Ever heard a friend or colleague tell you they just work for the health insurance? Maybe you yourself wouldn’t mind swapping your last pay raise for a student loan reimbursement program or a flexible schedule. In fact, 80% of Americans would choose a job with benefits over an identical role with a 30% higher salary and zero benefits. When the best job benefits line up with your personal goals, they can be way more valuable than a little extra cash.
You probably know what you want out of a role, but can you put your finger on what extras really make a job worth it? Here’s what to look for beyond the basics when job hunting.
Robust Health Insurance
Many employers offer health insurance benefits, but getting details on their plan before accepting a job is critical. Ideally, you want comprehensive coverage that is either entirely paid for by your employer or that includes reasonable cost sharing, where you pay a certain amount directly from your paycheck.
Also look for any extras that come attached to an employer’s coverage. Tax-advantaged accounts like flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts can save you some money, and additional kinds of insurance, such as dental, vision, life, disability and supplemental policies, cover what some health plans skip. When you need care, having these policies can reduce your out-of-pocket health expenses considerably.
Matching Retirement Plans
Many employers also make it easier to retire, commonly with the help of savings accounts like a 401(k), 403(b) or simplified employee pension (SEP) plan. Not all retirement accounts are created equal, though, even within the same type of account.
Some 401(k)s don’t match employee contributions, for instance, or they have lengthy eligibility requirements before they’ll start. The best plans match what you put into them, dollar for dollar, up to 6% of pay. This free money, which provides great value and tax benefits, is yours for contributing to your retirement plan. Win-win.
Reconsider or renegotiate: Job offers without retirement plans or a company match.
Vacation Time and Holidays
Did you know that federal law doesn’t require companies to offer paid time off (PTO)? So carefully read through a potential employer’s time off policy. Do you get one week of vacation days annually? Two? Or do they offer an unlimited PTO plan — and is that a good thing to you? Also check their parental leave policies if those will be important to you.
You can expect that most companies will have policies for the major holidays (and maybe some of the minor ones). Don’t assume you’ll get paid for those days: The perk might simply give you the day off. In many cases, holiday perks are less about getting paid for extra days like Columbus Day or Black Friday and more about maintaining your ability to achieve work-life balance and spend time with your family. Check what’s included before you accept an offer.
Reconsider or Renegotiate: Plans that require you to accrue time off monthly or charge you for unused time off.
Flexible and Remote Work
In today’s workforce, flexibility triumphs. Perks like work-from-home Fridays and opportunities for remote work are considered some of the best job benefits right now, especially to digital nomads and others who don’t like the idea of being too tied down.
Make it clear early on if a remote or flex work arrangement is a priority for you. And if it is, know that you’re definitely not alone — 71% of employees would change jobs if a new one offered a flex schedule.
Reconsider or renegotiate: If you hear language suggesting that they haven’t thought about a flex work policy or can’t figure out how to implement one.
Student Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
Given the toll student debt is taking on recent (and not-so-recent) graduates, it’s no surprise that tuition reimbursement or student loan repayment programs look pretty attractive. But you may not realize quite how attractive: Nearly 90% of employees say they’d commit to an organization for five years if it helped repay their student loan debt.
Student loan repayment assistance takes many forms. Many let employees refinance their loans with lower interest rates. Some also help employees make payments toward their loans or even match loan payments, drastically reducing the amount they owe.
Reconsider or renegotiate: Well … you may not have much leverage here, since not many companies offer this benefit yet. Still, it’s worth trying to negotiate for it, especially if a prospective employer lacks other benefits that happen to be less important to you.
No matter what wins out as the best job benefits for you, always find out what’s included in your job offer — you might find that a perk you didn’t know about could change everything for you. And once you know what you want and what’s on the table, don’t be afraid to negotiate. You will always be your own best advocate in the workplace, and that extends to benefits discussions.