My Life in Benefits: Age 20, Commuting Benefits

Commuting Benefits for 20 year olds

This is the first post in our “My Life in Benefits” series. New posts are published the first Thursday of every month in five year increments.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 4.7 million 20 to 24 year olds who work part-time and 9.4M who work full-time. I’m one of the part-time workers.

Hi, my name is Jon. A year in benefits, as told by Jon

My family moved to San Francisco when I was 5. Now that I’m 20 and attending college, I’ve started working.

I wanted a job on campus, but I waited too long and everything filled up. I have to pay off my textbooks, so I found a gig in the city.

It’s about a 15 minute bus ride from campus. Not great, but not horrible. I just wish I had benefits.

It’s only 10 hours a week, so I don’t get health care. I’m still on my parents’ insurance, so I’m not as worried about that. But the commuting is adding up.

Growing up with parents who commute, I knew commuting benefits existed. But I didn’t know my employer offered them until my coworker, Sam, said she used them.

Availability of commuting benefits

In recent years, there has been a push to reduce congestion and pollution in large cities. Increasing access to mass transit through commuting programs has helped achieve this goal, while providing cost-savings for commuters.

Legislation in Washington D.C., San Francisco, the Bay Area, New York City and most recently, Seattle, requires employers meeting certain criteria to make commuting benefits available to employees.

How do I save money?

At our company, I have $80 pulled out of my paycheck each month to take the bus. I get a card from my employer with the money on it. It refills automatically every month. I use the card like a credit card to buy my bus pass.

Based on what Sam told me, the money pulled from my paycheck comes out before taxes. I looked into it more. Turns out Sam was right- the less you make, the less they take.

It took me some time to figure it out, but after looking over my pay stubs to determine how much I pay in taxes (about 32%), I used an online calculator. I determined that each month, the $80 I put toward my commute amounts to $25 in tax savings.

My equation was simple:

I multiplied how much I paid for my commute every month by my tax rate to get my monthly savings: $80 x .32 = $25.60

The semester is only 15 weeks, but by that time, I should be able to save a little over $100. That’s enough to pay off two (and a half) of my textbooks. Or to ask Sam on a date and go to a nice dinner…

How to get started

If your employer offers commuting benefits, it’s worth signing up for them. There are actually two different commuting benefits. There is a parking benefit or a mass transit benefit. You can have both.

Not sure which one to sign up for? Check out these blogs to see which commuting benefit is best for you:

Already enrolled in an account? Do what I did and find out how much you’re saving each month. It feels pretty good to see that number. (Even if it’s just going to be for textbooks).