Falling leaves and cool, crisp autumn days may not make you think of open enrollment season at your workplace, but they are a sure (and pleasant) sign it’s time to start thinking about how you’re using your employer-provided health and retirement benefits.
By getting a jump start on your planning now, you’ll be ready to sign up for exactly what you need once your company starts accepting paper work for health coverage and retirement plan participation. You can get the ball rolling by answering these three questions:
What’s Been Going On With Your Family This Year?
Big changes like getting married or having a baby are known in the benefits world as qualifying events. That means you can add your new spouse or new baby to your health plan any time during the year.
Other changes have to wait for open enrollment. For example, suppose your spouse got a new job that offers health coverage. Now’s the time to review your and your spouse’s plan options to see which combination will give you the best coverage at the best price.
Or, suppose your kids are older—old enough to get their own health insurance. Hooray! This is your chance to remove them from your plan and save on premiums.
Take some time to review how you use your health coverage. If you didn’t use your health insurance much last year, you could consider switching to a health savings account (HSA) option if your employer offers it. HSAs are a special savings account for medical expenses. Combined with a high-deductible health plan, an HSA can be a real money-saver!
How Does Your Retirement Look?
Most employer-sponsored retirement plans allow you to make adjustments to your plan—a 401(k) for most of us—all year. But open enrollment season is also a good time to review your contributions and your investment choices.
For example, a recent study of 401(k)s shows workers are leaving billions of potential retirement dollars on the table because they don’t contribute enough to receive the full 401(k) match from their employers. If you’re one of those workers, you’re missing out on a guaranteed 100% return on your money. Increase your contributions so you get the entire employer match.
Or maybe you got a raise this year, but neglected to bump up your 401(k) contribution. The more you make, the more you should save so you can look forward to a secure retirement.
If you’re debt-free and have your emergency fund fully stocked, nothing is holding you back from making the most of your 401(k). Even if you’re unsure about which investment options are best for you, don’t let that stop you. Consult an investing professional to help you choose funds for your 401(k) now so you don’t have to make a last-minute choice later.
Do I Have All the Information I Need?
When it comes to making decisions about your health insurance and retirement plan, it’s easy to get confused. Your options are rarely spelled out in an easy-to-understand format, so most people end up guessing.
But you don’t need to make such important decisions based on your best guess. Make sure you have all the information available on your health and retirement plans from your human resources department. If you’re still unclear about your options, ask HR where you can get your questions answered.
Don’t put it off! Start now and get to know your plans inside and out so you can make the best choice for you and your family.