Morgan Stanley
  • Wealth Management
  • Sep 10, 2021

Making the Most of Your Workplace Benefits

Your employee benefits are an important part of your overall compensation. Don’t miss out on opportunities to enhance your quality of life inside and outside of work.

Companies are always looking for new ways to attract the best talent, and employee benefits have emerged as one of the areas where they’ve gotten especially creative. Employers now boast a range of offers to enhance their employees’ quality of life in and outside the workplace, from traditional health and retirement plans, to education financing and family planning, and even to perks for pets.

Perhaps a compelling benefits package was part of what sealed the deal for you with your current job, but if you’re like many workers, you may not be taking advantage of everything that’s available to you.

And if you aren’t utilizing your benefits package, you could be missing out on a variety of opportunities to improve your physical and financial well-being, better manage your work-life demands, and feel more connected to your organization and its mission.

Let’s take a look at some of today’s popular benefits that are worth your consideration. Keep in mind, though, availability varies from employer to employer, so check with your HR representative to see what may apply to you.

Start with a Staple – The 401(k)

The 401(k) plan reigns as one of the most prevalent employee benefits, especially as pensions fall out of favor. Not only do these plans offer a tax-advantaged way to save for your golden years, but many come with a great perk—the employer match. In short, this is money an employer puts into an employee’s account based on the contributions they make, up to a certain amount.

While not every workplace offers a 401(k) match, if yours does, consider contributing enough to take advantage of it in full. Not doing so is essentially like leaving money on the table—money that can go a long way in retirement. Think of the match as part of your total compensation, and don’t get paid less than you could be.

Welcome Holistic Wellness

The concept of wellness looms large in employee benefits these days. Beyond traditional insurance, employers are continually looking into new ways to support their workers’ physical and mental well-being.

Some organizations offer reimbursements or subsidies for gym memberships, while others have onsite yoga and meditation programs. Especially in light of recent events, employers are recognizing the need for increased attention to mental health, providing access to counseling and employee assistance programs—often extending these benefits to employees’ families as well.

In light of rising healthcare costs, many employers have introduced ways to help their workers save for current and future medical expenses. The Health Savings Account, or HSA, is typically offered to those with high-deductible insurance plans as a way to set aside and, importantly, invest money for health-related costs now and in retirement. These accounts are often referred to as “triple-tax-free”: they are funded with pre-tax money, lowering the account holder’s taxable income; assets in the account grow federal tax-free; and withdrawals are not taxed as long as they’re used for qualified medical expenses.

Another aspect of wellness is stress management. Finances are among the greatest sources of stress for employees, often more than their work situation, health concerns or family issues.1 To help ease the burden, many organizations have introduced financial wellness programs, with features like on-demand planning tools and calculators, live education sessions and individual financial coaching and planning. 

Make the Most of Modern Money Benefits

One of the biggest causes of financial concern for so many workers is student loan debt, which impacts approximately 45 million Americans to the tune of $1.7 trillion!2 This issue can be especially stark for those who may be paying back their own student loans while also financing education for their children. Recognizing the strain this poses on their workers, and how much it can impede them from meeting their financial goals, many employers now offer student loan benefits—both in the form of refinancing and, in some cases, repayment assistance.

A final offering to touch on sits at the intersection of compensation and benefits, and that’s equity. Many public and private companies offer eligible employees a “slice of the company pie,” providing them an opportunity to build wealth if the company’s stock rises in value while also feeling more invested in the growth of the organization. Equity can take a variety of forms, including stock awards, restricted stock or an employee stock purchase plan, in which employees can purchase shares at a discount. If you have access to equity compensation, it may be a great tool for supplementing your salary and financing your short- and long-term goals.

The Bottom Line

As our relationship to our workplaces has evolved, so has the role of our employers in enhancing our everyday lives through a wide range of benefits. There are more opportunities than ever to take advantage of programs that enrich your well-being and enhance your physical, mental and financial life. These services exist for you to use them, so make it a point to check your employee handbook, chat with your HR rep, and speak with your colleagues about all the ways you can benefit at work.

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