The 6 Money Tasks to do Every Work Anniversary

I just received another one of those silly emails from Linkedin telling me to congratulate a former colleague about their “work anniversary”. Really? Do you really cares that they have taken taken another trip around the sun at their job? Let’s have a collective eye roll as yet another made-up ”Hallmark Holiday” finds it ways into our culture.

That being said, I think I’ve found a way to make this meaningless work anniversary actually mean something. We can use it as a catalyst, a prompt, or a trigger to take on some tasks related to your money at work.

Taxes have a natural trigger. You have to do them by the deadline or you’ll face a penalty.  But there are other money tasks that you should do regularly that don’t have a specific trigger. Your work anniversary can serve as that trigger, reminding you to do some stuff on your money at work, whether you have a job-job, or are self-employed.

1) Punch up your workplace pension

If you are lucky enough to get some sort of a pension at work, make sure you make the most of it. Did you know that only about 60% of people eligible for a Group RRSP at work take advantage of it? What a huge missed opportunity.

Mark your work anniversary by taking a closer look at your pension – a Group RRSP, a Defined Contribution Plan, or a Defined Benefit Plan. Find out what the plan is and how it works. If you haven’t already, sign up!  And then make sure you are maxing out the benefits.  For example, people starting at a new company often choose the lowest Group RRSP contribution amount because they don’t have the spare cash. But then as they make more money they don’t remember to increase it, leaving money on the table. This is especially problematic if there is an employer match. If they match up to 3 per cent, you need to put in your 3 per cent, or you’re leaving money on the table.

There isn’t much as much to do if you’re blessed with a Defined Benefit Pension Plan, but it is still work take a look at your account every year to remind yourself how it works and what you’ll receive when the time comes. If you’re self-employed, try not to loathe those with pensions – you have different perks. Scroll down and look at the tips intended just for you.

2) Shop the “company store”

Pick up a benefits booklet from HR, or go online and find out what you qualify for. Often people don’t use them, simply because they aren’t organized or don’t get around to it. Your work anniversary calls for a check up.

Look at your coverage, then book appointments for everything you need – dental, vision, massage, orthotics and more. I call it “shopping the company store.” It may seem like a hassle, but a lot of these benefits are really valuable and worth the effort. In today’s day and age mental health is a big priority. If you qualify for a visit to a psychologist and think you could benefit from a marriage tune-up, or second opinion on your life, go see one.

3) Take stock of your stock options

Some employees receive stock options, or can participate in an employee stock purchase plan. Be sure you know the details of how these plans work so you can take full advantage. I once worked for a company that matched stock purchases – you bought two shares, they gave you one. This was a HUGE guaranteed return and not everyone took advantage of it.

Max out the program to make sure you’re getting the most from your employer. Understand tax implications for when you want to cash in and sell those shares. And stay aware of how much those shares are worth. If you’ve been working for the same employer for a long time you might need to diversify, and shift some of the value somewhere else.

4) Ask for a raise

Take the steps to make as much money as you can. Sure, your ability to get a raise will depend on what type of job you have and what industry you work in. But every year on your work anniversary, think about how you might be able to make more. Here are a few options:

Ask for a raise: You continue to work in the same role, but for more money. There are some gender dynamics at play here. A number of different studies show that women ask for raises less frequently, and when they do, they ask for less money than men. Regardless of your gender, you need to do some research so you know exactly what to ask for, and then book a meeting with your manager to make the request.  It can be a scary thought, but the worst they can say is “no”.

Get a promotion: This is a new role in which you earn more money. Ask your boss what you need to do to improve your skills, or what results you need to deliver to qualify for a promotion. Then start working towards that goal.

Find a new job: Perhaps you’ll need to get a new job somewhere else in order to earn more money. If you’re serious about a raise and won’t get one from your current employer, brush up your resume and see what else is on the market.

5) Earn more. Save more.

It’s human nature to spend to your limits (and then some). It’s called “lifestyle inflation.” But the minute you get a raise, set-up a transfer so 50 percent of it is automatically deposited into  savings. For example, say you get a raise that works out to $100 per month. Put $50 into your TFSA or emergency fund and then leave the other $50 for extra spending. Ideally you should do this when the raise comes in, but if you haven’t done it yet, do it now.

Now, if you don’t get that raise, it doesn’t mean you can’t get something. Go into that initial meeting with a list of things you can ask for:  More vacation time, paid parking, tuition for courses, flexibility to work from home or even a new assignment. It doesn’t replace money, but there are still some great perks that could be worth something to you.

6) Run your business like a business

More and more people are working in the Gig Economy, or hanging out their own shingle. You won’t get massage benefits, or a gold-plated pension, but there are other perks. On your work anniversary, take some steps to improve the way you run your business.

Rev up your revenue: When you’re working on a contract, it can be really hard to think about the next one. But it is important to minimize the lag time between jobs. Update your network list, and keep relationships fresh, so you aren’t only going to them when you need work.

Build a better budget: It can be really hard to budget when revenue is sporadic, but it’s a must. Figure out what an “average” month is and pay yourself that. Then when you get a bigger cheque, hide the excess in another account to accommodate the smaller cheque months.

Invest in invoicing: Maintain an invoicing system that works for you. It could be an accounting program or a simple spreadsheet. Invoicing is key to cash flow. Set-up direct deposit with clients for speed and simplicity.

Trim your tax bill: One of the benefits to being self-employed or working as a contractor is the ability to write off some expenses. Learn as much as you can about how the tax system works and find every single (legal) deduction or credit you can. Oh, and set up a separate bank account for taxes payable. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Taking the time each work anniversary to focus on these money tasks can definitely pay off—and leave more cash in your pocket for that anniversary cake!

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