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Friday, October 10, 2014

Prepare for Life's Unexpected Turns

Insurance is boring...and choosing the right benefits can be confusing. Unfortunately, this makes actually signing up and picking the right benefits for you and your family seem very daunting, so some of us just don't do it. Those of us that do may not be spending enough time and effort on it. Did you know that nearly half of millennials spent 30 minutes or less preparing for and selecting their benefits in 2013. I know we're all pressed for time, and probably planning your next vacation seems a lot more fun, but if an unexpected medical emergency happens, you aren't going to be going on that trip, because you're going to be emptying your pockets to pay for that instead. Ouch, right?

Many of us aren't prepared for medical bills - and those can be super expensive - and are living on a tight budget the way it is. Aflac knows that. In fact, studies show that 35% of millennials have $500 or less to spend on emergency medical, which probably won't go that far in reality. Maybe you had that cushion and had to spend it on some other emergency, like taking the car in for that wonky noise it's been making or having to replace your broken hot water heater. Being a parent and/or homeowner is a seemingly neverending parade of bills. With Aflac, you can be more prepared for the curve balls life throws at you.

As a young person trying to get your life together, make ends meet and still be able to work some fun into your life may be difficult to figure out how to do. You're probably already spending most of your paycheck on student loans, credit cards, and other regular bills, so cramming in another large bill, like an unexpected medical bill, might be an impossibility. Paying late or not at all can negatively affect your credit score, making it really hard to get credit for things you need like a mortgage or a car loan. In fact, 15 percent of millennials said high medical bills had negatively affected their credit scores, and 16 percent said they’d been contacted by collection agencies about outstanding medical bills. Some of us are just One Emergency Away from Financial Disaster, and that's something to think about.

Life isn't always sunny and perfect.

As a freelance writer, it's clearly important to me to know what my bills will be every month, as my income can fluctuate. Having something like a large medical bill can really ruin my day, because where is the money to pay that going to come from? Luckily, my husband has a great job and we could make it work, but many people aren't in our same situation. Though a third of us feel like we're more prepared for our medical open enrollment this year than last, that still means over 65% of us are still confused by it all. Want to avoid the devastation of a hefty hospital bill on your already tight budget? Then you need to invest in your health. What can you do to be more prepared this year?
  • Think of health insurance premiums as a monthly budget essential like rent, rather than a discretionary expense, like entertainment. My motto has always been to expect the best, but plan for the worst. I'd rather pay for insurance I don't have to use than need insurance and not have it. Wouldn't you?
  • Educate yourself about how your insurance deductible works. Choosing a plan with a low monthly premium and a high deductible may give you more money in your paycheck, but could also result in unaffordable payments if you need medical care beyond covered preventive services. This is one of the most difficult things to figure out when you're already on a tight budget, but a lower deductible is always a good thing when an accident happens, especially when you have kids and those accidents seem to happen more often.
  • If your company offers a health savings account as part of a high deductible health plan, contribute as much as the plan allows so you’ll have money set aside to help meet the deductible and other payments. These accounts are generally pre-tax, which means your contribution goes further and you might not notice the hit to your paycheck quite as much.
  • Consider adding voluntary insurance products for more financial protection. Accident and Critical Illness plans work hand-in-hand with major medical plans, providing benefits to help policyholders with health-related costs their primary insurance may not cover. Those policies can also be used to help with out-of-pocket costs and other expenses that continue to roll in even if you’re too ill or injured to work.
Continue exploring new frontiers by being prepared and not dipping into your travel budget when you don't have to.

Maybe you don't feel like adding an extra insurance product to your medical package is something you can easily pay for, but with Aflac, the younger you are, the lower your premiums will be. As a freelance writer, I'm lucky to be able to work from anywhere, so if I break my leg, I can still write; however, many are not in my same position. Even stay-at-home parents don't have the same luxury, because who will take care of their little ones if they're incapacitated or have limited mobility? Having the option of getting in a little more help would be invaluable, wouldn't it? If you're auto-enrolling each year without really looking at your benefits, it's time to change that. your life doesn't stay the same year after year, which means your benefits could use a thorough once-over to make sure they are still right for where you are in life.

In 2014, Fortune magazine included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 13th time, ranking the company number one in the life and health insurance category. They have a presence in all 50 states, in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and the company is also the number one life insurance company in terms of the number of individual policies in Japan. The offer accident, dental, life, vision, cancer, hospital intensive care and more voluntary insurance policies. So, wherever you live and whatever extra coverage you need, there is a plan that'll work for you.

When's the last time you really looked at your benefits? Or when was the last time you needed coverage you didn't have?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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