Like many things in America these days, the story of employee benefits has become a story of the haves and have nots. On the one side are workers -- particularly young ones -- at Silicon Valley tech companies and Wall Street banks who've been showered with a creative parade of new perks: Longer parental leaves for moms and dads. Student loan reimbursements. Housing assistance. In one case, even money to pay for their weddings.
But most companies aren't Facebook, which pays $4,000 in "baby cash" for new parents (on top of four months of paid leave) or KKR, which will pay for new parents' nannies to fly with them on business travel. They can't afford to offer such niceties to all employees without cutting into traditional benefits like health care or retirement plans -- yet they still want to compete for the best talent by touting desirable extras.
"A lot of [companies] say gosh, that's Silicon Valley, they can do things we can't," says Craig Dolezal, a senior vice president at the human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt. "And that's true in many cases."
As a result, Dolezal is seeing increasing interest from clients in a new type of benefit he calls a "life planning account" that's a way of responding to these proliferating cushy perks. Employers would fund these taxable accounts with cash that workers could use to spend on approved expenses, such as student loan payments, home closing costs, a child's college savings -- or even the cost of pricey gym options like CrossFit if the corporate discount at L.A. Fitness isn't luxe enough.