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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Regardless of income or wealth, the road to financial health – how you are able to manage your day-to-day financial life while building for the future – can be a lifelong journey. What you do today can build toward or detract from your long-term resilience and ability to pursue opportunities. These questions can serve as a starting point to take inventory of your financial health.
Planning for the Future
Taking inventory of your financial health
(Family Features) Only 28% of Americans are financially healthy, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. Most others will have difficulty reaching long-term financial goals and are more vulnerable to the threat of financial shocks, such as car trouble, unforeseen medical bills or job loss.
Regardless of income or wealth, the road to financial health – how you are able to manage your day-to-day financial life while building for the future – can be a lifelong journey. What you do today can build toward or detract from your long-term resilience and ability to pursue opportunities. Whether you want to take that dream vacation, prepare for retirement or save for college, financial health takes effort to build.
“An overwhelming majority of the country is experiencing financial challenges that have lasting effects on people’s lives, on their ability to weather the inevitable ups and downs and on their chances to pursue their dreams,” said Jennifer Tescher, CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the nation’s authority on consumer financial health. “Each year, CFSI and MetLife Foundation join forces on #FinHealthMatters Day to highlight the importance of financial health, especially for the 180 million people who are financially vulnerable.”
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If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down. Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips.
Save Your Way to Lower Home Insurance
(Family Features) If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down.
Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips from the experts at CertainTeed, a leading manufacturer of exterior and interior building products:
Shop for the best rates. It’s easy to be complacent when you’ve used the same insurance company for years, but if getting the best rate is your objective, it’s a good idea to shop around. To do effective comparison shopping, have a copy of your current policy ready and contact a handful of competitors. Provide them the exact same coverage details so you can compare like rates, but also be ready to listen to information about additional coverage options that may suit your needs.
Combine homeowner insurance with other policies. Most insurance carriers offer multiple policy discounts, which they apply when you insure more than one item. For example, if your homeowner insurance carrier also insures your cars, you’re likely to save money on the rates for protecting both your home and automobiles.
Update your home’s first line of defense. Many homeowners focus on aesthetics when it’s time to make upgrades, but there are some important functional improvements that can make a difference when it comes to your insurance premiums. For example, as extreme weather becomes more commonplace, the first line of defense is often the type of roofing material chosen. Many insurance companies even offer discounts for using impact-resistant shingles. Check with your insurance provider before making a final selection, but in general, look for products that include “impact-resistant” in their name and specs, and “Class IV Impact Resistance,” the highest rating available for roofing materials.
For example, NorthGate Class IV impact-resistant shingles from CertainTeed are engineered to have a higher probability of resisting hail. These shingles are made using rubber-like polymers that offer flexibility and impact resistance, as well as crack and shrink resistance, even in cold weather. So when severe weather strikes, your home can be protected and stay looking good.
Install a home security system. An intruder alarm can provide more than peace of mind. Insurance companies often reward homeowners who take steps to minimize the chances of burglary or vandalism. After all, a well-protected home is less likely to result in a claim for losses. Some companies offer varying degrees of discounts on insurance rates depending on the type of system you install, so be sure to thoroughly research the options. For example, a system that simply emits a loud noise when triggered may generate one level of discount, while a system that dispatches emergency personnel when activated can lead to an even better rate.
Insurance rates are one place to save money on your home costs. Learn more about impact-resistant shingles and how they can save your home and wallet at certainteed.com.SOURCE:
(Family Features) From heading off to college to marrying the love of your life to taking those dream vacations, life’s biggest moments are often tied to being financially responsible.
While memories of your first dance as newlyweds don’t often include the cost of the band, money is frequently front and center when planning for some of life’s larger events. From early adulthood through retirement, a credit card is one tool that can help you achieve your financial goals while offsetting some costs along the way.
“No matter your stage in life, it’s important to plan ahead and have the right tools to meet your financial needs,” said Jason Gaughan, credit cards executive at Bank of America. “A credit card offers flexibility, convenience and an increasing amount of rewards that can make your budget go even further.”
These tips from financial experts can help you maximize financial tools like credit cards throughout life’s milestones.
For many, college represents the first instance of being responsible for personal finances. During this time, some students apply for their first credit cards to cover a wide range of costs such as books or travel expenses to and from school. Experts agree it’s important to start building credit at this age, but only if you can handle the responsibility associated with a credit card.
“Though credit can be a somewhat foreign topic for beginners, online resources such as Bank of America’s Better Money Habits offers tips to help young adults learn about things like how your credit score is calculated, the difference between a credit report and credit score and explains why it’s important to understand before signing up for a credit card,” said Lysandra Perez, a relationship manager for Bank of America who is responsible for educating clients on establishing strong financial habits including managing and building credit.”
According to BetterMoneyHabits.com, an important rule for building strong credit is to spend no more than 30 percent of your available credit line. The online resource also recommends that students look for credit cards that offer low interest rates and no annual fee to help minimize finance charges if they aren’t able to pay their bills in full each month.
“Establishing strong financial habits early on can help set you up for future credit opportunities later in life,” Perez said.
As people become more established professionally, they often become more comfortable financially, allowing them to pursue their passions.
Using a credit card that offers rewards tied to interests is a strategy some young adults utilize. According to a Bank of America survey, 91 percent of Millennials ages 23-29 plan to use a rewards card to help pay for upcoming travel.
“It’s common for people in their mid-to-late 20s to prioritize maximizing credit card rewards,” Gaughan said. “They understand using a card for smaller, everyday purchases like coffee and groceries can be an easy way to earn points to pay for fun events like a trip abroad or home for a college reunion.”
Saving and tracking rewards is key during this period, too. Digital tools like My Rewards provide new visibility into the rewards you earn and how to maximize their value. Also look to explore banking rewards options like Preferred Rewards, which can offer special perks and benefits like credit card rewards bonuses, discounts on home and auto loans, interest rate boosters and no-fee ATM transactions.
Marriage and Parenthood
A seismic shift often occurs when entering the marriage and parenthood stage of life. The individually minded spending of early adulthood transitions to down payments on homes and saving money for children’s educations.
These years typically require more financial savviness to make every dollar count as large expenses requiring loans, such as houses and cars, are more prevalent during this stage.
Along with larger purchases, these years also often come with grocery store trips, filling up the gas tank for carpool duty and buying new clothes as your kids grow. Look for a cash back card that lets you earn rewards on your everyday purchases and offers redemption for cash back to cover expenses or invest in a savings account.
By retirement age, you’ve likely spent decades saving and are looking to enjoy the fruits of your years of labor. While the amount saved for retirement varies greatly depending on your situation, it’s always important to spend wisely during retirement, and a credit card that reaps high rewards can help.
“There are many ways to continue saving and investing once in retirement,” said David Poole, head of Merrill Edge Advisory, Client Services and Digital Capabilities at Bank of America. “Credit cards that allow you to invest rewards back into your retirement fund is an easy way to continue contributing to your 401(k).”
Credit cards can also help retirees fulfill long-standing travel goals. Some like the Bank of America Premium Rewards card offer lucrative travel benefits such as earning two points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. Look for points that are flexible and can be used toward future travel purchases or as cash back.
“With so many credit card options available, it’s important to understand what your current needs are,” Gaughan said. “Do your research, develop a strategy and work with your financial institution to determine the best card for your lifestyle.”
Find more information and credit card options at bankofamerica.com/creditcards.
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(Family Features) Most relationship experts agree that making time for date night is important, whether it’s the early days of a blossoming romance or decades into a comfortable marriage. Spending that valuable time together doesn’t have to be expensive as long as you take the time to make it special.
Plan your next date with these ideas for low-cost experiences with the one you love:
Share time outdoors. Except in the most extreme conditions, there’s always something to do outside and most of those activities are either free or relatively inexpensive. Whether it’s taking a stroll hand-in-hand or planning a picnic at a scenic location, the exercise and fresh air can be good for your body and mind, for both you and your beloved.
Dine on a dime. Although the days of a nickel burger are long gone, there are ways to curb your spending when you eat out. For example, many restaurants offer menus with smaller portions as well as promotional nights with discounts geared toward certain audiences. Some restaurants even offer daily discounts, as high as 10 percent off your total bill for AARP members. If you are not a member, it’s simple to sign up online. Membership is just $16 a year, so it can practically pay for itself with the use of just one of the dining offers.
Simply stay in. When you’re conflicted between going out on a date or settling for a night on the couch, it’s possible to have both. Order takeout from a favorite spot and bring it to the comfort of your home for the best of both worlds. It allows you to avoid kitchen cleanup and simply commit to enjoying one another’s company without interruption.
Master the movie schedule. Prime time at the theater can be pricey, but if your calendar is flexible, you can catch a show earlier in the day for a steep discount. Some theaters also offer special discounts for ordering tickets online. An added bonus: taking in an early movie with a snack may help save money on dinner later.
Enjoy special engagements. Whether it’s a local sporting event or a musical performance by a group visiting your town, sharing a pastime that you’re passionate about is a good way to share a piece of your life and interests to help establish a deeper connection with a loved one. Conversely, if it’s a new experience for you both, it may establish a newfound bond that you can explore together over time. Don’t let ticket prices dissuade you. Take advantage of offers that may be available to you, special showings or even a ticket discount with your AARP membership.
Explore more tips and ideas to make the most of your relationships and everyday life, too, at AARPAdvantages.com.
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(Family Features) Managing all of life’s demands on limited funds can feel like a never-ending chore. Every family’s budget is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to saving money. However, establishing priorities and looking for ways to make small cuts can add up.
Many people turn to creating a personalized budget or a spending schedule to help keep track of their expenses. Planning payments on a monthly basis can sometimes be helpful when it comes to setting an appropriate family budget, anticipating short-term expenses and planning ahead for long-term payments.
However, creating a personalized budget is not always enough. Some companies also offer discount and incentive programs for particular customers, so it’s best to do some research when planning your next month’s budget and take advantage of available programs.
For example, Amazon offers a discounted Prime membership for $5.99 per month for customers receiving government assistance. This offer is already available to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cardholders and now Medicaid recipients also qualify. Members have access to a wide selection of more than 100 million items, video and music streaming services, low prices on select items and fast, convenient delivery options, which can ultimately help save both time and money.
In addition to fast, free shipping on millions of items, these benefits come at no additional cost to Prime members:
To help make your budget more manageable, take a close look at your bills, ongoing purchases and opportunities to save where possible.
Find more information to help balance your budget at amazon.com/qualify.
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(Family Features) Saving money – it’s one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year. However, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits.
Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth:
Track Your Spending Habits
If you think you’re spending more than you should but aren’t sure exactly where to start trimming expenses, it can be a good idea to self-audit and see exactly where your money is going. There are multiple websites that can help you connect your accounts in one place and track your spending.
Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
Contrary to conventional wisdom, peer pressure doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. In fact, according to research conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland, peer pressure can actually help you cut back on unnecessary spending. The researchers studied the spending habits of people using a personal finance website called Status Money and found that users who learned they were spending more than their peers reduced their spending by an average of 23 percent. Find more information at statusmoney.com.
Identify Problem Areas
Maybe the newest pair of sneakers on the market have to be yours, or perhaps dining out with friends is just too tantalizing. Once you’ve compared your spending with peers, you can find out if you’re splurging a little too much. Try not to completely deprive yourself of your favorite hobbies or activities, though. See what’s a reasonable budget for you then cut back on things you can live without.
Set a (Logical) Budget
While it sounds simple to create a budget for each month’s expenses, it can actually be pretty hard. Rather than expending time and effort aiming for a goal that isn’t realistic, use online tools to help set a benchmark that’s achievable month-to-month. For example, Status Money can help you set reasonable spending limits and automatically predict your future spending to alert you before you hit or exceed your budget.
Negotiate and Change Financial Providers
Always be open to deals and financial products that are better suited to your personal situation. Switching providers or negotiating prices can often save you money. You can bargain on everything from a cable bill to purchasing a vehicle – even small savings can add up over time.
Saving money can be a challenge for people in all walks of life, but creating a plan can help you change the outlook of your financial life for the better. Visit statusmoney.com to learn how much you can save.
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