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Mellody is President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts. Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.
TOM: You are joining us today with another round of seasonal tips.
MELLODY: That’s right! We all need some gentle pushes or reminders once in awhile to keep us on track, and that’s what I want to do today. Fall is always a busy time – the holiday season is just around the corner, our kids are getting back into school activities – so it can be difficult to remember that it is also an important time for everyone to think about their household finances as well.
TOM: What is going on in the fall that impacts our money?
MELLODY: Some of the biggest items on the docket during fall are healthcare and other benefits. In terms of these benefits, fall is the open enrollment season, the period when employers offer employees a chance to make changes to their health insurance plan and other benefits for the New Year, but you have to take action during within the enrollment period! In many cases, making some smart choices can save you some green!
So what should you do? First, make sure you are aware of the enrollment period for your company. Depending upon where you work, the time frame can vary. Second, consider changes to your healthcare needs. If you are never at the doctor, and only go if an ambulance has to take you, look at the lower premium plans. If you or your dependents have had a change in their health status that requires more visits, or you check in with your doctor regularly at the first sign of a cold, you may want a higher premium but lower deductible plan. Overall, just make sure you look at your needs and your coverage, and consider changing if it is necessary.
TOM: Are there other healthcare items we should think about?
MELLODY: if you use a flexible spending account, which allows you to save money before taxes to spend on healthcare, there have been some changes on that front. While you used to have to spend that money by the end of the year or lose it, some employers will now let you roll over amounts up to $500. FSA’s are a good way to save money if you have higher healthcare costs, particularly for children or prescriptions. And if you already have one, and you cannot roll it over, it is probably time to get those glasses or check in at the dentist before that money disappears!