Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Workers Should Be Aware Of Benefits From Open Enrollment Packages

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TWC News: Workers Should Be Aware Of Benefits From Open Enrollment Packages
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Employees should open and read their open enrollment package, because it could be like getting an envelope full of cash. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

It's open enrollment season once again, and if you don't take advantage of this yearly opportunity to make changes to your benefits package, you're hardly alone. A recent survey conducted by MetLife found that many employees just stick to the status quo.

"About 20 percent of people just default to what they had last year and that's probably a mistake," says MetLife Executive Vice President Todd Katz.

For one thing, someone who has gotten married or had a new baby will definitely need to make some changes.

However, Katz says even workers without major life changes should review their options anyway, since there may be something new offered in your benefits package.

"In many situations, the plan might have changed and what's available to them this year might be different from what was there last year," says Katz.

Carmen Wong Ulrich of ALTA Wealth Management agrees that most people take too passive an approach.

"They don't open the packets, they don't make any changes," says Ulrich.

That can leave family members unprotected, especially when it comes to life or disability insurance offered through one's employer.

"Let's say you haven't touched it in years and you got a promotion, you make a lot more money. Well, you want to make sure your disability matches that so that it matches your lifestyle should you need it, and for life insurance as well," says Ulrich.

The other big mistake people make is not taking advantage of flex spending accounts, which allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for things like health care, transportation or child care costs. Think of it as having a coupon for perhaps 20 or 30 percent off medical bills, depending on one's tax bracket.

Be aware, what isn't used by the end of the year in the flex spending account is lost, so be conservative.

"Spend a couple of months, or even one or two months and look at where your spending is going and then you can get a rough idea of how much money you can put away," says Ulrich.

In fact, spending some time going over all one's options is exactly what experts recommend. As the saying goes, time is money and that's especially true during open enrollment.

"That packet would probably added 20 to 25 percent, for some families, 30 percent on top of your salary. I've always looked at that packet as money," says Ulrich. "This is additional money, so it's that important for you to look at and take advantage of."

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