Employee Open Enrollment Is Here

Take advantage of the best employee benefits.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The lowest-cost health insurance plan isn't always your best option.

  • If eligible, maximize your HSA savings and - ideally - invest it.

  • Don't dismiss long-term disability coverage.

  • Important life events coming up? Consider group legal coverage.

 

With open enrollment season right around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about the benefits you need most. There are many moving pieces to open enrollment, so it’s natural to feel a little confused and stressed.


As with all planning, time is your most valuable asset. Set aside blocks of time throughout your enrollment period to implement a benefits strategy that’s right for you.


Here are some of the best benefits to consider before the window closes.


Health Insurance


Don’t just pick the plan you had this year. Know what your current health plan covers and costs, then compare that to the plan options offered next year.


Remember - choosing the coverage with the lowest monthly premium doesn’t mean you’ll spend less overall. Your monthly premium has an inverse, or opposite, relationship with your deductible and maximum out-of-pocket. If you select the coverage with the lowest monthly premium, then you’ll have a higher deductible and maximum out-of-pocket threshold to meet before insurance benefits kick in.


If you tend to go to the doctor often, will be having a baby, or have specific

procedures planned, then it might be cheaper to opt for the larger monthly premium in exchange for lower deductible and maximum out-of-pocket costs.


Health Savings Account (HSA)


If you select a high-deductible health insurance plan, then you are eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA is arguably the most powerful savings vehicle because of the triple-tax savings potential.

  • Tax-deductible contributions

  • Tax-deferred growth (including interest, investment income, and gains)

  • Tax-free distributions for qualified health expenses

On top of the tax benefits, some employers will even make a match contribution to your HSA. With health issues that can arise later in life, this is perfect for long-term care planning. And, unlike a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), an HSA is a savings account, so your balance stays with you.


Flexible Spending Account (FSA)


Not to be confused with an HSA, a more common and accessible way to save for healthcare expenses is a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). The key distinction between the two is spending vs. savings. While the FSA also offers tax-deductible contributions, you generally must use all of the money in an FSA during the plan year. Because it’s a use-it-or-lose-it scenario with an FSA, you need to be careful of overcontributing and losing those extra funds.


Life Insurance


According to a recent survey by Unum, a staggering 45% of American workers don’t have or don’t know if they have life insurance. Even if your employer provides a life insurance benefit, it usually covers a fraction of what you need to protect your family and it isn’t portable - meaning that you lose coverage if you were to leave your employer.


Take the time to determine the coverage you need to protect your family. If you need more coverage, then determine whether it’s best to go through your employer’s supplemental insurance program or get your own individual life insurance policy.


Want to talk to an expert who doesn't sell policies? Schedule a free initial consult with FMI to learn how we can help.


Disability Insurance


Often overlooked by employees, this coverage can replace a portion of your paycheck if you get sick or injured and are unable to work. Short-term disability is often covered by employers and typically replaces 70% of your salary. Long-term disability (LTD), on the other hand, is often not elected because employees pay for it. LTD typically replaces 60% of your salary and starts after three to six months of you being unable to work.


LTD coverage is typically very cheap and worth the investment.


Group Legal Plans


75% of people will need an attorney this year. Buying a home? Adopting a child? Caring for aging parents? Need an estate plan in place? The average hourly rate for an attorney is $370, but what if $400 bought you a year of attorney time? That's right - $400 for the year. It's possible with a Group Legal Plan.


Here's how it works:

  • You pay a low, flat fee per paycheck

  • Choose from a network of attorneys

  • Get full, unlimited access with no copays, waiting periods

Most employees glaze right over this benefit and miss out on having trusted attorneys help them during some of the most important and stressful times in life.


Retirement Plan


This is also the perfect time to evaluate your 401(k), 403(b), and other retirement plan strategies. With each election you make, you should be able to explain why you’re making that election. If you can’t, then you don’t have a real strategy.


Here are the common mistakes we see employees making with their retirement plans:

  • Not having beneficiary(s) on file

  • Making Pre-Tax contributions instead of Roth

  • Not taking advantage of Mega Back Door Roth 401(k)

  • Choosing investments based on recent performance

  • Using the Target Date Fund and individual funds

  • Using multiple Target Date Funds

E.g. Using the 2030 and 2040 funds doesn’t increase diversification

  • Using too many individual funds

E.g. Large Growth and Large Value vs. just using Large Blend


Want greater confidence in your retirement plan? Schedule a free review of your investment and contribution strategy today.


Conclusion


Open enrollment is an important time of year. Pay close attention to all email communications, attend webinars, visit FAQ pages, and ask your HR partners for direction. Take the time to understand all of your options and the role each benefit would play in your strategy.


If you’d like help putting together a benefits package tailored to your needs, we'd be happy to help.


Frank Iozzo, CPWA®

President, Private Wealth Advisor