Out of the three siblings, I’ve definitely been the most “corporate” – working for companies like Goldman Sachs, Amazon, and Capital One. I don’t see this as good or bad – just a Machiavellian means to an end. However it does give me a sense of obligation to write toward those who may also be climbing the corporate ladder to financial freedom. There are lots of opportunities to save and make additional money when working for a company, and if you’re not learning about and taking advantage of all of them, you’re missing out!
1. 100% Return via 401K
This is the #1 thing you should be doing to get the most out of working for the man. Invest enough money into your 401k to get the full match from your company. It’s probably the biggest return on investment you’ll find aside from your paycheck. If your company matches 100% of your contributions up to 4% of your pay, then contribute 4% of your pay! It’s a 100% return! If they match $0.50 for every dollar you contribute, up to 4% of your pay, put 4% in! It’s still a 50% return, which is way better than you’d get from the stock market or any other type of investment. Your 401k is also tax-advantaged, so if you plan on saving for retirement at all this is the place to put your money.
2. Company Stocks
a. Stock Purchase Plan
Companies want you to feel like you have skin in the game – that the companies’ success equals your success. So many larger companies will offer Stock Purchase Plans – ways for you to buy the company stock at a discount.
The company I currently work for offers a variation of this idea where they match 15% of whatever I contribute. I just choose how much I want deducted from my paycheck, and at the end of the month, they’ll buy company stock for me with the money I’ve contributed + 15% they put in. So if I make $8333/month ($100,000/year), and choose to contribute 10% toward this plan, I’m contributing $833 each month. The company matches 15% of that $833 (about $125) for a total of $958 worth of stock each month. I can choose to sell right away and lock in that 15%, or I can choose to wait until the stock goes up. Since I believe in the company, I typically wait to lock in even higher gains. That’s an automatic 15%+ additional dollars each year.
There are limits to this – in the US, you can only contribute up to 15% of your base salary, up to $25,000 each year. But still, when the stock market averages about 6-10% each year, a guaranteed 15% (or higher) would be crazy to pass up.
I also get dividend payouts from the stocks. If your company offers a plan like this, take advantage as soon as possible.
b. Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)
I debated whether to include this item in the post or not, but I think it applies. RSUs are company stocks that “vest” (become officially yours) after a certain amount of time working for the company. They incentivize employees to stay with the company for a given period of time. When I worked at Amazon, my RSUs vested over 4 years – each year I’d get a higher percentage of stocks than the year before. I wasn’t sure whether to include this one because they are typically counted as part of your total salary. However, unlike your base salary, stocks can go up over time.
So let’s say you work for an awesome company and you get 50 RSUs that vest over 4 years. The first year you get 5 stocks that sell at $25, the second year you get 9 stocks that sell at $30, and the last two years you get 33 stocks each that sell at $35 and $40 respectively (because the stock value goes up each year). If you know the company is doing well and will just keep growing, you can keep the shares until they go up to $50 or even $100! You were only supposed to be “paid” how much the stocks originally sold for, but because you kept them, you made a lot more. RSUs are just one more thing to consider when thinking about the benefits of a job – if you’re thinking long-term, they can really add to your wealth.
3. “Healthy Money”
a. Follow the Redbrick Road
This is one of my favorites – mostly because I sit in a chair coding all day and this incentivizes me to be healthier with dolla-dolla bills (up to $700 a year in gift cards since I’m married). I recently learned that my company is partnered with a health company called Redbrick Health. It’s a newer company that was founded in 2006 and incentivizes employees to be healthier via money incentives – reducing employer and employee health care costs and making sure employees are performing at 100% health-wise.
My company in particular offers up to $350/person in gift card rewards for doing different health activities. I’m talking Amazon, AMC Theatres, Best Buy, Macy’s Nike, Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods, Home Depot, iTunes, and more! For example, I got a health screening at LabCorp last month (with a free voucher provided by Redbrick) and earned $75! I’ll probably use that to buy things from Target or Amazon I was going to buy anyways. So not only am I earning money, I’m also getting free health benefits in the process. From the screening, I learned that my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are starting to get higher – which means more exercise and Honey Nut Cheerios for me – yay!
Other activities include a couple of health consultation calls, taking a health assessment, tracking healthy habits through their tracking app, etc. – all of which I’ll be doing this year. You can also use Redbrick to start teams to compete with co-workers toward different goals. Which is fun and keeps everyone accountable to each other. But since this post is more about money, check if your company offers anything like this and earn those rewards!
b. Gym Stipend
I have a couple friends at Microsoft who get this, which I think is a really good idea. You basically get a certain amount of money each month to pay for a gym membership or exercise equipment, etc. to keep you healthy. So if you’re planning on going to the gym or buying free weights anyways, you might as well check to see if your company will pay for this.
I currently work out at home (can’t beat free), but my company has a gym onsite that’s subsidized – so it’s a little cheaper than going to another gym elsewhere. Which can still save you money long term. Most companies offer some sort of health benefits, so it’s definitely worth seeing if your company does too!
4. Phone Bill Reimbursement
The nature of some companies require that employees go “on-call” – aka. be ready at a moment’s notice in case something breaks. Your job may also require that you access work email or communication platforms like Slack in order to stay productive. If this is the case, see if your company will reimburse a part, if not all, of your phone bill.
This can often depend on your manager. At one company I worked at, I was able to expense my phone bill if I had certain apps on my phone and went on-call regularly. At another company I had to carry around a separate “work phone” provided by the company – it just depends. But even if there’s a chance of expensing your phone bill, you should try. It really adds up.
5. Educational Assistance
A lot of companies offer some sort of reimbursement or stipend for education (college tuition, going to conferences, getting a certification, etc.). This one’s interesting because it can save you money in the short term, but make you money long term. It’s an investment. If you wanted to pursue a higher education anyways, why not take advantage of the educational reimbursements while you’re at a company that provides it?
Once you finish, the company will probably pay you more (definitely get this in writing before going out and getting an extra degree though). And if they don’t, you’re now more qualified to go out and get another higher paying job. The biggest sacrifice is your time, but even that may not be a total sacrifice assuming you’re studying something you enjoy.
Other Awesome Ways to Make and Save Money
The companies I’ve worked for have all offered discount programs for specific brands or companies. When I worked there, Amazon offered some nice discounts on select Bose headphone products. Capital One offers “Perks” where you can get discounts on certain laptops and different items throughout the year. These can be great for holidays or if you were planning on getting a certain item anyway – just make sure not to let these programs tempt you into spending when you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Some corporate jobs offer commuter benefits like tax-advantaged public transportation cards or other sorts of stipends. Companies will often provide accessories as well. I’ve gotten airpods and other nicer headphones for work, which I’m also able to take home and use. Other companies (I’m thinking tech startups + Google) provide free food. My building has subsidized food, so even though it’s not free, it’s way cheaper than going out to eat. There’s also usually a “free food” Slack channel where teams advertise food leftover from various team events that’s free for anyone to take.
If you travel a lot for work, you can typically take advantage of the travel and hotel points. Your company probably offers an employee referral bonus. So if you recommend someone who ends up getting hired, you get paid. Not bad for probably like 10 minutes worth of work! My company also offers help adopting – which can be expensive!
The moral of the story here is: do your research and do the work to get everything you can from your job! Seriously, take a few minutes this weekend and research what your company will pay for that you’re currently paying out of pocket. Don’t steal and do your work – but don’t feel bad about using your company’s benefits! Companies offer these perks for a reason. And you probably won’t be at your company for forever, so now is the time to use them.
A lot of times, your company won’t advertise certain benefits. This may not be malicious, but it’s up to you to invest some time and find out what your company offers. Sometimes the benefits don’t even exist officially! I had a friend who had back issues so he asked for a nice gaming chair (as they’re supposedly more ergonomic..). The company paid for one, but they had no need for the chair when he was done so he was able to just take it home. Sometimes you just gotta ask! Assuming you do good work for the company, you’re just as entitled to these benefits as anyone else.
If there are any other benefits I missed or ones you’ve taken advantage of yourself, comment below! I’d love to hear how your company helped you become wealthier 🙂