Maximizing Your New Job Benefits

new job


You’ve made it through the brutal interviews. You’ve conquered the awkward negotiating process. Now it’s time to start that new, fabulous job of yours! Here are 10 valuable ways you can get the most out of all your new workplace has to offer. (Not every workplace offers all of these things, but you should definitely see if yours does!)

401(k) plan

One of the first things you should do is find out if your new employer offers a 401(k) plan to help you save money for retirement. Ask when you’ll be eligible to participate, because you’ll want to get started as soon as possible. (Remember: If you’re not used to seeing that money in your paycheck, you’ll never miss it!)

If you had a retirement plan at your previous job, you have a few options:

  • Cash out (which most financial advisors adamantly advise against because of taxes and penalties). Be sure to consult your tax advisor!
  • Roll your 401(k) funds over into your new employer’s plan. (Ask if this is allowed and when it can be done.)
  • Leave the money in your old employer’s plan (which is typically allowed if you have over $5,000 in the account).
  • Roll the money over into an individual retirement account (IRA) (something we happily offer here).

Ask your new boss (or human resources representative) if a company match is offered. (That’s when your company contributes a certain amount to your 401(k) based upon the percentage you put in.) Usually a company has a maximum matching amount, so be sure to ask about that, too!

If you decide to contribute to a 401(k), there may be a choice to make: pay taxes now (and never pay them again), or pay taxes later, when you withdraw funds during retirement. Make sure you understand your options.

401(k) SAVINGS CALCULATOR – A 401(k) can be one of your best tools for creating a secure retirement. Use this calculator to see why this is a retirement savings plan you cannot afford to pass up.

401(k) SPEND IT OR SAVE IT CALCULATOR – There are several ways to manage your 401(k) when you leave an employer. Making the wrong decision can cost you thousands of dollars both in taxes and lost earnings.

Flexible Spending Account (Cafeteria Plan)

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a financial account into which you can automatically deposit part of your paycheck for later use. Many companies offer FSAs you can use for your health care and/or dependent care expenses. In some cases, you can even use your FSA toward adoption costs. The real benefit is that the money is taken out of your paycheck before taxes are calculated on your pay!

  • If you set up an FSA for health care expenses, you may use the funds for health expenses not covered by insurance, such as dental care, optometrist visits and eye glasses/contacts, orthodontics, and chiropractic care. FSA funds may also be used to pay for office visit co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses until you meet your deductible.
  • A dependent care FSA allows you to use pre-tax dollars to cover eligible expenses for childcare, preschool, and before- or after-school activities.

Plans vary considerably, but most plans require you to tell your employer how much you want deducted from each paycheck when you enroll in the FSA. You’ll need to spend all money set aside by the end of that enrollment year, or you lose it. (And since you can’t change the contribution amount after enrollment, it can be a real balancing act to figure out how much money to put in.) To create your plan, estimate how much money you think you’ll need for childcare and/or medical expenses not covered by insurance in the next year. You may want to consider possible scenarios, such as: Are we planning on having a baby? Do our kids need orthodontics? At least one of our kids breaks a bone every summer!

Health Savings Account

If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP), you may be eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA). It’s similar to an FSA, in that it is pretax and available for health-associated needs not covered by insurance; a major difference is that the money you invest in an HSA gains interest for you and happily rolls over year after year. Check out Linn Area’s HSA.

HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNT (HSA) SAVINGS CALCULATOR – Use this calculator to help you determine how much your Health Savings Account (HSA) will be worth over time.

Direct deposit

Most employers offer the option of direct deposit, which can be super-handy, because your paycheck goes directly into your account on payday. (No waiting!) You may even be able to split up your paycheck into different accounts. For example, you could deposit most of your paycheck into your checking account, and the rest could automatically go into a savings account. (It’s a sneaky way to effortlessly build up your savings!) If your employer offers direct deposit, there’s usually a form to fill out. If you need help with filling out the form so your paycheck goes directly into your Linn Area account, let us know! We’re happy to help.

Company discounts

Your new employer may offer employee discounts on a variety of products and services, such as personal computers, restaurants, gym memberships, hotels, and local attractions. You can inquire about discounted prices for Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival buttons (used as tickets) and tickets for the always-amazing Iowa State Fair. If you fly often for business trips, you might be allowed to use part or all of your accrued mileage rewards toward personal air travel for family vacations.

Continuing education

Some companies love to help their employees grow in their field in order to reach personal and company goals, and many local colleges and universities accommodate people busy with their careers by offering evening and online classes. If pursuing a college degree or new certification interests you, ask your employer if your company offers tuition assistance.

Giving back

Your new company, like you, no doubt wants to make a positive difference in the world — and they may have incentives to help you make it happen! See if they match charitable contributions or donate money when you volunteer your time with your favorite nonprofit organization.

Mental health support

If you have difficulty coping sometimes and could use the care and insight provided by a professional counselor, check with your company. They may provide a certain number of counseling sessions for you and/or an immediate family member. Even if you don’t have a pressing need for this benefit at the moment, it’s good to know whether or not it’s offered. (Life happens, and we all need a little help at times!)

Social activities

From office lunches to family picnics, your new company likely has some social perks. Ask your new boss and coworkers if there are upcoming events you should know about. Some fun events might be designed to cultivate business team spirit, while others may include your immediate family. Your new job also might offer company-sponsored baseball, volleyball, or basketball leagues.

Revisit your financial situation

Starting a new job is the perfect time to take a fresh look at your finances. Here are some things you might want to consider doing.

We hope these tips will help you begin your new adventure with gusto. (Now, go WOW that new boss. Good luck!)