Annual Benefits Enrollment – Time to Dig in (Reassess)
The fall brings the hope of cooler weather, schools are back in session and when it comes to work the dreaded annual benefit enrollment packages. For most people, the default is to leave everything the same as last year. With all the recent changes in health insurance and other features this year might be an ideal time to really dig in and reassess, to maximize all your employer benefits.
401(k) & Retirement Plans – 401(k) plans are the most popular retirement benefit which allows an employee the ability to voluntarily contribute funds on a pre-tax or post-tax basis. The company usually provides a matching contribution which is in essence “free” money. The funds in the plan are portable so if you change jobs you can rollover the vested portion to your new employer or into your own IRA. Bottom line is your company is GIVING you money for your hard work and contributing to your retirement savings. Other possible retirement plan offerings include SIMPLE IRA’s, Defined Benefit Plans, or possibly an SEP (Simplified Employee Pension).
Health/Dental Insurance – Due to rapidly rising premiums, these are by far the most expensive benefits for an employer to provide. Many will share the cost of the plan with employees and offer features such as an FSA (Flexible Savings Account) which allows you to set aside money on a pre-tax basis to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Life & Disability Insurance – If you should die or become unable to work, these benefits will provide payments to you or your family to cover funeral costs or ongoing living expenses, often at little or no cost to you. Group benefits have traditionally had much lower costs than personally owned policies but be cautious and compare. Coverages such as Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) have extremely low premiums because the probability of receiving benefits are very low.
Commuter benefits – Whether commuting by car or public transportation, be sure to ask if your employer offers reimbursements or discounts for mileage, tolls, parking, or public-transit passes to off-set the cost – sometimes with pre-tax dollars. Flexible work hours or work-from-home options can also reduce your monthly commuter expenses.
Matching Donations – Employers can offer this benefit to support organizations that their employees are passionate about. When employees make a monetary donation to a charitable or non-profit organization, the employer can “match” it by making a similar donation – increasing the power of your personal contribution.
There are just a sample of benefits from companies but often there are perks such as tuition reimbursement, on-site gyms, extended maternity/paternity leave, free or reduced cost meals, and even on-site child care facilities. Remember, the only way to know what’s available to you is to ask.
“Annual Benefits Enrollment – Time to Dig in (Reassess)” was published in the September 2018 issue of Life on the Green magazine, a social publication for the residents surrounding The Woodlands, Country Club, Player Course, where Dan is a resident and is a featured monthly contributor.