“There’s usually so much we don’t know we should do,” said Karen Marlo, a vice president at the National Business Group on Health. Many employers “have set up additional benefits that you just don’t know are even there.”
Since it’s open enrollment season for many companies, now’s a good time to look over what your benefits package provides — and what you might be missing out on.
Many companies offer to help pay for their employees’ gym memberships.
For companies, it’s a way to encourage more people to work out, which can save them in the long run.
But for you, it might mean a few hundred dollars in savings a year.
The average gym membership costs $58 a month, or $696 a year, according to StatisticBrain.com, citing industry data. Not every company offers the deal — a little under a third do — but survey data suggest it’s an increasingly popular benefit.
Health savings accounts
If you have a health plan with a high deductible, you may have heard about a health savings account, or an HSA. They’re increasingly popular, and industry experts say they could save you serious cash.
Think of an HSA as a 401(k) for medical bills. They let you set aside and invest money tax-free to save for health care down the line. And if your employer offers an HSA, you might be leaving money on the table. Many companies will contribute to their employees’ accounts.
You can use the money in an HSA for things like copays and prescription drugs. How much you could save depends on how much you spend on health care and what tax bracket you fall into, but it could potentially add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars.
“It’s like free money out there,” Marlo said.
These accounts have become increasingly common over the last few years, said Marina Edwards, a senior consultant at Towers Watson, but it has taken a while for employees to get on board. A study conducted last year by the benefits company found that 59 percent of companies offer HSAs, but less than a third of employees with access to them have signed up.
Flexible spending accounts
Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, can be used to pay for medical expenses or child-care costs. Just like health savings accounts, FSAs let you set aside money before paying taxes. But FSAs don’t roll over year to year. You either use it or lose it.
Still, these accounts can be a useful way to stash away money for short-term needs while health savings accounts prepare for the long term, said Nicole Wruck, senior director of health and welfare benefits administration at the benefits company Aon Hewitt.
Free or discounted tickets
Aside from looking for long-term savings, many companies offer fringe benefits meant to boost morale around the office.
One fairly popular way to do that: Offer cheap, or free, tickets to things like games, concerts or amusement parks.
A football game on the cheap won’t save you thousands of dollars, but like most of these benefits, it might be money you’re leaving on the table.
Health care — over the phone
More and more health plans now include services that you can access over the phone, and many are offered free of charge.
Many plans now offer health coaches whom you can talk to about your goals, like quitting smoking or losing weight. They offer second-opinion services, where a doctor can look over your records to make sure your diagnosis checks out. They also offer over-the-phone counseling services. And they offer telemedicine, a service that can connect you with a doctor remotely when it’s difficult to get to an office.
Those services are offered by more than half of employers or soon will be, according to a National Business Group on Health survey.
And they can save you money. Most plans that offer health coaches or counselors over the phone, for example, offer free sessions, at least to start out. Paying for that out of pocket could cost you closer to $100 a session, Marlo said.
Plus, it’s worthwhile to consider why employers offer benefits like these: A healthier workforce saves companies money, especially as health care costs rise. But by the same token, it could also save you in the long term on medical bills and insurance premiums.
Not all the cost-saving benefits you might be missing out on have to deal with your health. More than half of employers help their employees pay for school, according to the Society for Human Resource Management survey.
That could be a big deal for your finances. For one, going back to school is expensive. Once you subtract scholarships and grants, it can cost you anywhere from an average of $12,830 to $23,550 to go to a public or private four-year college.
If you’re not sure whether your company offers any of these benefits, don’t forget that you can reach out to your HR department. It also would be a good chance to see what other benefits they offer that could save you some more dough.