By Manisha Thakor | Septeptember 20, 2011
It's that time of year again, open enrollment period. This is the annual window where you can sign up for, or adjust, your participation in a variety of employee benefits that range from traditional health insurance to one of my favorites—flexible spending accounts ("FSAs").
Alas, a recent Harris Interactive/Aflac study showed that 77 percent of people admitted that they made mistakes when signing up for their benefits packages in past years, with 42 percent saying those mistakes cost them money.
What kind of mistakes are we talking about?
One of the most common errors actually was forgetting to sign up for FSAs.
Given today's economic environment, you no doubt want to save as much money as you can. That makes FSAs, in particular, a benefit that you really want to take the time to understand. Why? FSAs enable you to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified health care costs. Depending upon your tax-bracket, an FSA can save you up to 40% on items you already pay for out-of-pocket (such as co-pays for doctor visits or prescription drugs).
Health care FSAs aren’t the only pre-tax benefit that you can sign up for. There are others, including benefits that cover dependent care and commuter expenses. If you work for an employer who offers one or more of these valuable benefits, make sure you don’t miss out on your opportunity to enroll and save. Even if you’ve participated in the past, you still have to re-enroll in these benefits each year.
Whether it's thinking about traditional insurance or pre-tax benefits, the most common sentiments I hear from folks about their employee benefits are that they feel overwhelmed and confused. So here is a list of 6 resources that you can use during this year's open enrollment season to make the most of the benefits available to you through your workplace.
Of course, the best resource during open enrollment is always your Human Resources department. They will have all the information that is specific to your particular benefit offerings. So don't hesitate to ask them any questions.
Lastly, remember to keep all of the relevant information you receive (brochures, emails, etc.) in a special location so that you can easily refer to it when making selections for you and your family during this year's open enrollment season.
Do you have any favorite resources that help you plan for your open enrollment choices each year? If so, please tweet them to me at @ManishaThakor with the hashtag #enrollmenttools.
“My FSA is a life saver! Last year I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor and luckily I was able to have the necessary surgeries to remove it immediately since my FSA covered all of the out-of-pocket costs for my deductible and medicines.”
Annual Savings: $816