When my husband received a job offer that included free meals, snacks, and coffee, my brain immediately started calculating how much money we’d save. It took me all of 30 seconds to understand the impact that could have on our budget.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that thought process. According to Glassdoor, 57 percent of people listed extra perks and benefits as one of their primary considerations when evaluating and accepting an offer.
Even though other companies were offering more take-home pay, this benefit, along with a few others, tipped the scales. We realized this job could help us reach financial goals we’ve been falling behind on in ways we would never have predicted.
Perks like this are becoming more common as companies are getting smarter about what employees want outside of a paycheck. And some of them can seriously boost your bottom line. Below is an analysis of just how valuable certain job perks can be. Take a look to see why an offer might earn you a lot more than a paycheck.
8 valuable job perks to look for in your next offer
Here are a few perks you might want to consider the next time you’re looking for a job.
1. Bonuses and stock
This first perk will vary based on your industry and experience level, as well as the type of company you’re joining. And it can add quite a lot to your base salary.
For example, small startups that are slim on cash might offer you stock to make up for a below-market offer. It’s not easy to evaluate this risk, though. After all, how can you tell if a company will be the next Google or Facebook, or the next startup that will dissipate into the abyss? Still, this can sweeten a lackluster offer if you’re excited about the company.
On the other hand, bonuses are cash in your pocket. (Though they are taxed at a rate of 25 percent — unless your pay is more than $1 million, at which point the bonus is subject to a 39.6 percent tax.) They can be used to bridge the gap on a not-quite-there salary.
Bonuses can include signing bonuses, performance bonuses, and even profit-sharing. But not all bonuses are a guarantee. Get what’s being offered in writing so you know for sure what you can count on and what’s conditional.
Working parents bear a huge financial burden with childcare costs, which is why companies that help out with this can easily edge up against the competition.
So how much can this save you? Here’s the price of childcare on average, as taken from a 2016 report by Child Care Aware. The stats are for children in the toddler age range.
- The annual cost of center-based care for a four-year-old in the least expensive state (Mississippi) is $3,997.
- In the most expensive state (Massachusetts), the annual cost is $12,781.
- That comes out to anywhere from $333 per month to $1,065 per month — for only one child.
Imagine keeping all that cash in your pocket. With companies such as Dow Jones, Home Depot, Johnson & Johnson, Prudential, you can, with on-site childcare for specific locations. These companies even offer subsidized childcare, such as the 20 days of backup care per year offered by Dow Jones.
What’s more, companies are becoming more generous with paid parental leave. Ikea gives employees four months of maternal and paternal leave (whether corporate or retail employees) and American Express gives up to five months. These are just two examples of a growing trend that new parents can capitalize on.
3. Fully paid health insurance
Unless you’re a freelancer, part-timer, or working for a small company, there’s a good chance your employer offers health insurance. But does your employer also pay your premium?
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, annual premiums in 2017 are up to $18,764 for employers — with employees paying $5,714 of that. Since some companies will offer you insurance and pay these premiums, that can mean saving an average of about $476 per month. But who offers this generous perk?
CNBC Make It recently listed several of these companies, including Boston Consulting Group, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ZocDoc, and more. I was even lucky enough to have this benefit at one of my first post-college jobs, which bridged the gap on what was a fairly low salary compared to the cost of living in my city.
What’s more, you might find companies also offering wellness benefits in the form of a stipend or reimbursement. How you can use these benefits will depend on your company. Some will cover anything that contributes to your health and well-being, such as off-site fitness classes or even exercise equipment for your home.
4. Free food and reimbursed meals
Did I mention my husband took the offer that came with the free food? It saves us hundreds of dollars per month. But what about you?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on the cost of food in America, and here’s what they found on average.
- Single individuals spend $4,850 on food each year.
- Married couples come in at $7,733 per year.
- Married couples with children spend $10,555 annually.
Here’s how that pans out for a monthly budget.
- $404 per month for single individuals.
- $644 per month for married couples.
- $880 per month for married couples with children.
Assuming that the only person to benefit from the free food at an office is one person, you can estimate a savings of around $404 per month with this perk.
But how to get it? This perk is prevalent among technology companies such as Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, and even less well-known companies such as Yext.
5. Tuition Reimbursement
One of the next most valuable job perks is tuition reimbursement. According to Harvard Business Review, this attractive perk is an effective way to improve a less-than-ideal job offer.
Student loan and tuition assistance also ranked highly on the list of coveted benefits, with just under half of respondents reporting that these bonuses could nudge them toward a lower-paying job.
With the average cost of a college credit at a four-year public university coming in at $333 — and a typical requirement of three credits per course — even getting just one class reimbursed can save you almost $1,000.
In other words, you’re looking at an average of $333 per month saved on a three-month course. And that assumes you’re paying in cash. You can just imagine the real savings if this means taking out fewer student loans, which come stacked with interest charges.
CNBC Make It lists a variety of companies that offer this benefit, from AT&T to Best Buy and more. And, living up to its name, Study.com offers tuition reimbursement as well. Study.com PR employee Chandni Brunamonti says the company provides “free college courses and lifelong learning on the site” to both employees and their families.
6. Student loan repayment
If you already finished college and have no desire to go back, you can still get help with your education costs. That’s because companies are starting to offer student loan repayment. Even Congress is even trying to help along this initiative with tax breaks for such programs.
Although only a handful of companies offer student loan repayment, those that do tend to give the benefit in a lump sum amount at the end of the year (or pay it directly to the student loan servicer). Pricewaterhouse Coopers, for example, gives its employees $1,200 per year, or what amounts to an additional $100 per month toward student loans.
When you consider what that could mean to your overall debt repayment, consider the time this will shave off of your total repayment and the decreased amount of total debt paid. You can try this extra payment student loan calculator to see what this would save you over the life of your loans.
7. Free access to a gym and fitness classes
It’s not easy to stay in shape when working long hours and sitting all day. That could be one reason companies offer free access to gyms and even fitness classes and personal trainers.
Advertising giant Ogilvy has free fitness and nutrition classes, while Reebok employees can take part in the uber-expensive fitness craze Crossfit, which can cost upwards of $150 or more. Many other companies have on-site gyms and even yoga and meditation classes.
If you look at the Bloomberg’s report on the average cost of a gym membership, that’s only a $54 savings per month. But Bloomberg goes on to highlight the cost of a personal trainer on average — $55 per session — and small group training sessions — $35 per class.
If you were to take one such class on your own per week, that’s approximately $274 saved per month.
8. Travel perks
Although many jobs require travel, some companies are starting to offer free travel on your terms as a perk.
Sarah Nelson, customer service manager at Staylisted, was recently gifted an Alaskan cruise as a surprise from her boss. Nelson talks about the impact this has had on her work. “A surprise gesture of appreciation of that magnitude is awe-inspiring and makes it that much more meaningful.”
And it led to some pretty impressive photography, as well. Nelson grabbed the snap below of Tracy’s Arm Fjord while on her all-expenses-paid cruise.
Nelson isn’t the only one being offered free travel. Another great example is one offered by design and branding agency thinkPARALLAX.
Besides health insurance, public transportation reimbursement, and a dog-friendly office, the agency also has something called PARALLAXploration, which is a program that gives employees $1,500 per year to travel somewhere and, according to communication strategist Shannon Valdes, “get inspired.”
Additional job perks that can add value to your paycheck
Believe it or not, what’s listed above doesn’t even run the gamut of the types of perks you might see in an offer nowadays. Companies are going so far now as to help you freeze your eggs, pay for an adoption, pay for pet insurance, and more.
It’s important to note that there are other benefits offered, for which you’d need to contribute. Although they require your contribution, they can provide a great deal of value to your overall financial plan. These include health savings accounts (HSA), flexible spending accounts (FSA), and 401(k) and 403(b) plans with an employer match.
HSAs and FSAs can be used to add money from your paycheck (pre-tax) towards a healthcare-focused savings account. This can come in handy when you have to make copays or pay a deductible.
Plans such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s help you save for retirement out of your pay, also pre-tax. And if you have an employer match, your company will add to what you save. Not contributing from your paycheck the percentage your employer matches would be leaving free money on the table.
Typically, you might see an employer match of approximately four percent of your salary. But credit union USAA blows that average out of the water with its generous eight percent match.
What to do when evaluating offers
Although it’s important to negotiate a salary before taking an offer, you might not be able to negotiate for perks that don’t exist in a company’s plan yet. That said, perks such as these can add a lot of value to an offer if they are on the table.
One thing to remember when evaluating offers is that some perks could sound nice but not add value to your lifestyle, such as tuition benefits after you’ve already taken all the classes you’ll ever want or fitness classes when you prefer to work out at home. Only look at the benefits you know you’ll use to come up with a dollar amount for these perks. Then you can truly understand what kind of value they’ll add to the base salary.
And if you think these perks only come with the latest and greatest technology companies, think again. As large corporations struggle against these companies to attract talent, you might see benefits such as those above popping up in unlikely places.
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