This fall, resist the temptation to just re-elect all of last year’s workplace benefits.
Employers are rolling out their benefits packages for 2020, and that means it’s time for you to choose your health-care, life insurance and disability coverage for the new year.
Failure to pay attention means you could miss out on valuable opportunities that could help you defray medical and childcare costs, as well as shave a few bucks off your tax bill.
“Take a look and see if there are new options and features that would really make a difference in your financial life,” said Winnie Sun, co-founder and managing director of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California.
Here’s where to begin.
Review your medical coverage
Employers and workers alike are shelling out a lot of money for health insurance.
Combined health spending by a company and a worker with a family of four hit $22,885 in 2018, according to data from Kaiser Family Foundation.
That figure includes premium contributions by both parties, as well as families’ out-of-pocket spending on deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
Take a moment to consider the extent to which you used your benefits this year. If you’re young, healthy and manage to avoid visiting the doctor, a high-deductible plan with a health savings account might be an appropriate choice for you.
These plans often come with lower premiums, as well as the opportunity to save pre-tax or tax-deductible dollars in a so-called HSA. Money in an HSA accumulates free of taxes and may be used for qualified medical expenses tax-free as well.
On the other hand, a more traditional plan — such as a preferred provider organization — might be a better option if you and your family regularly use health care. They might also be worth a look if you’d have trouble affording a higher deductible.
These PPOs tend to come with higher premiums but lower deductibles.
“Perhaps you don’t need that rich medical benefit, but maybe you do,” said Sun. “Go through it line item by line item.”
Regardless of how you proceed, always think about the co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums as you compare benefits.
Go over 401(k) contributions
If you’re already contributing to your workplace 401(k), congratulations! Now think about what you can do to squirrel away a few more dollars.
“I would love to challenge you to increase your 401(k) contributions,” said Sun. If you’re already saving enough to qualify for the employer match, consider raising your contribution next year.”
Some plans include an automatic escalation feature, which will bump up your contribution by a percentage point or two in the new year.
Even if your plan does this, take a minute to see if you can save a little more and get a sense of how it might affect your take-home pay.
“What you’ll find is that if you increase your 401(k) contribution, it won’t impact your bottom line that much, but it will make a big difference in your financial future,” said Sun.
Revisit your beneficiaries
It’s easy to set-and-forget the beneficiary who will take the proceeds of your savings if you pass away.
The problem is that people get married, get divorced, have children and undergo other life changes that might warrant a second look at their heirs.
Review your workplace life insurance and retirement plan to make sure you have the right person listed as your beneficiary.
While it’s top of mind, it doesn’t hurt to ascertain who is in line to inherit from any life insurance policies you own outside of work, as well as any individual retirement accounts and brokerage accounts you hold.
“You have to check that the people you selected last year are still the people you would want to be beneficiaries,” said Sun. “Just in case something happens to you.”
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