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  • Archive for the ‘Health benefits’ Category

    It’s National Save For Retirement Week! Today’s Topic: Company Benefit Plans

    Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

    It’s National Save for Retirement Week 2012! A week dedicated to building knowledge and taking action toward securing your retirement. Each day this week we are going to look at a different contributing factor to retirement and help you increase your understanding of it so that you can take action and be prepared. Today we are looking at company benefit plans.

    One of the best ways to save for retirement is through your company’s benefits plan. What is especially great about employer-sponsored retirement plans is that employers often match a percentage of your contribution to your accounts.  If you don’t contribute at least enough to get the full match, it’s like leaving money on the table!  In additional to retirement benefits, employer-sponsored benefits can include health, disability, life, long-term care and flexible spending accounts. A typical benefits package is worth a lot, often as much as 25% of an employee’s income.  It is up to you to know what your employer provides and to take advantage of those opportunities to help protect your future. Read WISER’s booklet called 20 Ways to Take Advantage of your Company Benefits Plan to learn more about different benefits and how you should approach them.

    While some employers offer retirement plans that provide a guaranteed amount of income per month for life when you retire (also called “defined benefit” plans), most now offer defined contribution plans, which include retirement plans like 401(k) and 403(b) plans.  Since you are ultimately responsible in defined contribution plans for how your money is invested and ultimately managed as retirement income, you need to become familiar with your plan, the investing options available, as well as what fees are associated with your plan.  Check out the WISER defined contribution plans webpage and follow our Related Resources links. Also read our special report, Make Sure You Know the Ins and Outs of Your 401(k) Plan.

    For more information, our five-minute podcastWork those Work-Based Retirement Savings Plans!” covers the basics of employment-based retirement savings plans, including employer matching contributions, investment options, how to avoid tax penalties when you change jobs and how 401(k) and 403(b) plans work. Also listen to our “Know What You Have: Workplace Pensions” podcast to learn about defined benefit pension plans.

    Taking full advantage of company benefits plans is strongly recommended if your employer offers them.  Many people, however, do not have access to such plans, either because their company doesn’t offer them or they haven’t worked enough years or work part-time and are not eligible.  If this is the case, you should still look into ways to contribute earnings to a retirement account.  Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) might be a good option for you.  As with any investment though, you need to do your homework to learn about the different types of IRAs so you can determine what is best for you.  Check out WISER’s fact sheet Roth IRAs.

    Now that we’ve covered the basics of company benefits plans, check back tomorrow for more information about other types of investing!


    Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Open Season

    Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

    Tis‘ the season…to apply for Medicare’s prescription drug plan. Open season began November 15 and continues through December 31. During open season, new Medicare beneficiaries can join a prescription drug plan, while current beneficiaries should take this time to review the plan they’re enrolled in. This is also a prime time to find out if you’re eligible for Extra Help. Extra Help is available for beneficiaries with a limited income and provides those who are eligible with financial assistance for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. You can apply for Extra Help if:

    1)You have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and/or Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance); and

    2)You live in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia; and

    3) Your combined savings, investments, and real estate are not worth more than $23,970, if you are married and living with your spouse, or $11,990 if you are not currently married or not living with your spouse. (DO NOT include the home you live in, vehicles, personal possessions, burial plots or irrevocable burial contracts.) If you have more than those amounts, you may not qualify for the extra help. However, you can still enroll in an approved Medicare prescription drug plan for coverage.

    For more information on Medicare prescription drug coverage, including applications for Medicare and Extra Help, visit the Social Security website.

    Laid Off: How to Stay Insured

    Monday, November 24th, 2008

    The holiday season is upon us. With Thanksgiving around the corner and the winter holidays just weeks away, many American workers are receiving an unexpected (and unwanted) gift from their employers: pink slips. According to the Wall Street Journal, 1.2 million workers have been laid off this year. Lay-offs are occurring across the board and impacting a wide range of industries. Tinseltown legends Harvey and Bob Weinstein laid off 11% of their employees at Weinstein Co. on Friday, while publishing powerhouse Conde Nast has begun cutting their staffs by 5%, a move that bloggers have begun referring to as “Empty Nast syndrome.” The unstable economy is causing stress for many workers, who wonder if their jobs may be the next to go. “I put all this time and effort into my education,” says New York based graphic designer Ashley Jones. “Now I’m hoping it wasn’t all in vain.” But as major magazines fold daily, Jones says “I’m feeling uncertain about my future and I just hope I can support myself.”

    Every Thanksgiving, at tables across America, families lift their glasses and wish for good health for themselves and their loved ones. But how do you take care of your health if losing your job also means losing your health insurance? For the newly-unemployed, the animal of the season may no longer be the turkey: it may be time to embrace the COBRA. COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a law that provides continued group healthcare coverage for uninsured former employees. COBRA allows you to keep the insurance plan you used at your former place of employment for an additional cost, though this cost is usually less than the cost of opening an individual insurance policy. On the other hand, there are affordable individual insurance policies as well as government programs for those who qualify. Explore your options and make sure you and your loved ones remain insured during this holiday season.

    • “Newly Out of a Job? Here’s how to replace the health benefits” by Anna Wilde Mathews at the Wall Street Journal: Mathews offers information and tips on using COBRA coverage, finding an individual insurance plan, and qualifying for government coverage.
    • The Healthier and WISER series: The “Healthier and Wiser” series addressed some of the main health care coverage issues women encounter at different stages of their lives. It offers a variety of resources and information on how to stay insured.
    • FAQs About COBRA: This FAQ from the U.S. Department of Labor offers extensive information on COBRA coverage.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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