It is open enrollment season in most workplaces. It is also a really busy time of year for a lot of us before the holidays arrive. However, you can not afford to let open enrollment come and go without asking some questions. Your employer provides options but you are the only one that knows what is necessary and best for you and your family. To avoid being defaulted in a choice that isn’t ideal for you anymore you need to pay attention. So, grab a cup of coffee and block off some time for a meeting all about you. I’ll even provide the agenda.
Enrollment Question #1: How has your health been this year?
When I was younger and had no children I was just happy to get health insurance at my first job. There were a few years where we didn’t have it in my family and it was a real tough call when my friends wanted to go skiing. Usually I just hoped for the best and took my chances. I don’t recommend this to anyone.
If you are healthy maybe it is worth saving some money by going to a high deductible plan. That way you have coverage but pay less for it per paycheck and more if/when you need it. You may also be able to contribute to a Health Savings Account with this type of plan.
On the other hand if you or your kids have been visiting the doctor’s office a lot this may not be right for you. Other choices available may cost more each paycheck but you would have less to pay out of pocket each visit. If you happen to need a specialist for a new condition look to see who is “in network” and choose your plan accordingly.
Enrollment Question #2: How did your life change this year?
Some life events give you the opportunity to make changes to your benefits right after they happen. This could include things like getting married, divorced or having a baby. These are also crazy stressful events so changing your life or health insurance might not have been top of mind.
Consider if more people depend on you financially this year. If so you may have different insurance needs in case something were to happen to you. The opposite is true too if your children are independent now – you may have more coverage than you need.
If you are new to the workforce you might think life insurance is unimportant. It might not be if you support yourself and that’s the end of the story. However, if you have student loans that your parents or grandparents co-signed on they will be required to pay them off if something happened to you. Protect them from this unlikely event by enrolling for coverage up to the debt and naming them as the beneficiary.
Enrollment Question #3: Did the benefits change this year?
You may think your elections from last year are perfectly good. Do yourself a favor and make sure those are still the benefits they offer. Companies compare benefits and often make changes to their plan based on costs, service, etc.
Your employer will let you know but they don’t come to your desk and tap you on the shoulder to make sure you got the memo.
My health insurance is going to change and I now have to review it and make sure it is still right for my family. You should make sure things look the same on the website or even ask HR if there have been any changes if you can’t tell. They have probably been living and breathing these changes for months to prepare for open enrollment and can help you.
Enrollment Question #4: Are you saving enough
You may be able to look at your workplace retirement plan and make changes throughout the year. If you like to set it and forget it open enrollment is a good time to take a look at all of the items that come out of your paycheck automatically. This includes your retirement plan if you participate.
See what your employer matching contribution is and do at least that much. Consider it a little raise!
I don’t like leaving money on the table if the company is offering it up. You shouldn’t either and saving for retirement is a smart decision even if you enjoy working. Now if you have other investments and don’t want to max out your plan that is fine. If you don’t like “investing” than you need to prepare to save a lot (within IRS limits). If you can do a little more, try increasing by 1% every year and you might not even feel it.
Enrollment Question #5: What’s available that you aren’t taking advantage of?
If orientation day was the first and only time you heard about all of the available benefits you might have missed something. Probably because you were focused on one thing – that new salary! It is worth investigating what benefits are available to employees.
You may have access to back up care for children and elders, legal benefits, discounted gym memberships, free counseling through employee assistance programs and more. These have significant value during difficult times so take advantage of anything that provides you peace of mind.
If you work for a large or small company it is absolutely worth finding out what is available for your financial and physical well being. If your office has a gym and you are paying for one you never make it to it might be a good move to switch and save some money. Even things like free coffee can save you a lot if you drink as much of it as I do. Ask about these things when you evaluate a new job as well. Companies want the best employees and great benefits can help them have an edge over the competition.