What are your employee benefits really worth?

Benefits make up more than 30 percent of a job’s typical compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But figuring out what your benefits are worth isn’t always easy.

You may have to do some digging to find out how much your employer contributes to health insurance, pension plans, and other benefits. Some benefits also have a non-monetary value, and people can value the same benefits in different ways.

For example, people with health problems are likely to value guaranteed access to disability or life insurance that could be difficult to obtain or prohibitively expensive otherwise. Someone with student loans may appreciate a program to help with education debt much more than someone without student loan debt.

Now that open enrollment is approaching again, it’s a good time to review your employer’s current offerings. Understanding the value of your strengths could renew your commitment to your current job — or make you realize it’s time to look for a better deal. If you’re thinking about becoming self-employed, you can better understand how much more you’ll need to earn to replace your current benefits.

Here are some of the most common benefits, along with typical employer contribution amounts, according to employee benefits consultant Mercer.


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Health insurance: $5,000 to $20,000

Employer-provided health insurance plans range from bare bones to quite extravagant. On average, however, employers paid 83 percent of the $7,739 premium last year for single coverage and 73 percent of the $22,221 premium for family coverage, according to KFF, a health insurance research organization.

You can find what both you and your employer paid for your health insurance last year on your 2021 W-2, said Paul Fronstin, director of health benefits research at the Employee Benefits Research Institute, or EBRI. The annual number is often reported using a “DD” code.

Your employer can also pay their contribution on your payslip. The pay slip is a document that provides the details of the gross and after tax payment along with various deductions. You can often access your pay stub through your company’s electronic payroll system. ask your HR department for details.

Premiums are only one factor in evaluating health care coverage, of course. Discounts, subscriptions and provider networks also matter. Access to different types of plans can make open enrollment more confusing, but it can also help you tailor your coverage to your situation.

Retirement savings plan: 3% to 10% of salary

EBRI surveys have consistently shown that the benefit workers value most after health insurance is access to a retirement plan, with all other benefits coming in “a distant third,” Fronstin said.

People who have workplace retirement plans like 401(k)s are much more likely to save for retirement than those who don’t, according to AARP. These plans offer automatic salary deductions and many are automatically enrolled as well.

Most 401(k)s also come with company matches — free money that can help employees build wealth faster. Among the most common matches are 50% of the first 6% of salary the employee contributes or a dollar-for-dollar match of 3% to 6% of pay.

Employers can contribute an even larger percentage of pay to traditional pension plans, which promise a certain monthly amount of benefits in retirement. This is in contrast to 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, where the amounts you receive in retirement depend on the amount you contribute and the performance of your investments.

Pensions are still common among government agencies, colleges and nonprofit health care organizations, although only about 15 percent of private sector workers have access to such plans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Everything else: zero to thousands

Employers who provide dental insurance typically pay $500 to $2,500 a year for coverage, according to Sandra Sweeney, Mercer’s career director. Life insurance costs an average of $100 to $300 per employee, while disability insurance typically costs $250 to $1,500.

Employers may offer access to other coverage, such as supplemental life insurance, long-term care insurance, or pet insurance. Employees typically pay the full cost, but may take advantage of group rates on policies, Fronstin said.

Help with the cost of education is also increasingly popular. About half of employers offer tuition assistance, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And of the companies surveyed by EBRI last year, 17% offered some type of student loan debt assistance, while another 31% planned to.


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Employees can also exclude up to $5,250 in tuition assistance from their income on their tax returns, according to the IRS. And until 2025, the cap also includes student loan repayment assistance.

Remember that your employer provides benefits to attract, retain and reward employees. If you’re not sure what all your benefits are or what they’re worth, your human resources department will be happy to fill you in, Fronstin said.

“Ask your employer,” Frostin said. “It’s no secret.”

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. The content is for educational and informational purposes and does not constitute investment advice. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner, and the author of “Your Credit Score.”

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