Practical advice for the everyday worker
Open Enrollment only comes once year, and making decisions that will impact your bottom line for the next 12 months can be overwhelming and daunting. Where to start? What to do? According to a research survey conducted by Unum, nearly half of all U.S. workers spend only 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits prior to enrolling in plans for the next year. That’s barely 30 minutes spent on making decisions that could affect you – and your dependents – for an entire year.
So, what can you do about it?
For starters, take a moment to come up with a game plan. Commit to setting aside some time to review your Open Enrollment options, like after dinner or whenever you have some time away from other responsibilities and distractions. If you’re married, involve your partner in reviewing your options. Sometimes even reiterating your choices and verbalizing them to someone else can help you in the decision making process. Reviewing your benefits can definitely be intimidating, but if you tackle each option piece by piece, it won’t seem as scary. Cross off each plan as you review it, and count that towards your goal of completing a thorough review. Benefits may not seem especially exciting, but they’re really important and worth investment of your time. Often, they can help you and your family when you need it most.
With so many names, clauses and terminology, it can be easy to get confused by industry jargon. If you’re unsure about what something is or what exactly it means – ask. Know what you’re signing up for and don’t have buyer’s remorse. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to tackling important decisions that affect your hard earned money, so make sure you know what something is before you enroll in it. Reach out to your HR or benefits department for assistance in clarifying a benefit. You can also go directly to your benefit provider or carrier for clarification. Many companies have easily accessible toll-free numbers and websites that are full of helpful information.
When reviewing your benefits, it’s important to calculate what you’ll spend on each benefit, such as on your health insurance. Calculating your total out-of-pocket costs will help you get a better sense of how much will be deducted from your paycheck every pay period so there’s no surprises when your plan year starts. Equally important is calculating how much money some programs can save you when you sign up, like when you enroll in a Flexible Spending Account. Pre-tax plans, like a Flexible Spending Account, are a great tool to help you save money on expenses you anticipate on having in the coming year.
Whether you’re an Open Enrollment pro or enrolling for the first time at a new job, take a few extra minutes to read through the benefits your employer offers. It’s time well spent on important decisions. Your future self will thank you!