Healthy Benefits Part 1 – My $100 Carrot

I got one of those “just a friendly reminder” emails at work the other day from corporate.  These usually quickly make their way to my trash bin, but this one caught my eye. It said “don’t miss out on your $$$$”. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Max OOP likes dollar signs.   

I guess working does have its perks from time to time. Many employers, and especially hospitals, offer benefits outside of the normal package to promote healthy living. These are often packaged as financial incentives to stay healthy. It is the carrot part of the carrot and stick approach. You should find out if your company offers any carrots and if they don’t, tell them Max OOP said they should. 

The idea is management puts a carrot out in front of their worker bee and tells them they can have it, but only if they (insert healthy activity here). It is great for public image, employee morale, and probably actually makes a few people healthier. For Max OOP, the carrot is $100 per year. 

Is the Carrot Effective?

I bet some CEOs see these as costly programs to run and an administrative burden. After all, with no accountability or data to support actual positive healthcare outcomes, how could you blame them? They would much rather charge you higher insurance premiums for having a high Body Mass Index (BMI). These are the discussions had when budgets get tight. I mean think about it, $100 X 10,000 employees is over a million dollars in expense plus the actual cost of having the HR person process the requests and store paperwork. 

This is where Max Out of Pocket will bow out of the ‘rewarding wellness’ vs. ‘penalizing the unhealthy’ debate for today. I don’t need to debate with anyone about how complicated and unfair the BMI index is. I just want my $100 carrot. 

Getting The Carrot

The hospital I work for offers up to $50.00 every 6 months to promote healthy living. For Max OOP, this particular benefit is geared towards paying for loosely defined ‘general wellness’ activities. This includes anything from healthy cooking classes to bowling league fees. Seriously! The flexibility of the program is nice, and I use the $50.00 to pay for part of my gym membership. Max OOP actually failed to capture this benefit all of last year leaving $100 on the table in 2018. Yet another optimization flop from Max OOP, but I won’t let it happen again. 

It took me 10 minutes to complete the paperwork a few weeks ago. I got the form from HR via email so I could request reimbursement. Yes, it probably would have been healthier to physically walk to HR and get the form but the convenience of email delivery was nice.  I logged into my gym’s online membership account (after needing to re-set the password, of course) and printed out my receipt as proof of payment. I attached my gym membership receipt to the HR form and submitted it to HR electronically through their portal. Just in the nick of time, too, since the forms were due 3/31/2019 for the first 6-month period of fiscal year 2019. 

Now, I wait for them to process the request. I will let you know when I get the first half of my $100 annual carrot. I believe it will be processed and paid through normal payroll at some point in May. 

Final Thoughts

Although it may not seem like a lot of money, benefit packages that promote healthy living can really add up over time. Max OOP will gross $1,000 every 10 years from this particular benefit package. 

I should also note, unfortunately, that this benefit had absolutely no impact on my personal health considerations. I joined the gym last November and would have regardless of this benefit. That said – I do appreciate the extra money and simplicity of the program. Since my gym membership has been running $29/month the last few months, this has covered 1.72 months of gym memberships.  

Max Out of Pocket = $0.00, ~ 5-10 minute time commitment twice a year.

Disclaimer: If you find yourself in Southeastern Australia, please leave your carrots at home or you may be attacked by a carrot-addicted kangaroo.

Does your employer offer you a carrot to stay healthy?  Is the process easy or difficult? 

Unplug and Recharge With Work Conferences

The early bird gets the best breakfast.

Okay, the title technically doesn’t make much sense, but you get the idea.

I write this from a beautiful resort in northern New England overlooking the mountains. I just took a nice dip in the hot tub and plan to relax the rest of the evening.

One of the perks of working in Healthcare finance is you sometimes get to go to fancy conferences and listen to people talk about insurance premiums, deductibles, and Health Savings Accounts. Hey come on! It’s better than talking about leveraging synergy and optimizing workflow (like a boss).

When I was new to the corporate world, I was blown away by conference amenities.  Fancy hotel rooms. Free lunches. Networking. Free dinners. Drink tickets. Vendor swag. Free Education. I was like a kid in the conference store.

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Front-Loading and a $2,690 Pay Check

Max OOP at the top of his class.

There is no telling what my Human Resource department thinks of me.  They finally stopped asking questions about my erratic 403(b) retirement contribution requests and just process them now as is.

I changed my contribution from 85% of my salary to my upper limit of 87% for several pay periods while I was front-loading. Then down to 19%. For yesterday’s check, I went all the way down to a 3% retirement contribution.  It will likely be about 5-6% for the rest of the year.  All in the name of an experiment for the Max Out of Pocket blog!

The 3% contribution was set to illustrate what a normal Average Joe Saver contribution might look like for someone in my position.  Thus, I got a normal paycheck on 4/12/2019! Much larger than my $12.00 paycheck from 3/1/2019, but I paid a lot more in taxes too.

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How I Bought a Medical Office Building – The Healthcare REIT Experiment

A 2018 addition to Max OOP’s empire .

Okay, several medical office buildings, and a few hospitals. They all have tenants that will pay me rent. I love passive income.

Mrs. Max OOP and I sold our house down south a few years back. It was a great house, and we miss it very much. But, we will now be renters for the foreseeable future.

This took our real estate equity that we can actually “touch and live in” to $0.00.  With such a low real estate allocation and the stock market stuck on high, I eventually got interested in looking for a way to buy more real estate without actually having to live in it.

In entered Physicians Reality Trust (DOC) to the party.  A REIT that is just what the doctor ordered. 

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Matchmaking – $3,025

$ for $ Match on 3% of my salary

I overheard someone in the cafeteria at work the other day saying they do not contribute to their retirement account. I could hardly believe my ears. This person seems to be experienced enough to know this inaction would cost them some serious money. Could it really be these concepts I consider in the realm of ‘common sense’ are not followed by the entire workforce?

It is common for employers to match a certain percentage of your pay that you contribute to your retirement account. I often hear “free money” thrown out to describe the match. You really need consider it part of your compensation package for selling your valuable time, talent, and energy to a company.

How Much Does MAX OOP Get Matched?

As a benefit in 2019, my employer will match dollar for dollar (or even cent for cent) up to 3% of my salary on retirement contributions. So for every dollar I make, I can put 3 pennies into my 403(b) and my employer will also put 3 pennies into the same account. Assuming I finish out the full year of work in 2019, this will work out to about a $3,025 match for Max Out of Pocket.

Think of the match like roulette, but in this game, you know AHEAD of time the ball is going to land on red every single pay period. You put a percentage of your paycheck on red and win a full match EVERY spin. The only catch is – usually, you actually have to play every pay period to get your match.

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