Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Are you taking advantage of every opportunity that is available to you? I ask this because as someone that works very closely with the benefits department of the company I work for, I'm amazed at how many employees are not taking full advantage of benefits. Most people think of benefits as paid time off, health insurance (medical/dental/vision), and 401k which they are, but don't undervalue other benefits as well.

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to attend a industry trade show were they bring in speakers from all over. Kendra Todd from HGTV's My House Is Worth What? and author of "Risk and Grow Rich: How to Make Millions in Real Estate," will be the keynote speaker. I'll have the opportunity to network with other professionals and make connections with vendors that I can do business with. Another perk worth mentioning is the free breakfast and lunch, year supply of free pens, and other goodies. If I'm really lucky I may even win one of the free prizes they will be giving out tomorrow. Many of our employees choose not to go because they think its boring. Personally, I don't think they are looking at the big picture.

My challenge to you is to make the effort to take advantage of every benefit your employer has to offer. If you don't understand what it is, ask questions. 99% of the new employees at my company do not take advantage of the Flexible Spending Account because it sounds too difficult and they may loose money if they don't budget carefully. That a 14-34% savings depending on the tax bracket that they are missing out on.

Not sure what to look for? Here's a list of benefits to start with:
  • 401k - Many companies offer a company match, make sure you are contributing the maximum match amount
  • Flexible Spending Account - A medical savings account that takes money out of your paycheck pre-tax dollars and saves it in a separate account. As you incur medical expenses, you submit receipts for reimbursement.
  • Company Match on Charitable Donations - Maximize your donations to your favorite charity by finding out if your company matches it.
  • Education Reimbursement - Many companies don't even require you to take courses in your field of work. Keep your computer skills up to date. Learn new marketing skills. Take a class that will help with your personal life as well as your professional life.
  • Public Transportation Reimbursement - Does your company pay you to take the bus/train? Save money by not paying for parking, gas, tolls, etc.
  • Mileage / Expense Reimbursement - Don't put off turning in expense and mileage reports. Make that money work for you by snow flaking it towards your debt or emergency fund.

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