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Your Annual Company Benefits Enrollment To-Do list Made Simple

A version of this article was originally published by our friends at Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management that offers corporate-sponsored financial planning.

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What we’ll cover:

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Open Enrollment season is kind of like the New Year’s Eve of company benefits; it’s a chance to see if you want (or need) to do things a little differently with your benefits. It can also feel like there’s a lot of information to wade through.

Some things you may want to consider before you hit “enroll” and lock in next year’s benefits are listed below and could make things a little easier.

Step 1: Understand what your company offers 

The first step to making informed decisions: Learn what’s available to you. Yes, it sounds super basic. But benefits (and their nitty-gritty details) can change from year to year.

Remember: It’s OK to ask questions, whether it’s your first year or your 10th with the company. You can connect with your company’s benefits specialists if you need any materials, have trouble finding information or have questions. 

Many companies host webinars or in-person sessions reviewing the benefits offered, which is a great place to start if you’re not sure what’s available and/or want more information. 

It’s also a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to do research before the deadline. Annual enrollment is usually your only chance to make changes to your benefits until the next time the annual enrollment window opens. 

There are exceptions for what are called “qualifying life events” which includes things like getting married, getting divorced or having a child; otherwise, your selections are locked in.

Step 2: Consider how next year’s expenses could be different

When annual enrollment emails start popping up in your inbox, you may be tempted to elect the same benefit options you currently have and call it a day. If this sounds familiar, fight the urge!  

A little research could help you get more value out of what your company offers.  

Salary is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about compensation – but benefits are a critical part of your compensation too. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says they make up about 30% of your pay package. So even though opting into last year’s choices is quick and easy, a little research could help you get more value out of what your company offers. 

With this in mind, here are some things to consider when thinking about next year’s benefits:

  • Are you single, married, in a relationship?
  • Do you have children or others to care for? 
  • Are you generally healthy? Do you have any new medical conditions or upcoming procedures?
  • Have your current elections worked well for you? 

Do you expect any of your answers to change in the next year? If so, be sure to consider which benefits will most likely be impacted and make any changes. 

For example, if you have a planned surgery for next year, you’ll want to consider that as you make your health insurance selections. In this instance, you might consider a health plan that has a lower deductible and/or a more expansive network. Or, if you’re choosing a plan that includes a Health Savings Account, you may want to maximize your contributions and estimate how much you may have left in your account at the end of the year. 

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Reaching your goal starts with saving for it. 

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Step 3: Compare your options

Health insurance is probably one of the benefits you’ll be able to choose during open enrollment and you could be offered more than one type of plan. 

Between the abbreviations and information about premiums and deductibles, it can feel like there’s a lot to know. There is, but this quick primer could help as you review your options: 

High deductible health plan (HDHP)

These plans have higher deductibles, but you could pay lower monthly premiums than you’ll find with other health insurance plans. You may have the option to contribute to a Health Savings Account. In 2021, you can put in up to $3,600 if you’re the only person covered by the policy and up to $7,200 if your plan covers a family. The money stays in the account until it’s needed so you could use the money to cover certain healthcare costs now and in the future.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan

Under this plan, you have access to any providers covered under your plan — preferred providers — but can choose doctors out of network. PPOs offer lower copays and deductibles in exchange for higher monthly premiums. 

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan

HMOs typically offer low or no deductibles, low co-pays and low monthly premiums, and your primary care doctor coordinates care by providing referrals.

Depending on your healthcare plan, you might be able to contribute to a flexible spending account (FSA). If you can, in 2021 you could contribute up to up to $2,750 for qualified healthcare expenses. Rules for these accounts have been a little in flux, so you may want to ask your benefits team if you will need to use the money before the plan year ends and if any money will roll over to the following year.

Keep in mind: If you’re changing health plans you may want to see if your medical providers qualify as in or out of network and calculate any differences before you make the switch. 

Vision and dental insurance. There are generally one to two options for vision and dental insurance. Be sure to look into what’s covered so that the plan matches what you need. 

Long-term disability and life insurance. These benefits are usually optional. Life insurance could help provide funds for your loved ones if you pass and long-term disability insurance provides financial protections if you’re not able to work because of a health problem. Companies will sometimes pay for a certain amount of these types of coverage on your behalf and give you the option to pay for additional coverage. 

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.