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By In Featured, Health Insurance, Retirement, Savings and Budgets

FI Benefits 2020 Special, Part 4: Finding Benefits on Your Own

Over the past month, we’ve been looking back on posts from 2018 and 2019 that have given you advice on how to think of your benefits, what criteria matters most when comparing your options, and much, much more. The main focus has been those among us that work for—and get our benefits from—others. THE MAN, if you will. In this installment, we’re talking about those who are on their own for benefits, whether self-employed, over 65 or FIRE. Here are some deets on what do get or not get when you’re out there hunting and gathering in the benefits wilderness!

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By In Featured, Health Insurance, Voluntary Benefits

FI Benefits 2020 Special, Part 3: Open Enrollment Is Here! How to Pick Your Benefits

In parts 1 and 2 of our FI Benefits 2020 Special, we helped you get in the FI mindset when it comes to benefits, especially health insurance options, and then we gave you some strategies to help you figure out how to think about selecting your benefits. In this installment, we give you practical advice for choosing benefits.

We know that you love doing the math, and these posts will give you a good idea of the most crunchable numbers related to your annual choices for health insurance and other benefits. Let’s get started!

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By In Around the Web, Money-Saving Tips

Take Note, FI Folks — Walmart Is Serious about Price Transparency at Their New Health Clinics

Last week, Walmart opened its first standalone health clinic in Georgia, but it probably won’t be its last. It’s an ambitious project for the company that is already one of the leading health care retailers in the world, and it builds upon their “care clinic” idea, which they’ve launched around Georgia, South Carolina (my state), and Texas.

The idea is to put a lot of different kinds of services under one roof — which, like duh, is what Walmart does with consumer goods. Here’s all that they want to offer in their standalone health clinics, according to a Forbes article:

The larger Walmart Health Center puts “key health services under one roof,” a first for the world’s largest retailer when it comes to offering primary care, dental, optometry, counseling, laboratory tests, X-rays, hearing, wellness education and behavioral health.

-Forbes

But wait, there’s more! In true Walmart fashion, they’ve already published a price list. That’s a no-brainer for retail but revolutionary for health services. Seriously, when was the last time you went to a doctor knowing what you would pay for anything but the visit itself?

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By In Featured, General Benefits Knowledge

FI Benefits 2020 Special, Part 2: Let’s Talk Strategy

In today’s installment of our 2020 OE special for the FI/FIRE community, we give you some tactical reminders that will help you understand what to think about as open enrollment (OE) approaches. The good news? Benefits are a great thing to have. Health benefits in particular are both great and essential to have.

The bad news? Well, read on for insights and strategies.

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By In Featured, Financial Independence, General Benefits Knowledge

FI Benefits 2020 Special, Part 1: The Pre-Game

Every year, the vast majority of Americans must “elect” their benefits for the year. In the benefits biz, this occasion is called “open enrollment season” and if refers, as the name implies, the time of year when employees get to select their benefits — primarily health/medical, dental, vision and life insurance options — through their employer for the coming year.  Something around 75 percent of employees who get benefits through their employer get them with a January 1 start date, which puts them making their selections some time between October and mid-December.

We at the Benefits of FI aren’t just here to show you how to make the most of open enrollment, we’re here to make the most of your FI goals during open enrollment!

With that in mind, we are running a series of posts over the coming weeks that will get you ready for OE, give you ideas for how to view the various criteria for making benefits elections, and ultimately to help you view OE through a FI/FIRE lens. We will also post some of our favorite posts about benefits across the FI blogging universe, to further give you a leg up in selecting benefits for the year.

First up, a little pre-game — knowing what to prioritize in your mind before OE starts.

Here goes…

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By In Do the Math, Financial Independence, Student Loan Debt

Could Your Paid Time Off (PTO) Help Fund Your Early Retirement?

There was a news item circulating around the benefits business this week about PTO Exchange, a company out of Seattle that raised $3 million in venture capital. The idea investors are buying into is that you can and should use your excess PTO (AKA “paid time off,” or vacation pay) for other things you might want or need, like paying down your student loan debt, or putting it toward gift cards, or all manner of other things.

If you’ve ever 1) not used your PTO and watched it either expire or roll over into a new year where you’ll just get more PTO you won’t use up, or 2) you’ve left a job and had all that unused PTO vanish into the ether, you may have gotten the same lightbulb I got when I first read about PTO Exchange. Here’s why…

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By In Budgeting, Individual Health Insurance

Bad Health Coverage Options for FIRE Folks, Freelancers, Gig Workers, Self-Employed and Perhaps Even Trustafarians

If you fall into the broad category of people who don’t qualify for employer-provided health insurance or a government-provided option like Medicare, Tricare or Medicaid, now is the time of year that you should start thinking about your options.

We at The Benefits of FI have preached the importance of having high-quality coverage (read: coverage that is required to pay for a lot of different kinds of health care services and potential needs) coverage for you and your family. But since this FI community is nothing if not fiercely independent, we want to give you a few more details about the options you’re reviewing, in case you don’t take our advice to go with the (probably) more expensive option that is (probably) also the smartest option…

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By In Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Abroad and Injured? Your HSA Works for That!

I’ve occasionally posted “death of a thousand cuts” updates about the quiet desperation of navigating our health care system. Well, as one of my more troll-y friends pointed out, one experience isn’t exactly science but a recent experience with big, bad socialized medicine was almost pleasant.

On our blowout summer vacation for the whole family, my mother-in-law injured her heel from too much exploring on ancient Roman roads of solid marble. Luckily, we had an Italian friend who got her to a doctor to ensure it wasn’t more than just swelling. The doctor, not accustomed to billing for visits, didn’t charge my mother-in-law for checking her foot and then gave her crutches to rent for €1.50 (~$1.75) per day. We ended up buying them outright for €$20. She also got prescription-strength ibuprofen for a steal. All in all, my MIL’s costs were less than $30. Zoinks!

But the cost itself isn’t the reason for this post. What came to mind was that, had it been me, my wife or one of our children, we could have used our tax-free HSA funds to pay any bills that were incurred. That’s right, you can use your HSA — or FSA — funds for medical expenses pretty much anywhere on the planet. The two important rules are whatever product or service you’re getting has to be

  1. On the approved list of HSA/FSA products/services. That’s the U.S. list. Duh.
  2. Legal both in the U.S. and in the country where you’re receiving the service.
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By In Do the Math, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Savings and Budgets

An HSA Really Can Be a ‘Dream-Vacation’ Reserve Account…If You’re Smart About It

We’ve written extensively about how much you might end up spending on your own health care in retirement and, as a result, why it’s important to build up your HSA funds so that you can have that reserve of tax-free dollars for such expenses.

But, as a former co-worker of mine used to say, here’s a “super-secret hack” about HSAs that may change the way you spend both in retirement and beforehand: there is no time limit on when you can reimburse yourself from your HSA for medical expenses.

What does this SSH (ahem, super-secret hack!) mean for your retirement savings? It’s simple. Keep reading…

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By In General Benefits Knowledge, Health Insurance, Voluntary Benefits

Advice for My Daughter on Selecting First Employee Benefits

Over on his personal blog, Platform for Good, our cofounder Shawn has written an excellent post on the advice he gave his daughter as she readied to select benefits through her employer for the first time. It’s chock-full of insights from an adult life spent contemplating how to make the best choices for your present and your future, organized into five helpful tips for making your benefits choices. Get on over there and give it a read!

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