Be Friends with (Your) Benefits: Part 1 – Open Enrollment

Whether it’s a corporate expense account or Bagel Wednesday, everyone loves a good work perk. Today, we’re diving into the biggest work perks of all: benefits.

Retirement funds, insurance, legal services— companies offer all sorts of different packages and it’s up to you to choose which one is best for you.

But “the best one for you” may change over time. Unfortunately, you can’t change your benefits package at the drop of a hat—you can only do it during a magical time called Open Enrollment.

So let’s talk about that.

Open enrollment usually occurs in the fall (October/November-ish) and the new elections typically take effect in January. It is the perfect time of year to take a look at your benefits and see what you might want to change.

The first step is to think about your life plan and what’s coming up for you in the next year. There are many ways to tailor your benefits so that you can be prepared for a new baby or direct a little of that new raise into your 401k.

Pro tip:  You can actually change the percentages you contribute to retirement anytime. Open enrollment is just a great time to check in!

Here are a few things to look out for that might change during open enrollment.

New Options

Sometimes an employer will make a new offering available during open enrollment. Look out for these changes and stay informed about what’s new by reading HR notices/newsletters.

Also look out for parts of packages that your company is taking away. If you’re signed up for something that’s on the chopping block, you have to choose something to replace it!

Changes to Current Offerings

Sometimes things change with your benefits from year to year. For example, the health plan you’ve elected might be changing pharmacies or moving locations. Be sure to look out for these changes during open enrollment in case it is something that would cause you to want to change your elections or choose a different plan.

Cost Increases for Health Plans

Usually, the changes in costs for plans are minimal. Just keep an eye out!

Opt-in Opportunities

You never know what new opportunities might pop up. A company may make some elections only available at the time of hire—and then, one year, suddenly make it available during open enrollment. This was the case for me with legal insurance. For years, it was unavailable during open enrollment and then, poof, it wasn’t just for new hires anymore.

There are exceptions to the you-can-only-make-changes-during-open-enrollment rule. One of those is if you have a “qualifying life event” (i.e. when you get married, have a baby, or if your spouse loses their benefits, etc).

My biggest piece of advice is to take this time of year as an opportunity to look at what you currently have and see if it still works for you. Treat your HR department like your high school guidance counselor. They are there to help you get the scholarship– you just have to ask for the help.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series where we’ll talk about getting a new job and navigating all the new benefit offerings you have.

**Disclaimer: I am not an HR or financial expert just a regular employee that loves taking advantage of work perks and enjoys reading benefits manuals.**