Maximizing employer benefits

Employee benefits: Advantages for people with disabilities and caregivers

Member for

1 year 9 months
Submitted by Matt Stagner on Fri, 01/08/2021 - 14:38

Benefits can be a key element of employee satisfaction. A recent study by Voya Cares and research firm LRW found that, overall, 87% of employees say that benefits are an important reason they stay at their company, and 90% say that benefits are equally as important to them as a higher salary.1

People may procrastinate when it comes to selecting employee benefits, an understandable reaction to large amounts of information that is peppered with jargon and numbers. In fact, a recent poll of 1,227 U.S. workers found that nearly half (49 percent) spend 30 minutes or less reviewing their benefits prior to enrollment.2 The process deserves more than 30 minutes of attention — especially if you or someone in your family has a disability or special needs or is a caregiver, because many benefits available through your employer may be challenging to get on your own.

Typical employee benefits

Looking at the variety and breadth of benefits offered through employers, it’s no wonder the process can be considered a confusing one. “Benefits packages vary from employer to employer,” explains Rebecca Winters, Employee Benefits senior voluntary product manager at Voya Employee Benefits. “But the core benefits most frequently offered by companies are medical, dental, and vision coverage, life insurance, disability income insurance, health or flexible savings accounts, and retirement savings plans. Companies may also offer Employee Assistance Programs that address a broad set of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being.”

Because these benefits can vary a great deal, it’s important to thoroughly read the information your employer provides, and if you have questions, ask someone in your company’s employee benefits department.

Let’s look at some of the advantages of these key employee benefits for an eligible employee or family member with a disability or special needs.

Medical, dental, vision

These medical benefits are the most desired among employees, according to a Harvard Business Review article. You may be able to choose from a variety of plans and can purchase coverage for your dependents, as well.

It’s important to carefully review covered services to be sure treatments, therapies, medical equipment and adaptations for your or your dependent’s diagnosis are included. Weigh deductibles and co-payment amounts against premium payments to see if a high-deductible plan would be more cost effective than a managed-care-type plan that may have lower deductibles and co-payments but higher monthly premiums.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your employer offer critical care insurance? This coverage is useful if you experience such unexpected covered illness or condition such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Critical illness coverage could include a health advocacy program that can help you find products, services, and answers to questions you may have. “It’s the extra support you may need to help you navigate your way,” says Winters. It’s important to note that critical illness insurance is a limited benefit policy. It is not health insurance and does not satisfy the requirement of minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
  • What’s your past history regarding dental and vision care? Is it more cost effective to pay for occasional care out of your own pocket than for premiums for insurance coverage that you may not fully use?

Health and flexible savings accounts

A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Public Health states that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues — either because of high costs for care or time out of work.

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can help pay for unexpected medical costs by allowing you to set aside pre-tax income to pay eligible medical expenses, while reducing your annual tax burden, which can be a useful benefit for people with disabilities and caregivers. In essence, the tax savings help your money go farther. The eligibility requirements, use of the funds, and whether or not the funds saved in one year can be rolled over to the next vary by type of account.

Ask yourself:

  • If your medical costs are minimal now, could they rise in the future? Money in an HSA is yours to keep over time. If you leave your employer, you can keep the account or roll the funds into an HSA with a future employer. (Note: FSAs do not allow your savings to roll over into a new plan year. In essence, it’s a “use-it-or-lose-it” account.) And you can name a beneficiary to inherit the funds in your active HSA when you pass away. (See the next section for more about beneficiaries.)

Life insurance

Because getting life insurance protection can be challenging for people with disabilities to obtain on their own, these benefits available through your employer may be a great opportunity to obtain them with no or limited underwriting.

Your employer may offer basic life insurance, which is the amount they provide at no cost to you. You may also have the option to elect additional coverage called Supplemental Life Insurance. During your initial enrollment with your employer, specific coverage amounts often are available to purchase without any medical underwriting questions. It is helpful to take advantage of these guaranteed-issue amounts when you have them available to you, as electing coverage after your initial enrollment may require medical history questions or additional underwriting. In that situation and when evidence of insurability is required, the insurance company will need to approve it before coverage becomes effective.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the policy portable? If so, when you leave your employer, you can continue to pay the premium directly to the insurer and keep the coverage.
  • Does the coverage include a waiver of premium? If you can’t work because of a short- or long-term disability, this waiver keeps your policy active with no premium payments due.
  • Should you purchase life insurance for a dependent (spouse/domestic partner or children)?
  • Life insurance benefits may be used however the beneficiary elects so it’s important to consider such things as who would provide caregiving services, if you or a spouse were to pass away? “Hiring a caregiver to replace a spouse or partner who stays home to care for a child with special needs can be costly. Life insurance may provide the funds to assist with that,” says Jonathan R. Kurtz, a Voya financial advisor with Kurtz, Connor, Browning & Phillips, LLC, in Virginia, who is experienced in offering financial services to families with special needs.
  • Who will you name as beneficiary? For family members with a disability or special needs, receiving life insurance proceeds may make them ineligible to qualify for government benefits,” warns Kurtz. “Consider naming a special needs trust as the beneficiary instead.”

Disability income insurance

Disability income insurance will pay a percentage of your salary if you can’t work because of an illness or injury unrelated to your job. You may need to fulfill a waiting period before benefits can be paid. Generally, short-term disability insurance covers periods of six weeks to six months, with premiums often paid by the employer; long-term disability benefits begin once you have exhausted your short-term disability benefits, if applicable. Benefits are then paid for the duration of your medical condition to the maximum duration allowed by your employer’s plan or until you reach Social Security Normal Retirement Age.

If you are, or will be, a caregiver, consider the ramifications if you experience an illness or injury, and you have to replace the care you usually provide for your loved one. More than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a disabling condition before they reach the normal retirement age, according the Social Security Administration’s probability tables (PDF) published in October 2017. Nevertheless, life insurance is more readily purchased than disability income insurance.

Ask yourself:

  • How high is your risk? Look at your family’s health history and whether or not your personal activities could lead to injuries, especially for musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, cancer and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which are some of the most common reasons for long-term disability claims, according to the Council for Disability Awareness (March 2018).
  • Would you have savings or other sources of income to cover expenses, during your recovery? For a long-term illness, you might qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), but it can take time to receive a decision after you apply for this benefit.

Retirement plans

People with disabilities and caregivers may delay saving for their own retirement, because day-to-day responsibilities and expenses may seem overwhelming. However, participating in your company’s 401(k) plan may make it easier. Because companies often match some or all of what the employee contributes, your retirement savings can grow more quickly. Plus your contributions are made with pre-tax dollars, reducing your current tax burden. Remember, you must secure your own future first, before ensuring the future of those who are dependent on you.

Ask yourself:

  • How much money are you leaving on the table by not contributing at least up to the amount your employer matches? The average 401(k) employer contribution rate, in terms of percentage of salary, reached 4.7% in Q1 20193.

Employee assistance programs

With services offered standardly at no cost to employees, EAPs offer counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal or work-related difficulties, including alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders. Obtaining these services on your own could be a significant cost to you. Some programs also offer legal services to put essential documents in place, such as wills, powers of attorney, guardianship, advance health care and financial directives and trusts.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you considering a special needs trust (SNT)? “For certain legal documents, such as an SNT, it’s wisest to use an attorney whose practice serves people with special needs,” says Kurtz. “It’s important to ensure that the wording of all legal documents supports your financial strategy. Planners who serve the special needs community can help a client determine when to use EAP legal services, and when it’s best to use an outside special needs attorney.”

Some final thoughts

Remember, you’ll have the chance to review and make adjustments to your benefits selections during your employer’s annual benefits enrollment period. However, if your current situation changes before then, take a look at the benefits you’ve selected or already have in force. You may be able to make a change. Call your company’s benefits manager to discuss your options.

“Or meet with your financial advisor to review your benefits package,” suggests Kurtz. “Your advisor can help you understand your benefits and how they’ll work with other aspects of your financial plan to fill gaps or supplement it.”

Some workers may worry about having too much deducted from their pay in premiums and savings contributions, but don’t pass up your opportunity to take the fullest advantage of your employee benefits. “You may think you’ll need that income for other things, but it’s not a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” says Winters. “You’re robbing from your future, if you don’t take advantage of the employee benefits your company offers.”

A look at some of the advantages of key employee benefits for an eligible employee or family member with a disability or special needs.
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Business Owner
Mathew Stagner
Expiration Date
Two boys, one with Down Syndrome looking at laptop while sitting on the couch
Workplace benefits and special needs planning Maximizing employer benefits Voya Retirement
Short Title
Employee benefits for people with disabilities and caregivers

Add an HSA to a Special Needs Financial Plan

Member for

1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Fri, 11/20/2020 - 16:36

What is an HSA?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a way to increase your spendable income and save money on taxes. HSAs work with a high-deductible health plan to help you invest for future expenses while paying for everyday costs like copays, prescriptions and more. You can use the account for all eligible out-of-pocket medical expenses, including those for your covered spouse and dependents.

How does an HSA work?

The IRS sets an annual per-person or per-family limit that you and your employer can agree to meet. Then, your pre-tax dollars are transferred into the account every month. If you contribute the maximum amount allowed each year, you’ll fully benefit from the tax savings, withdraw funds anytime you need them, and continue to save for the future.

Should I assign beneficiaries?

If your loved one with disabilities qualifies for government benefits, an HSA under their name can disqualify them. Consider a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or an ABLE account for your loved one, as it can stand in as the beneficiary for your HSA and any other financial assets, without putting government benefits at risk.

Am I eligible for an HSA?

You may be a great fit for an HSA if you have:

  • Qualifying High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) coverage.
  • Medical expenses to plan and pay for, like copays.
  • A desire to save and invest for your retirement.
  • A plan for your own or a loved ones’ future care.

Plan for special needs with an HSA

HSA benefit: Triple-tax advantaged.

Special needs application: Your HSA grows with you, tax-free. Pre-tax contributions reduce your taxable income, and withdrawals for eligible expenses are not taxed. When it comes to means-tested government benefits, however, contributing to an HSA doesn’t reduce your countable income, and HSA funds will count as resources, so plan accordingly. An HSA in the name of a caregiver can be a valuable planning tool for expenses related to a covered dependent. Always consult with your specialist advisor and attorney to understand the rules related to government benefits.

HSA benefit: Works well with others.

Special needs application: Pair with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). If you’re not eligible for an HSA or you want to complement one, a tax-advantaged FSA allows you to save and spend money on eligible medical expenses and dependent care throughout the year. But unlike an HSA, the funds don’t roll over — so they’re not accruing interest or available over time. You can use your FSA for shorter term expenses, and build up HSA investments for the long term.

Pair with an ABLE account. An ABLE account is another way to save and spend for disability-related expenses, similar to a special needs trust. Like an HSA, an ABLE account has some tax advantages and can be used for short-term spending or long-term investing. The main difference in taxation is that the HSA is funded with pre-tax funds, while the ABLE account is after-tax. Of course, the allowable expenses are different, and ABLE accounts are not counted as assets for means-tested benefits. Used properly, ABLE and HSA accounts can work together as you manage your cash flow now and in the future.

HSA benefit: Supplement health insurance benefits.

Special needs application: Your health insurance plan may cover your minor children and adult dependents with disabilities, but the deductible and copays might make cash flow difficult. And, your health insurance coverage might exclude some necessities for your loved one with disabilities or special needs. An HSA is there to help fill in the gaps.

An HSA can be used to pay for emerging technologies, experimental drugs and other medical related expenses that your insurance may not cover. If your doctor orders or prescribes it, you should be able to pay for it with an HSA. This can include things like home modifications, ABA therapies, special diets, vitamins, autism programs and more.

HSA benefit: Rollover funds.

Special needs application: You may not know what the future holds in terms of expenses for your loved one with special needs or disabilities, so accumulating savings in an HSA is a great way to stay prepared. Your HSA account and funds stay with you, even if you change jobs. Funds can be rolled over, so you’ll never have to “use-it-or-lose-it.” In a special needs situation this is especially helpful, because dependents may be able to stay on a parents’ plan beyond typical ages, so the benefits may span multiple jobs for the covered worker. This feature makes your HSA another source of resources for a lifetime of care.

HSA benefit: Save into retirement.

Special needs application: An HSA can be a valuable retirement savings vehicle since unused funds can be invested and grow for the long term. Caregivers who are trying to balance saving for their own retirement with providing care may find this option helpful.

If you or your covered dependent is on Medicare, you’ll be able to use HSA funds to help pay for the premiums, as well as for long-term care policies.

Plan ahead by saving your receipts. If you don’t need the reimbursements now, or at the time of the medical care — you can take them out later, even well into your retirement years.

HSA benefit: Debit card and/or easy online access.

Special needs application: If you’re an individual with special needs or a caregiver for a person with a disability, you know that keeping good records is key. HSAs help you keep track of every penny saved and spent with online profiles and debit cards that are simple to access and use.

Action steps:

Learn more

Learn how to use an HSA within your financial plan, especially if you’re a caregiver for a person with a disability.
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Business Owner
Mathew Stagner
Expiration Date
Father facing and engaging baby who is sitting on bed
Employers Financial Professionals Individuals Maximizing employer benefits Special needs planning essentials Special needs planning essentials For use with your employees For use with your clients
Short Title
Add an HSA to a Special Needs Financial Plan

Five HSA benefits you might not know about

Member for

2 years
Submitted by Jennifer Song on Fri, 11/20/2020 - 10:27

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we have to be ready for the unpredictable. This is especially true when it comes to planning for unexpected medical costs. After all, no one plans to get sick or end up in the hospital. However, when you consider that roughly 4 in 10 Americans would struggle to cover a $400 emergency, many families could find themselves in a challenging financial situation if they got hit with an expensive and unplanned medical bill.

Health savings accounts, or HSAs, can help you take control of your health and financial wellness needs in today’s unpredictable world. Not sure how they work? Don’t worry — you’re in good company. New research from Voya Financial shows that only 2% of people are aware of the key attributes of an HSA.

To help you get up-to-speed, below are five facts to help break down what you need to know about HSAs. And with open enrollment season underway for many American workers, now is a good time to get educated on HSAs as you consider all your employer-sponsored workplace benefits.

Fact #1 – HSAs help offset costs of high-deductible health plans

An HSA is a medical savings account that’s available to you when you’re enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The IRS defines these plans as those that have a deductible of at least $1,400 for an individual and $2,800 for a family in 2020. With the rising costs of health care, an increasing number of companies started offering HDHPs in their employee benefits packages. Prior to the pandemic, industry research showed that nearly half of Americans (46%) with private health insurance were enrolled in a HDHP.

Typically, most HDHPs are combined with an HSA, which is funded by pretax dollars that are deposited into your account, usually through a payroll deduction. As a result, HSAs have increased in popularity to help pay for qualified medical costs, while also helping employees plan for and cover the high deductibles associated with these health plans.

Fact #2 – HSAs offer triple tax advantages

Perhaps the biggest benefit of an HSA is the triple tax advantages it offers: 1) contributions are pretax and reduce your taxable income; 2) your HSA funds grow tax-free; and 3) when used to pay for eligible medical expenses, HSA withdrawals are tax-free.

HSA contribution amounts are capped each year by the IRS. For 2021, the HSA contribution limits are $3,600 for individuals and $7,200 for family coverage. Individuals who are 55 and older are eligible for an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution.

If affordable, it’s a good idea to consider maximizing your HSA contributions to get the full advantage of these triple tax benefits. Plus, when a person reaches retirement age at 65, those HSA funds can then be used to pay for general living expenses — housing, food or travel, for example — and will be taxed like any normal distribution from a retirement account. Unlike a 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA), HSA contributions made via payroll deduction aren’t subject to FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes, and a person is not required to take minimum distributions at any age.

Fact #3 – HSAs offer flexibility

Most people do not realize that when you enroll in an HSA through your company it’s not tied to your employment. Unlike your health insurance plan and your flexible spending account (FSA), which are generally tied to your employment, your HSA is portable — meaning you own the account. Therefore, if you get laid off, furloughed from your job or chose to leave, your account and funds stay with you and you can always use your HSA dollars to help pay for qualified medical costs.

In addition, unlike flexible spending accounts, HSAs are also not “use-it-or-lose-it” accounts, and your balance carries over each year. Also, when enrolled in an HDHP and HSA, you can choose to cover medical expenses out of pocket now and take a tax-free distribution in the future in the amount of your current expense. This approach allows you to use your HSA as a potential emergency savings vehicle. Just make sure to hold onto your receipts to verify all distributions. Plus, with an HSA, you have the ability to change your contribution amount at any time during the year. You’re not “locked in” to the amount you selected during your open enrollment period.

Fact #4 – New legislation makes it easier to use HSA dollars

Back in March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help Americans impacted by the pandemic. As part of this legislation, HSAs can now be used to purchase certain over-the-counter medical products and medicines — including those needed in quarantine and social distancing, and feminine hygiene products — without a prescription from a doctor.

The CARES Act also expanded coverage of telehealth services. Specifically, it now includes a provision that allows HDHPs to cover telehealth services before the deductible has been met. Until now, the IRS had not allowed these expenses to be reimbursed under a HDHP until the plan’s deductible had been reached.

Fact #5 – HSAs can help close the retirement health care gap

In addition to helping American workers take control of their health and financial wellness needs, HSAs can also provide an attractive investment opportunity. Account holders can contribute money in their HSA to plan for future health care costs, while also investing in mutual funds once the account reaches the investment threshold. These investment options are similar to lineups available in typical workplace retirement accounts and can include target-date series, active and passive equity, and bonds and fixed income. Therefore, an individual can put money into their HSA for 20 or 30 years and potentially be better prepared for retirement.

This design feature of an HSA is important when you consider the U.S. is facing a retirement crisis, due in large part to the ever-increasing costs of health care. Industry research shows 40% of American workers lack confidence that they will have enough money to take care of their medical expenses in retirement. And, those feelings may be justified, when you consider the average couple is estimated to need $296,000 in savings for a 90% chance of covering health care expenses in retirement.

Therefore, in addition to helping pay for health costs when you are working, HSAs can serve as a valuable long-term savings vehicle to help close the retirement health care savings gap.

Final Thoughts

While no one knows for certain when this global health crisis will come to end, it’s important we continue to prepare for the unexpected. During your open enrollment period, I would encourage everyone to take a closer look at HSAs. While misunderstood and often underutilized, now is the time to get smart on HSAs as a potential opportunity to help protect your family’s health and financial wellness needs.

About The Author

Rob Grubka, Fellow in the Society of Actuaries

President, Employee Benefits, Voya Financial

Rob Grubka is president of Employee Benefits for Voya Financial. In this role, he is responsible for product development and management, distribution and the end-to-end customer experience for Voya’s stop loss, group life, disability and supplemental health insurance solutions, as well as health savings and spending accounts, offered to U.S. businesses and covering more than 6.2 million individuals through the workplace.

This article was originally published on as part of its Building Wealth column. Rob Grubka, president of Voya Employee Benefits, is a regular industry contributor.

How HSAs can help you take control of your health and financial wellness needs
Compliance Code
Business Owner
Jennifer Song
Expiration Date
Female caregiver with hands wrapped around elderly man's shoulders as they hug.
Individuals Protection and Insurance Health insurance Workplace benefits and special needs planning Maximizing employer benefits Retirement

Caring for caregivers during COVID-19

Member for

1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Wed, 11/11/2020 - 19:05
“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” — Rosalynn Carter
woman with daughter in a tent

When Rosalynn Carter spoke those words about caregivers, she may not have envisioned a time like the present when caregivers would be under such immense pressure to care for loved ones during the worst public health emergency in over a century.

Right now in America, more than one in five Americans (21.3%) is a caregiver, having provided care to an adult or child with special needs in the past year — and, of those, 61% work.1

That means millions of working people are caregivers, and you may be one of them. If so, you already know that caregivers are part of an overlooked group who sometimes feel isolated and ignored. In fact, 20% of you do not even identify yourselves as caregivers in the workplace, and your managers and colleagues may not be aware that as many as four out of five of you say you are under increased stress on a daily basis.2

Add to your “typical” day the current COVID-19 pandemic, and your stress is off the charts; as a result of the pandemic, those of you who make up the special needs community report experiencing increased levels of stress, fear and isolation: 37% say COVID-19 has had a severe impact on daily life vs. 25% of those who are not part of the special needs community.3

A Voya Cares® research study by LRW has identified the unrecognized needs that are often times unique or, if similar to the general population of working people, are amplified by your caregiving situations. Additional Voya Financial research in 2020 further measures the outsized added impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on caregivers. We’ll review what these research studies have told us and provide some practical steps that you can take as a working caregiver to help lighten your load.

Hiding in plain sight

One in five Americans has taken on the role of family caregiver. If you are that one person in five, your caregiving responsibilities may have been assumed suddenly, for example as the result of a birth, accident or illness. Or your process of becoming a caregiver may have been so gradual that you didn’t recognize that you, yourself, had become a caregiver, steadily taking on day-to-day help with errands, cooking, cleaning, budgeting, bill paying, medical care, transportation, or even just providing company. Whether you stepped into the role in one jump, or slowly assumed it over a period of time, a key differentiator of your role as family caregiver is that it’s an unpaid one — provided as a family member or friend.

With millions of caregivers like you in the U.S. workforce, employers might seem hard-pressed not to notice you. The reality, however, is that less than half of employers are aware of the national caregiving average, which indicates that more than 20% of their workers are caregivers.4

So you and your caregiver peers remain hidden; nearly one in five of you admits that you are reluctant to talk about your situation because it could negatively affect your pay, benefits, progress and employment at work5. At the same time, 79% of you feel that your employers could be doing more to help ease your concerns on the job and away from it.6

Your concerns are many. Along with working 40 or more hours, many of you spend up to an additional 32 hours each week providing care — nearly the equivalent of holding two full-time jobs7. Perhaps as a result, a staggering 83% of you report using sick days, personal leave or vacation time to provide care8. Overall, caregivers like you miss 5.2 days a month to provide care, as opposed to an average 2.8 days for your own personal reasons9. And 83 percent of you report that you use vacation or personal time to take off work to tend to your loved ones.10

One of the most concerning revelations from our research may not be a surprise to you. We found that caregivers report that their responsibilities caused them to cut back on work hours (56%), leave one job for another (31%) or quit work entirely (22%).11

The cost of these employment changes can be significant — exiting from the workplace can lead to more than $300,000 in lost wages and Social Security and pension benefits over an employee’s lifetime.

Days off, reduced hours and job changes generally mean less income for caregivers. Adding to that reality, caregiving employees report that they spend a monthly average of $825 out of their own pockets for caregiving needs and supplies.13

Financially, the sum total of all these factors add up to a big cost. Adding the COVID-19 pandemic into the mix only has increased the financial pressure on your shoulders, as a caregiver.

Navigating the Financial Straits

Close to half of those of you who are caregiving employees say you are living paycheck to paycheck and are barely getting by financially, compared to only three in 10 general population employees.14

Amid widespread layoffs, furloughs and salary cutbacks resulting from the pandemic response, the economic uncertainty is even more intense for caregivers. One in five reports an increased difficulty meeting the financial needs related to providing special care for your family, due to COVID-19.15

With caregivers’ budgets limited by the costs of providing assistance:

  • 60% cut back spending on necessities such as clothing and transportation and even utility bills each month.
  • 61% delayed major life changes and purchases, such as buying a new car or home, moving to a different apartment or making necessary changes to their current living space.
  • 69% cut spending on vacations and other leisure activity.16

Even more critical, more than half of caregivers express concerns that the money they have won’t last. And 30% have tapped their retirement funds for hardship loans since starting to provide care — a move that puts your future financial security at risk.17 And that was before the pandemic and the CARES Act eased up access to your retirement savings.

  • More than half of caregivers are concerned the money they have won’t last.
  • 30% have tapped those funds for hardship loans since starting to provide care.

What caregivers want – what caregivers need

Employers may mean well when it comes to helping you meet your unique needs as a working caregiver. Two out of five human resources experts agree that their companies aren’t meeting the needs of caregiving employees.18 More importantly, the majority of these HR administrators want to improve your situation. However, you don’t need to wait for your employer. There are some steps you can take now to help ease your burden.

The good news is that our research told us what benefits you, as a caregiving employee, are interested in seeing your employer provide you, and a good number of these benefits are ones that already may be offered. You ranked the following benefits significantly higher than your general population19 peers:

  • Paid family and elder care leave (85% caregivers vs. 60% general population)
  • Long-term care insurance (82% vs 57%)
  • Short-term and long-term disability income insurance (81% vs 65%)
  • Assistance in finding caregivers and medical providers (73% vs. 40%)
  • Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts (71% vs 54%)
  • Employee Assistance programs (70% vs 44%)
  • Financial wellness programs (66% vs 41%)
  • ABLE accounts (64% vs. 35%)

Handling your needs with care

Clearly, both you and your employer must work together to bridge the divide between what you need as a caregiver employee and the workplace solutions you are offered.

Although you could benefit from speaking up about your professional and personal responsibilities in order to get your needs recognized and better met, you may feel the risk is not worth the reward. Still, helping your employer better understand your needs and how to meet them is an important hurdle to be overcome and one that warrants further research and understanding.

As a caregiving employee, you can help close the gap by working to gain an understanding of the worksite benefits and services offered to you and how to use them to best manage you needs and responsibilities. In fact, all of your peer employees can benefit from the same understanding as well.

Finally, you should consult an experienced special needs financial representative about building a holistic financial plan that fits your needs as a caregiver, as well as your families’ individual needs. Look into establishing an ABLE account, special-needs trust, retirement plan and even a monthly budget. These steps seem like a daunting undertaking, when you also are trying to navigate the health, safety and financial fallout of a worldwide pandemic, provide enhanced care for your loved one, make ends meet sometimes in the face of reduced hours or a furlough, and, if not, hold down a job. If you are like most caregivers, you don’t have the resources or time to develop a plan for a secure financial future. We strongly recommend seeking the help of a proven professional.

As Rosalynn Carter said so eloquently, you probably know someone who was a caregiver, is a caregiver or will be a caregiver. Are you a caregiver? Whatever the case, everyone in the workplace needs to understand that we caregivers are amongst them and need everyone’s support.

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Effects of pandemic amplified for caregivers
Compliance Code
Business Owner
Mathew Stagner
Expiration Date
Mother and son at home.
Employers Financial Professionals Individuals Maximizing employer benefits Workplace benefits and special needs planning

LRW is not affiliated with the Voya® family of companies.

Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.


  1. Caregiving in the U.S.: 2020 Report. AARP and National Alliance for Caregivers. May 2020.
  2. For the Benefit of All: How Organizations Win When They Recognize and Support Caregivers and Employees with Disabilities,” Voya Cares, May 2019,
  3. Caregiving and special needs in the time of COVID-19, Voya Financial, AYTM COVID-19 Consumer Tracker conducted via online survey, June 2020.
  4. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
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  7. Age Wave/Merrill Lynch. The Journey of Caregiving: Honor, Responsibility and Financial Complexity (2017).
  8. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
  9. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
  10. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
  11. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
  12. The Working Caregiver Crisis: A Whitepaper for Employers who have Employees that Double as Caregivers. TruSense. February 2018:
  13. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
  14. For the benefit of all. Voya Cares
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Alternatives to a 401(k) hardship withdrawal

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1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 15:56

401(k) hardship withdrawal recap

  • Remove funds from your 401(k) and be subject to penalties and fees.
  • Stunt the growth of your retirement funds and impact your ability to retire.
  • Provide proof of hardship, like medical insurance documents, in a complex process.

You just received an enormous medical bill, signed your child up for an essential therapy your insurance doesn’t cover, or feel desperate to make your way out of debt. But there are ways to uncover emergency funds without dipping into your retirement savings.

Explore some, or all, of these options

Payment plan

Contact your care provider, and see if you can arrange a reasonable payment schedule. Most are able and willing to complete this process with you.

Government benefits

Find out if you or your loved ones qualify for government benefits. You may be able to pay for housing, health care, food, education and more, if you do.

401(k) loan

While the funds you borrow will reduce both your paychecks and the balance you have invested in the market for retirement until they’re paid off, a 401(k) loan has no effect on your credit rating. 401(k) loans aren’t immediately taxable unless you leave your job, but are repaid with after-tax funds.

401(k) after-tax funds

There may be after-tax funds available in your 401(k). Contact your plan administrator through its website or your statement to find out what it would take to access the money.

Cash-value life insurance loan

Leave enough cash value in your policy to keep it in force, but a loan from your life insurance may have no tax ramifications and may not need to be repaid, depending on your circumstances.

Personal loan

If this is truly an emergency, you do have the choice to ask friends and family for help and put a plan in place to pay them back. Of course, you know the people in your life better than anyone. If this would cause more drama than relief, move to another option.

Credit card

It can be tempting in a desperate moment to pay the fees and penalties of a 401(k) hardship withdrawal in order to avoid high interest rates. But if the need is short-term, it might make sense to use and pay off a credit card instead of touching your retirement account.

Ways to plan ahead

Home equity line of credit

Find out if you qualify for a home equity line of credit, which borrows against the value of your house. It works like a credit card with low interest rates, allowing you to access the funds you need and repay it when you can.

Other savings

If you have other after-tax funds at your disposal, use them before your 401(k). Consider your savings or other bank accounts, Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPPs) or mutual funds. To make the best choices for your funds and your family, talk to a Voya financial advisor today.

Action steps:

Learn more

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Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.

Neither Voya Financial® or its affiliated companies or representatives offer legal or tax advice. Please seek the advice of a tax attorney or tax advisor prior to making a tax-related insurance/investment decision.

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Alternatives to a 401(k) hardship withdrawal

How to avoid a 401(k) hardship withdrawal

Member for

1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 15:46

401(k) hardship withdrawal recap

  • Remove funds from your 401(k) and you may be subject to tax penalties.
  • Stunt the growth of your retirement funds and impact your ability to retire.

The qualification process

You’re looking for emergency funds and think a 401(k) hardship withdrawal is the next step. In order to qualify, you’ll have to explore every corner of your finances, assets and benefit opportunities to prove you can’t get the funds any other way.

During this process, you may find funds where you thought there were none. Here’s what it takes to qualify for a 401(k) hardship withdrawal:

  1. Ask if your 401(k) plan has hardship language. Not every plan provides for hardship distributions, since it’s not required. You need to find out if you have the option.
  2. Create a budget. The IRS will not allow you to take more funds than are needed from your 401(k), so you’ll need to comb through your monthly expenses to determine exactly how much is required to meet your hardship need.
  3. Find your number. Once you have a budget, you’ll know the correct amount you need to withdraw, which can include payments for taxes or penalties that result from the distribution.
  4. Start the search. You’ll only qualify if you’ve gone down every possible avenue to secure emergency funds. And you’ll have to prove it.

This begins with a thorough look at:

  • Distributions from other employer plans.
  • Insurance reimbursements.
  • Assets you could liquidate.
  • Government benefit options.
  • Loans available from a bank.
  • And more.

Give proof of hardship. If you cannot find alternative emergency funds after taking these steps, you can present proof to your plan administrator that you’ve obtained all the distributions and benefits that are available to you, and still do not have enough money to remedy your hardship.

Find a better option

The qualification process may lead you to money you didn’t know was available, eliminating the need for the hardship withdrawal altogether. If you can gain emergency funds in any other reasonable way, you’ll be able to protect your retirement savings and your future.

Action steps:

  • Create a budget, including all your monthly expenses and bills.
  • Determine the amount you need from a hardship withdrawal.
  • Search for other ways to find emergency funds.
  • Talk to a financial advisor to get started.

Learn more

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Neither Voya Financial® or its affiliated companies or representatives offer legal or tax advice. Please seek the advice of a tax attorney or tax advisor prior to making a tax-related insurance/investment decision.  

Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.

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Avoid a 401(k) Hardship Withdrawal.

Understand a 401(k) hardship withdrawal

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1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Mon, 08/03/2020 - 15:18

Removing funds from your 401(k) before you retire because of an immediate and heavy financial need is called a hardship withdrawal. People do this for many reasons, including:

  • Unexpected medical expenses or treatments that are not covered by insurance.
  • Costs related to the purchase or repair of a home, or eviction prevention.
  • Tuition, educational fees and related expenses.
  • Burial or funeral expenses.

The IRS is making it easier to access the funds in your 401(k) by amending the rules around hardship withdrawals. But hardship withdrawals are a drain on your hard-earned retirement savings, and they stunt all the growth you’ve previously achieved. They can even impact your ability to retire when you want.

Factor in the taxes

If you’re under 59½ years of age, your money will be subject to taxation and a 10% penalty. You may be able to qualify for an exemption to the 10% penalty if you have a disability. Contact your tax professional for more information.

Factor in your feelings

It’s easy to avoid thinking long-term when making choices while feeling anxious or limited. Take a few moments to breathe and gather your options together – there may be more than you think. Then, make an informed decision you can feel good about.

Factor in the future

Your 401(k) is a promise you make to yourself for the years to come. For well-being, quality of life and proper care. Each month, you hold to that promise by investing money for your future. If you choose to remove even a small amount of savings from your 401(k), your current problems may go away, but you may have created challenges for your future self and family.

If you need emergency funds now, there could be other ways to find them.

Action steps:

Learn more

I need emergency funds
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Mathew Stagner
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Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.

Neither Voya Financial® or its affiliated companies or representatives offer legal or tax advice. Please seek the advice of a tax attorney or tax advisor prior to making a tax-related insurance/investment decision.

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Understand a 401(k) hardship withdrawal

How to apply for employer benefits: Get all that’s coming to you

Member for

1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Mon, 07/13/2020 - 13:37

If you work anywhere in corporate America, chances are your employer offers some sort of benefits package. This could include health and disability insurance, a retirement plan, dental plans, vision plans, supplemental life insurance, transit reimbursement, gym memberships and more. Added up, these things can save you a significant chunk of change in the long run. Are you getting all you can?

The annual exercise

You might have gone through annual or open enrollment before. It’s that month where you get overloaded with mounds of confusing paperwork for the myriad of different plans and insurances your company offers. But it’s crucial to stay on top of these documents, and read them carefully — the information is important, and once the month is past your chance to enroll or change your elections is gone.

Every company will have a different range of benefits, and you really should explore yours to check that you’re getting all you can. For the purposes of our discussion though, we’ll focus on the two main benefits that everyone’s interested in.

Health care

Many companies will offer at least a couple of health care options. Choosing the plan that is right for you is a matter of balancing your family’s needs and your budget. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • See if dependents like your spouse, partner and children are covered. Some health plans cover dependents, others do not. If you have stepchildren, be sure to ask whether they’re covered.
  • If you have any conditions, you’ll want to look at the pre-existing exclusions and prior authorization requirements in each plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans can’t exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions in children under the age of 19.
  • If you take prescription medications, check that they’re on the list of approved drugs for each health plan. If you take brand-name medications, check the copayment each plan requires.
  • If you or any family member has a physical or mental health problem that requires ongoing therapy, review what the plans will and will not cover.
  • Be sure to check that you and your family have adequate coverage for emergencies if you’re traveling in the U.S. or a foreign country.


You may already be investing in 401(k) or 403(b). For those who aren’t — most employers will give you the opportunity to put some of your salary towards retirement, in either a 401(k) or 403(b) plan. Here’s why this is a really good idea:

  • Retirement is going to cost much more than you think. If you’re like most Americans, you’ll probably underestimate (by quite a margin) what you’ll need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement.
  • The money you contribute now is tax-deferred, so you’re reducing your current taxable income.
  • Your employer may make a matching contribution. Some will match your contributions dollar for dollar, others will contribute a percentage. Whatever they do, it’s free money. You’d be crazy not to take advantage of it.

Do it now

Annual enrollment is your chance to take advantage of all the benefits your company offers. So take action before your time is up.

Taking advantage of everything your employer has to offer
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This material is provided for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. All investments are subject to risk. We recommend that you consult an independent legal advisor or financial professional for specific advice about your individual situation.

The tax information herein is not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Taxpayers should seek advice based on their own particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

Securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc., member SIPC.

Neither Voya® nor its affiliated companies or representatives provide tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your individual situation. 

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How to apply for employer benefits: Get all that’s coming to you

Putting your employee benefits to work for special needs planning

Member for

1 year 11 months
Submitted by smoses on Mon, 07/13/2020 - 13:31

You work hard to create a lifetime of continuous care for your loved one with disabilities, so it only makes sense that your employee benefits do the same. One of the first steps in this process is to understand how your employee benefits align with your vision of your loved one’s future.

Carefully consider who you name as a beneficiary

First things first, it’s best to avoid naming your loved one with special needs as a beneficiary on your 401(k), insurance policy or any other asset. Leaving as little as $2,000 could disqualify your loved one from receiving key government benefits, including:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Federal housing assistance
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

An alternative is to create a special needs trust (SNT) and name the trust as the beneficiary to receive the proceeds. The funds in the trust can then be used to create the quality of life your loved one deserves without interfering with government benefits.

Take advantage of the employer match

Many companies encourage participation in their 401(k) by offering a company match. A company match is when your employer matches your retirement plan contributions dollar for dollar up to a certain percentage of your salary. If your contributions are less than your employer’s company match rate, you’re leaving money on the table that could be used to help create the future you envision for your loved one. Also, make sure to pay special attention to your beneficiary designations on your retirement account.

Add layers of financial protection with life insurance

Most companies offer life insurance as an employee benefit with the option to purchase additional coverage at a discount. You can utilize this additional coverage to fund your loved one’s SNT — giving you the peace of mind knowing you’ve taken the steps to help protect their future.

Plan for the unexpected with long-term disability insurance

If you were injured and could no longer work, how would you make ends meet today and plan the future you envision for your loved one with special needs? Long-term disability (LTD) insurance is designed to help you plan for an unexpected loss of income caused by injury, illness or an accident. You should also weigh the costs and benefits of increasing your LTD coverage, especially if you’re the primary earner in your home.

Extend your support with the employee assistance program

One of the most commonly overlooked and underused employee benefits is the employee assistance program (EAP). These programs may offer helpful assistance, information and solutions for a variety of personal situations, such as:

  • Childcare and adult day care providers
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Stress management seminars
  • Personal and legal counseling
  • Several other services

Save money today with health care spending accounts

Your loved one’s out-of-pocket healthcare costs can cause a significant financial strain — even with health insurance. However, you may be able to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and/or Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) to set pre-tax money aside to cover many out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as:

  • Prescriptions
  • Developmental services
  • Doctor-recommended educational services
  • Other qualified medical expenses

Whether your loved one needs at-home care, after-school care or attends a daycare facility, these expenses can take a big bite out of your paycheck. Dependent care flexible spending accounts (DCFSA) are designed to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses and help save on the cost of care — something that’s rarely ever discounted. Just as with your HSA and FSA, contributions to your DCFSA are pretax, which means you’ll avoid paying federal, Social Security, Medicare and state taxes.

Connect with a specially trained financial professional to learn more about creating a lifetime of continuous care for your loved one.

Simple strategies to help you align your employee benefits with your special needs financial plan
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Mathew Stagner
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Putting your employee benefits to work for special needs planning
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