How to Pick the Right Voluntary Benefits for Your Lifestyle

A recent survey from Towers Watson says more than 90 percent of employers expect voluntary benefits to be an important part of their value proposition to employees in the next three to five years, compared with 59 percent who said the same in 2013. As a result, chances are you’ll see an increase in the scope of voluntary benefits your employer offers. Voluntary benefits can be a great way to get coverage for a variety of issues at a reasonable cost, but it can be a challenge to determine which ones are right for you. Here’s how.

Consider Your Needs

Your voluntary benefits needs will rely on factors such as life stage, current income, plans for the future and dependents. Take stock of what’s at risk and what could be better served by purchasing voluntary benefits options.

Entry-level workers, for example, are more likely to be single and have no dependents, but they still face a one-in-four chance that they will be out of work for an extended period because of injury or illness before they retire, says Gene Lanzoni, assistant vice president of thought leadership for Guardian’s Group and Worksite Markets. Disability and life insurance are good considerations at this time, because rates will be lower, Lanzoni says. “The most affordable time to get life insurance is when you’re young and healthy — and it’s even more affordable with group rates from your workplace,” he says.

Older employees are likely to have more at stake with a home, car and family to support. “If something happened to you, your loved ones would need help paying ongoing expenses like mortgage payments without depleting savings,” Lanzoni says.

Review What You Have

Look at the core benefits you get through your employer and, if applicable, the ones your spouse gets, to identify where they might fall short. High-deductible health plans in particular can leave gaps in coverage, leading to unpleasant surprises in the event of major medical expenses.

In addition, find out more about your company’s wellness and employee assistance programs, Lanzoni says. These programs can offer nutrition, fitness and stress-reduction resources to help you stay healthy and maintain a good work-life balance, but they often are underused. You may find coverage from them that you didn’t know you had, including financial or legal advice.

Close the Gaps

Finally, compare what you need and what you have. Voluntary benefits can help you close the gap between the two. Some of the most common include dental and vision plans, so start there, says Brooke Lanier, client success director in benefit services at PrimePay.

In addition, Lanzoni suggests supplemental health coverage such as accident, cancer or critical illness insurance that pay out a lump sum in the event of qualifying accidents or illness. The money can be used for expenses not covered by medical insurance, such as deductibles or travel to treatment centers, or even for nonmedical expenses such as child care.

Lanzoni also suggests disability insurance, as the risk of becoming disabled through illness over time is higher than many people realize. “Disability insurance can help by providing income while you focus on recovery, and what you’ve worked hard to save for retirement can stay untapped,” he says.

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