Financial Wellness @ Work

Enjoy Labor Day and Put Your Benefits to Work for You

Labor Day weekend is always an enjoyable time in our family’s household as we usually try to get in a trip to the beach, have a cookout, and welcome in the college football season (which is a pretty big deal in our part of the world). Hopefully you and your friends and family have been able to work some fun into the schedule over the long weekend. (If you had to actually clock in at work today, be sure to find some time for rest and relaxation soon to make up for working on the federal holiday.) Read more

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Do You Know the Difference Between an HSA and an FSA?

Fall has arrived, and that means open enrollment is just right around the corner. For many employees, this provides the window of opportunity to sign up for either an HSA or FSA in order to set aside pre-tax dollars for your out-of-pocket healthcare costs.  Not quite sure what the difference is between these 2 types of accounts? Well, you are not alone.  In a recent Fidelity survey, two-thirds of those surveyed said they simply do not understand how an HSA works and “a full 73 percent of respondents said an HSA is pretty much the same thing as a health FSA or were unsure, and the ‘use it or lose it’ provision of FSAs was one of the most commonly misunderstood differences between the account types.”  Read more

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Can Your 401(k) Be Part of Your Emergency Fund?

One of the results from our recent research report that has gotten a lot of attention is that we saw an increase in the number of employees’ accessing their 401(k) balances through loans and hardship withdrawals from about a quarter in 2011 to about a third in 2012. The conventional wisdom is that this means employees need to do a better job with money management and in particular, building an emergency fund of at least 3-6 months of necessary expenses and maybe even more. For someone just starting out, I think this is absolutely true.  Read more

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Lessons from an Action Packed Baby Shower

What’s the new craze for baby showers?  They’re not co-ed and action-packed, based on the party I attended this past weekend for my stepson and daughter-in-law’s first child.  The baby shower was held at the bowling alley, and after presents and cake, we all bowled for an hour, with the exception of the mother-to-be, since she already has a bowling ball size belly.   Read more

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Lessons from a Final Farewell

This past weekend, I said a sad final farewell to a friend.  Just a few months shy of his 50th birthday, he passed away after a long battle with Machado-Joseph’s Disease. The symptoms remind me of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, only in slow motion, with a very slow progression of muscle control.   Read more

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Help Your Vets this Remembrance Day

This week is the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which is recognized nationally every December 7th as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, and established by Congress in 1994 (but it is not a federal holiday).  There are very few veterans left who saw active duty in World War II, but there are many younger veterans who have been brave enough to serve our country and may even be found on your workforce roster. You probably do a good job keeping your employees up to date on their benefits menu, but how do those employer-sponsored benefits coordinate with their military benefits?   Read more

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The Intersection of Health and Wealth Planning

An interesting topic I heard repeatedly at this month’s ISCEBS Symposium in San Francisco had to do with the concern of future health care costs becoming a critical variable in the retirement income equation.  Several of the major plan providers held sessions that focused on the next generation of retirement planning tools that will be needed to recognize and personalize health-related issues.  By now, most of us have heard the estimate of close to a quarter million dollars that a 65 year old married couple may face in out-of-pocket health costs throughout the rest of their lives.  But since that’s an average, some will need much more. Some will need much less.   This will depend on the health and medical needs of the retired couple, so that is why Putnam Investments has recently introduced a new retirement calculator that incorporates 7 data points from a health risk assessment into the income needs formula to estimate future projected healthcare expenses.   Read more

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Going for the Gold Can Be Taxing

As the Olympics come to an end, I’m proud of how many medals our American team is coming home with, but not quite as thrilled with the tax bill they’ll face for winning.  It’s not the value of the medal itself that the IRS wants its share of,  it’s the prize money that comes with a gold, silver or bronze that is taxable.  The U.S. Olympic Committee rewards Olympic medalists with cash honorariums:  a gold medal brings $25,000,  silver medals get $15,000, and a bronze is worth $10,000.  As calculated by the Weekly Standard, the IRS will take $3,500 of a bronze athlete’s winnings, silver medalists will owe $5,385 in taxes, and winning the gold (which is priceless) will set Ryan and Michael each out $8,986 per race. Read more

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Are You Ready for Open Enrollment?

The temperature isn’t the only thing rising this summer – our group health insurance is going up over 14%.  So, as part of my role on our benefits committee, I reviewed several different health carriers to see if there were any more affordable options.  Luckily for us, there was one.  However, this will now involve having all the employees fill out enrollment applications within the next few weeks to make the September 1  deadline to replace our existing plan.  While we are going through the hassle of  changing health plans, we also decided to switch to an HSA custodian that offers more competitive investment options.  With these changes coming up pretty quickly, it made me wonder if there was a secret to a successful open enrollment – instead of the yearly rush to communicate any changes to our small group of employees.  Read more

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What Are the Hot Topics at This Year’s ISCEBS Symposium?

The 31st Annual Employee Benefits Symposium, hosted by the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS), will be taking place in 2 weeks in San Francisco.  For 2 ½ days, you can immerse yourself in technical and strategic sessions cutting across the major issues and challenges you are facing—and you’ll be in good company. The Symposium has a reputation of bringing together some of the brightest minds in the benefits and compensation industry and providing abundant opportunities to rub shoulders with a wide variety of HR professionals.  Read more

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