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Family Money

Is your paycheck enough? Does it cover all your family’s needs? While your take home pay may cover your family’s daily needs and necessities, be sure that you are getting the most from your company’s benefits package.

Get the most value from your paycheck by getting the most from the benefits your company may offer. Know what you are entitled to and let your company’s compensation package work for you. By maximizing its value, you are stretching your dollar.

First things first, do your homework and read that huge stack of benefits package information. Choose a health plan that matches your needs and those of your family members now so you can make the most of it. There are three major types of group health plans: Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Consumer Directed Health Plan (CDHP) or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). Compare options to determine the best possible benefits. Keep in mind, the cheapest option may not be the best for your family right now.

While you are meeting your everyday needs of food, clothing and shelter, it is also important to start saving for retirement. Begin by reading a PDF publication developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) and its partners, called Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning to get a better understanding of how retirement planning works. You’ll also want to choose a savings plan: 401K, IRA, Roth 401K or one of the others that your employer may offer. While you’re at it, check into employer match programs. If your employer pays an incentive match to participate in a plan, you should take your employer up on this, if at all possible. Who doesn’t like free money!

For those of you that commute in and around Washington, D.C, you may want to ask if your company takes part in a Qualified Transportation Plan (QTP). In 2016, you can take up to $255 pretax dollars a month out of your paycheck to pay for transit costs.

Look into getting a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Using an FSA can reduce your taxes and can be used to pay copayments, deductible, prescription drugs and some other costs. For example, the Dependent Care Assistance Program for daycare and nanny services will let you allocate up to $5,000 a year pretax.

Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of office perks and tax programs hiding in the fine print. You may be able to get reimbursed for gym memberships, yoga classes, or weight management programs. It can’t hurt to ask if they’ll pay for continuing education credits, certifications and conferences too.

Every employee and family is different so you’ll want to choose a plan that suits your family today, with the knowledge that you can always alter your benefits as your family changes. Remember to refer to your human resources manager and benefits provider to answer your benefits questions.

Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons financial responsibility.

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