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Taking advantage of employer programs for free money!

Taking advantage of employer programs does equal free money!

Taking advantage of employer programs does equal free money!

It’s always nice to find out you have free money, especially when you didn’t have to do anything crazy to get it. Last summer, I was able to get a lot of free money, just by taking advantage of my new employers health related programs.

With my new company, I was subject to some lucrative benefits for signing up with the new company’s “get fit” program. While at times it can seem intrusive, there are perks as well. One of which was that I got $250 put into my Flexible Spending Account (FSA) simply from signing up. It was really simple. I just went online, created an account and input basic data; height, weight, activity level, blood pressure (if you know it), etc… and then I got my “Fitness Age”. The company doesn’t have access to my specific info, rather they just know how many employees are using the programs.

BUT, by creating that account and answering a couple questions, it was a free $250. As an added bonus, when I linked my fit-bit pedometer to the program, I earn points just for my normal day to day activity. I was even able to earn more points by clicking through online questionnaires and “learning modules” about eating healthy, exercise, alcohol use, weight loss, stress management, etc… Seriously, this is all sponsored and promoted through work. I mean, they don’t mind that you do these things at work, as long as you’re not behind. They also sponsor on-site health fairs, blood panel screenings, and other “get fit” programs a couple of times throughout the year, but the best part is that you can convert the points into cash in an online shopping mall. They even have Amazon gift cards!

The best part about those points is you earn levels, and they make your points to cash ratio better! Between June and December of last year, I managed to work up to $75 worth of points. And, because I’d done enough modules, I was in the Platinum group. Yeah, Platinum!! That got me another free $50 totaling $125. Along with the $250 in my FSA, I had gotten $375 just for participating in my company’s health focus initiative program.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten all about the $250 in the FSA until I got a nice reminder email earlier this month. It read, “This is a reminder that all submissions for re-imbursement through your FSA are due by the end of March. If not used, this money will be retained by your provider. Our records indicate you have an outstanding balance in your account.”

I went online, got some forms and then emailed Mrs. SSC, so she could do the hard work of slogging through months of receipts and bills to see if we had anything we could use that for. Of course we did, as the medical spending last year was pretty high with a lot out of pocket expense. After some perusing of past statements, receipts, and more, Mrs. SSC found $250 worth of reimbursable charges, and it got mailed off.  Hooray, free money!

Overall, it is really nice to have a company that will give you those incentives to stay healthy. I totally understand it saves them money in the long run, but listening to my retired Father-in-Law talk about his work environment, lack of work life balance, and the downright dictatorship of his company during his career makes me really appreciate what we have now. I’ve dealt with poor benefits, no benefits, horrible bosses, and horrible work environments, so I am grateful to have these programs through this company. It boggles my mind though why more people don’t take advantage of it though. I showed a new co-worker, Melissa, how it is super easy to go online, sign up, link your fit-bit (which she uses), and crank out 300 points by clicking through some modules. Her reaction, “Meh, it seems like a lot of work…” Yep, I thought, a whole lot of work… *

Everyone has their price point though, right? What seems like no work to me evidently is too much drudgery for Melissa to earn that “small” of a reward. Like me and pennies. I will pass by a penny on the street and think, “Oh, a penny!” and then keep walking and not pick it up. However, a nickel, dime, or quarter, I’d stoop down and grab it! Maybe you would pick up the penny though and think I’m an idiot for passing it by. We all have our price point.

* – It’s only April and I’m already at Silver level and have $65 earned!!

Have you experienced free money for little to no work?

Have you forgotten about a balance in your FSA and had to scramble to not lose it?

Would you use these programs or do you see them as too intrusive?

10 thoughts on “Taking advantage of employer programs for free money!

  1. Steve Adcock

    I used to work for a small defense contractor, and they had an incredible FSA benefit. Simply put, they funded your entire account for you at the beginning of each year. I think it was something like $2k for singles and $4k for marrieds at the time, and the company simply plopped all that money into each employee’s FSA account every year, ready to be spent.

    I always had money left at the end of the year, so I spent as much of it as I could on FSA-approved medical supplies. It was a nice perk. :)

    Another perk I had at the place that I quit from almost a year ago now was a $20/month discount on my health insurance if I went to the gym 12 or more times each month. I’m one of those people who goes to the gym 10 to 12 times a WEEK, so accomplishing that was automatic.

    It’s the little things…they all add up some something much greater. :)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Holy cow, that was an awesome FSA benefit! While we don’t get benefits for going to the gym, I noticed yesterday on the fitness site that you can log 4 “healthy activities/workouts” per week for bonus points. I think this may be a precursor to that, but I use the healthcare from my wife’s work anyway.

      Unlike my old company that had an onsite gym and classes for a minimal fee, this company doesn’t have that. They do however, supplement 75% of your gym membership up to $55/month.

      The little things do add up. :)

  2. Tawcan

    I don’t understand people that don’t take advantage of free money from employer programs either. My company offers RRSP matching but I was shocked to hear that some people don’t participate in the program.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I agree. I found in all the different companies that I’ve worked, that not everyone takes advantage of the employer programs. I don’t understand it either, especially if, like my co-worker, you’re already doing the exact same thing just on a different website…

  3. Kalie

    Our last employer offered $1K per family in an HSA if you opted for the no-premium, high-deductible HSA plan. We used it even when I had a baby and it was still a better deal than paying the monthly premiums. And they had some kind of health incentive discount like you mentioned. They also had great stock options and low fees for their 401ks. Unfortunately the new employer doesn’t have as many benefit perks and no HSA option. The company is full of young people, though, so I’m hoping people start to get interested so we’re not the only ones asking for it!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s a pretty sweet deal too for both parties! It seems like some companies are realizing perks help draw and retain talent. Even in the 10 months I’ve been at my new company perks have been sweetened due to varying factors, and that’s in the middle of a downturn for my industry. Sometimes, if there’s enough groundswell, companies can amend those types of benefits. Good luck and don’t give up. :)

  4. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    My fave free benefits through Rick’s employer are the $1200 a year they give us for his HSA and the $480 a year they give him through the health benefits program, just for keeping track of his yearly numbers like cholesterol, etc. Yay for free money! :-)

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      That’s great when employers offer that. I realized today, I have a free health screening next week that will add more “points” to my program and I’m almost to gold status. :)

  5. Prudent Pound

    I live in the UK so some of the terms may be different – but here’s my top two:

    1) My employer gives up to 10% of gross salary as a “free” matching contribution to my pension scheme – this is definitely the most lucrative free money I’ve found so far as it’s guaranteed!

    2) The second best is the employee share scheme – where you can sign up to an “option” to buy company shares at a fixed price point (this is always a discount to the current share price). You then save into this scheme monthly from your gross salary for 3 or 5 years and use that money to purchase shares, pocketing for free any increase in share price over the 3 / 5 years. If the worst comes to the worst, they guarantee you get your basic money back – and most of the time the share price goes up so you get the increase for free!

    I would definitely recommend that anyone working for a decent sized firm investigates these options as they are common both here in the UK and in the US – and we early-retirement types hate leaving free money on the table!

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Holy cow, that’s awesome! I think most people are doing themselves a disservice by not being aware of, and/or taking advantage of the free money programs offered by most employers. That is a sweet deal you guys have going on!

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