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Understanding Employee Benefits

Many employees are currently in their open enrollment period where they can update their choice of employee benefits. Here are a few things to consider when you’re selecting your benefits. If you would like help reviewing your employee benefit options, contact your advisor at Griffin Black.

Equity Compensation

Equity compensation helps you share in the profits from company stock growth.

  • Many companies offer compensation in the form of restricted stock units or employee stock options in addition to normal salary.
  • Equity compensation can be extremely lucrative, but may also come with complex tax issues.
  • Employee stock purchase plans are another way to profit from company equity.

Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA)

FSAs can be a tax-efficient way to pay for a variety of expenses

  • Many employers offer FSAs for specific purposes, such as dependent care.
  • FSA contributions are pre-tax, but must be spent within the year.
  • You cannot enroll in an HSA and a general-purpose FSA at the same time (including your spouse).

Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

An HSA is one of the best long-term savings accounts if you have minimal medical needs. You must sign up for an HDHP (High Deductible Health Plan) before you can contribute to an HSA.

  • An HDHP is an insurance plan with lower premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs. If your medical expenses are low, an HDHP might be the most affordable combination of premiums and deductibles.
  • If you have an HDHP, you may make tax-deductible contributions to an HSA (subject to an annual limit).
  • Some employers will also contribute to an HSA on your behalf.
  • HSA savings can be used tax-free for medical expenses and unused funds will carry forward to future years.
  • Investing your HSA funds is the most tax-efficient way to save for the long-term.
  • Griffin Black can help you determine if an HDHP is right for you and help you comply with the HSA rules.

Life Insurance

As your family needs change, it’s important to look at the life insurance you receive from work as well as insurance policies you’ve purchased on your own.

  • Most employers offer free group life insurance and additional insurance coverage can be purchased without a medical exam.
  • Employer life insurance premiums will increase with age and the insurance might not be portable if you leave the company.
  • Individual term life insurance might be less expensive with a fixed premium, but requires medical approval.

Medical Insurance

Every year, you should reevaluate your medical insurance needs and check for changes in plan costs.

  • Make sure the plan covers the services you will need: preferred doctors, medications, mental health, chiropractor, etc.
  • Estimate your out-of-pocket costs from deductibles and co-insurance. Keep in mind the out-of-pocket maximum.
  • Choose a plan that has the lowest combined cost of premiums plus out-of-pocket costs.

Retirement Plans

Company retirement plans offer the double benefit of helping you save for your future and potentially reducing your taxes.

  • 401(k) and 403(b) plans are the most common, and you must choose how your savings will be invested.
  • Other retirement plans include pensions, cash balance plans, and deferred compensation plans.


  • Some employers offer reimbursements for things like public transportation, gym memberships, education, and charitable contributions.

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