Adulting 101: Work Benefits

In “Adulting 101”, Annie and Juliet cover topics that they wish they knew going into adulthood (like retirement savings), as well as topics they want to learn more about (like recycling). Check out other posts here.

It’s open enrollment time. YAY! *JAZZ HANDS*

Actually, not really a yay. Every year when it’s time to elect my work benefits, I call up my mom and have her tell me what to choose. Not this year. This year, it’s time to be independent and make my own choices! Blechhhh… but let’s get to it.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty…

  1. I am not a guru or an advisor of any kind. I’m a young female professional trying to make sure she is ready for life, and sharing my thought process, steps, and mistakes along the way.
  2. I am mainly speaking to our US readers because I do not know how the systems abroad differ from ours.
  3. This is a high-level overview of benefits. There are a lot of additional caveats and exceptions, so review your plan details and Google the shit out of everything else.

I’m going to divide up open enrollment into the following sections: health and welfare benefits, and retirement benefits. Oh, this is going to get real complicated.

Health & Welfare Benefits

If you are under 26 years old, check whether you are covered under any of your parents’ health coverage as part of Young Adult Coverage. This is why my mom wants me to get my masters degree before I turn 26 because I’ll still have decent health coverage compared to school health insurance. Topic for another day.


Do you know what HSA, PPO, HMO, EPA, and FSA are? Those are only some of the acronyms related to health benefits. Oy vey, I know.

Not every company is going to offer every single type of health plan. When I started at my company 2 years ago, they had 3-4 different options. Now we only have two – Health Fund with an HSA or PPO – and their reasoning is because the other ones “are not designed to promote well-informed health care behaviors and they continue to become more expensive each year”. I actually prefer less options because too many can be paralyzing as well.

Some questions to help decide which plan to go for:

  • What is your biggest concern: cost, coverage, or access to certain doctors?
    • For cost, make sure you factor in everything: premium, office visit copay x how many times you will go to the doctor’s office, prescription copay x how many times you will get a prescription, etc.
    • For coverage, are you satisfied with being restricted to a specific group of doctors and having your services referred and authorized by a primary care doctor and medical group? Or are you willing to pay a higher premium in order to access specialists directly, without authorizations?
  • Are there any additional benefits? At my company, if you take a health survey and a biometric screening, your monthly premiums go down. What I hear is… free money? Yes please!

Here are the basics about HMO, PPO, and HDHP plans:


Okay, that was a lot of information. Anything else related to medical that I should know?

Of course! There’s never enough information, right?! *sarcastic as F* It’s time to learn about Health Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA).


So what am I choosing for 2017?

This year I am electing for the HSA plan. I’m mostly healthy and usually go to the doctors at most once a year. I don’t want to pay lots of money for monthly premiums.

Dental and Vision

My experience so far is that there’s one option for dental and one option for vision, and if you’re in then you’re in but if not that’s cool. You guys understand?

Got all of that? No? We’re moving on anyways.

Retirement Benefits

If you haven’t done so yet, read my post on Beginner’s Guide to Retirement Savings Accounts.

Here’s my checklist:

  1. Does your company offer 401K? Y/N
  2. Does your company offer company match? Y/N
  3. If you answer yes to #2 and you have not enrolled in 401K… what are you doing?! Enroll in 401K and contribute so you at least get company match!
  4. If you answer yes to #2, double check that you’re meeting company match. Never say no to free money.

Additional Benefits

Companies sometimes offer additional benefits, like:

  • Commuter benefits
  • Parental leave
  • Tuition assistance

Set aside some time to look through all the benefits – it took me about 4 hours to read through the benefits and decide on what I was going to do.

Some reading material on open enrollment:

I know that was a lot of information. When I write these posts, I sent them to Annie to see what questions she comes up with, and I try to answer them through my post. If you have any questions or more information to add, or if this helped you understand open enrollment a little better, let us know in the comments below!


Check out other posts in our Adulting 101 series!

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