There is an article in today's Toronto Star with some tips to increasing your pay and taking advantage of benefits that your employer may provide.
Everyone wants a raise and to make more money. One of the easiest ways to do that is to take advantage of your employee benefits.
A study by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce last year puts the value of basic health and dental benefits, life insurance, and retirement savings plans at about 24 per cent of payroll. So, if you’re making $60,000, the value to you can be as much as $15,000.
Other perks like fitness subsidies, tuition reimbursement and maternity/parental benefit top ups make your compensation package worth even more. So here’s a checklist that can help you unlock the full potential of your workplace benefits.
- Maximize retirement savingsMany employers match employee contributions to the company pension plan or Group RRSP by as much as 5 or 6 per cent of their employees’ salary. Over time it’s worth a bundle.
Suppose you make $60,000 and contribute 5 per cent to your retirement savings plan from age 30 to 65. Assume that you increase contributions by 2 per cent a year to account for inflation and get a 5 per cent rate of return. That would be worth at little over $369, 000 at age 65. If your employer matched that, you’d have almost $738,500.
Pay attention to where the money goes. Unless you pick where the cash will be invested, it ends up in a default fund. A 2011 study from Great-West Life Insurance reports that about a third of default funds are money market, daily interest accounts or cash that won’t keep up with inflation.
The company I work for has a DB pension plan that I'm in.
- Consider company stock
Your company may have a payroll deduction plan that lets you buy shares at a discount. It is a taxable benefit and any decision to buy company stock should be part of your overall investment strategy. When Nortel failed, many employees who owned company shares lost both their jobs and a significant chunk of their nest eggs.
Not an option where I work.
- Submit all medical bills
Often your pharmacy and dentist will submit bills directly to your insurance company. However, other bills must be submitted by you. Check out your plan to see what’s eligible, keep the receipts and submit them. Even small amounts add up.
I always do!
- Coordinate benefit plans
If you and your spouse, or partner, have benefits make sure they are co-ordinated. Instead of getting a portion of your bills paid, you may be able to collect it all by using both. If a root canal costs $1,000 and your company only pays half, you have a lot to lose.
I'm on Gord's plan through his job ... it was a better program than mine.
- Health Care Spending Account: Use it or lose it
Health Spending Accounts are a popular way for employers to give employees benefits choice. The company provides a lump sum, say $500, which can be used to pay for things not fully covered by the basic medical plan.
Check your benefits information to understand how your HSA works. Also make sure to read and act upon statements or emails advising you that your HSA balance will be forfeited if it is not used by a certain date.
- Monitor your maximums
Make sure you know how much you can spend each year for dental work, physiotherapy, massage therapy, orthotics or glasses. Time your appointments and purchases accordingly.
I take advantage of the prescription, optical, dental, chiro and massage therapy benefits and keep track of what I've spent.
- Maternity and parental leave top up
Ottawa pays up to $485 a week for 50 weeks of parental leave, after a two week waiting period. Many companies pay full salary for the waiting period and top up to 95 or 100 per cent of salary.
To be eligible for the government and company benefits you have to accumulate at least 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year or since you lasted collected benefits.
Not a benefit I've needed.
- Employee Assistance Plan
A Toronto Board of Trade Survey found that employers pay about $45 a year per person for Employee Assistance Plans. These plans offer a lot of value. They are available at no cost to you by telephone 24/7. Getting the help you need when you need it is invaluable if it helps you to function well enough to keep your job or hold your family together in a crisis.
Nice to know we have one, though I've never used it.
- Tuition reimbursement
Many companies will pay for tuition if the course is approved and you pass. If your employer is willing to fully or partially fund an Executive MBA, you’ve really hit the jackpot. The 2012 fee for the Rotman program including all tuition and course fees is $93,000. I've taken advantage of this many times over the years.
- Get fit at work
Take advantage of in-house gyms, sports teams and wellness challenges to get fit for free. Working out is also more affordable if your employer has negotiated a corporate rate at a fitness club and/or subsidizes fitness club memberships.
The corporate rate at Goodlife Fitness for Research in Motion employees and spouses is $320 a year, with each employee’s fee paid for by the company. This represents a significant saving over the individual annual Goodlife membership fee with towel service of $34.50 every two weeks, or $897a /year.
We have a small gym in our building at work (which I've never used) but my company also compensate us up to a dollar amount (it works to half my annual membership fee) if I belong to a gym.
- Use up your vacation days
Your company probably has restrictions on unused vacation that can be cashed out or carried over to the next year. Check the rules and use them up.
I value vacation days and have never not used any.
- Corporate travel
Corporate travel can be more of a pain than a perk if it takes you away from home for long periods. However, business travellers rack up a huge number of airline points. Some companies allow employees to charge travel to personal credit cards and retain airline points for personal use. And airline points you earn on the job are not a taxable benefit.
Also, if you are going somewhere interesting and your hotel room is paid for, you may be able to take your family along on a vacation for a fraction of the normal cost.
I travel a lot for my job so it's nice to rack up some flight points.