How to Take Advantage of Open Enrollment for Benefits
Updated on Nov 02 2018
Most people do not maximize their employee benefits simply because they lack the healthcare and 401k knowledge to fine-tune their benefits for their individual needs. Open enrollment each year marks a great time educate yourself, re-assess your benefit needs and take advantage of saving opportunities.
Many Americans are missing out on benefit opportunities each year. In fact, Financial Engines reported that Americans leave an estimated $24 billion each year on the table in the form of unclaimed 401k matches.
Think of open enrollment as your time to revisit your benefits to make sure you are taking full advantage of them. You also want to make sure that your benefit choices are still the right choices for you. After all, the savings is extra money in your pockets to invest or put towards debt or vacation.
Here are the top questions you need to answer to take advantage of open enrollment to maximize your benefit opportunities.
1. What changes have been made to your benefit plans?
Many people leave ‘money on the table’ in their working years because they do not read or fully understand their benefits. For example, many companies allow you to save annually on healthcare premiums by doing a series of incentives, such as completing online questionnaires or doing routine health screenings. You can often get a drop in premiums by simply learning from colleagues or reading your benefit packet’s fine print to learn what opportunities are available.
Some companies even provide discounted tickets, entries into museums or parks or other savings opportunities. Review your enrollment booklet to make sure that you are fully aware of perks and changes to your benefits.
2. Have there been any changes in your life since your last open enrollment for benefits?
If you have had a major life event since your last open enrollment for benefits, you should review the benefit packages to make sure you’re choosing one that provides your family the most savings. Whether it’s a marriage, divorce, new baby or death, you will want to make sure the plan/s you choose make sense for your family’s individual health and financial needs.
Even if there hasn’t been a major change, if you’re anticipating a change or needing additional coverage for health reasons, do your due-diligence to enroll in benefits that will help you save money. For example, if you’re considering expanding your family, it’s important to understand maternity costs, infertility treatments and short-term disability insurance. HSA offers ways to save money on childcare and healthcare if you anticipate spending more than usual in a given year.
Consider open enrollment a great time to review all of your benefits to make sure they are the best fit for you and your family. Consider a spouse’s benefit plan, too, so you can compare coverage and make decisions together.
3. Have there been changes in your existing plan or providers?
Companies sometimes shop around for benefit providers and when this happens and they change providers, so do your benefits. Even if the provider is the same it’s not uncommon for existing plans to change and you can easily pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses if you don’t review changes in your medical plan.
Coverage, deductibles and dependent costs are all important changes to keep in mind when reviewing your benefits during open enrollment. For example, even medical procedure coverage can change; so it’s your responsibility to verify that you’re covered for specific medical treatments and understand your deductible and financial responsibility.
4. Are there any benefits you may need to add or remove?
Reviewing your plan to make sure your benefit package meets your current needs is important. If there are recent changes in your life, such as an approaching retirement, you may want to consider more insurance options. Contributing more to employee retirement accounts, such as 401k and IRA accounts is always a good plan as you age, as well. Many people use open enrollment to review all their benefits and apply maximum contribution changes.
Look at your company’s policy rates to see if there are less expensive plans you can get on your own. Also, look at open enrollment as a good time to review your beneficiaries to make sure the right person is listed.
Open Enrollment for Benefits is a Time to Review Your Finances
Remember that your employee benefits are part of our compensation. Savings and benefits go hand-in-hand, so take the time to carefully review your enrollment information to be confident in the benefit plan you are choosing.
As you review your benefits, look at your overall financial plan and opportunities for saving for your future. Saving money on benefits creates opportunity for investing. An expert financial advisor can help you develop a financial portfolio for you unique situation.
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