While health coverage gets all the attention during the Open Enrollment period, chances are your company offers a wide range of voluntary benefits that you have the ability to take advantage of.
Let's outline some of the most common voluntary benefit options and how they can affect your budget.
- Life Insurance
Life insurance functions similarly to other forms of insurance where a policy holder will pay monthly premiums for coverage that will kick in when a specific event outlined in the policy takes place. Employers may offer automatic enrollment in life insurance that is company paid and/or there may be the option to voluntarily elect additional coverage for a premium. In either case, life insurance is a lump sum payment paid out to beneficiaries of the policyholder upon his/her death to cover a wide variety of expenses. There are three primary types of life insurance:
- Universal Life Insurance: Much like the name implies, universal life insurance is a type of permanent insurance that will cover the policyholder for his/her entire lifetime. These policies tend to be more flexible than other types with the ability to raise or lower your premium payment and coverage options over the course of your lifetime. However, they are also the most expensive and typically have the highest premium payments.
- Term Life Insurance: This type of life insurance differs from universal life insurance in that they will provide financial protection for a specific period of time, such as 10 to 20 years. These policies have the advantage of a static premium that will remain the same over the course of the coverage period selected, at which point policyholders could renew their coverage, but often at a higher rate. Term life insurance is a great option for those wishing to replace potential income during their working years and are often the most cost-effective option.
- Whole Life Insurance: Last but not least, whole life insurance is a policy that offers permanent life insurance coverage, and is often used as an estate planning tool to help preserve wealth that a policyholder will plan to transfer to beneficiaries. This is often the most expensive life insurance option, but it does offer fixed premiums and has cash value, which means that it accumulate over time on a tax-deferred basis.
- Disability Insurance
Disability insurance, also known as income protection, is an elected benefit where an employee pays a portion of his/her paycheck for coverage in the event of a debilitating accident or illness that causes them to be unable to fulfill the duties of their job. Disability insurance coverage is designed to replace anywhere from 45 to 65% of your gross income on a tax-free basis to ensure that you can still earn income during your recovery. Disability insurance policies may be short or long-term and vary widely in terms of coverage periods and premiums, so employees should assess these plans based on their own needs or the possibility that they will be faced with a medical/emergency situation in the future.
Accidental insurance, also known as accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance, can be purchased through most health insurance portals as a stand-alone plan or it can even be a rider on a life insurance policy. As opposed to life insurance, however, there are no payouts in the event of an accidental death, only in the event of an injury that causes you to lose the ability to hear, see or speak, or lose a body part. These payouts differ from plan to plan and are closely linked to the type of injury that occurs.
Wellness programs are typically employer-sponsored benefits that are intended to improve and promote the health and fitness of employees to help both the employer and employee save money on medical expenses in the future. These programs can also be offered by insurance plans directly to enrollees. These programs work by the employer or insurance plan sponsor providing financial incentives to employees to participate in activities that can boost their overall health. These can include gym memberships, smoking cessation programs, preventative health screenings, diabetes management programs and much more.
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