We all want to earn as high a salary as possible at our jobs. But the amount of money you get in your paycheck is only a portion of your total compensation package. In fact, in some cases, stellar benefits can more than make up for an otherwise mediocre salary.
So which benefits are most important to workers today? Capital Group did some digging and found that millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers alike all agree on the following top three:
- Health insurance.
- Vacation time.
- A 401(k) plan with a matching incentive.
If you're offered a job that doesn't come with these key benefits, you may want to think twice before accepting it. Either that, or make sure your salary is more than enough to make up for it.
1. Health insurance
Though employer-subsidized health insurance could spell the difference between obtaining coverage and walking around uninsured, not all companies offer a health plan. In fact, in 2015, 16% of workers weren't offered health insurance through their jobs.
But it's not just an insurance plan you should be looking out for; you'll also want a decent subsidy. Without one, you'll be on the hook for the majority of your insurance costs, and that could get pricey. In 2016, the average cost of employer-sponsored health insurance was $18,142. Of that, workers paid an average of $5,277, which means that employers covered the remaining $12,865. In other words, employers paid roughly 70% of the cost of insurance premiums, leaving workers to pay for just 30% of their total costs. And that's not such a bad deal.
Of course, it could be the case that your employer covers 100% of your premium costs, but offers a lousy plan. If that's the scenario you're facing, then you'll need to consider the additional out-of-pocket expenses you're likely to face as a result of having lackluster health insurance, from high deductibles to hefty copays.
2. Vacation time
We all need an opportunity to escape the daily grind, tend to personal matters, or simply recharge our minds. Yet U.S. companies are notoriously stingy when it comes to paid time off. The average American worker, in fact, gets a mere 10 days of paid vacation per year, and while some companies are at least good enough to distinguish between vacation and sick time, others combine both into a single pool so that if you happen to get the flu one year, you can kiss that trip to Europe you've been planning goodbye.
In addition, the more money you make, the greater your chances of getting paid time. Though an estimated 91% of full-time U.S. employees receive paid vacation days, less than half of workers in the bottom fourth of earners are privy to this benefit.
Even if your company offers vacation time, it pays to do some digging and see what its policy really entails. It could be that you're given 15 paid days off per year, but that your sick time is included in that bucket. You should also be aware that many companies won't let you take paid time off until you've actually accrued it, so if you're new to a job and need a day off early on, you may have to take it unpaid. Finally, be wary if your company offers an unlimited vacation-day policy, as these don't always work out in employees' favor.
3. A 401(k) match
An estimated 79% of Americans work for employers that sponsor a 401(k). If you're one of them, you're probably in luck, because of those companies that do sponsor retirement plans, 92% also offer to match employee contributions to varying degrees.
If you're offered an employer match, be sure to contribute enough to take full advantage of it. Currently, a good 25% of workers don't contribute enough of their earnings to capitalize on an employer match, and as such, give up a whopping $24 billion annually. On an individual level, the average employee who doesn't snag a full match loses out on $1,336 a year, so if you're offered free money from your company, be sure to actually get your hands on it.
A strong benefits package can carry just as much weight as your salary itself. Remember, perks like the ones above have an actual value, so if your company offers them, you might consider yourself lucky.