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7 Work Perks You Should Absolutely Have…and 24 That Barely Matter

Work perks – it’s often what companies boast about when you’re applying for a job and what they talk about almost immediately… And then what comes dead last in the interview process? The salary negotiations… My question is, what work perks really matter? And which ones look all nice and shiny during the interview process, but really don’t matter all that much? 

Based on my analysis as an employee and a lifetime analyst, I have identified 7 work perks that you really shouldn’t do without…and another 24 that honestly barely matter.

Don’t get duped into thinking your company benefits are awesome. They might have a bunch of work programs, but many might provide little-to-no value whatsoever!

Check out the list below. The best works perks are at the top and then there’s a long trail of “ho-hum” perks that follow.

Which work perks do you have?

Related: The High Cost of Low Salaries: Why Paying a Competitive Salary is Important

Top Work Perks to Look For

These are the absolute top work perks to scout out if you’re looking for that new job. They’re often worth their weight in gold in both the short term and the long term!

1) 401(k) Match – One of the Top Work Perks

This is an awesome work perk.

According to CNBC, the average employer match in 2019 was nearly 5%. So, if you earn $50,000 a year and contribute 10% to your 401(k) – or $5,000 – a 5% match will give you an additional $2,500 during that year. Not only is it great to get this extra money, but the fact that it’s going to grow into something that will likely gain value for years and years makes it worth even more than the deposited amount!

What type of match does your company offer? If it’s 6% or more, that’s a solid match and will likely pay off big time for your retirement!

Related: The Truth About the Roth 401k and the Traditional 401k

work perks2) Additional Retirement Contributions

Some companies not only match your 401(k) contributions, but they might also contribute to your retirement without you doing a thing!

Over the years, companies have shied away from pension plans, but some have still been willing to contribute on your behalf. So, instead of a guaranteed monthly amount when you retire, they offer an additional contribution into your 401(k) while you’re working – often a percentage of your salary.

I’ve heard of this amount ranging anywhere from 4% to 12% of your salary. 

If you earn $50,000 a year and your company offers an additional retirement contribution of 5%, that’s another $2,500 that will be deposited into your 401(k) each year. 

Related: 7 Most Popular Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

3) Tuition Reimbursement

Are you interested in getting a 4-year degree? Or maybe you’d like to get a masters degree?

There are actually quite a few companies that offer tuition reimbursement for their employees.

Why is this a fairly common benefit? 

  • First, employers can deduct this expense from their taxes (up to $5,250 currently)
  • It’s a non-taxable income to the employee
  • It’s a great employee-retention tool for a company. You know why? If you start the program and leave the company soon after, you’ll likely be on the hook for the cost of the education…not your company.

But, I still love this benefit.

Find a local college that offers the degree you’re looking for at a reasonable price. If you can attend classes for under $5,250 a year, you’ll receive the full reimbursable amount, un-taxed (as long as you make the grades your company specifies anyway — usually a “C” or better). Spend more than the $5,250 and you’ll still receive those funds from the company, but a portion of that reimbursement will be taxed. 

Still a little fuzzy? Let’s quickly touch on this one

  • Spend $10,000 on schooling this year and achieved all the grades necessary for tuition reimbursement?
  • Your employer will cut you a check for $10,000…but you’ll see that taxes were taken out
  • So, you’ll pay the school $10,000 for your classes, but you’ll only receive around $8,500 from your employer’s check due to taxes. 

It stinks that you’re out of pocket some, but hey, paying $1,500 for school is a heck of a lot better than paying $10,000!!

On the flip side, if you have absolutely no interest in school and it wouldn’t make any difference in your future income, then please don’t consider this a worth-while work perk!

Related: Is College Worth It? One Professor Says No.

4) Company Medical Insurance

This is one of those “essential work perks” for many. They don’t believe they can afford medical insurance on their own, so they seek out a company that offers quality medical insurance for all employees. And, instead of paying say $10,000 a year for insurance on their own, their employer might cover $8,000 of that, leaving the premium totals at just $2,000 instead of the full $10,000.

Also, you may have a pre-existing condition and find it difficult to purchase medical insurance on your own (ie. the rates may be through the roof!). This is where an employer insurance offer might be essential to your financial well-being. 

Want to know if the company insurance is worth it?

Ask them a few questions: 

  • How much are the premiums per month?
  • How much is the deductible?
  • Is it a widely accepted insurance?

Then, simply head out to the exchange and see how much it would cost you to get a similar insurance package.

I recently did this for us (out of sheer curiosity). My wife and I are both 35 and we have two young kids. How much would insurance be if we purchased it?

Oddly enough, the insurance premiums would be $0 a month!

Now, it’s likely not an apples to apples comparison with the deductible and the total out of pocket, but these are things you’re going to have to look into. It may be that insurance coverage through your employer isn’t really as necessary as you think!

Another insurance possibility is a health share option (which technically isn’t insurance). Instead of your premiums going to an insurance company, they essentially go into a big pot to cover everyone’s medical needs for the year. It’s an okay option, but quite often a solid work medical insurance option is best, and with fewer hoops to jump through.

Related: 5 Best Health Sharing Plans in 2020

5) HSA Contributions

If you sign up for a high-deductible plan through your employer, they might just gift you some money to get your account started. They put this amount of money into your HSA fund and as long as you use the money for medical reasons, it’s tax free for life!

Related: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About a Health Savings Account

6) Short/Long-Term Disability Insurance

This work perk often goes overlooked, but it’s actually pretty huge since most of us don’t pursue short or long term insurance ourselves.

Let’s say you experience a freak accident at home – something like, you fall off your roof and you become paralyzed from the waste down (this happens more often than you might think). If you have long-term disability insurance, even though you can no longer work, you’ll still receive something like 60% or 70% of your salary. It’s a life-saver for many when the unexpected happens!

If you’d try to buy this insurance yourself, it would cost you roughly 2% of your salary. So, on average, the cost would be about $1,000 a year.

7) Flexible Work Schedule

Many of us are experiencing more flexibility when it comes to where we work these days. But what about when we work?

If you have kids, flexibility with work is incredibly important.

After all, your kid could:

  • get sick
  • have the day off from school
  • get injured and need to go to the hospital 

And, you might have things pop up where it would be handy to have a flexible work schedule as well! 

If you often find yourself thinking, “Man, if only I could do [this thing] right now… that would be sooo nice,” then this is probably one of those work perks you should ask about! And, if you can’t get it, then maybe the job just isn’t right for you.

Other Work Perks You Could Do Without

The below work perks might sound awesome at first, but are they really worth it? For most, I’d say “no”. The monetary value just isn’t there. For me, if it came between the below work perks and a higher salary, I’d take the higher salary.

8) Free Lunches

This one would be awesome, but be cautious about how to calculate this benefit.

Sure, if you went out to lunch every day, it would cost you $7-$8. With approximately 250 work days each year, this equates to a $2,000/year benefit. BUT, if you didn’t have the benefit, would you go out to eat for lunch every day? 

Likely not.

What if you packed your lunch every day instead? What would that cost you? For a sandwich, some fruit, and some nuts, your total daily cost would be approximately $1.50. Do this for 250 days and your yearly lunch cost could be as low as $375.

Not quite the same perceived benefit, huh?

Packing a lunch is easy. Don’t be duped into thinking the free lunch is worth thousands of dollars a year. It really isn’t.

difference between rich and wealthy9) Extra Vacation Time

My work recently updated their vacation policy to include unlimited vacation to all directors and above. Sounds pretty sweet right? …Until you realize that you’re so busy you rarely take vacation time anyway. And, when you do, you’re taking your laptop with you and calling into important meetings that you simply can’t miss. 

So does that extra vacation time really mean anything to you if you can’t take it? 

Absolutely not. 

But, if you’re a fairly junior employee and not yet overworked, an extra week of vacation might sounds pretty awesome.

Mind you, the extra week isn’t going to put any extra money into your bank account, but it could improve your work-life balance and allow you to relax a bit more each year.

So what’s the value here? There’s technically no dollar value, but it may help your sanity a bit, which is worth something! I’ll leave the value of this work perk up to you. 🙂

10) Life Insurance Coverage

Does your work offer life insurance? It’s a nice work perk for your family in case something truly awful happens to you. However, the amount is rarely enough to fully support your family.

Here’s my plan when it comes to life insurance

I’m 35 years old now. Even though my work would pay out $150,000 in life insurance, I’m not counting on it. After all, I could lose my job at any time and totally lose that benefit. So while it’s a nice bonus of sorts, I’m not counting on it.

Instead, I got coverage for a 20 year term life insurance plan for $750,000. That way, if I die tomorrow, my wife and kids can go on living as normal (from a financial standpoint anyway). The cost to me is just $330 a year.

Unless you have a medical condition that makes life insurance far too expensive to purchase, the work perk isn’t really worth much at all.

work perks11) Paid Parental Leave

When we had our first child, I was able to take 3 weeks of paid leave. It was great, sure, but what did I do during that time? I built a fence for our yard…

After all, my wife didn’t really need my help. There was only so much I could do.

Also, many people only have one or two kids, so they only use this benefit once or twice in their lives! After that, the benefit doesn’t matter at all!

If you like the idea of parental leave, just save up some vacation time instead, or take unpaid leave. More and more people are pushing for more time off of work, which I do believe in, but there are just so many other ways to get it.

12) Childcare Assistance/Daycare Discounts

Companies know that adults will keep having children – that’s just the way it is – but, they of course still want you to work as much as possible. So what do they do? They offer incentives to their employees to put their kids in daycare. Sure, it costs them a little money, but they’ll receive far more benefit from their non-distracted employee.

Many companies are beginning to offer (and contribute to) the Dependent Care FSA program. 

With this program, parents can put money into a flex spending account (FSA) tax free! This is an immediate savings of 15% or more (depending on your tax rates). Then, they simply use this savings account to pay for daycare for the year 

Even if you don’t work for a company, you can get this perk, so don’t consider that a benefit. BUT, if your company offers to contribute, say $1,000 to your Dependent Care FSA then THAT’s a benefit, and it’s worth accepting $1,000 obviously!

If you don’t have any kids and don’t plan to have any, this is obviously isn’t one of the work perks that you should care about! It has absolutely no benefit for you.

13) Employee Development/Mentorship Programs

Your development is up to you, not your company. But, if your company does offer a program to help you develop yourself as well, bonus. I wouldn’t say it’s worth much extra though.

You may learn more about yourself and your temperament, but to move up in the company, you’re still going to need to work hard and prove yourself each and every day. If you don’t, then you’re not going to advance. Simple as that.

debt free college degree14) College Scholarships For Your Kids

Many companies offer college scholarships to a few select parents of children that are setting sail for higher education. This is great and all, but few win the scholarship and often times it’s only worth a couple thousand bucks.

Instead of focusing on working a job that offers college scholarships, tell your kids that they need to cover their fair share of the college costs. Scouting out scholarships on their own could produce far more than $2,000 AND it will start teaching them those life lessons of hard work!

15) On-Site Gym

When is the last time you were at the gym? Rarely. Making it free probably isn’t going to change that. There are plenty of cheap (or free!) ways to get exercise without going to the gym. Your future company doesn’t necessarily need one.

16) Annual Bonus

Bonuses are great, but they can pretty easily be manipulated or taken away. I wouldn’t count on it for the long term.

If you have these two job offers on the table right now…

  •  A $70,000 salary with a likely $20,000 bonus, or
  • An $85,000 salary with no bonus…

…I’d honestly take the job with no bonus. For the most part, your salary is a sure deal and you can count on it. You can’t count on that bonus. 

So yes, a bonus can be great when it comes through, but during those bad economic years, you may never see a dime. And you’d better be okay with that if that’s the option you choose. 

17) Personal Care Services

Want to work somewhere that offers free massages? Manicures? Maybe even a free haircut from time to time?

Wow, those sound like pretty cool work perks! But what’s the real monetary benefit of these services?

The answer to this question lies within an even easier question: “How often do you get these things done today?” And what do they cost you per year?

For me…

  • I don’t get massages,
  • I don’t get pedicures or manicures, 
  • but I do of course get my haircut…typically once every 6 weeks, so roughly 9 times a year.

And, I get my hair cut at Great Clips, which costs me an average of $15 (including the tip). So, $15 x 9 = $135.

Alright…so this benefit isn’t worth too much to someone like me. But, if you’re used to getting pampered and your back and neck just ache after a day of work, then maybe this benefit equates to a grand a year! Do the math and be honest with yourself. Most likely, this work perk isn’t actually worth that much to you either!

18) Fancy Mothers’ Rooms

Are you a pregnant? A new mom? Or maybe thinking about starting a family soon? 

While a swanky mothers’ room is pretty awesome, it’s not entirely necessary. And, it’s probably not worth taking a lower salary to have. After all, you only have so many children, and this benefit won’t matter to you whatsoever for most of your life.

19) Corporate Swag/Discounted Product

Free (or severely reduced) company product is awesome, but is it something that you really would have purchased in the first place? For most of us, the answer is no, which means the work perk really isn’t that much of a perk…

So while it is pretty cool to get a brand new car for 20% off because you work at the GM factory, you’re still spending thousands of dollars more than you would have if you didn’t have that job!

bankrupt because of medical debt20) Reduced Prescription Drug Costs

If you have a medical condition with prescription drugs that cost an arm and a leg, this benefit is pretty important. 

For the other 90% of the population, it really doesn’t have that much value and will save us something like $100 a year. For me, I’d rather have a higher salary!

21) In-house Seminars and Workshops

Huge companies like Google or LinkedIn often have top-name speakers come into their workplace to give talks to the employees. It’s a pretty cool thing for the company to do. However, how much will a one-time talk really impact your life? 

Typically, talks like this might inspire you for a few days, but you don’t really learn anything new. You’d be better off buying a book that the speaker wrote (with ALL the info) vs. hearing them speak and giving you only a small taste of what you need to know.

So, while this is cool, I honestly wouldn’t put that much value on it when comparing one company’s work perks to another. 

22) Student Loan Repayment Assistance 

You’ve got to be careful with this one. Many jobs that have repayment programs pay FAR LESS than the standard salary. Sure, your company might pay off $10,000 worth of loans ever year, but they might also be paying you $15,000 under the standard wage for your job!

If they truly pay you above and beyond with this work perk, it’s worth it. But, if you’re working in an underpaid industry just to get some help paying off your student loans, it’s often not worth it. Instead, find an awesome high-paying job! Then you can easy tackle those student loans yourself!

23) Volunteer Time Off

This one is pretty cool, but you already have a couple days off of work each week. Why not volunteer during those hours instead? Or, if it’s really important to you, just take a vacation day to do some great work for someone else!

24) Game Room

Does your work have a game room filled with foosball, pool tables, basketball hoops, and ping pong? That’s pretty cool, but how often will you really use it?

If you’re single and might spend quite a few hours at work, hanging out with new friends and playing games till late in the evening, then this perk might actually be worth something to you. I mean, instead of heading to a bar or expensive event somewhere, you could be playing free games at your work… So in theory, this benefit is saving you money!

But, if you’re a parent and are going to clock out at 5pm every day and likely never set foot in that game room, don’t even think about putting any kind of monetary benefit on this work perk.

25) A 401k Program

If your work is puffing out their chest because they have a 401k program that you can participate in, they need to stop. It’s really not that big of a deal. You can take your paycheck and invest it with Vanguard for next to nothing in their IRA program. It’s basically the same thing, only you have to work about 1% harder to invest with them vs. investing through your work.

The 401k option isn’t much of a benefit. Now, if your work matches your contribution, then it’s worth something! But if they don’t do that, then don’t count that as a benefit.

sip26) Employee Stock Purchase Plan

The company I work for is publicly traded. They offer an ESPP – and employee stock purchase plan – where I can purchase shares of their stock for just 85% of what they’re worth. 

For the record, I have never purchased a stock this way. To me, it’s not a real benefit. 

Why not? You might ask…

The main reason is that our company is a seasoned one and the stock just isn’t shooting through the roof anymore. It’s fairly stagnant. 

So, I can either invest in the S&P 500, which goes up an average of 10% a year, or I can invest in a company at a 15% discount…and then try to time a sale perfectly down the road to actually earn that 15%… Hopefully the stock didn’t go down so I can actually make that sale…

In other words, it’s just more effort than the discount is worth. And it’s possible that you even lose money in the process!

If you work for a company like mine, I wouldn’t consider this much of a perk. If you work for a company that’s growing and the stock price continually goes up, you may want to consider it! What’s the benefit then? 15% of what you’re willing to invest. But understand that there’s still risk in losing the money!

27) Local Discounts

Companies that employ a large number of people often have local businesses reach out and offer the entire company a discount of 10%-15% off their product or service. Not only does the business then get more clients, but it saves them a ton in local advertising. The 10% discount is a small price to pay for the many employees that might now visit and buy something from their shop.

So what’s this work perk worth? Not much.

If you’re frugal and try to hunt out deals, you won’t find them with a 10% off coupon. And, the draw of the 10% might actually cause you to spend money somewhere that you wouldn’t have otherwise. So maybe it’s causing you to spend MORE money!

Don’t worry about this benefit. The savings just aren’t there.

28) Bring Your Pet to Work Option

It turns out that your potential workplace will let you take Foofie to work with you! WOW! Isn’t that just so great! 

Not really…

You need to take her out to go pee, poop, and to exercise. I don’t think it’s going to help your production much (so don’t get too serious about that promotion). And will it really give you that much of a boost to have a dog in your workplace? Nah, I don’t think so. Maybe you should just request to work from home a couple days a week instead!

29) Free Coffee

My work has this, and it has honestly just led to me drinking 6-7 cups of coffee a day. It’s not good for my system, and it’s probably turning my teeth brown. I’d be much better off drinking a ton of water instead.

Maybe you think it’s saving you a ton of money because you’d drink coffee anyway, but now you get it for free. But…what if you made it at home and brought it with you? What would that cost?

  • We buy pretty good coffee for $4 a bag.
  • We get 12 full pots of coffee from that bag
  • and we get 6 full mugs of coffee from each put

That means we get 72 mugs’ worth of coffee from a single $4 bag, which equates to 5 cents per cup of coffee.

Even if I drink 6 cups of coffee a day for each business day (approximately 250 days a year). That’s $75 for the entire year.

….Like I said. Not really worth it!

pay off debt faster - pet sitting30) Pet Insurance Option

Some people love that their company offers pet insurance. My employer recently started offering it, so I looked into it a bit (after all, we have 2 dogs and a cat).

Guess what I discovered?

It’s just like any other insurance. 

If your pet is healthy and just gets all the normal stuff done, paying for the insurance is more expensive than if you would have just done without it and paid for everything on your own. The insurance only matter if your pet gets some kind of crazy disease and needs some expensive tests or surgeries. 

And, quite honestly, we love our pets, but they aren’t our children. If they’re suffering from cancer and they’re old, we’re not going to try to prolong their life for 6 months. We’re going to put them to sleep. We’d never use the insurance to its full benefit. 

Now, if your pets are basically your kids, then maybe it would pay off for you someday. But for most, they’re actually going to pay more in insurance than the benefit they’d receive out of it.

31) Paid Sick Days

Do you work in the office? Have you ever gotten a cold and stayed home from work? 

Let me ask you this. Did you actually not work for the entire day because you weren’t in the office? 

Doubtful.

Instead, you opened up your laptop and tried to do just as much from home as you would have if you were in the office. It’s just what you’re expected to do. 

If you work in production, perhaps this actually is a real benefit. But for most, you’d still be working…even if you were sick!

The Few Work Perks That Are Actually Worth It – In Summary

So out of all the common work perks above, there are only a quarter of them that will actually make a difference in your life:

  1. 401k Match
  2. Retirement Contributions
  3. Tuition Reimbursement
  4. Company Medical Insurance
  5. HSA Contributions
  6. Disability Insurance
  7. Flexible Work Schedule

As for all the rest, they might be nice, but they probably shouldn’t be on your list of ‘must-haves’ when you’re looking for your new job. 

What work perks are the most important to you? Which ones do you feel you really can’t do without? Let us know in the comments below!

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

2 Comments

  1. You already carved out the exception for life insurance, but I’ll expand on it here. I can’t get life insurance for medical reasons except through work. I’ve upped my coverage by 1X each year with no medical underwriting til I will hit the max of 8X with this year’s annual enrollment. Moving up only 1X allows this without the medical qualifications. When I leave the company, I can keep the coverage without medical underwriting as long as I request it and pay within 30 days.

    My wife’s employer has many “benefits” that are financial booby traps from whole life insurance to a product financing program from an online shopping portal where the payments are taken out of your check. The later is awful, there is no “interest” on products you buy, but the price of the products are jacked up twice what I would pay.

    • Good add, Justin! Nice job digging into all the aspects of your work’s life insurance and getting yourself covered, even with a medical condition! AND, you have a game plan for when you leave the company too! Perfect! Nicely done.


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