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Retiring? 5 Benefits Questions to Ask Before You Do

There’s a lot to be gained in retirement, including time for family, travel, hobbies or whatever the next chapter in your life may be. But for all you gain, you don’t want to lose anything that you value, including your benefits — both medical and non-medical — that were part of your workplace employee benefits plan.

Before you retire, here are five questions to ask about your benefits.

1. Is my employer required to offer workplace benefits in retirement?

The short answer is “no,” especially for private-sector employers. But some companies do provide options for those retiring or leaving a job. A recent MetLife Employee Benefit Trends study found that in 2015, less than half (44 percent) of employers offered these “portable benefits” to their employees. But that offering doesn’t keep up with demand, since 61 percent of respondents said they were “extremely interested” in taking their benefits with them into retirement.

Before making plans to fund your own benefits in your retirement, find out if your workplace offers a full or partial portable benefits plan.

2. How can I find out if my employer provides health benefits in retirement?

Your Summary Plan Description (SPD) provides information about the benefits you’re entitled to once you join a workplace employee benefits plan. You should receive a copy of your Summary Plan Description within 90 days of joining a plan.

Read your Summary Plan Description carefully for references to “retiree health benefits.” Also look for any mention of how your plan works with Medicare and retirement.

If anything is unclear or hard to find, contact your human resources department as soon as possible to find out which (if any) of your employee benefits will continue into your retirement.

3. Can benefits be eliminated during my retirement?

Even if you work for an employer who provides portable benefits, it’s important to remember that many employers aren’t legally obligated to continue benefit coverage throughout your retirement. They can alter their offerings any time — unless they’ve specifically promised not to.

Be sure to look closely at the conditions of your plan, and take notice of anything that may change down the road.

4. Will I have the same coverage options that I had while I was working?

There may be gaps in your benefit coverage in retirement. Just as you did while you were working, you may have the option to fill these gaps by participating in voluntary benefits options.

Take dental coverage, for example. MetLife’s Employee Benefit Trends study found that 63 percent of employees said dental benefits are a “retirement must-have,” but only 42 percent of employers offer dental for retirees.

Find out if you’re covered, and if you’re not, consider funding your own dental plan.

The same goes for vision and medical benefits. Consider supplemental health benefits to cover these expenses, especially if you’re retiring before becoming Medicare eligible at 65, or if you have health expenses not covered by Medicare.

5. Do I have to cash in my 401(k) right away when I retire?

Not necessarily. If you have more than $5000 in your 401(k), the plan administrator must continue to maintain it you don't have to take withdrawals or receive required minimum distributions until April 1 of the year you reach age 70.5. While this allows your investment to grow, it does prevent you from making additional contributions. Talk to a financial advisor about your best options.

A benefits package that fits your vision of retirement is an important part of your financial future. Learn as much as you can as soon as you can. And don’t leave a single benefit behind as you work toward the next chapter of your life. Thank you to our contracted carrier Metlife for this blog.

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