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Fringe Benefits in Real Life: More than Dollars and Cents

Bana Jobe

Ah, the excitement of a new job offer. The thrill of getting that offer email or letter from somebody, who picked you, is an emotional moment.

Will you accept it or let the offer slip away? There’s more to the decision than how much you’ll get paid. Sure, your wages or salary factors into it, but other things should too—like fringe benefits. They’re the added perk of the job, like sick days, paid gym passes, or onsite childcare.

Even if you can’t put a dollar amount on these extras, it doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. In the long-run, they could save you thousands or more if you choose wisely and make the most of them.

The Financial Impact of Fringe Benefits

More people than ever are picking jobs based on their benefits package—even passing up high-paying wages to get them. One survey from the American Institute of CPAs showed that most workers would forgo a 30% higher salary if it meant they could get better benefits.

Jobs with standout fringe benefits have a lot going for them, and not because of the mental health boost of a “take your dog to work day.” Benefits like the following have real impacts on your financial wellness, some of which may be even more important than the take-home pay.

  • tuition reimbursement
  • financial-planning education
  • employee assistance programs
  • basic money management tools

Some perks may have priceless health effects like helping you better manage stress or afford necessary healthcare.

That’s why every offer letter you get deserves your attention from top-to-bottom. Check your promised salary, of course, but also look for the benefits on the fringes.

Which ones make the most difference? That’s for you to decide, based on your unique financial situation and needs. But you can look out for these top choices offered by big and small employers around the country.

Common Fringe Benefits

Here’s how some common benefits can stack up and shake out in real life to save you actual cash:

Student Loan Repayment

These days, college seniors graduate with an average of nearly $30,000 of student loan debt, adding to the more than $1.6 trillion in total educational debt across the United States, reports Student Loan Hero. As employers compete for good talent, they’re increasingly interested in helping employees get out from under those responsibilities.

Enter student loan repayment programs, which can take many different forms—from total or partial repayment over time to employer matching programs. Last year, CNBC reported on a 24-year-old biomedical engineering student who graduated with about $60,000 of student loans. From a pick of three job offers, he selected the one that contributed 5% to his retirement if he paid 2% of his salary toward the loans. In all, he calculated about $7,000 worth of savings from the interest.

He’s not alone. As people everywhere—of all ages—reckon with their student loan terms, finding relief from a fringe benefit can make a major impact. That savings might not get tacked to your promised salary, but you’ll realize the benefits once your monthly payments go away.

Childcare and Family Planning

For those with kids or plans to have them, many fringe benefits can take the financial sting off parenthood, examples include:

  • subsidized childcare
  • fertility coverage
  • extended leave

As the workforce grows in diversity, many of these benefits are already table stakes for a good, solid job offer: After all, more than half of all employees are women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some emerging areas of these types of benefits include:

These additions help tackle the hidden costs of having a baby from all angles—and can factor into your financial picture. Considering the cost of raising a child today, the ancillary support adds up to more than you might think.

Family benefits not only help you better manage the inevitable costs of kiddos, but they can also help workers keep working in the first place. Up to half of full-time working women don’t go back to work after having children. Fringe accommodations are important to help them keep their paycheck and continue to support their families.

Financial Wellness and Counseling

“Financial wellness” is the hot-ticket darling of fringe benefits lately, and for good reason: Many workers need help sorting through their personal finances, making budgets, and tempering spending. Notably, of all the things that keep people up at night, money is the wringer. Coming in right behind work-related stress, financial concerns worry 60% of adults, according to the American Psychological Association.

In response, more employers offer a range of financial wellness programs for their employees—53% of employers provided such benefits in 2019, compared to 24% in 2015. Making the most of these types of offerings can pay off big time. With some shuffling of your expenses, a financial planner could help save thousands or more—and potentially much of the stress that goes with it.

Employee Assistance Programs

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 97% of employers these days offer employee assistance programs (EAPs). Built originally in the 1950s as a resource to help with alcohol abuse, EAPs now provide a network of professional resources for employees, from mental health counseling for marital or other problems to legal advice.

Those services don’t come cheap otherwise. The average therapy session or attorney consult, for example, can range well over $100—meaning anyone who taps into their EAP benefits for those types of resources could save a cool Benjamin, or more (and that’s just for the first visit).

And yet, despite the high value of EAPs, few employees use them. SHRM reports that 5.5% of employees used their EAP benefits in 2018. If your new or current job offers such a benefit, give it a good look. The dollars you save might well stack up before you know it.

Making Fringe Benefits Work in Real Life

In addition to the benefits explored here, other fringe offerings can help too, such as:

  • use of a company car
  • housing allowances
  • educational stipends
  • vacation and sick days
  • wellness perks
  • free meals
  • employee discounts
  • and many others

All should factor into your decision to accept or pass on a new job.

Keep in mind, that even if some benefits have a nominal fee, it shouldn’t deter you from considering them. The low monthly cost might dwarf in comparison to the amount you’ll save in the long-run.

The Takeaway

The fringe benefits you see on paper can make a big difference in real life. Whether you’re struggling with student loans, expanding your family, planning for retirement, or need some other type of help, there’s very likely a benefit that could positively impact your life right now—financially, mentally, and even physically.

Consider them right along with the dollars and cents of your take-home pay. Your mind, body, and pocketbook will thank you.

Which fringe benefit would make or break your decision to accept a job offer? Let us know in the comments below.

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