Science

What are your employee benefits really worth?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits make up more than 30% of normal job compensation. But figuring out what your benefits are isn’t always easy.

You may need to do a little digging to find out how much your employer contributes to health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks. Some benefits also have non-monetary value, and people may value similar benefits in different ways.

For example, people with health conditions are likely to appreciate guaranteed access to disability or life insurance that might otherwise be difficult or prohibitively expensive to obtain. Anyone with student loans may value a program to help with education loans more than someone without student loan debt.

Now that the open enrollment season has started again, it’s a good time to review your employer’s current offerings. Understanding what your benefits are can renew your commitment to your current job — or give you the feeling that it’s time to look for a better deal. If you’re thinking of becoming self-employed, you can better understand how much you’ll need to earn to replace your current benefits.

Here are some of the most common benefits, along with specific employer contribution amounts, according to employee benefits consultant, Mercer.


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Health insurance: $5,000 to $20,000

Employer-provided health insurance plans range from the bare bones to the quite extravagant. On average, however, employers paid 83% of $7,739 premiums last year for single coverage and 73% of $22,221 premiums for family coverage, according to health insurance research organization KFF.

You can find out how much you and your employer both paid for your health insurance last year on your 2021 W-2, said Paul Fronstein, director of health benefits research at the Employee Benefits Research Institute, or EBRI. Annual figures are often reported using the code “DD”.

Your employer may also split your contribution at your salary whereabouts. Pay Stub is a document that provides details of your gross and after-tax salary along with various deductions. You can often access your pay stub through your company’s online payroll system; Ask your human resources department for details.

Of course, premiums are just one factor in evaluating your health care coverage. Deductibles, co-payments and provider network also matter. Having access to a variety of plans can make open enrollment more confusing, but it can also help you tailor your coverage to your situation.

Retirement Savings Plan: 3% to 10% of salary

EBRI surveys have consistently found that benefits employees most value after health insurance are access to a retirement plan, with all other benefits coming in at “a distant third,” Fronstein said.

According to the AARP, people who have workplace retirement plans such as 401(k)s are more likely to save for retirement. These plans offer automatic paycheck deductions, and many people sign up automatically as well.

Most 401(k)s also come with company matches — free money that can help employees build wealth faster. The most common matches are a dollar-for-dollar match for the first 6% of the employee’s contribution to 50% of salary or 3% to 6% of salary.

Employers can contribute an even higher percentage of salary to traditional pension plans, which promise a specified monthly benefit amount in retirement. This is in contrast to 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans, where the amount you get in retirement depends on how much is contributed and how your investments perform.

Pensions are still common in government agencies, colleges, and health care nonprofits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although only about 15% of workers in the private sector have access to such plans.

Everything else: zero to thousands

Employers who provide dental insurance typically pay $500 to $2,500 a year for coverage, according to Sandra Sweeney, principal at Mercer’s Career Practice. Life insurance averages $100 to $300 per employee, while disability insurance typically costs $250 to $1,500.

Employers may provide access to other coverage, such as additional life insurance, long-term care insurance or pet insurance. Fronstein said workers typically pay the full cost but can benefit from group rates for policies.

Help with the cost of education is also becoming increasingly popular. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, about half of employers provide tuition assistance. And of the companies surveyed by EBRI last year, 17% offered some sort of student loan loan assistance, while another 31% planned to do so.


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According to the IRS, workers can also exclude tuition assistance of up to $5,250 from their income on their tax return. And by 2025, the limit also includes student loan repayment assistance.

Remember that your employer provides benefits to attract, retain, and reward workers. If you’re not sure what all your benefits are, or what they’re worth, your human resources department should be happy to fill you in, Fronstein said.

“Ask your employer,” said Fronstein. “It’s no secret.”

This column was provided by personal finance website NerdWallet to The Associated Press. The content is for educational and informational purposes and does not constitute investment advice. Liz Weston is a certified financial planner and a columnist at NerdWallet, author of “Your Credit Score.”

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