Most Valuable Workplace Perks

When you’re interviewing for a job, companies often try to entice you with fancy extras to sweeten the deal. Global Point, a New York City advertising agency, offers employees free concert tickets. One Birmingham, Alabama law firm offers employees free snacks, soda and birthday presents. David Weekley, a house builder in the South, offers employees a 10 percent discount on the purchase of a new David Weekley home.

It’s easy to be enticed by the lure of free Diet Coke and a chance to see Billy Joel perform “Piano Man,” but how much are those perks really worth? We crunched a few hypothetical numbers, and here’s what we found out.

Free soda
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If your 5-bottle-a-day Diet Coke habit means you’re close and personal friends with the vending machine delivery guy at your current job, then free soda is probably music to your ears (and wallet). But, for the more modest soda drinkers out there (say people who drink one $1.25 bottle a day for the 260 days a year they spend at work), the benefits fizzle out.
Value: $325 a year

Free coffee
cup-of-coffee
As with the free soda, you have to be a coffee addict for free coffee to make a huge difference in your bank account. If you stop by your local Dunkin Donuts or gas station every day for your cuppa joe in the morning, you’re spending, on average, $360 a year (that’s $1.38 per cup times 260 working days a year). Now, there are plenty among us who scoff at the thought of one cup of coffee a day (those are probably the same among us who stay up to watch late night television). So for those, just double the benefits.
Value: $360 – $720 a year

Free gym membership

treadmill
This is one of those benefits that is valuable for both the go-getters and the well-intentioned among us. The former will actually use the free gym membership the company offers and the latter won’t have to feel guilty for paying for a gym membership they never use. While we didn’t calculate the long-term health benefits having (and using!) a gym membership, we know they’ll extend beyond the 40 bucks a month the average gym membership costs.
Value: $480 a year

Free lunch
paper bag lunch
A free lunch is a definite perk to those among us who hate scrambling to slap together a PBJ before work in the morning, or are tired of ponying up six bucks everytime you want a turkey and cheese sub. Beyond convenience, there are financial payoffs for a free lunch. If you eat out every workday for a year (say, 260 days a year) for an average of $8 a meal, that’s $2,080 a year for lunch. If you are a bit more financially savvy, and you instead bag your lunch for the average price of, say, $3 per lunch, you’d be spending $780 annually.
Value: $780 to $2,080 a year

401K match
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Say you make $50,000 a year and your employer has a 401K that you can contribute to. And say your employer matches 50 percent of your annual contributions up to 6 percent (which is the national average). You, being the financially-savvy person that you are, contribute 6 percent of your salary. This means, that every year, your company is giving you $1,500 just for being financially savvy.
Value: $1,500 a year

Tuition
graduation cap and diploma
AT J.M. Smucker, employees who chose to continue their education are reimbursed 100 percent of tuition cost, with no limit. You keep learning, they keep paying, which we think is as sweet as … well … jam. Now, of course, the Smuckers program is pretty unique. Most companies won’t reimburse you for an entire degree. But many will pay for you to take classes that will enhance your skill set within the company. According to an MSN.com article, the increase in lifetime income from an Associate’s degree in business can be as much as $93,000. For a bachelor’s degree, it’s $349,000. If you work for approximately 40 years, that’s like paying yourself an extra $2,325 to $8,725 a year. If your company is willing to reimburse your for the costs of continuing your education, the payoffs for you are huge.
Value: $2,325 to $8,725 a year (even after you leave your job)

Healthcare
stethoscope
You can’t escape news about the rising cost of health care. It’s top of mind and for good reason: if you or a loved one gets sick or suffers an injury, the expenses can add up quickly (a five-day hospital stay can cost more than $20,000. That’s the cost of a mid-size sedan). The average cost for a family in 2009 was $13,375; for a single person its $4,824. Let’s say your company picks up 65 percent of the tab (companies on average pick up 50 to 75 percent of the cost of health insurance), that’s $8,700 for a family and $3,100 for an individual. So, as you see, health insurance coverage is an extremely valuable perk.
Value: $3,100 to $8,700

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