Recently I wrote an article about how to maximize the employee benefits that you receive from your employer. Often employees are not fully aware of all the benefits that are available to them – beyond the basic healthcare, vacation and retirement plans – and just as often, employers don’t effectively communicate to their employees as to all the benefits in their package.
If necessary, employees should educate themselves in order to know precisely what benefits are available to them, and companies should institute internal strategies to do a better job of communicating this information to their employees.
In this article, however, I’d like to address additional ways you can take advantage of other kinds of benefits and incentives that are available to you as a consumer in the American marketplace.
As an individual consumer, you are not positioned to take advantage of all the discounted prices and rates that are available to larger organizations. But if you align yourself with these groups – either through membership or some other kind of affiliation – then you are in a position to benefit from their mass purchasing power. There is strength is numbers.
For example, AARP is a large non-profit organization that offers its members a full range of insurance and retirement planning services, among many other incentives. AAA is another membership organization that offers life and auto insurance, car buying assistance, travel services, and discounts on a wide variety of products from participating companies, in addition to their signature roadside assistance service.
Some of the big-box warehouse clubs also offer health, life and auto insurance services to its members. Some locations also have gas stations at discounted prices, and still other locations offer financial services like mortgage financing and preferred travel services – all at rates and prices that are typically lower than what is available in the open market.
Some credit card companies and credit unions offer free buyer protection insurance on purchases made with their cards or through their buyer assistance programs.
These are just a few examples – there are many, many more – but the point is that by being a savvy consumer, and by being aware of the incentives that are available through these kinds of groups, you can save real money when you’re ready to make a purchase.
As mentioned above, there are benefits to be had by educating yourself about all the incentives that are available through some of these membership organizations. Just as it’s your responsibility to know all the details of your work-sponsored benefits – whether it’s a matching program for your 401(k) or a tuition reimbursement program – it’s also up to you to learn about discount opportunities from these companies. Otherwise, there’s a chance you could miss out on some substantial savings.
Most organizations provide all the relevant information on their websites or in some form of printed materials.
After educating yourself about the incentives that are available from some of these organizations, make sure you’re going to use them before joining. Typically, these companies offer a long list of incentives to their members, which can make participation seem attractive. But there is no sense in paying membership dues if you’re not going to actually use them.
If you’ve decided to join a membership organization to access their discounted incentives, make sure you’re aware of the time frames and renewal policies regarding your subscription. Not all organizations operate in the same way.
Some might operate on a calendar year, while others might operate on a fiscal year. Some groups might require you to purchase a certain level of products or services in order to maintain your membership status. Also, be aware of your renewal dates and if your renewal is automatic or not. This can prevent conflicts and confusion down the road.
Many large companies offer membership programs or buyer reward programs as a way to incentivize customers to do business with them. For individual customers, it can be a great way to save money and for the organizations, it’s an effective way to attract new members and hold on to existing ones.
But as I said, this only works if you actually use the services the organization is offering. Otherwise, anticipated savings can turn into real-world expenses, and that is definitely not the financial outcome you have in mind.
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