An employer’s open enrollment period offers many U.S. workers a unique opportunity to take advantage of the savings and convenience of selecting employee benefits offerings made available at the workplace. When it comes to benefits selection, it’s not one size fits all, and different demographic groups often have different wants and needs. Employers have an opportunity to reach out to help, particularly with newer employees who aren’t as familiar with the opportunities available related to their employee benefits. In fact, nearly half of Gen Y workers, say that they have a greater interest in their employee benefits because of the economy, according to MetLife’s 8th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study. To help younger employees make the most of their employee benefits during the upcoming Fall Open Enrollment period, MetLife has made available some simple tips and tools to help them optimize their opportunities to make the right decisions about insurance and retirement protection.

“Benefits offered through the employer are often the foundation of a personal safety net,” says Dr. Ronald Leopold, vice president, U.S. Business for MetLife. “The Open Enrollment period is typically the time when employees make the biggest financial decisions for their benefits plan – a key component of total compensation – so it is essential that employees take the time to understand what is being offered so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

According to the MetLife study, approximately one out of two Gen Y employees does not feel very confident about their ability to make the right financial decisions for their families. This is important to note as more than half (55%) of Gen Y employees in the survey are married or in a domestic partnership. In addition, 42% of Gen Y workers are the parents of a child under the age of 18.

The study found that about seven out of ten Gen Y employees are very concerned about having enough money to pay bills during a period of sudden income loss. In addition, about half of Gen Y employees are very concerned about the financial impact of their premature death on their families – despite being younger than their co-workers this concern level is approximately the same. Having the right amount of income protection in place can help address these concerns.

When it comes to life insurance and disability protection, Dr. Leopold suggests:

  • Disability Income Insurance – When reviewing your disability income insurance, consider how much income you would need to sustain mortgage payments, food and clothing costs, transportation needs and debt payments if you were unable to work. Determine the percentage of income your employer’s group plan covers, what the waiting period is before benefits begin and the length of time that you’d be covered. As a rule of thumb, you should look to replace 60 to 75 percent of your total taxable earnings. Of those Gen Y employees that say they have disability income insurance coverage, one-third (35%) are unsure how much of their income is protected.
  • Life Insurance – If you have children or people who depend on the money you earn, you need life insurance. A good starting place is coverage equal to outstanding debt plus five years of salary. Outstanding debt could include mortgage, car payments and student loans. Look at opportunities to supplement or “buy-up” additional amounts of coverage beyond what an employer may fund.

Dr. Leopold also suggests employees consider:

  • Medical coverage – When looking at your medical coverage, two key considerations can help you determine which plan is best for you. Do you want to spend less out-of –pocket with a limited network of doctors? If that is the case, a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan may be the best option for you. If you’re willing to pay more in premiums so that you have the flexibility to choose any doctor, a Point-of –Service (POS) or Preferred-Provider-Organization (PPO) plan may fit your needs.
  • Dental Benefits – Your employer’s dental benefits may offer you a choice between a Dental HMO and PPO or two PPO plans. As with medical coverage, you have a lesser potential out-of-pocket cost for an HMO with access to a more limited network of doctors. A PPO will have greater out-of-pocket cost potential but offer you broader access to network dentists. Be an educated consumer. Understand your oral health needs and how they relate to key attributes of your plan options. Is choice of dentists important for primary care as well as specialty care? If you travel, do you have access for emergency care? Going to in-network dentists can save money. Learn what your plan does and does not cover. For those services not covered by your plan, ask your dentist if he or she offers discounts because of the insurance carrier’s relationship. Although they may not be obligated to, some dentists may charge the insurance carrier’s negotiated fee for non-covered services for certain services.
  • Voluntary Benefits – Look to strengthen your safety net through voluntary benefits (benefits where most if not all of the premium is paid by the employee). Over the past few years, many employers have expanded their voluntary offerings. Voluntary benefits typically provide a cost savings because of group rates and the convenience of being paid for through payroll deduction. Voluntary benefits offered through your employer may include automobile insurance, homeowners insurance, legal plans, critical illness insurance or even pet insurance.

MetLife also offers the Employee Benefits Simplifier, a free online tool available at The tool can assist with these Open Enrollment decisions by helping consumers identify which benefits are right for them and offers suggested life stage recommendations, particularly when it comes to coverage levels and benefits selections.

The 8th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted during the fourth quarter of 2009 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK Custom Research North America. The employer survey comprised 1,503 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee sample comprised 1,305 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.

About MetLife
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.


Karen Eldred
Judi Mahaney