For most of us, Thanksgiving will be significantly different this week.
With many family members opting to stay put, airports won’t have nearly the travel volume of previous years. For precautionary reasons, many elderly will remain isolated in their senior communities. And households with students away at college may encourage them not to make the trip home.
Hopefully all these absences at the dinner table will only be for this year and normalcy will return next Thanksgiving. But the fact remains that more than 200,000 people will be missing at the Thanksgiving table this week and in years to come.
With any luck, we’ll turn the corner on COVID-19 in early 2021, but even though life has changed for everyone, we have to keep living. And that includes keeping an eye on personal and family finances.
Simply stated, COVID-19 has made virtually everything more complex. For example, many parents with kids in college signed one-year leases for apartments near campus. With most classes online, the need for living on campus is essentially nonexistent.
So, for many households the lease is just money down the drain. Virtual classes could easily have been accessed from the comfort and safety of home.
Another example is working from home. I know of many parents that are not only forced to work at home, but simultaneously obligated to teach their kids as well.
So what can you do in this Covid world? Well, if you work for a large employer, it’s a good time to look at your 2021 benefits program.
Review your health insurance deductibles and coordinate them with your Flexible Spending Account.
I’ve always been a fan of lowering premiums by raising deductibles and increasing the deposits into your FSA. It’s also important to review your 401(k) contributions. Always put in in at least enough to get the entire employer match. Otherwise, you’re turning down free money.
Depending on your income tax bracket and where you think tax rates are going, I strongly suggest a discussion with your financial advisor to determine where to allocate your contributions. Should it be into a traditional or a Roth 401(k)? Or maybe a little into both?
Optional group life insurance needs to be reviewed as well. It’s relatively inexpensive when you’re young, but premiums increase as you grow older. If you’re young and in good health, I highly recommend talking to a life insurance agent. It just might be possible for you to lock in a low lifetime rate.
And then there’s long-term disability insurance. I believe it’s worth having this often-overlooked benefit. Because if you don’t have it when you need it, you won’t be able to get it.
If you work for a smaller business, of course, you may not have all the benefit bells and whistles of a large firm, but you still have options. You can get a high deductible health insurance plan and coordinate it with a Health Savings Account. For retirement, you can open an Individual Retirement Account.
The bottom line is that there are many paths to maximizing the management of personal and family finances. Large or small, most employers offer a variety of benefits. You just have to understand what’s available. Study hard. Educate yourself. And if you need it, don’t hesitate to ask for professional assistance.