take to leave, and my new company met and exceeded my list, so woohoo!
    My last job had a pension, however, it didn’t gain anything until 15-20 years then it went exponential. So I’ll get a few hundred a month from that when I’m 60, but nothing to write home about.
    For me, the vacation and work schedule are most important. I’d take a reduced salary for more vacation, or even opportunity to do furlough days, if only they offered it.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…Our money went where? October 2015!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I am definitely jealous of that 9/80 schedule! But I can’t complain too much with my generous PTO schedule.

      Reply
  2. Red to Riches

    Many people I know in their early to mid twenties only seem to focus on salary unless they have a finance background.

    As you mentioned in your article and by Mr. SSC, flexibility is huge. In my company, they have the 9/80 type schedule, but only limited to summer months, but it’s still huge with the employees. The remainder of any flexibility is definitely dependent on your manager (at least in the few companies I’ve been with).

    To add onto the health perk, another one I never thought would be so important to me is having a wellness center (both a gym and a full-time physician/staff) on site. It saves a lot of time and has helped be have better habits relating to my overall health.

    I initially focused on salary like many people do starting off, but now it’s more about an overall balance.
    Red to Riches recently posted…October 2015 Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      The wellness concept is neat. I beat that is prevalent at larger corporations where they have a campus like headquarters. I agree about the flexibility being dependent on who you report to. The guys I report to are pretty laid back (for the most part) which allows me to work remotely on some Fridays and when visiting others.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That 9/80 schedule is popping up frequently. Especially with the kiddos I bet the health benefits are a huge plus.

      Reply
  3. Andrew

    My Uncle works for a College and both of his kids will get a free undergrad degree. With the average cost of tuition per year being like 30K he is looking at saving like 250k plus he doesn’t lose the opportunity cost of that money if he would have had to take it out of investments in order to pay for their schooling. Now that’s a perk! My job provides me with 5 days off per week and I still get full time benefits. I don’t like it lol, but i recognize the perks.
    Andrew recently posted…Double Chicken Please. Hold The E. ColiMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I didn’t even think of that! I forgot that my friend’s mom worked at the local state university and he was able to go tuition free (still had to pay for room and board). 5 days off per week! You’re basically already retired 😉

      Reply
  4. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    Of all of the benefits I’ve had in the course of my career, the one I appreciate most is consideration. My current employer prioritizes a work-life balance and family above all else–for a small company to consider life outside of work to be of a higher priority than any other employer I’ve had is a benefit for me today, especially after suffering some losses in my family this year. Knowing they are in my corner means a lot to me today.
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…How We Paid Off $16,515.72 in Debt in Six MonthsMy Profile

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  5. Michelle

    For what it’s worth, I would expand “401k” to “retirement plans”. It’s important to not only know what your company offers, but to make sure you know the difference. For instance, I work for a really small company that doesn’t have the time to administer a traditional 401k. Therefore, they use a SIMPLE IRA as a retirement vehicle. Employees frequently mix the two, because they’re both retirement plans. However, a SIMPLE IRA contribution is maxed (for 2015) at $12,500. But…employers are required to contribute 2-3% annually. And employees are always 100% vested. Those can be some big differences and make a 401k vs SIMPLE IRA a factor in compensation package comparisons.

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks for the info Michelle, I’m not too familiar with the SIMPLE IRA. Not having a 401k can really be a bummer.

      Reply
  6. Norm

    Yeah, the benefits package is basically the reason I won’t be changing jobs before I retire. I get a pension, very low cost 457 Plan, cheap healthcare and tons of time off. The pay is less than in the private sector, but I make enough and wouldn’t trade it.

    I get 25 vacation/personal days and another 13 sick days every year, and they add up. Contrast this with my wife in the private sector who gets 10 days off TOTAL to use for vacation, sick and personal time. This is actually one of the reasons I wanted to hit financial independence, so she doesn’t have to worry about taking time off anymore.
    Norm recently posted…How To, And How Not To, Rent An Apartment From MeMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Ugh – you beat me on the time off which doesn’t happen often. Are you able to use the sick time as you see fit? Or is that frowned upon? I just get a bank of PTO which is for everything.

      Your wife must really get paid well or love her job if she’s not seeking more time off!

      Reply
      1. Norm

        They can be strict about sick days if they want. I don’t think I’ve taken more than five in my whole working life, so at this point I have about six months of sick leave. It’d be a shame to waste it, but on the other hand, I also don’t want to have to use it.

        Margie is pretty well paid. She’s worked at other places with the same junky benefits so it’s probably industry standard.
        Norm recently posted…How To, And How Not To, Rent An Apartment From MeMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Good point – large employers sometimes have marketplace portals for personal purchases. But I agree, flexibility and time off rule.

      Reply
  7. The Vagabond

    One of my big financial screw-ups from my 20s was when I took the pension cash-out option and proceeded to blow through all the money on who-knows-what. Even though the vested value of that pension was extremely modest, it would certainly have been more valuable to me than the *nothing* I have to show for it now!
    The Vagabond recently posted…2016 Tax Plan (And 2015 Optimizing)My Profile

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  8. Tawcan

    I’m lucky that the company I work at provides almost all of these benefits. Sometimes salary isn’t the only thing you look at for a job. The 401k matching benefit is pretty huge but it’s shocking that so many people do not take advantage of this “free” money.
    Tawcan recently posted…Recent sell & buys – POT, WMT, VXCMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Contributing to your 401k to at least get the full match is as much of a no-brainer as Chipotle being the best “fast” food 🙂

      Reply
  9. DC @ Young Adult Money

    This is where small businesses have trouble competing with large corporations. I work for a huge company (Forbes 20) and the benefits are awesome. The ESPP basically gives you a bonus every six months. You can either sell it and lock in 15% (guaranteed) gains or let it sit and build over time. You definitely have to factor in benefits when deciding on what company to work for.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…6 Ways to Simplify Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Lucky man! I bet you’re one of the few that maxes it out too. I’ve heard corporate employees don’t take advantage of this locked in money!

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I’d look at the benefits like working from home and no office politics! Plus solo 401k or other things you can take advantage of.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Pensions are great, but they scare me at the same time since there are so many news articles about cutting benefits (hello California). Hopefully your employer is a fiscally strong state or business! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  10. Alyssa @ Generation YRA

    It’s amazing how many factors & benefits to consider when evaluating work options! I work for a mid-sized family owned company, and some of the benefits they provide (which are simple to some) are: free pumpkins around Halloween, free Christmas trees around Christmas, gift cards for Thanksgiving dinner in addition to quarterly bonus, and if salaried freedom to leave & come back to the office for an unlimited amount of health appointments, or events you would like to be present for with your children (I.e. school plays, track & field days, classroom parties). A lot of these benefits may not be huge savings to your wallet, but they definitely support the work/life balance aspect which is incredibly important to me. Quality of life sometimes outweighs Since it is a family owned company, they would like to pass on the family values they have – which is also important. These are unique benefits I have not experienced at a previous employer!
    Alyssa @ Generation YRA recently posted…Talking Swagbucks with Emmy Award Winning: Elisabeth LeamyMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Alyssa. Those are some very unique benefits and ones you wouldn’t get working for a large bureaucratic organization. As I get older (or more mature – maybe both), those types of benefits become more important than the monetary kind. Take care.

      Reply
  11. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I work in government and while the salary isn’t great…I can’t really complain about the benefits. The main one is the pension…yea it’s like a golden handcuff! If…and it’s a big if (since I’m hoping to retire early), if I stay 30 years and reach 55, I can collect about 60% of my salary. I know you mentioned that pensions scare you…but I think NY is okay…at least we’re not Jersey! The other benefits are pretty good too like health insurance, life insurance (3x salary), a good amount of annual leave, no matching in our 457 plan but great low cost choices like Vanguard (admiral shares too!).
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…A Gift Better Than Money: Financial LiteracyMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You’re definitely right about some benefits being a golden handcuff. They can be a benefit and a curse. Take care.

      Reply
  12. Josh

    I recently left the private-sector Transportation industry this summer due to the lack of a work/life balance & had 30 years left. I had pretty good benefits (Pension, 401k match, & cheap life insurance). I’d say health insurance is a big deal when making the leap. My monthly premium at my former employer for an 80/20 plan was about $150 a month for the family. Now it’s $350/month & looks like it will be closer to $500 in 2016.
    Josh recently posted…Money Saving Tip: Buying Chicken In BulkMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Josh. Yikes that’s some high health insurance premiums. I pay about $50/month for a high deductible plan, but then again I’m a single guy. Would you ever consider getting another job to lower those costs?

      Reply
  13. Mrs. FI

    The work benefits of my job are what keep me plugging along every day. Not only is my pay comparable to that of Mr. FI’s, but my company’s health benefits seem to be better (if not much better) than his and many of our friends’. I can pretty much work whenever I want, so long as I hit 40 hrs a week. I have the opportunity to work from home a couple of days a week and a substantial amount of Holiday time and separate PTO if I need it. There seems to always be some kind of “food thing” going on at work which makes the employees and their stomachs extremely happy. And, despite how mundane my job can be at times, there are many days where the people and culture at my work makes up for that. So while I don’t see myself doing what I do now forever, I’m in no real hurry to find something else.
    Mrs. FI recently posted…Why Giant Tax Returns are Overrated!My Profile

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  14. Debtless in Texas

    I am one of those who is always looking for another job. I have been able to triple my salary in just over 2 years by job hopping and now work from home with an unlimited vacation policy and a crappy exchange healthcare plan. But I am still on the hunt for the next move, I would rather increase earnings 20-30% every year or so than stagnate for years on end.

    Honestly, I am looking for a company that pays me what I am worth, provides flexibility, a solid 401k match, healthcare (HDHP/HSA), and one where the bosses aren’t jerks. As simple as that is, I have yet to find a company that can meet those basic requirements.
    Debtless in Texas recently posted…I Voted for Lower Taxes. Did You?My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Brian. Staying at the same employer for 40 years and collecting a pension isn’t what us millennials are about. I haven’t jumped around as much as you, mainly because I want flexibility and I’m not sure I’d get that right away with another employer. I don’t want to have to “earn” it again. Glad it’s paid off for you!

      Reply
  15. The Bearded Dragon

    This is a really nice list. I totally agree that many people tend to overlook the details of the benefits package. Especially younger workers. Like many other commentors, flexibility and PTO are the biggest ones for me. Hell, not even paid time off necessarily. Even built-in unpaid leave is a nice option to have. Our salaries are lower than they could be, but our benefits package is well above industry standard. Like many things, you have to decide which trade-offs are worth it 🙂
    The Bearded Dragon recently posted…Expenses: October 2015My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      So true TBD. Flexibility and PTO are huge for me, but the best health insurance might be important to someone else.

      Reply
  16. Our Next Life

    I’m sure someone said this in an earlier comment, but vacation time can be negotiated, so that shouldn’t be something that keeps you in your job if you otherwise want to leave. The one time I switched jobs, I negotiated to come in with four weeks, since that’s what I had earlier. (Of course actually using four weeks is a whole different issue…) And yeah, totally agree with you on the travel perks! I’m banking up a ton with work-paid travel, and that doesn’t account for all the meals I enjoy when traveling for work that I would never buy with my own cash. 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…Our Next Life By the Numbers // Our 100th Post!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I get a ton of PTO right now. I think it’d be hard to negotiate so much if I were to leave, but it’s definitely a possibility. It’ll be awesome to have all those miles once you reach FI!

      Reply

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