Define exercise?

Like many young millennials, I am a bit of a maximizer. I look for the shortest queue at the supermarket. I try to fit in just one more errand en route to a brunch date, so I don’t have to walk back across town later (I’m often just a smidgen late). And I try to max out my fitness benefit that my work provides me.

Rather than simply paying for your gym membership, like many start-ups these days, my corporate office offers a more flexible 75% refund of up to $500 total in fitness spending per year. Rather than throw it all at a ClassPass that I would underutilize during my erratic travel schedule (that wouldn’t be very good maximizing…), I decide to spend it piecemeal. $150 on a new iWatch (it hurt a little when they came out with version 2.0 a few months later…). $50 on some yoga equipment. And then, I was left to wonder with my remaining $300, what expenses qualify?

I remembered some completely miscellaneous items on a list from when I first joined the company, and the dire complaints of a colleague who couldn’t get his form roller reimbursed (“How is this not fitness equipment?!” he balked). So I knew they were pretty selective about what got through. I decided it was time to do a bit of research.

Unfortunately my intranet pointed me to the WageWorks helpline. I call, and proceed to navigate through the touch-tone. I finally reach a human that asks me the same questions as the automated recording. “What are the last four of your social?” I give them to her. “But that’s not what I see in the system!” she practically gasps. “What does that have to do with my question?” I ask. Indeed, clearly whoever writes these call scripts is not a maximizer themselves. If this were a consultant’s dreamland, I could magically inspire Jedi-like focus within her on how to minimize the time of both the callee and caller are on the phone. I’d waive my hand like Obi-Wan, and say in a soothing voice, “You want to cut out the unhelpful form-filling and answer questions as quickly as possible.” “Yes,” Susan would say, “How can I help?”

Finally, after 20 minutes of help line circles, I learn that nothing intuitive seems to count as exercise. “Does Citi Bike [bike sharing] qualify?” “Yes.” Most places would count that as a commuter benefit, but I was happy to take it. “What about roller blades?” “No, that does not qualify”. 

She then points out that all of this stuff is on their website. “Oh!” I say, “I’ll have a look for that.” Of course it wasn’t on the public WageWorks website. It was squirreled away on a private login site hidden within the intranet. 

In support of all maximizers out there, I have provided the list of WageWorks qualifying expenses below. This list can vary by employer, but this is a good starting place. Nutritional counseling is in. Swim classes are out. Logic be damned.

Description Covered Benefit Max Benefit p.a.
Activity Tracker or Smartwatch (once every 3 years) Yes 75% $150
Any expenses not explicitly listed No
Bike Sharing Memberships (Monthly or Annually only) Yes 75% $500
Dance Class No
DVD/Exercise videos Yes 75% $500
Exercise Class Yes 75% $500
Fitness Center, Club or Studio Membership Yes 75% $500
Fitness Counseling Yes 75% $500
Fitness games for game consoles No
Form Rollers No
Golf Lessons (including those from a country club) No
Golf or Country Club Membership No
Gym Membership Yes 75% $500
Health Center or Club Membership Yes 75% $500
Health Spa Membership No
Home Fitness Equipment Yes 75% $500
Initiation Fee (for covered services) Yes 75% $500
Inversion Table No
IWatch with tracking capability Yes 75% $150
Jogging Stroller No
Karate Yes 75% $500
Kick Boxing Yes 75% $500
Locker Service No
Martial Arts Yes 75% $500
Massage Services No
Medical Expenses / Medical Copays No
Monthly billing fee (for covered services) Yes 75% $500
Mountain/Road Bikes (One every five years) Yes 75% $500
Nutrisystem No
Nutritional Counseling Yes 75% $500
Online Classes Yes 75% $500
Personal Trainer Yes 75% $500
Pilates Yes 75% $500
Race Fees Yes 75% $500
Registration Fee Yes 75% $500
Rock Climbing Yes 75% $500
Shoes and Apparel No
Smart Watch with tracking capability Yes 75% $150
Smoking Cessation Products No
Spa Membership No
Spin Classes Yes 75% $500
Swim Club Membership No
Swimming Lessons No
Tae Kwan Do Yes 75% $500
Tai Chi Yes 75% $500
Tennis Club Membership No
Tennis Lessons (including those from a Country Club) No
Towel Service No
Weight Watchers Meals No
Weight Watchers Registration Fee Yes 75% $500
Wireless Activity Tracker (once every three years) Yes 75% $150
Yoga Yes 75% $500
Yoga/Workout Mats Yes 75% $500
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