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Learning Center Experience
By Jaclyn Felder-Strauss, CPAAccounting Faculty, Kaplan University Published March 2016
a new job is exciting and can also be a bit overwhelming when you are presented
with a large handbook or link to a website that contains all of the employee
benefits available through an election. Whether you make $5,000 per year or
$5,000,000 per year, maximizing your employee benefits is extremely important
to your personal financial picture. Maximizing your benefits does not
necessarily mean taking all the benefits available to you. You must think about what you need and what
makes sense for you and your family.
Let us now dive into the most commonly
offered employee benefits out there and what they can mean for your financial
are two main categories that plans may fall into:
Deciding which option
to take for yourself will require you to consider factors such as your age and
whether you anticipate any high medical costs in the coming year or not.Considering a Health Savings Account for the
out of pocket costs you may incur could be a good option. Also, a number of
companies offer enrollment in wellness programs in order to reduce the monthly
premium. If this is the case for you, it
may be a good idea to take advantage of the program. Overall, it makes sense to crunch some
numbers before making your choice.
Take the time to
investigate if your company will be contributing to one of these on your behalf
or if they will match contributions you make. It is always a good idea to take advantage of this option if you have it
because it is triple tax-advantaged and has some
flexibility in how you can use it. Your contributions to the HSA provide an
upfront tax deduction. A family can contribute $6,650 in 2016 and an individual
can contribute $3,350. If a family were to max this account out and is in the
33% tax bracket, tax savings would be in excess of $2,200. The money can then
be invested and grow tax-deferred, and you can take the money out of the
account tax-free for health purposes. The money will always belong to you as
you will not lose it if your relationship with the company changes and you no
longer work there.
There is a good chance that your employer
offers a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or SIMPLE IRA that you can contribute to. The first thing to investigate is whether or
not the company will match any contributions that you make. If so, this is the MINIMUM that you will want
to contribute to ensure you are taking advantage of the “free money” your
company is providing you to invest with for retirement. In 2016, you can contribute $18,000 to a
401(k) and 403(b) and $12,500 to a SIMPLE IRA (Fidelity.com). There are several
tax savings you will receive as a result of making the wise decision to invest
in your retirement account. An upfront
tax deduction on your contribution is given; your money grows tax-deferred
which allows for the faster accumulation of your nest since you don’t pay taxes
on the interest, dividends and gains every year; and thru tax rate arbitrage
where your save money in taxes at your higher “marginal tax bracket and
withdraw in the future at your “effective” rate which is typically lower, on
Ensure that you are reviewing the costs of each
of these insurance options as it may make sense to pay out of pocket rather
than pay the premium each month. For
dental however if you have children approaching the age that braces are
necessary you may certainly save by electing dental coverage.
If your company offers disability coverage for
no cost certainly take it. However, if
there is an option to add coverage at a monthly cost know that company provided
disability insurance will typically cover 40-60% of your salary if you were out
of work for a specific amount of time due to illness or injury. In the event
your need long-term disability above and beyond your company paid plan you
should look into taking out a private policy to meet your individual
needs. Many large employers provide a
modest level of company paid life insurance benefit for their employees. These
same companies, in most cases, give you the option to buy supplemental life
insurance for yourself, your spouse and for your children. There is a good chance that depending on your
age and overall health you can find a less expensive option privately and
always have the policy. When you leave
an employer you are not able to take these policies with you typically which
would leave you older and therefore increasing the costs to apply for private
policies then today.
Each company does offer vacation and sick time. Some do provide the incentive that if you do
not take sick days you can convert them into vacation time. According to a new study by Oxford Economics,
U.S. workers are using only 77 percent of their paid time off (Project
Time-Off). If you have a use it or lose
policy at the company you work for, take advantage of this benefit as you
Jaclyn Felder-Strauss, CPA, is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
This article serves and general information and should not be relied upon as official tax advice. For tax application to your individual situation you want to be sure to consult your personal professional accountant and tax advisor.
for retirement accounts" Fidelity.com. https://401k.fidelity.com/public/content/401k/home/vpcontributionlimits (accessed 2015).
"All work and no Play,
Project Time-Off" http://www.projecttimeoff.com/research/all-work-and-no-pay-impact-forfeited-time (accessed 2015).
IRS website. https://www.irs.gov/publications/p571/ch01.htmlOnline at irs.gov (accessed 2015).
"Employee Benefits" http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/employee-benefits.html
(accessed December 18, 2015).
By Cynthia Waddell, PhD, CPA, CFE
By Geoffrey Vanderpal, Full-Time Faculty
By Richard Carter, PhD
By Stanley W. Self, CFE
By Jerry Taylor
By Rachel Byers, Full-Time Faculty, School of Business
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Most people do not realize there are a variety of jobs in this field.
According to the BLS, employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow.
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Maylee talks about her experiences with Kaplan Financial Education and preparing for her exams.
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