Money & Career

Hidden benefits

How to sniff out the deals that are right under your nose

In these tough economic times, no one’s giving anything away. But if you take some time to review what you’ve already got, you might find some added benefits you didn’t even know you had. Taking the time to sniff out some perks that are right under your nose could pay off in the long run. After all, who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Here are a few places to start looking now:

Your company pension plan – free money!
If your workplace offers a pension plan or group registered retirement savings plan, sign on, especially if your employer is willing to step up and match your contributions dollar for dollar. That’s right – some employers will kick in extra money for your retirement savings based on your contribution levels. If you’re not contributing, you’re not going to get the money – better make sure you know what you’re throwing away. Plus, consider maxing out your contributions every year – the more you put in, the more you get back.

Make some choices
Okay, so you’re in your company’s self-directed defined contribution pension plan – good for you. But if you haven’t given any direction about where your money should be going within the plan, then you could be stuck in a low-interest, low-risk default fund making less than you would in your chequing account. You owe it to yourself to read up on your plan, find out what the investment options are, and make some decisions – if you have one, get your financial advisor to help.

Other company benefits
If you’re not sure what your company benefits plan covers, it’s time for a refresher. There could be perks you didn’t even know about – some companies offer discounts at specific retailers, money towards the purchase of a home computer, free massages, and tuition reimbursement on courses that aren’t related to your job. Some even offer a company share purchase plan and will help you invest in shares by offering them at a discounted rate.

Check your credit card
If you rent a car regularly or travel a lot, then check your credit card agreement – you could be entitled to free insurance coverage on your rentals and even trip cancellation insurance in case something goes wrong. Some credit cards offer additional benefits such as points programs and discounts at certain retailers or on certain products. If your card isn’t offering anything, maybe it’s time to shop around for one that better suits your needs. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a tool to help you find one that fits for you.

Tax advantages
Everyone has to file a tax return – but are you making the most of your write-offs? Check your receipts and make sure you keep ones for all the money you donate and all those friends you’ve sponsored to walk, run, bike and canoe for various causes. Donations can bring your tax bill down – and boost your return!

Government programs – more free money!
A couple of great government programs are now available to help you either save money on taxes or boost your savings. First, if you’re renovating this year (and this year only!) there’s also a tax credit you might be eligible for – the Home Renovation Tax Credit could be worth up to $1,350.

If you’re saving for your child’s education, make sure you open up a registered education savings plan (RESP) so you can take advantage of the Canada Education Savings Grant of up to $7,200 – you’re only eligible if you have an RESP. If you don’t, you’re turning your nose up at free money — $7,200 that could help your kid get closer to a university or college degree.