Which benefits do employees find most financially beneficial?

Health insurance and 401(k) matches led the pack.

Eighty percent of Americans would rather accept a job with benefits such as health insurance and a retirement plan than take a job without benefits, even if it paid 30% more, according to a new poll conducted in April for the AICPA by Harris Poll.

Though respondents valued benefits highly, the majority reported that they were not optimizing their benefits. Almost 90% of the 1,115 employed adults surveyed said they understood all of the benefits their employers offered them. However, less than one-third (28%) said they were very confident they were taking full advantage of those opportunities.

Tracie Miller-Nobles, CPA, a member of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, described this finding as "concerning."

"Understanding what type of benefits are available, what is the best benefit mix, and how to utilize benefits to the fullest potential can help employees navigate unforeseen circumstances (such as medical emergencies) and adequately prepare for retirement," she said.

More than half of employed people said that health insurance (56%) and a 401(k) match from their employer (56%) were the benefits that would most help them save money or increase their income. (Respondents could pick up to three answers to this question.)

Other benefits that respondents said would most help them reach their financial goals included:

  • Paid time off (33%).
  • A pension (31%).
  • Flexible work hours (21%).
  • Working remotely (15%).
  • Student loan forgiveness (15%).
  • Additional skills training (14%).
  • Tuition reimbursement (11%).
  • Paid parental leave (7%).

The survey also suggested that many employed Americans are overestimating the value of their benefits. Respondents said their benefits made up about 40% of their total compensation, on average, whereas benefits only made up 31.7% of average annual compensation in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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