It's Employee Wellbeing Month: Are You Making the Most of Your Benefits?

June is Employee Wellbeing Month. That means it’s a great time to review all the benefits available to you and make sure you’re using them to achieve the highest levels of well-being possible.

No matter where you are in the Baby Steps, now’s a great time to think about how to leverage your employee benefits to go even further. See how many of these your employer offers, and be sure you’re enrolled in anything that could be moving you faster along the road to financial success.

Financial Wellness

This one should really be a no-brainer. If your company provides you with a convenient way to learn how to get your money in order or plan your retirement, enroll yesterday. The content could be just what you need to get on a budget, reduce debt, and invest for the future. 

And if you have a 401(k) available, here are a few tips on using it to your best advantage:

  •  If you’re still getting out of debt or saving your three- to six-month emergency fund, pause investments here until you get those in place. Retirement savings are important, but you’ll get a lot more out of them when you’re debt-free and emergency-proof.
     
  • Follow the 15% rule. Invest 15% of your before-tax gross income in the 401(k). Going above that could prevent you from hitting two more key goals: saving for college and paying off your home early. But anything less than that puts you at risk of retiring without enough money to live comfortably.
     
  • Find out whether it includes a company match. That’s free money you can’t afford to pass up. And don’t count any matching dollars as part of your 15% investment—just think of that money as icing on your retirement cake.

Gym Memberships and Fitness Incentives

Your money’s not the only area worthy of your well-being efforts, and your employer is probably aware of the growing demand for physical wellness benefits too. If your company discounts or pays for gym memberships, go get physical! Just be sure to find out what you have to do to get your fee reimbursed. You can use those savings to grow your debt snowball or shore up a languishing emergency fund.

Many companies also include additional incentives with a wellness benefit, like weight-loss contests with prizes or bonus vacation time for employees who reach certain fitness goals. By getting into the best shape of your life, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be even more focused on making financial progress.

Long-Term Disability Insurance

A growing number of employers provide a long-term disability benefit. If you’re fortunate enough to have this kind of coverage on the table, enroll today. You’ll usually get it at a fraction of the cost you’d pay otherwise. If you ever become disabled, you can expect to get the equivalent of 50% to 70% of your income replaced.

Life Insurance

It might be an unpleasant thought, but you really don’t want to skip life insurance coverage. It’s an affordable way to ensure your loved ones are taken care of for a long time in the event of an untimely death. A couple of things to keep in mind if your company offers this kind of coverage:

  • Only sign on for level term insurance, with a payout equal to about ten times your income.
     
  • Avoid whole life and universal life insurance policies, which are marketed as ways to save money for retirement but are actually a horrible investment.
     
  • Decide on the length of your term of coverage based on when you anticipate having kids heading to college and living on their own. If you’re planning on kids in the future, a 30-year plan is smart. Or if you already have a newborn today but don’t expect any more children, it would make more sense to opt for a 20-year plan.

Health Insurance

Medical bills are the top cause of bankruptcy, ahead of even credit card debt. Nationwide nearly half of all employers today offer some level of health insurance to employees. And if your company is one of those, it’s definitely worth your while to compare your employee benefit with other prices available to you. Chances are you’ll be able to save a lot of money. One increasingly popular benefit for containing medical costs has been the Health Savings Account (HSA). Take advantage of the HSA if you can. When you combine an HSA with a high deductible policy, you’ll enjoy far lower premiums. Plus you can use your HSA to save for medical expenses tax-free.

Finally, be sure you’re aware of any open enrollment periods. Some benefits allow sign-ups throughout the year, but that’s not always the case.

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