Money

5 employee benefits that could save you hundreds of dollars a year

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If you're not taking advantage of the employee benefits available to you, you're leaving money on the table.

In fact, Aflac found that more than half of employees estimate they are wasting up to $750 a year because of poor benefit choices.

Before the open enrollment period ends, look into these five benefits that could save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.

Healthcare flexible spending account (FSA)

A healthcare FSA is an account that allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars that can be used to cover a variety of health care products and services.

The tax break could save you about 30 percent on eligible expenses, WageWorks reports. Plus, since the money is taken straight from your paycheck on a pre-tax basis, it lowers the amount of income on which you are taxed.

In 2018, you can contribute up to $2,650.

One caveat: If you don't spend all of the money you contributed in a year's time, you lose it. Some employers may offer a grace period or let you carry over up to $500 in unused funds to the next year.

Dependent care flexible spending account

This account works very similarly to the healthcare FSA: You can contribute pre-tax money, but it must be used for eligible dependent care services, including preschool, summer camp and before or after school programs.

In 2018, a family can set aside up to $5,000 in this account.

Like a healthcare FSA, your money has to be used within the plan year. Again, some companies may offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to spend the remaining money.

Health savings account (HSA)

Another health-related benefit that could save you big is a health savings account (HSA). With an HSA, you can put away up to $3,450 ($6,900 for a family) of pre-tax money to be used towards medical costs. There's no "use-it-or-lose-it" rule, meaning any unused funds will roll over year to year.

HSAs have a triple tax benefit: The money is tax deductible when you put it in, it grows tax deferred and you can take it out tax-free if you use it for qualified medical expenses.

What's more, an HSA can be a powerful retirement-savings tool. Depending on your situation, some financial planners advise maximizing contributions to your HSA even before maxing out your 401(k) plan.

The main requirement for opening an HSA is having a high-deductible health care plan (HDHP), a plan that offers a lower health insurance premium and a high deductible.

401(k) match

If your company offers a 401(k) plan, they may also offer a 401(k) match.

The way it works is, your employer will match whatever contribution you put towards your 401(k) up to a certain amount. For example, if you choose to put 4 percent of your salary directly into your account, your employer will put that same amount in as well, in effect doubling your contribution.

It's essentially free money, but according to a 2017 survey from 401(k) provider Betterment for Business, nearly a quarter of Americans aren't taking full advantage of the match program.

Another report found that employees are missing out on an average of $1,336 in employer matches, or an estimated $24 billion altogether.

Other employee discounts

There are a handful of other specialized benefits that could help you save money, such as commuting benefits, educational reimbursement or wellness programs that offer discounts on gym memberships.

Your company may also reimburse expenses like cell phone plans, moving costs or professional development classes, and it may offer discounts on homeowner's and auto insurance.

If you take the time to do some research and see what's available to you, you'll be amazed at what you could save.

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