Every year, millions of American workers enroll in employee benefits through their workplaces during a period known as annual enrollment. It’s usually a short window of time, but employees make crucial financial decisions for their families for the coming year. In addition to medical insurance, consider these voluntary benefits that can help bridge the gap between what health insurance covers and what you’re financially responsible for.
Help Safeguard Your Family’s Finances
(Family Features) Every year, millions of American workers enroll in employee benefits through their workplaces during a period known as annual enrollment. It's usually a short window of time, but employees make crucial financial decisions for their families for the coming year.
In addition to medical insurance, many employers offer a range of voluntary benefits - those you select and pay for yourself, often by having the cost deducted directly from your paycheck. These voluntary benefits can help bridge the gap between what health insurance covers and what you're financially responsible for, especially as more employees opt for high-deductible health insurance plans.
In fact, according to a poll of 1,512 full-time U.S. workers conducted by employee benefits company Unum, 49% of working adults plan on enrolling in a high-deductible health plan for the coming benefit year, with Millennials (58%) and Gen Z'ers (54%) at even higher rates.
"While high-deductible health plans offer lower monthly payments, that can mean more financial responsibility for policyholders when they need to use the benefit," said personal finance expert Laura Adams. "Combining a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account can offset out-of-pocket costs, but it's also a good idea to consider voluntary benefits like disability, accident and hospital insurance to further financially protect your family."
If an accident, illness or injury prevents you from working, disability insurance replaces a portion of your income. While it may seem unlikely to many they would ever experience a disability, it's more common than some realize. Based on 2019 information from the Social Security Administration, more than 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67.
Accident and hospital insurance can pay a lump sum directly to you to offset out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care often not covered by health insurance.
Voluntary benefits, policies and details vary, so it's essential to review your options and discuss with your family before your benefits enrollment begins.
"Investing a little additional time on the front end can help reduce your family's financial risk down the road," Adams said.
For more information about employee benefits, visit Unum.com/benefits.
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Research suggests that most Americans turning age 65 will need some form of assistance with everyday activities, known as long-term care, as they grow older. The amount of care needed will depend on many variables, including overall health, cognitive functioning and home environment. Three simple steps can help you start planning for care you may need as you age.
Why Everyone Should Plan for Long-Term Care
(Family Features) Research suggests that most Americans turning age 65 will need some form of assistance with everyday activities, known as long-term care, as they grow older. The amount of care needed will depend on many variables, including overall health, cognitive functioning and home environment.
Age is a strong predictor of the need for help, and because women live longer on average, they are more likely than men to require long-term care. Factors such as a disability, injury or chronic illness also increase the chance that long-term care will be needed.
Three simple steps can help you start planning for care you may need as you age.
1. Know what to expect
Understanding long-term care is the first step in creating a plan. Key things to know include:
2. It’s not just about you
Take the time to make clear your preferences for what kind of help you value most and where you want to receive it. Family and friends will feel better knowing that you are thinking about your needs – and theirs – by planning for long-term care.
3. Better active than reactive
For more information and resources to develop a care plan, visit longtermcare.gov.
Administration for Community Living
(BPT) - Life changes often mean tax changes. Whether it’s getting married, buying or selling a home, moving abroad or having a baby, misunderstanding the tax and financial implications of these life changes can lead to taxpayers making mistakes or leaving money on the table.
Depending on your situation, there are new tax implications that will impact your benefits, tax bill and how you file. If you experienced a life change in 2016, here is a list of tax implications and how they will affect you.
Many couples close the book on their "wedding to-dos" once the last thank you card has been sent, but looking at your new tax situation is an important first step in your married life. There are some instances when getting married can have negative implications for a couple’s tax situation. Once you’re married you must file either as married filing jointly or married filing separately. In some cases, a couple where one spouse earns most of the household income will benefit because their overall tax bracket may decrease. However, a couple with two high earners may find they face a higher tax rate than if each paid tax only on their own income and added the taxes paid.
However, there are some ways to protect against potential negative tax implications. After your marriage is official, update your W-4 with your employer to account for your new marital status. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, make sure to adjust your quarterly estimated tax payments.
Buying a house
Purchasing a home may open the door to more deductions through itemizing if you weren’t already doing so. Once you become a homeowner, you can deduct many of your home-related costs, including your qualified home mortgage interest, points paid on a loan secured by your home, real estate taxes and private mortgage insurance premiums paid on or before Dec. 31, 2016. If you choose not to itemize, you may benefit from other tax advantages such as penalty-free IRA withdrawals if you are a first-time homebuyer under the age of 59 and a half, or residential energy credits for purchases of certain energy efficient property.
New homebuyers should be on the lookout for Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement, which is used to report mortgage interest. This form can help you identify these deductions when completing your Form 1040.
Are you excited to move abroad, but have no idea what will happen to your taxes and how to file? Many Americans living and working overseas will not owe tax to the IRS because of the foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit. However, even if you qualify for those benefits, you have to file a U.S. tax return each year if you received income over the normal filing threshold.
It is also important to understand your Social Security coverage before moving abroad. Knowing whether your earnings overseas will be subjected to Social Security taxes in the U.S. or the country you are residing in will be an important factor when analyzing the economics of your move.
Having a baby
A new baby means you may be able to take advantage of tax breaks, including the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The CTC is worth up to $1,000 for each qualifying child younger than 17, a portion of which may be refundable as the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) depending on your income. A tax preparer can help you understand the qualifications to determine whether a child is considered qualified for purposes of the CTC. Some of those qualifications include but are not limited to their relationship and residency.
You may also qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income that reduces the amount of taxes you owe. However, it’s important to note that due to the new “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes ACT” or PATH Act, this year the IRS is required to hold any refund from those claiming the EITC and ACTC until at least Feb. 15. This delay will be widely felt by tax filers who typically file as soon as the IRS accepts e-filed returns and who normally expect to receive their refund by late January.
To learn more about this new tax law change, how it may delay tax refunds in January and February, and H&R Block’s free solution to this delay, visit www.hrblock.com/refundadvance or make an appointment with a tax professional.
Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. New data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses. Take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement with these simple steps.
Face Your Financial Fears
Take action to save for retirement
(Family Features) Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. In fact, new data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses.
The research, released by the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council (IALC), also found that despite these very real fears, Americans are failing to take action to address them. For example, a quarter of Baby Boomers, the age group closest to retirement, have less than $5,000 saved for retirement and nearly one in five Americans have no idea how much they’ve saved.
The findings indicate that Americans are afraid of the unknown when it comes to managing their money and retirement. While you can budget for leisure and travel, health care expenses and life expectancy are unpredictable.
“Americans are living longer than ever, so it’s no surprise that the No. 1 retirement fear is that they’ll run out of money in their final years,” said Jim Poolman, executive director of the IALC. “Thankfully, there are strategies and products out there that can help you create sufficient retirement income to last throughout your lifetime, which can help with this crippling fear.”
To take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement, here are some simple steps you can follow:
Make a budget.
Balance is key.
Plan to adjust.
Monitor the balance.
Small changes count.
Make it automatic.
Understanding Fixed Indexed Annuities
According to the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council’s research, 45 percent of Americans are interested in retirement products, such as Fixed Indexed Annuities, that offer steady lifetime income and protect your principal even if the stock market goes down.
Find more tips and tools to guide your retirement planning at FIAinsights.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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