Though having a good set of workplace benefits is crucial regardless of your situation at home, if you have children, there are certain key benefits you shouldn't overlook. If you're in the market for a new job, make sure your potential employer offers these much-needed perks.
1. Subsidized health insurance
Different companies subsidize health insurance to varying degrees, so the more your employer is willing to pick up the tab, the more affordable your health plan will be. Having a subsidized plan is especially critical if you have kids and are therefore looking at costlier premiums.
This year, the average employer-sponsored family health plan cost $18,764 in premiums. Of that, employers paid an average of $13,050, leaving workers to cover just $5,714 of that total. That's huge.
Of course, it could be the case that your employer is willing to pay for the bulk of your health plan, but stick you with a lousy one. And that's not a great situation. So not only should you make sure your employer will pay for the bulk of your coverage, but also that the coverage itself is decent.
2. Paid time off
U.S. companies aren't known for their generosity when it comes to paid time off. The average American worker gets just 10 days of paid time off per year, and that often includes vacation and sick time. The problem with a stingy time-off policy is that if you have kids, you're almost guaranteed to exceed your allotted days. Between school closings and germs, you're apt to encounter a host of scenarios where your children are home and need to be watched over, so aim to find a company whose vacation policy is not only decent but flexible. For example, it could be that your employer offers 15 days of paid time off, but also allows you to work on weekends to boost that number.
3. Parental leave
Just because you have kids already doesn't mean you won't have more. And once you do, a generous parental leave policy could spell the difference between a smooth transition and a financially stressful one.
Now not all companies offer parental leave, nor is it in any way required. Furthermore, parental leave policies can vary tremendously from company to company. One employer, for instance, might offer two weeks of parental leave for new parents, while another might offer three months. Obviously, the more time your employer is willing to grant, the better. The key, however, is to make sure your employer offers some period of leave that doesn't count against your regular paid time off.
4. A flexible spending account
Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, have become common in the workplace, but it still pays to make sure your employer offers one. FSAs allow you to pay for things like medical expenses and child care with pretax dollars, thus lowering your IRS liability. Currently, you can put up to $2,600 into a healthcare FSA and allocate up to $5,000 a year for dependent care. If you max out both options and your effective tax rate is 25%, you'll save yourself close to $2,000 in taxes by funding that FSA.
Now, the one drawback to these accounts is that they work on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. If you overfund your FSA, you'll forfeit the difference if you don't rack up enough eligible expenses. But given what the average family spends on child care, that's not likely to happen on the dependent care side. And chances are, you'll spend a decent chunk of money tending to your kids' various ailments and injuries throughout the year.
Raising children can be an extremely expensive prospect, so it pays to find a company that offers the best possible benefits package. The better your benefits, the less financial stress you'll experience on the wild ride that is parenting.
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