Make the most of your employee benefits with these 5 tips

Most American workers say they understand the importance of their employee benefits and personal finances, yet two out of five admit they know little or nothing about them, new research finds.

As employee benefits season begins, most people seemingly have their financial house in order, saying they prioritize understanding their personal finances (77 percent), having enough medical insurance (74 percent) and being on track to retire comfortably (65 percent), according to the 2015 MassMutual Employee Benefits Security Study. Yet, 38 percent say they know little or nothing about their employer-provided benefits such as health care, life insurance, 401(k) retirement plans and other benefits, the study finds.

MassMutual commissioned the study by KRC Research as part of an initiative to help educate workers about their employer-provided benefits and enable them to make better choices in selecting health care coverage, insurance protection, retirement savings and other benefits. The study focused on 1,517 working Americans who were at least age 18 in a wide variety of jobs and industries.

“Personal finances continue to bedevil many Americans, especially when it comes to understanding and making the most of their employee benefits,” says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual Retirement Services and Worksite Insurance. “Fortunately, there are resources for people to turn to get help in prioritizing and managing both their benefits and finances.”

While many people assert they do just fine managing their finances, 37 percent find doing so “somewhat” or “very difficult” and 40 percent say personal financial problems are a distraction at work, according to the study. Some groups find personal finance more difficult than others, including Millennials (58 percent), parents (50 percent), Generation X (47 percent), women (44 percent) and those with annual incomes of $ 50,000 or less (44 percent).

Many workers would appreciate having access to online tools. Seventy-three percent indicate they would be likely use such a tool if it were available free, especially if it were provided by a “trusted and respected financial services company.”

More benefit and personal finance tools are becoming available through employers and many are free, according to Sarsynski. Many employers and benefits providers are introducing new tools to help you prioritize your retirement, health care and insurance protection benefits, she says.

Tips to prioritize your benefits

As workers are required to pay more or share more of the cost for their benefits, Sarsynski says, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize your benefits to fit your individual needs and budget:

* Health care coverage is the most important benefit unless you are already protected by a spouse’s medical plan.

* If you are married — especially if you have children — securing life insurance and disability insurance are critical to your family’s well-being.

* Save as much as you can as early as you can for retirement to take advantage of the long-term benefits of compound earnings. At a minimum, contribute enough to your employer’s 401(k) or other retirement savings plan to obtain any matching contributions.

* It’s less critical for lower-paid employees earning the minimum wage or close to it to save for retirement because Social Security will replace a relatively high percentage of your pre-retirement earnings. Other benefits such as health care and insurance protection are likely more important.

* Take advantage of employer-provided wellness benefits to boost your physical, emotional and financial health.


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