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Flex-Ed: Speaking to millennials at open enrollment

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. You spend hours preparing for a company meeting on employee benefits. But when it's time to share information, some employees are visibly less interested. By the end of the meeting, eyes have glazed over, and attention has disappeared.

Fast forward to open enrollment. Maybe it's a little early to tackle this, but this same group of employees is pretty disengaged. And they are less likely to understand what your company offers. So it's better to start now and avoid confusion later.

Millennials may be first to say, "I've got this." But the truth is, open enrollment can be confusing and stressful. Key details may be glossed over. And as a result, they may be less likely to opt in. Here are some tips on how to spark interest before the onslaught of paperwork begins.

Communication matters

If you're offering the types of benefits millennials value most — great. But do they actually understand what you offer? Communication is critical. Try going beyond in-person meetings, letters, or emails. Share the message in bite-sized pieces through texts, blog posts, or videos. Repeating what matters may be the key to boosting millennial engagement.

Highlight ways to save

Millennials may have a reputation for frivolous spending. But that's not the case with healthcare. Research has revealed nearly half of millennials have skipped or delayed care to save money. Become a trusted resource and advocate by making benefits easier to understand. Break healthcare benefits down into manageable chunks.

Oh, be sure to ditch the industry jargon. These might be common terms to some, but it always helps to decipher things like coinsurance, copayment, or out-of-pocket maximum, providing real-world examples of how each of these will impact their wallets.

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are another way to save on taxes. Money shifts into a special account before being paid. Explain the "use it or lose it" rules and why it requires some extra planning. There's no "magic number" that works for all employees. Everyone's needs are different. Ask these questions to guide them through the decision process:

  • How much money did you spend last year? Sifting through old receipts can be a snooze, but it's helpful to have a baseline for planning purposes.
  • Do you have any major health expenses planned? Time to stop putting off that root canal? Or is your family expecting a baby? You're likely to use 100% of the year's FSA money — and more. But if you're expecting routine check-ups, contributing the full amount may not make sense.
  • Does your company offer a high-deductible health plan? A recent survey found most millennials don't understand how they work. To make matters worse, 70% waste up to $750 because of mistakes at open enrollment. Maybe a health savings account (HSA) is a viable alternative.

Grab attention before open enrollment

No one wants to read a stack of papers. Try delivering the information other ways. Consider which benefits are most valuable to millennials and highlight them — more than once. Helping your employees make the most of their benefits could save them a lot of money. Best of all, they may want to stick around longer.

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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.

Basics

FSA Friday - 9/7/18 - Childcare costs are on everyone's mind at open enrollment

Maybe writing about growing childcare costs isn't exactly surprising these days. But when we come across research that shows just how much these costs have grown in the last few years, it becomes a lot more headline-worthy.

As we dive deeper into open enrollment season, American families need to be prepared for these costs, so they can choose the benefit plans that best serve their needs, including potential tax-free options for child care. And our sources this week both come from local television stations in two different markets, showing just how pressing this topic has become across the nation.

USDA: Child Care Is 3rd Largest Expense For Families - Christiane Cordero, WCCO

Care.com broke down costs by the type of caregiver and found nannies cost the most, at $565 per week, followed by after-school sitters at $232 a week, day cares at $211 a week and family care centers at $195 per week.

The article recommended one cost-saving option we can get behind: A dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA). It allows families to set aside tax-free money dedicated to child care expenses.

Care.com estimates only 55% of families actually use an DCFSA, which means it might not be right for everyone. But it might also imply that more families need to learn more about them. And then they need to decide at open enrollment just how much money they'll set aside, as they can't change it once the year begins, and in many cases, will have to use-it-or-lose-it.

Childcare costs more than most mortgages or college tuition - Kelly Vaughen, WHNT

Perhaps even more alarming than the costs of daily childcare is what we learned from a report from Child Care Aware, which estimated that if you have two children in daycare, you're likely paying as much or more for their care than you are on a mortgage.

They also found in many states parents are likely to spend as much on childcare for a young child as they would to pay for a year at an in-state university. They found annual childcare costs exceed $20,000 in 22 states. Parents pay the most for childcare in Massachusetts, paying more than $34,000 annually.

While your tax-free health spending options might not account for totals that big, it's pretty easy to see how these accounts can help keep more money in your pocket, at a time when every penny counts.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

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Podcast-Eligible: The Open Enrollment Spectacular

Welcome to the third episode of Podcast-Eligible! This month, we're diving into open enrollment to help you make an informed decision when it's time to elect your benefits this fall. Be sure to hang around to the end - we have a special promo code to help you save on your favorite FSA- and HSA-eligible products!

Our podcast is always fact-checked by our compliance director, and she had a few comments we wanted to make clear to our listeners!

  • Withdrawals from an HSA are still subject to income tax after age 65 for non-medical expenses. (But the 20% tax penalty is waived.)
  • Our Eligibility Question of the Month was FSA-specific this month, but we should note that HSAs can pay for expenses incurred during a prior year as long as the account was open.
  • Some benefits administrators MAY require a new prescription each year, but typically this is not as common.

Also, we mentioned a lot of links in this episode. Here they are:

Thanks for listening and we'll see you next month!