How to choose the right employee benefits: a guide for the ages
No matter what your age, choosing the right employee benefits is important. They're vital in providing you with the protection and security you and your family need.
But what exactly is right for you? The short answer: it depends. As we get older, our needs change and grow. What's ideal in your 20s may be insufficient in your 40s. To help make things simpler (and less intimidating), here's a simple guide to what you should consider as you make your way through the decades.
For the first time, you're truly on your own. It's exciting — and a bit daunting. There are lots of big changes happening both personally and professionally.
Still single? Odds are you're spending your free time socializing, traveling, maybe taking on some additional education. Without the added responsibility of a family, it's a great time to start investing in yourself and your retirement.
First things first: Make sure you fund your 401(k). Max it out if you can and learn to live without the extra money in your paycheck. The sooner you start, the larger your retirement nest egg will grow.
And don't forget health insurance. No matter how young you may feel, serious illness or an accident are still a possibility and you definitely want to be covered.
Consider adding Vision and Dental insurance, as well as Short Term and Long Term Disability for income protection in case of injury or illness. They're affordable and could pay for themselves many times over.
Perhaps you've recently married, purchased a home, or started a family. That makes your employee benefits choices even more important. In addition to the above suggestions, make sure you add Life Insurance to protect your loved ones against the unforeseen. The sooner you get it, the better; it's a lot more affordable when you're young.
Finally, let's suppose the unexpected happens and you have a major accident or come down with a serious illness. Even if you have health insurance, you may be faced with sizable out-of-pocket expenses. That's where Supplemental Health Insurance comes in. It provides you with money in addition to any medical insurance to help with any costs you have to pay on your own. Depending on your diagnosis and treatment, you can get lump sum payments to use in any way you choose. One type of policy covers accidents, but other types are available as well.
It's a time of big transition. Your 20s are behind you and greater responsibility lies ahead.
Perhaps you and your partner are building a life together, growing a family, and buying a bigger home. Or maybe you're single (and prefer it that way).
Whichever the case, it's an important time to carefully assess your employee benefit options. You have a lot to consider.
Saving for retirement comes first, along with basic health insurance. You need to plan for the future while you protect yourself today.
In addition, consider Vision and Dental Insurance. They're inexpensive and can prevent longer-term issues down the road. And they're especially important if you have young children. (Fast fact: Every dollar of preventive dental care can save you $8 to $50 later on.)1
If you have a partner or a family, don't forget Life and Disability Insurance. Together with health insurance, they're the three essential components of an effective coverage plan.
And with out-of-pocket medical costs continuing to rise, strongly consider Supplemental Health Insurance. It can provide you with a lump sum to cover unexpected expenses your health insurance doesn't cover. You can use it any way you choose — to help pay your deductible, for transportation during treatment, child care, even housekeeping. Coverage is available in case of serious illness, accidents, hospitalization, or cancer. If you can, add any dependents to your policy for even greater protection.
You've made it to mid-life. For many people, the future is clearer and their choices are more confident. Others are still finding their way or tackling serious curveballs life can throw at you.
Maybe you're facing college expenses or layoffs. Perhaps you're embarking on a second (or third) career, or even going back to school. Worst case: You're starting to see your family health history affect your own loved ones.
Whatever your circumstances, what's important now is staying ahead of the curve. Saving for retirement, as well as keeping your health insurance, remain your primary considerations.
It's likely you now have dependents who count on you. And you're probably making more money. So make sure you add Life and Disability Insurance to protect your hard-earned savings and your income if you're unable to work for an extended period of time.
As out-of-pocket costs continue to rise, a sudden accident or a serious illness could wipe out decades of saving, even if you have basic health insurance. And let’s face it, your body is probably feeling its age more now. So if you haven't already, make sure you look into Supplemental Health Insurance options to help with those unexpected costs.
With a Supplemental Health policy, you get lump sum payments you can use toward virtually anything your health insurance doesn't cover, like groceries, child care, even housecleaning. You can select from policies that help cover serious illness, accidents, hospitalization or cancer. Have you gone through (or are you going through) a divorce or other family changes? Make sure you confirm beneficiaries on your life insurance and 401(k) accounts, and if you haven't, draw up a will to identify how your assets would be distributed. Finally, if you can, stay cordial throughout your divorce. Making decisions when you're objective helps keep you on track.
With any luck, you're more than halfway through your career, and you're starting to think about a more relaxed lifestyle. Hopefully, you're healthy and happy and enjoying the rewards of all your hard work.
But that doesn't mean you can sit back and relax. Maybe your children are still in college (and you're still paying for it) or they're back living at home (certainly not uncommon in this economy). Perhaps you're divorcing or widowed. Or you may be remarried and have to make more benefits choices than you've had to in years.
Obviously, there's a lot to consider. If you think you may be leaving your company, either voluntarily or due to layoffs, you'll want to find out if your employee benefits are portable, so you can retain them and pay for them as an individual.
You'll also want to continue investing in your retirement account. As life expectancies rise - people are living into their 90s and beyond - there's still plenty of time for your money to grow. And don't forget annual catch-up contributions; they're available to those 50 and older.
However, as you get closer to retirement, start to think about a more conservative allocation. A financial professional can provide you with the tools and information you need to help ensure your portfolio is balanced.
Of course, Supplemental Health Insurance becomes even more important as we age and the odds of illness increase. The benefits can be used to help pay for out-of-pocket expenses that your basic health insurance doesn't cover, like deductibles, housecleaning, transportation to treatment, even groceries. So make sure it's on your radar.
Countless possibilities can open up in this lighter era of life. Hopefully, you've enjoyed your work, family, and home and all the rewards they've brought you.
For many people, the 60s mean retirement. Others move into consulting or part-time work. Or you may still be at your existing job, with no plan to slow down any time soon.
Whatever the case, now is a good time to take stock of your retirement savings and whether you need to continue building your nest egg. In this decade, Social Security will become an option, and you have to decide when to start collecting. By waiting longer, you can maximize your monthly payments.
At this stage in life, you may not be able to afford to wait out a severe market decline. Many people will steer their investment allocation toward more conservative investments at this stage of their life.2
Also take the time to re-evaluate your budget. You probably have fewer big expenses. Think about devoting additional funds to financial protection in case of illness.
Frankly, you can't have too much protection at this time of life. Consider Life Insurance, Disability Insurance (both short-term and long-term), and Supplemental Health Insurance, with coverage for out-of-pocket costs in case of accident, critical illness, cancer, and hospitalization.
This guide for the ages can help you decide which products are most important for your personal situation. However, you can also ask a benefits administrator or product representative for advice or help confirming the best employee benefits for you.