1) Get educated on what employee benefits
your company offers.

When we think about employee benefits provided by our employers, most of us probably think “health insurance”. And that’s incredibly important. What we don’t always think about are the other valuable offerings we could be taking advantage of.

Many companies are now offering an array of benefits and perk programs, from flexible work schedules and wellness programs, to fertility support and student loan repayments to discounted auto and home insurance. Spending a few hours reviewing your benefits now means you’ll be reaping the rewards in the year ahead.

There are ways to protect yourself from the unexpected.

Ask yourself, what life goals am I looking to achieve? If I were to have
an accident or get sick tomorrow, do I have the savings and the insurance I
need to not fall into debt, or worse, bankruptcy? For most Americans this is a
very real concern—and it’s weighing on their minds.

According to the American Psychological Association, finances are a significant source of anxiety for
Americans, with 62% citing money as a source of stress. Half of employees, 52%,
report living paycheck to paycheck and 53% worry about their future because of
their financial situation, according to MetLife’s 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.

As healthcare costs continue to rise and high-deductible healthcare plans continue to grow in popularity, more companies are offering voluntary benefits to help bridge the gaps not covered by traditional health insurance. These benefits can range from accident insurance, critical illness and hospital indemnity plans, and are offered at a low cost through employers. This type of protection features lump sum payments, made directly to you, to cover out of pocket costs associated with accidents, illness or hospital stays. These costs can include deductibles, transportation, child care or household bills.

3) You can invest in benefits that are
right for YOU.

Outside of the workplace we have choices in nearly everything that we do. Why should you treat choosing your benefits any differently? When it comes to benefits, one size does not fit all.

Your company’s enrollment period is your one chance of the year to reassess your benefits. You can roll over your benefits from last year, but that is not always a good idea. Odds are that your personal situation has changed in some way over the past year — you may have gotten a raise, had a child or bought a house. These life events can have a big impact on your benefits needs.

Your employer may have also made changes to your benefit line up. Because of this, it is worth taking the time to review your benefit options and signing up for the coverage that best fits your personal situation today. Getting the right coverage means you can stay protected, maintain your quality of life and achieve your long-term goals.

4) You shouldn’t just check a box. Have
a conversation with someone you trust.

Most people don’t talk about finances or insurance with anyone, even those they are closest to. But who do we trust – and who knows us better – than our closest friends and family?

We all know someone who has faced an obstacle or two in their lifetime. Family and friends may have tapped into workplace resources that you are not familiar with. Talking to them about their experiences can be eye-opening, and you may learn how benefits can make the difference between achieving your goals and pushing them off.

5) It is never too early to start
contributing to your retirement savings.

Even though it can feel like retirement is an age away, compounding interest can be your best friend when you start investing early. Starting to contribute to a retirement plan at the beginning of your career allows your money to grow over an extended period of time. It’s simple: the more you invest now, the more money you’ll have in retirement.

This is an important piece of advice I wish more people were given. When you select your insurance benefits, always invest for both the short-term and long-term.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to educate yourself, and that means asking about what’s available to you so you can take full advantage of the benefits that work for you. If I could go back and give my younger self advice, this is the type of thing I would tell him. I hope it inspires you and gives you the information you need to begin taking control of your financial life and securing the right protection.