Published October 14, 2013
Enrolling in corporate benefits can be a daunting task, especially if you are a young professional new to the corporate world. Sorting through 401(k) terms, health-care options and other benefits can be confusing, but if taking the time to find the right plans that fit with your needs can reap major rewards.
Corporate benefits are part of your compensation and a critical part of your financial portfolio. According to Lindsey Pollak, career expert and spokesperson for The Hartford My Tomorrow campaign, many Millennials don’t realize the positive effect of making the right benefits selections. She points out that you really have to “think about the whole picture of protecting yourself, your income, and your family.”
Consider that a recent survey by The Hartford found that:
As your life circumstances change, so do your obligations. Pollak says young folks need to make sure they understand the ramifications of their benefits selections in order to make informed decisions.
To help young workers taking advantage of the benefits their companies are offering and how to make the right decisions, Pollak offers the following tips:
Find Out When and How to Enroll
Open enrollment typically takes place during October and November, so now is the time to find out how to get enrolled. If you aren’t sure how to review your benefits, ask your manager or call your human resources representative—this is what they are paid to do.
Make Choices that Best Fit Your Circumstances
Selecting the right benefit options starts with evaluating your current and future financial and health needs. Review your budget, savings goals and identify your lifestyle and any potential health-care risks. Keep in mind that it’s not just about you. A growing number of Millennials have both children and parents relying on them financially. If this is the case, make sure to have a conversation with your spouse and any family members who may depend on your paycheck.
Understand Your Options
Pollak points out that for most of us “your ability to work is your greatest financial asset.” That being said, many Millennials overlook the need for life and disability benefits because they perceive themselves as young and healthy. While this generation might be young, anyone can walk across the street and get hit by a car. You may not be able to control the physical damage that is done, but you can certainly take steps to mitigate the potential financial damage that follows an accident. Peace of mind is rarely a bad thing, particularly when it involves your family.
Being physically active can actually be a risk factor that should be taken into account when selecting benefits. Simple things like a broken arm or a long-term ear infection can limit your ability to work. Some short-term disability offerings will pay up to half your paycheck while you are unable to work. That money can go a long way in keeping you afloat until you can get back on your feet.
Another consideration is protecting your loved ones from your outstanding financial obligations. Remember, your debt doesn’t die with you, particularly if you have a cosigner for a college loan or new car. It’s important to make sure you protect them in the event something happens to you. Depending on your debt situation, you may want to look into the various life insurance options that cover this.
Look for Discounts and Extra Perks
Enrollment season is the time to make sure you are taking full advantage of employer benefit offers. Many packages will offer discounts on health foods, gym memberships and wellness programs. Some programs even offer cash for healthy preventative behaviors such as exercising and quitting. Employers want to reward healthy habits because healthy workers are more engaged and productive.
Tips for Those Not in the Corporate World
For anyone who doesn’t have access to these types of benefits programs, Pollak advises looking into professional and trade associations in your field. These groups typically offer similar benefits programs to their members at discounted rates.
The bottom line is that your benefits are part of your compensation package, so it’s important to take advantage of all the options at your disposal. Pollak points out that “you are leaving money on the table if you are not taking full advantage of your options.”