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Take advantage of ‘open enrollment’ season to maximize benefits


At many places of work, it’s “open enrollment” season — the time where you get to make changes to the various benefits you receive from your employer. As you review your overall benefits package, what areas should you focus on?

Here are three possibilities:

• Life insurance — If your employer offers life insurance as a benefit, and you haven’t already signed up for it, consider adding it during your open enrollment period — because life insurance can be important to your family’s financial security. If you already have life insurance with your employer, you may want to take the time, during open enrollment, to review your beneficiary designations. If you’ve experienced a change in your family situation, such as divorce or remarriage, you’ll want to update your beneficiaries, as needed.

• However, the amount of life insurance offered by your employer in a group policy may not be sufficient for your needs, so you may want to consult with a financial professional to determine if you should add private, or individual, coverage. You may find that individual coverage is comparable, in terms of cost, to your employer’s coverage. Also, individual coverage is “portable” — that is, you can take it with you if you change jobs.

• Disability insurance — Your employer may also offer disability insurance as a low-cost benefit. The coverage can be invaluable. In fact, nearly one in three women, and about one in four men, can expect to suffer a disability that keeps them out of work for 90 days or longer at some point during their working years, according to the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE). Again, as was the case with life insurance, your employer’s disability policy may not be enough for your needs, so you may need to consider additional coverage.

• Retirement plan — Your employer may offer a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, such as a 403(b) plan, if you work for an educational institution or a nonprofit organization, or a 457(b) plan, if you work for a governmental unit. All these plans offer the chance to contribute pretax dollars; so the more you put in, the lower your taxable income. Equally important, your earnings can grow tax deferred, which means your money can accumulate faster than if it were placed in an account on which you paid taxes every year.

• Consequently, try to contribute as much as you can possibly afford to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan. If you’ve gotten a raise recently, consider boosting your contributions during open enrollment. Also, take this opportunity to review the array of investments you’ve chosen for your 401(k) or other plan. If you feel that they’re underperforming and not providing you with the growth opportunities you need, you may want to consider making some changes. You might also think about making adjustments if your portfolio has shown more volatility than the level with which you are comfortable. Your financial professional can help you determine if your investment mix is still suitable for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon.

Open enrollment season gives you the perfect opportunity to maximize those benefits offered to you by your employer. So, think carefully about what you’ve got and what improvements you can make — it will be time well spent.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones financial adviser. Frank Wallington is a financial adviser with Edward Jones of Westerly, 401-596-6100.



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