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Taking Advantage of Employer Benefits

IT CAN PAY TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND DURING OPEN ENROLLMENT

The fall isn't just synonymous with football and falling leaves – it's also the time employers ask employees to make benefit elections for the upcoming year.

If you're in the habit of simply checking the "same as last year" box on your enrollment forms, you might want to rethink that approach. Employers have moved beyond 401(k)s and basic health insurance to be more creative with the benefits they offer, often at little or no cost to the employee.

RETIREMENT PLANS More employers are allowing employees to make "excess" contributions beyond the traditional deductible limit. These contributions are nondeductible but can grow tax-deferred just like regular plan contributions. Plus, they can be rolled into a Roth IRA at retirement, allowing for additional tax-free growth.

HEALTHCARE Many employers now offer access to a Health Savings Account. Available to those who chose a qualifying health insurance plan, contributions to these plans are tax-deductible, grow tax-deferred and can be withdrawn tax-free if used for healthcare expenses.

UNIQUE BENEFITS For employees looking for something more out of the ordinary, many employers have expanded their offerings to include such benefits as:

Legal Assistance. From estate planning issues to identity theft, legal assistance programs can cover a wide range of topics.

Care Assistance. Help finding babysitters, elder care or even dog walkers can sometimes be provided through your employer. And speaking of pets…

Pet Insurance. A wide variety of policies are available to keep your furry (and feathered) friends healthy.

In addition to these benefits, programs such as college coaching services, property and casualty insurance and even adoption assistance may be offered by your employer. Be sure to check your benefits package to see what might be new for you this year.

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