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Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 6/14/19 - The smart retirement play? Expect the unexpected

Though I'm nowhere near retirement, I imagine it's a magical day. Better than graduating high school. Better than buying your first home. Better than selling that boat you never should have bought in the first place. Retirement is supposed to be the time for you to finally exhale, knowing you made your contribution to the world and letting someone else take the reins.

But, as we're learning, "exhaling" doesn't mean you get to put life on hold. As today's new retirees are learning, all those lazy mornings and relaxing walks need to be tempered with smart health and financial management, so your retirement funds can last.

90% of New Retirees Are Facing This Common (And Expensive) Problem - Katie Brockman, Motley Fool (as featured on NASDAQ.com)

Maybe that intro sounded like a little bit of fear-mongering. But that's not the case. According to a recent survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute, 90% of recent retirees experience significant health issues "sooner than expected."

How soon? Of those respondents, roughly 60% experienced health issues five years earlier than expected.

Of course, health care problems don't come with a schedule or agenda, so a lot of these numbers might be speculative. But it doesn't change the fact that preparation should be first and foremost, front and center of your planning… before and during your retirement years.

One key tip offered up by the author? Knowing exactly what Medicare does (and doesn't) cover for your retirement. In a different NRI survey we learned that nearly 75% of Americans don't fully understand the way Medicare works (with a shocking number believing Medicare coverage is free).

Education first, folks. With Medicare, you'll still be paying premiums, deductibles and copays. Even some routine preventive treatments aren't covered, and you'll need additional coverage for prescription drug discounts. In other words, these are costs you need to be ready for, otherwise that nest egg can deplete pretty quickly.

Also, while you might be nowhere near the typical age for long-term care needs, life isn't a straight line. A need for long-term care can come earlier for some people, and can be a catastrophic hit if you're not ready. (That's right, Medicare doesn't cover this, either.)

The article goes on to highlight health savings accounts (HSAs) as a smart way to bolster your retirement funds -- something we can really get behind. But while it might not be the happiest of topics, the article is an eye-opening read that might have new retirees rethinking that month-long European cruise. It's time to think about the "long game" and whether or not you've really budgeted your funds the right way.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 6/7/19 - Mental wellness … on the go?

We've dedicated a lot of digital ink to the growing prominence of telehealth for preventive medical care. But we hadn't heard much about mental health offerings using the same technology. But (as you've probably guessed by the headline) things might be shifting in that direction.

At the very least, financial supporters certainly feel like they are. In this week's headline, we learn how online therapy company Talkspace raised $50 million in Series D funding to expand its national network.

Therapy app raises $50 million - Jonathan Lamantia, Crain's New York Business

To be clear, Talkspace had already existed as an app that made connections between patients and licensed therapists. But thanks to this deal with Optum, a division of United Healthcare, the company is now able to offer its services to a wider range of employers, employees and insurance providers.

How does it work? The app provides unlimited text, video and audio messaging with a therapist, who (should) respond each day, five days a week. Of course, because it's an app, there are some additional purchase options, such as adding live sessions or engaging in couples therapy.

But what's better is that once patients are connected to a specific therapist, they are connected to them until treatment is done, or the patient requests a different doctor.

Even better than that? Talkspace is covered by some insurance plans, and is largely FSA-eligible!

But perhaps best of all is how telehealth mental screenings offer users a veritable "safe space" where they can get a chance to speak with a well-matched therapist without the stigma or lack of privacy.

Anonymity and privacy don't seem to be people don't have that same level of security, feeling as if they could be more easily identified when seeking behavioral health treatment, leading to some reluctance to follow through on face-to-face treatment. Telehealth seems to be a rock-solid alternative that removes this concern from the table.

The company will likely have some more hurdles to clear in the next months and years -- most notably, competition from similar companies realizing that mental health services, even through telehealth platforms -- are an invaluable addition to a company's wellness offerings.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/31/19 - Is Gen X really ready for retirement?

It wasn't THAT long ago that the term "millennials" was only used to describe people panicking about Y2K. Then, Generation X was leading the way toward changing the retirement landscape. They were the "MTV generation." They were the first generation to grow up with two-income families as the norm. And because of that, they were the ones that shifted the focus toward achieving true work-life balance before retiring young.

Well, even the best laid plans can go south if you're not careful. While Gen X is largely known for its desire for independence and autonomy, maybe the group (as a whole) should have considered getting a little help along the way.

As we see in this week's headline from Plansponsor, the generation that brought hip hop to the mainstream isn't quite as prepared for retirement as probably should be.

Generation X Has a Big Need for Retirement Readiness Improvement - Rebecca Moore, Plansponsor

As someone born in the final year of Generation X, I wasn't sure this article really applied to me. That is, until I read the following:

The Protected Lifetime Income Index Study from the Alliance for Lifetime Income (ALI) shows 65% of Americans younger than 55 are concerned that their retirement income will not last through their lifetime.

So, based on this, it looks like the debt:income ratio shifted toward the tail end of the generation, but the older members of Gen X were well-situated for retirement success, right?

...while 45% of those older than 55 are similarly concerned.

Okay, maybe this is a bigger issue than first believed. The report in question focused on people 45 and up, who have not yet retired, comparing variables like asset ownership to help determine where attitudes about retirement security began to shift.

Based on this, it appears that those with $75,000+ in assets (including homes) tended to be better savers and planners than those who hadn't. Hardly surprising, but when you consider nearly half of surveyed participants fell short of this total, the increased concern about retirement becomes more understandable.

Even more alarming is that more than 75% of participants don't see much change on the horizon, expecting to exhaust their retirement savings well before they should.

Another interesting note about Gen X? They are much less likely to have pensions than the Baby Boomers that preceded them, with more of them funding their retirements on their own, while leaning more heavily on Social Security benefits.

The article definitely opened the eyes of this (young-ish) Gen X'er, but offers hope by showing how better debt management can help turn the tide on savings before it's too late. We're not big on scare tactics around here, but any motivation that leads to better saving habits is a good thing in our eyes.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Accounts

Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/24/19 - Financial wellness programs are working overtime

Wellness programs have always seemed to focus on the "here and now" when it comes to financial health. Sure, short-term changes can turn into long-term improvements. But even we were surprised at the idea that financial wellness programs -- a relatively new concept -- are already turning people into better financial planners, too.

But that's exactly what happened, according to this week's headline, which highlights a five-year study about personal financial wellness programs, and how they seem to be exceeding expectations right out of the gate.

Let's take a look...

New Financial Finesse Research Finds Key Driver to Retirement Success - PR Newswire

Financial Finesse, a provider of workplace financial wellness programs, recently released its 2018 Financial Wellness Year in Review report highlighting the current state of financial wellness in America. The basis of the report? A multi-year study focusing on 2,458 employees enrolled in (and engaged with) their employers' personal financial wellness programs over the past five years.

It turns out the strategies being employed by these programs are having positive trickle-down effects on people's financial outlook. For example, participants who used financial wellness tactics to improve cash flow and debt management also were likely to increase retirement contributions.

Okay, maybe we're understating it -- financial wellness program participants proved to be 50% better at contributing to retirement plans, and 41% better at contributing to a health savings account (HSA).

More importantly, these numbers represent a huge jump from the totals from 2013, the opening year of this study. By the end of this five-year stretch, 26% more participants felt they were adequately prepared for retirement -- a good result, to say the least.

Additionally, the study found something we probably don't need to highlight -- debt is still the top thing preventing people from properly saving for retirement. And it's a problem that isn't going to be cured from financial wellness programs alone. But the growing slate of online tools, counseling and resources are giving people extra support to make the best possible decisions now, so debt and rising health care costs don't burden them down the line.

We all know that financial wellness is a growing segment of the overall benefits market. But now there are concrete numbers to support their prevalence in today's compensation packages. We fully expect to see more studies like this arise over the next five years, which should be even more telling than this report.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Allergy season isn't over for everyone

Compared to 2018, this year's allergy season has been a relative breeze. We haven't seen any horrifying videos of trees exploding with pollen. And most people have adjusted to the warmer air with minimal trouble.

But for many (including this author), allergies remain an ongoing problem, leading to coughing, sneezing and sore throat, well into the summer months. So, unless you choose to stay indoors all summer, we recommend facing allergies head on. And there are FSA-eligible products that can help you get ahead of these summer irritations.

Since Memorial Day is coming up this weekend, let's take a closer look at some items to make things a little easier once cookout season starts.

Steam inhalers

With so much warmth and humidity in the air each summer, it seems weird that anyone would want a machine that provides more warm, humid air. But the bottom line is that they're a huge help for alleviating summer allergy, cold and flu symptoms.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible steam inhalers for both adults and children that can help open nasal passages, and clear the nasty buildup that causes sore throats and stuffy heads, while also alleviating some of the pain that comes with them.

Hot and cold packs

Sometimes the best way to attack your allergy problems is from the outside in. Through simple hot or cold compresses (which come in a wide range of shapes and styles) people find all-natural relief from sinus headaches, nasal pressure and sore throat pain, just by holding them against the affected areas.

Pain and allergy medications

There's a huge range of allergy medications available that do a good job getting you through stuffy noses, sneezing, scratchy, dry throats and more. And when your sore throat moves beyond comfortable levels, standard pain medications usually do the trick for longer-term relief. To ease things a little more quickly, medicated throat lozenges can make a world of difference, too.

Please note: Pain relief medications and throat lozenges will require a prescription to be FSA-eligible. But our Rx Process isn't difficult at all, and if you find yourself using these products all season long, think of the savings your FSA can provide! Check out our complete Eligibility List to see if the products you need require a prescription.

Mattress and pillow covers

There's a chance your ongoing sore throat might actually be coming from inside your house. On top of pollen and other environmental allergens, dust mites also become a bigger problem during spring and summer months. No, it's not a comfortable topic, but these microscopic annoyances thrive in warmer summer weather, and can keep your allergy problems going well into fall.

Anti-allergy mattress and pillow covers put a barrier between you and the dust and germs beneath the surface, and help contain them, to help reduce your symptoms.

Allergies are a topic we cover quite a bit, because they continue to affect many people, long after the "season" ends. Thankfully, there are a lot of products available to make it easier on you all summer long.

If your symptoms don't improve or become more severe, speak with an allergist to ensure medications and treatments are right for your symptoms. To locate an allergist, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website for a list of specialists near you.

Steam Inhalers

Steam inhalers provide pure, therapeutic, warm mist effectively free from germs, allergens, and pollutants.

Hot Packs

Hot packs provide long lasting therapeutic heat to relieve minor muscle aches.

Allergy Relief

From Over-the-Counter tablets to saline spray to nasal rinse, relief from allergies is right around the corner.

Throat Lozenges

Cold remedy throat lozenges will have you feeling better, sooner.


Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/17/19 - Making wellness programs better

It's safe to say we love employee wellness programs around here. Not only do we cover them extensively in this column, but we even launched an entire retail site around it!

But that doesn't mean these programs don't have room for improvement. In this week's headline, Employee Benefit News dives into some proposed ways employers (and employees) can boost the effectiveness of these programs to make strides in their health and workplace performance.

Making wellness work: 5 ways employers can improve programs - Rebecca Madsen, Employee Benefit News

We knew wellness programs were growing in prominence, but we didn't realize how much. But Madsen opens this article with a (really) encouraging stat -- midsize and large employers are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on well-being programs during 2019, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health (NGBH).

And why wouldn't they? Any investment in happier, more productive workers is a win for all involved. But even we were surprised by how quickly workers were adopting these initiatives into their lives. According to the article, UnitedHealthcare reported 57% of surveyed employees said workplace wellness has positively affected their lives.

So how do employers plan to boost that 57% statistic? By empowering employees to make the most of their wellness opportunities. Here are a few highlights that Madsen felt were important to make this happen.

Modify lifestyle choices

Looking beyond basic dietary advice, employers should consider ways to encourage healthier choices throughout the workday, such as having meetings while walking, offering onsite fitness equipment to use while working, or providing the option for a stand-up desk.

(And for the diet-conscious? Healthy food options and incentives to eat better, even with that awesome burrito place located right down the block.)

Make incentives matter

According to the article, mid-sized and large employers this year will offer an average per-employee well-being incentive of $762, according to the NBGH study. It seems a little high, but it might be the going price. UnitedHealthcare's survey found that, among people who said it would require an incentive for doing health-related activities, 53% said between $1 and $3 per day would motivate them to achieve that goal.

Support socializing

Health isn't just about diet and exercise. People need to like being in the workplace, and socialization plays a big role in making it happen. The article suggests that incorporating social components into your well-being programs will improve adoption and retention. Some of these strategies include walking groups, employee appreciation days and team-building activities such as volunteer events.

It's clear that wellness programs aren't going anywhere but up, in both reach and quality of offerings. But now it's important that employees don't treat these opportunities as "one off" situations, and actually incorporate them into the regular work routines. In other words, those walking meetings need to happen more than once, and in-office snacks shouldn't revert to donuts and chips as soon as the seasons change.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! Using FSA dollars for eye care

Considering nearly two out of every three Americans wear prescription glasses, it's surprising there's so much confusion around the FSA eligibility of eye wear and vision care. What's even more surprising is why more Americans aren't using their tax-free funds to pay for the products and services necessary to maintain proper eye health. And we're not just talking eyeglass repair kits and lens wipes -- there are some seriously surprising eye care items on our Eligibility List.

After a winter that wouldn't quit, it seems like spring has finally arrived, so let's get ahead of your eye care and protection so you can make the most of the outdoors in the months ahead.

Contact lenses? Yes!

Let's be clear: there are plenty of places to buy contact lenses. But how many of them allow you to choose from a huge range of brands, entirely with your FSA, without wondering if the ones you want are eligible. Maybe we're a little biased, but we think you'll enjoy buying your contacts this way. (Oh, and when you pay with your FSA card, you can skip the receipts process!)

Prevention starts with protection…

No, we're not talking about high school health classBut the same thinking applies. According to a survey from The Vision Council, 75% of American adults in a survey are concerned about UV eye exposure, but only 31% report wearing sunglasses when going outside.

And cloudy days aren't much safer than sunny ones; you can still do some damage when it's overcast, because UV rays break through clouds and can damage unprotected eyes. Prescription sunglasses are FSA-eligible, so what's stopping you from being smarter than the 69% of people who leave their eyes unprotected?

Some lesser-known eye care options

We've used plenty of digital ink showing how laser eye surgery (more commonly known as LASIK) is completely eligible for FSA and HSA reimbursement. And we hope people are realizing that LASIK surgery is often inexpensive enough to cover entirely with their flexible spending funds.

It's not limited to LASIK, either. Medically necessary treatments and routine eye exams are all part of FSA eligible vision care.

Now, for arguably the most surprisingly eligible vision care expense of all -- guide dogs. The National Federation of the Blind has a list of guide dog schools that can connect you or your loved ones with the right service animal, should you need assistance getting around because of visual impairment or blindness.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/10/19 - Don't accept a job until you ask these health insurance questions!

With the growth of the so-called "gig economy" and rapid job changes on the rise, accepting a new role can almost be considered an impulsive decision, even if it probably shouldn't be. Because today's workforce is adding bullet points to resumes at a breakneck pace, it's likely that candidates aren't asking many questions about benefits before committing … and even if they are, they might not be asking the right ones.

That's where this week's headline comes in. In a special guest contribution to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on behalf of Monster, we learn some handy tips for job seekers who might not be getting the info they need about health benefits in their future roles.

8 health insurance questions to ask before accepting a job offer - Dawn Papandrea, Monster contributor (for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

We were encouraged by the opening paragraph from author Dawn Papandrea, which indicated that health insurance is "becoming a more and more important factor when choosing a new employer and deciding whether or not to accept a job offer."

Why? Because it seems like we've spent a lot of time discussing how younger workers aren't as focused on their own health care as they could (and probably should) be. So, even in a world shifting toward frequent job change and "gig" employment, it's good to see that people are focusing on longer-term needs.

In this article, Papandrea (who features Monster and a wealth of personal finance clips on her extensive resume) highlights eight key questions candidates should ask about health insurance before signing on the dotted line.

Obviously, we won't detail them all here, but strongly encourage you to check them out. Because, while you might think you're being offered comprehensive insurance, you could realistically be missing some serious gaps amid the excitement of taking on a new role. Here are a few of the questions that stood out to our team:

Is there a waiting period for coverage?

Sure, you started work on the first of the month. But what happens if you sprain your ankle on the second? While more employers are offering full medical coverage out of the gate, a lot of companies still make new hires wait a set amount of time before those benefits kick in -- sometimes as long as 90 days.

Since you might need to stock up on bubble wrap to keep yourself safe before coverage begins, it's a perfect question to ask during the negotiations.

How large is the provider network offered by the plan?

You might be lured into a health plan based on cost or seemingly thorough coverage, only to find out after the fact that your available network is much narrower than expected. This is especially common for remote employees, who have a fraction of the available plans and providers as those working from the office each day.

Bringing this question to the table will help you plan accordingly, or even decline coverage, if your network simply doesn't meet your anticipated medical needs.

Does your company offer tax-advantage reimbursement plans?

Of course we had to include this question -- and kudos to the author for including it! With the growth of FSAs and HSA-qualified HDHPs, tax-free health care is a growing factor in today's benefits discussions.

Since you're reading this, there's a chance you already have these account options in your head before signing up for a new role. But it never hurts to ask about the types of tax-free health options available to you.

Like we mentioned, these are just a few of the questions the author presents, but all of them resonated with us when reading the piece. At first, these questions might seem obvious, but you'll quickly realize that today's workers might still be assuming too much as they sign up for new roles. If you're currently seeking a new job, remember what they say -- the only silly question is the one you don't ask. Thanks to this article, you have eight launch points for much deeper conversations with your potential new employer.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/3/19 - Will deep learning lead to the rise of Dr. Robot?

Mr. Robot is a popular TV show about a group of hackers who are trying to wipe out the world's debt problem through some digital anarchy. A novel idea, but probably not a realistic one. Maybe we won't see an effective Mr. Robot anytime soon, but what if health care providers started diving a little deeper into tech and data solutions?

Is DR. Robot on the way? Maybe not with an Oscar-winner leading the charge, but it looks like the health care world is ready to graduate from artificial intelligence (AI) into even stronger ways to revolutionize the industry. Let's dive in.

Deep learning offers lessons for healthcare - Bruce Shutan, Employee Benefit Adviser

Building off the tenets of AI and machine learning, deep learning tech processes gargantuan amounts of seemingly unrelated data and spots data patterns. Once identified, the platform then creates better prediction models for more proactive solutions.

What does this techno-babble have to do with health care? For starters, if deep learning platforms spot patterns in patient data, it could lead to earlier intervention of chronic diseases, potentially sparing them the physical and financial burden of a longer-term illness.

In other words, earlier treatments, fewer symptoms, lower costs for all involved.

Other potential health care benefits of deep learning include better medical imaging, more personalized treatment plans for specific patients, lowering the costs of drug discovery, and even improving the processing and paperwork routines.

According to the article, the health care industry is a perfect place to put deep learning tech to use. The author cites that a single hospital stay could potentially generate 100 pages of data. Multiply that by thousands of patients, and… well, you can see the need for a platform to make sense of it all to improve service on all levels of the experience.

The article goes on to discuss how data science isn't just going to help with the medical results and bottom lines, but also to make the entire experience, from diagnosis to final payment, more efficient, eliminating a lot of the friction and communication issues that can plague a lot of providers.

Of course, we can't cover the topic here. But if you're interested in doctors bringing a little science fiction into our health care reality, this is a must-read article that shows why Mr. Robot might be a little closer to real than we think.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Basics

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/26/19 - A digital revolution is underway in employee benefits

Employee Benefit News is a publication we reference a lot in this column, because of its ongoing coverage of the benefits industry (and how it might affect FSA and HSA owners). So, when the site's editors highlight the people and companies helping to change the employee benefits landscape, we take notice.

This year's Digital Innovators award recipients shine some light on all the different ways benefits are evolving through connected platforms. From things as simple as online video series and apps aimed at retirement planning, to more complex apps centered on employee accountability, it's clear that the world of benefits is taking a major leap to improve engagement in the workplace.

"Going digital" is hardly a new concept for modern business, but it's still great to see these platforms improve the way we work and live, in and out of the office. Let's take a closer look.

20 digital innovators transforming benefits, HR - Caroline Hroncich, Kathryn Mayer - Employee Benefit News

According to the article, EBN received dozens of nominations from readers, along with some choices from editors and industry experts, to create a comprehensive list of 20 deserving recipients. We obviously can't cover them all here, but let's check out a few of the standouts for 2019.

Rosario Avila and Andrew McNeil, founders of BenefitsTV
Avila and McNeil created BenefitsTV — a series of videos posted to social media —after they couldn't find any benefits content in video form. Since teaming up, the two benefits advisers have posted more than 50 short videos for YouTube and Instagram.

Mike Cardillo, co-founder and president, HandsFree Health
Cardillo's company created the new voice-activated device WellBe, which responds to voice commands like other virtual assistants, but targeted for answering questions based on the owner's individual healthcare and benefits information.

Brian Hamilton, vice president of SmartDollar
SmartDollar is an online and app-based financial program designed to educate employees to proactively take control of their money and get on track for retirement.

These three are really just the tip of the innovation iceberg highlighted in the article, so we strongly recommend taking a few minutes to see the list in full. Even if you're completely happy with your benefits (as an employer or employee) you might just find something to make them even better for everyone involved.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.


Accounts

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/19/19 - Benefits education could lead to longer-tenured employees

One of the goals of our Learning Centers is to educate readers about their tax-free health care accounts, so they can make the right decisions about which accounts to open, and what opportunities they'll have for the upcoming year. But education about employee benefits needs to start a lot earlier, to make the choices clearer for workers, and to keep them happy long after they sign on the dotted line.

But, as we see in this article from BenefitsPRO, the level of benefits education plays a bigger role than we thought in employee happiness … and it might even affect retention. Let's see why.

Lack of benefits understanding brings low morale, high turnover - Marlene Satter, BenefitsPRO

According to a new Colonial Life study, employees who don't get a thorough picture of their benefits options during open enrollment don't typically understand their choices, even after they make their selections. This isn't that surprising. What caught our attention is that there seems to be a scary correlation between employee understanding and happiness.

Long story short? Data shows that employees who don't fully understand their benefits are more likely to quit within the coming year.

What's even more concerning is that there doesn't seem to be any urgency by employees to change this. Just look at these stats:

  • 33% of workers spend less than a half hour choosing benefits during enrollment.
  • 36% spend less than an hour even researching their options.

The article goes on to explain how this hastiness leads to lower morale, less confidence in their company, and even complete job dissatisfaction. It also highlights how different demographics had some markedly different approaches to selecting benefits.

Now, we can't speculate that the lack of benefits education is directly responsible for turnover. But having a company properly explain options and help employees select an ideal plan certainly seems like it would improve morale.

We're curious to see how the results of the Colonial Life study pan out, and if it will make a difference when open enrollment starts this fall.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. 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 and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/12/19 - When great companies unite for a greater good

When people talk about "big box stores" or "mega-corporations" the conversation usually isn't held in a positive light. So whenever we hear about them using their size and clout to promote positive change -- for customers and employees -- we take notice.

This week's headline focuses on how several of the nation's largest companies, including names like Apple, Google, Walmart, Goodyear and Target, came together to help pilot cutting-edge benefits solutions, implementing these ideas separately, then reconvening to share some results.

A few years ago, if you told me Apple and Google were going to combine forces for ANY reason, I probably would have laughed… more than once. But now, with the future of employee benefits on the line, it doesn't seem so funny.

How 60 of the nation's biggest employers are uniting to fight the benefits status quo - Kathryn Mayer, Employee Benefit News

This unexpected collaboration all started the same way as so many other disruptive ideas -- by frustration and necessity. New health-tech startups were beginning to pop up, looking to redefine employee benefits solutions, but no one was testing them at scale. So several of these companies' HR leaders decided to join forces.

Together, these benefits leaders united to try these startups, pilot some of the programs and then discuss what worked and what didn't.

That was in 2014. Today, this collection of heavy HR hitters are known as the Employer Health Innovation Roundtable, now comprised of nearly 60 of the country's biggest employers, representing roughly 8 million employees.

What started as a twice-yearly roundtable seeking solutions to workplace health issues like addiction, mental wellness and child care, among others, is now a large consortium of businesses seeking to reclaim control over a flawed health care system

The short-term goal? Obviously, putting an end to unaffordable health care costs. But there's also a focus on shining light on innovative tech startups that propose significant improvements to the ways companies and employees manage health, from data-driven personal insights to wellness tracking and much more.

If the startups prove successful, the potential for partnership with U.S. industry leaders is plenty of motivation to keep innovating and improving benefits options. Companies have better health offerings. Workers are healthier and happier. New businesses get exposure in the world's biggest arena. Wins all around.

The article goes into great detail to explain the programs in play, the companies that are driving this change, and the longer-term goals of the roundtable. It's a worthy read for anyone looking into the decisions that mold their own health care … not to mention for anyone who enjoys a peek "behind the curtain" of the nation's largest companies.

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