Fall Financial Checkup: Are Your Benefits Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right?

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Maximize Benefits and Determine Coverage Needs Before Open Enrollment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – September in Tennessee brings the excitement of football games, cooler temperatures and beautiful autumn leaves. It may not be quite as exciting, but September is also the time to review your workplace benefits. Ann Berry, professor and consumer economics specialist with University of Tennessee Extension, can help guide Tennessee families with questions to ask and options to consider to get the most out of your workplace benefits.

“Many employers, including the State of Tennessee, offer annual enrollment periods in October, so September is the month to look at what changes may be needed for your family,” says Berry. “Unless a separate qualifying event occurs during the year, this is the only time most employers allow changes to insurance coverage and enrollments, so it’s crucial to take a critical look at what your family needs.”

Subject to eligibility, employees can choose health insurance options, enroll or cancel health insurance for themselves or their dependents, or enroll in other benefits during the annual enrollment period. Optional benefits like dental, vision, accidental death and dismemberment, life insurance, disability insurance and flexible benefits can also be changed, cancelled or enrolled during this period. 

In order to maximize workplace benefits, Berry suggests thinking about how your household and family situation have changed over the past year, and how it could potentially change in the future. Asking these questions can help identify areas to address:

– Did you get married?

– Did you get divorced?

– Did you experience the death of a spouse or dependent?

– Did you have a child or adopt?

– Did a child move out or reach age 26?

– Has a grandchild or other relative moved in?

– What could change in the coming year?

– Are you planning to have a child in the next year?

– Are you planning to get married in the next year?

The answers to these questions can help you determine if you need to add eligible dependents to your benefits or add beneficiaries to your insurance policies.

Other questions to ask relate specifically to health, dental and vision coverage.

– Were you satisfied with your health insurance the past year?

– Are your doctors still listed as a provider with the healthcare network?

– Are you satisfied with your current health carrier?

– Did you participate in a flexible benefits plan last year?

– If so, did the amount deducted from your paycheck adequately cover medical expenses for you and your dependents?

– Do you need to make an adjustment to the amount deducted for the coming year to cover those medical costs which are expected?

Flexible health benefit funds expire at the end of the year, so Berry suggests utilizing them. Reviewing your benefits in September is helpful for this as well, as there is still time left in the year to schedule health visits and elective care.

“Determining which benefits to enroll in and how much coverage to have for yourself and your family can be overwhelming,” says Berry. “But that’s why taking a little extra time to consider your family’s unique situation is important. You may not need every benefit your employer offers. But by reviewing your options and your family’s needs over the past year, you can make the best decision possible and have a healthy 2020, at least as far as workplace benefits are concerned,” continues the expert.

Annual enrollment for state and higher education employees is September 30-October 11.

Annual enrollment for local education, local government and retirees is September 30-October 25.

For more financial resources, contact the family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at fcs.tennessee.edu

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.  utia.tennessee.edu.

Media Contact

Ann A. Berry

Department of Family and Consumer Sciences