How to Make Smart Decisions During Benefits Enrollment Season

(Family Features) Every fall, millions of American workers spend time making financial decisions that will affect them for the entire upcoming year.

Benefits enrollment season is a critical time for choosing coverages that protect the health and financial stability of individuals and families. Despite the importance of these decisions, nearly half (49 percent) of people spend less than 30 minutes reviewing their options before making selections, according to research from Unum, a leader in employee benefits.

Personal finance expert Laura Adams said not carefully reviewing all your employee benefits options can mean leaving money on the table or serious gaps in your financial safety net.

“Employers are increasingly offering consumer-directed health plans, which typically charge lower premiums but higher deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs,” Adams said. “Because of these additional financial burdens, I always recommend taking advantage of your employer’s health savings account (HSA).”

Money deposited into an HSA is tax deductible even if you don't itemize deductions on your tax return. It grows tax-free and it can be withdrawn tax-free for qualified medical expenses. Unlike some flexible spending accounts, the unused funds in HSAs roll over.

In addition to your HSA contributions, review your employer’s voluntary benefits to help close gaps that can expose you to financial risk. Getting this coverage at work can be one way to gain access to a variety of affordable options. Voluntary benefits are also generally available to employees at a lower rate than the cost of getting coverage individually. 

Adams recommends carefully reviewing benefits materials provided by your employer prior to the open enrollment period, and paying special attention to the voluntary benefits that can help to reduce financial risk:

  • Disability insurance can help replace a portion of your paycheck should you get sick or injured and can’t work – you can think of it as income protection. Most plans will pay up to 60 percent of your salary if you’re unable to work due to a covered illness or injury.
  • Term life insurance provides affordable protection for a specific period. Most people buy it during their working years so their death benefit can help loved ones manage their financial needs.
  • Accident insurance can pay you directly for costs associated with urgent care and emergency room visits, ambulance transportation and follow-up care.
  • Dental insurance is typically affordable and usually covers preventative cleanings, X-rays, exams and standard procedures. Fillings, crowns and other procedures are also generally included at a reduced rate to the policyholder.
  • Vision insurance is another low-cost voluntary benefit that covers routine eye exams, lenses, frames and, often, discounts on vision correction surgery.

While these are just a few of the more popular voluntary benefits options, it’s important to review everything your employer offers. Investing a little additional time on the front end can help reduce your family’s financial risk down the road.

For more information on different types of employee benefits, visit

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