Advice for Employees Facing "Open Enrollment" Decisions

In the weeks and months ahead, millions of American workers will be making their employee benefit decisions during their employer’s fall “Open Enrollment” period – often the one time of the year when employees can make changes to their employee benefit selections for the coming year.  MetLife, which provides employee benefits to more than 61,000 companies in the U.S. reaching nearly 40 million employees, is offering tips and advice to help people make the most of their employee benefit choices this year.

“In these challenging economic times, it’s more important than ever for people to make informed decisions about their employee benefit options,” said Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president, Institutional Business, MetLife, and author, A Year in the Life of a Million American Workers.  “Especially in light of the stock market swings in recent weeks, more consumers are struggling to balance the escalating cost of essentials such as food and gas with the employee benefits they know they should have to protect themselves and their families.  It’s important for workers to take time to review their company’s benefits offerings carefully and make any needed changes while they can during Open Enrollment, especially if they’ve had a recent life event such as getting married, becoming a parent or purchasing a home.” 

MetLife suggests that workers consider the following when making employee benefit choices this year:

Take time to do your homework: Make sure you thoroughly research which employee benefits are right for you. The benefits you select for the coming year can have a significant impact on you and your family's finances, so be sure to spend enough time to research and select your benefits.  You should plan to spend as much time – if not more – as you would when you research other products and services such as a new computer or a flat screen TV. 
Read the proverbial "big envelope," use online tools: Employees who have the information at their disposal to make an informed decision are almost three times as likely to feel confident in their benefits selections.  Therefore, it's important for you to read your company's open enrollment materials from cover-to-cover.  You don’t want to be the person that doesn’t read the fine print, only to realize your oversight when you get the bill for that specialist visit.  Many companies also encourage workers to read about their benefits offerings online, and some even offer web-based calculators and tools. 

Plan to make some changes each year: The fall open enrollment period is an opportunity to re-evaluate your options and make changes.  Very few people have the same benefits needs year-after-year.  Make sure you consider changes or coverage increases, particularly if you've experienced a recent life event, such as getting married, having a baby or purchasing a home.

Don’t assume that a bumpy economy means you’ll have fewer benefits choices:  Over the past few years, employers have expanded the breadth of their benefits offerings significantly – especially when it comes to voluntary benefits, which are paid for by the employee, typically at a significant cost savings due to group rates.  To meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce (and help retain top talent), many employers add new voluntary offerings each year – and the premiums for many can be paid through convenient payroll deduction.  Aging parents? Think about long-term care insurance.  Sole breadwinner?  Consider disability insurance. Buying a home? Access a legal services plan. Have a dog?  Ponder pet insurance. New apartment? Don’t forget renters insurance.

A pay raise changes things:  If you are fortunate enough to get a salary increase in this challenging economic environment, consider increasing your 401(k) contributions and disability insurance coverage.

Take advantage of pre-tax accounts:  If your employer offers a flexible spending account for health care expenses or a 401(k) company match, consider this free money.  Even if finances are tight, don’t forget your future – would you rather give up your morning latte and manicures, or work into your 80s because you don’t have the savings to retire?

Ask, ask, ask:  If you aren’t satisfied with your benefits or the enrollment process, let your employer know.  Ask for the guidance and advice you need.  Inquire about the possibility of meeting face-to-face with your HR department.  Employers have an interest in making you happy – 86% of employers view benefits as an important retention tool.

In addition to these tips to help people make the most of their benefits, MetLife recently announced the launch of the Employee Benefits Simplifier, a free online tool available at  The tool helps consumers identify which benefits are right for “people like them,” and offers suggested actionable life-stage recommendations – particularly when it comes to coverage levels and benefits selections.

Celebrating 140 years, MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.  Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force).  The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.  For more information, please visit


Toni L. Griffin
Joseph Madden