Back in 1887, Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day an official holiday, and it became a federal holiday in 1894.
Labor Day was designated for the first Monday of September, and is now a statutory holiday in all states, the District of Columbia, and US territories.
Whether you’re a bank vice president, teacher, electrician, or store clerk, you want to make your wages and employee benefits work as hard as they can for you.
Check the employment packet you were given when you started work. You might have benefits you didn’t know about or that didn’t seem important at the time.
Here are 10 ways you can make your salary and benefits work harder for you.
Automatic Portfolio Rebalancing
Automatic portfolio rebalancing restores the mix of your employer-sponsored investment portfolio when it gets out of balance.
Say you start out with 50% of your investments in stocks, and the other 50% in bonds.
When a rising stock market causes the value of your stocks to exceed 50% of your portfolio value, rebalancing automatically reshuffles your investments so stocks will represent half once again.
Many people use this to keep investment risk levels steady.
Whoever you signed for as beneficiary on your designation forms for life insurance and other employer-provided assets trumps your will or trust.
It’s possible for an ex-spouse to be a beneficiary of a large chunk of money because you forgot to think about updating your beneficiary form.
Review your beneficiary designations any time you have a major life change like marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.
Contribution Rate Escalators for Investment Plans
Everyone says to max out your 401(k) contributions, and this is sound advice, but what if you simply can’t do that right now because of other major expenses?
Contribution rate escalators increase your contributions gradually, so that eventually you’re making the most of your investment contributions with less pain and hassle.
Disability insurance can be expensive if you buy it on your own. While most people are covered by Workers’ Compensation, that only covers you for injuries received on the job.
Disability insurance through your employer can be a very worthwhile purchase even if it is a short term disability policy.
It may not provide you with what you consider sufficient disability coverage, but it’s a good start.
Even if you don’t work in retail, you may be eligible for discounts through your employer for things like theme park tickets and car rentals.
Don’t automatically assume you’ll get the best deal, but definitely check out your employee discounts when comparison shopping.
Employer-Provided Life Insurance
The amount of life insurance your employer offers is generally some multiple of your salary.
It may or may not be enough to cover your dependents, and you won’t be able to take it with you if you change jobs.
If employer provided life insurance is insufficient, go ahead and lock in a rate by purchasing a policy independently while you’re young, to prevent being uninsurable should you develop health problems later on.
Employer Stock Purchase
While you should never put more than 15% of your overall investment portfolio into any one stock, employer stock purchase plans often offer you a discount when you purchase your employer’s stock.
Flexible Spending Accounts
These accounts allow you to set aside pre-tax money for use on health and child care expenses.
Just make sure you estimate expenses carefully, because these are “use it or lose it” accounts, in that you lose whatever’s left at the end of each year.
Health Savings Accounts
If you don’t spend much on health care because you’re young and healthy, a Health Savings Account (HSA) is a smart add-on to a high deductible health plan, which also helps you save on health care costs.
Money in your HSA is tax-free for qualified health expenses and is taken out of your paycheck pre-tax.
Plus, you can roll over what’s left at the end of the year rather than losing it as you would with a flexible spending account.
Many employers match a percentage of your contributions to a 401(k) account. If at all possible you should take advantage of this benefit at the youngest age possible.
It can be very difficult and expensive (in the form of taxes and penalties) to access this money in the event of an emergency, so don’t consider it part of your emergency savings.
Take advantage of as many of your employer-provided benefits as you can.
The sooner you start saving for retirement, the bigger your nest egg will be, and HSAs and other benefits can help you spend less money in the immediate future.
You work hard for your money, and you should expect it to work hard for you too.
Mary Hiers is a personal finance writer who helps people earn more and spend less.