(MONEY Magazine) – Ready for Your (Benefits) Checkup?
It's the season to re-up your health benefits. Expect some surprises this year, so be sure to pay attention. Next, please!
• TAKE ACTION More and more companies will automatically switch you to the cheapest option or drop you from coverage if you don't make a selection. Even if you're not making a change, confirm your choice.
• PAD PRETAX ACCOUNTS If your company lets you save pretax dollars for health care (or child care or transport) in a flexible spending account (FSA), do it and don't worry about matching your costs exactly. If you're in the 25% tax bracket and you put aside $1,000, you come out ahead as long as you spend more than $800.
• PASS ON THE HSA More employers are offering a high-deductible plan with a health savings account (HSA). But early adopters have not been big fans; stick with your PPO or HMO for now.
• GRAB INCENTIVES Take advantage of wellness incentive programs, now offered by most big companies. In exchange for undergoing a health risk assessment, for example, you might get lower insurance premiums or cash for health expenses.
Dodge a tax trap
Is this fair? The day after Thanksgiving you put $10,000 in a mutual fund. Ten days later it hands you back $1,500 of your money--and you're on the hook for $225 in taxes. That can happen when you buy shares this late in the year in a fund poised to make capital-gains distributions. How to avoid it:
• RESEARCH Around now, fund websites start posting estimates of distributions to come, usually in December. Keep an eye on emerging market and small-cap stock funds. Many could have big payouts.
• WAIT If you'd face a big taxable distribution, don't invest until the fund's "ex-dividend" date, after the money has been deducted from its share price.
• SIDESTEP You're home free if you're buying for an IRA or a 401(k). All payouts are tax deferred.
Beyond the Butterball
Buy your Thanksgiving bird at these sites and you won't save money, but you'll save yourself from an ordinary meal. Prices are for a 10-pound bird.
• BEST PRECOOKED TURKEY Order at Harryanddavid.com. The smoked Chardonnay gobbler makes other precooked birds taste like chicken ($113).
• MOST DOCUMENTED ORGANIC BIRD At Heritagefoodsusa.com, you can order dinner and check its age, diet and recent free-range life ($129).
• BEST LAST-MINUTE ORDERS Schauls.com. Order as late as 2 p.m. central time on the Monday before ($75 for a 12- to 14-pound bird and overnight shipping).
...Paranoid gadget of the month: RoboForm2Go, a fob that memorizes all your online passwords. Just plug it into your USB port ($40, roboform.com)...
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