Penn Faculty Benefits News

Penn Faculty Benefits News: April 21, 2016

Time for a Personal Finances Checkup

woman with laptop and calculatorPenn faculty members are experts in their fields. Still, when it comes to financial literacy, even experts can use a few helpful reminders to keep things on track. Before Financial Literacy Month ends on April 30, we hope you’ll check your financial wellness in these six areas.

Retirement Savings. Wouldn’t you like to save more for retirement? Financial experts recommend that the combined contributions to your retirement add up to least 15% of your current income. If you’re not saving at that level, now’s the time to start raising your contributions to reach your goals. Even a small increase can lead to big rewards over time.

Penn’s retirement plans will help you hit your savings target. As a benefits-eligible faculty member, you’re automatically enrolled in Penn’s Basic Plan. Enrolling or making changes to the optional Matching Plan and the Supplemental Plan is easy. Simply visit Penn’s Online Retirement System or phone the Retirement Call Center at 877-736-6738. You can also work with advisors from Penn’s retirement plan carriers, TIAA and Vanguard. They offer free, confidential counseling to help you set retirement savings goals and make investment choices.

Insurance Coverage. Review your home, car, and life insurance coverages. Be sure that the liability limits on your home owner’s insurance are enough to protect your assets. Research car insurance rates to make sure you’re still getting the best deal. Finally, review your life insurance beneficiaries. This is especially important if you’ve had a status change recently, such as a marriage or divorce. Use this checklist from Human Resources to guide you through updating beneficiaries for both your life insurance and retirement plans.

Estate Planning. If you have a will, living will, or similar documents, ensure they reflect your current wishes. Make copies and file them in a fire-proof safe or safe-deposit box. Let your loved ones know where they can find this information in case of an emergency. This is also a good time to gather the names, numbers, and passwords of your various accounts. Update them if needed and store the information in a secure location. More resources are available through Penn’s Employee Assistance Program, including confidential financial and legal counseling.

Budget and Savings. Review your monthly expenses and spending. Are you planning to take a vacation or make a major purchase soon? Set a budget, do some research on your options, and begin putting aside money now.

Emergency Fund. Do you have an emergency fund to help you cover the unexpected expenses? Most experts recommend having enough savings to cover 3-6 months of your fixed expenses. If you’re just starting an emergency fund, saving is easier when you set up automatic direct deposits. Small, automatic savings will definitely add up.

Debt. Review your credit card balances and other loans. Verify that the charges on your credit cards are yours. If you see any suspicious charges, contact your bank immediately. Additionally, request a copy of your credit report and check the accuracy of the information. Check the interest rates on your loans, such as your mortgage or car loan. You could save money by refinancing.

Source: Financial Literacy Month

Benefits Open Enrollment Is Here

group of adults and childrenPenn’s Benefits Open Enrollment, your annual opportunity to update your health care, is underway. You have from now until April 29 to consider your coverage needs and update your selections for the 2016-2017 plan year. Here’s what you need to know to get started:

How to Enroll

Make changes to your benefits coverage online at Penn's secure Benefits Enrollment website from Monday, April 18 through Friday, April 29. You will need your PennKey and password to access the site.

If you prefer to enroll by phone, contact the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENN-BEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday through Friday, between 8am and 6pm (Eastern).

Making Changes During Open Enrollment

During Open Enrollment, you need to determine if your current benefits still meet your needs or if you need to make a change, such as:

  • Enrolling in a health care plan for the first time, or dropping an existing plan.
  • Switching to a different medical, dental, or vision plan.
  • Increasing or decreasing your life insurance coverage.
  • Changing how much you contribute to a flexible spending account.
  • Adding or dropping a dependent from your benefits coverage.*

* If you add a new dependent, you’ll receive a letter requesting that you provide verification of that dependent’s eligibility under Penn’s plan rules. You’ll also need to provide verification if you re-enroll a spouse/same-sex domestic partner who had previously been covered.

If You Don’t Make Changes

If you don’t make changes during Open Enrollment, you’ll receive the same coverage you had last year.

If You Waive Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act, if you waive your University coverage, you are still responsible for obtaining coverage through some other source. For example, you can obtain coverage through a spouse’s or domestic partner’s plan, your parent’s plan (if you are under age 26), or via the Health Insurance Marketplace.

When Changes Are Effective

Changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective as of July 1, 2016. New rates for all plans will be reflected in your July 2016 paycheck.

Your contributions for medical, dental, vision, and flexible spending accounts are made with pre-tax dollars. You pay for employee and dependent life insurance with after-tax dollars. All contributions are taken from your paycheck in the moth for which your benefits are effective. Your pay must support your contributions for the benefits elected.

Making Changes After Enrollment

The choices you make during Benefits Open Enrollment will remain in effect through June 30, 2017, unless you experience a qualifying event. Qualifying events include the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, domestic partnership (prior to July 1, 2016), divorce or separation, death of a dependent, and change in your dependent’s eligibility for benefits. Keep in mind that the IRS limits the types of changes you can make for qualifying events.

If you experience a qualifying event, please contact the Penn Benefits Center within 30 days at 1-888-PENN-BEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday–Friday, 8am–6pm (Eastern).

Learn More

You can learn more about Open Enrollment and your benefits options from these resources:

  • Review the Open Enrollment materials delivered to your home address.
  • Visit where you can access 2016-2107 rates, benefit comparison charts, contribution charts, and online provider directories.
  • Attend the final Open Enrollment presentation on April 25.
  • Contact the Penn Benefits Center at 1-888-PENNBEN (1-888-736-6236), Monday through Friday, between 8am and 6pm (Eastern).
  • Email Human Resources at

A Little Mindfulness Experiment

blossoms against blue skyMindfulness sounds beneficial, but who has the time? Really, all it takes to get started is a few minutes of focus and intention– no distant, lengthy retreat required.

Mindfulness, the technique of bringing attention to the moment and a basis for meditation, can be found in small moments. Sometimes called purposeful pauses, these moments can be incorporated into your daily routines without adding to your already busy day. By pausing and bringing your full attention to your breath and other sensations, you can gain a healthy perspective on stress or other emotions that can sometimes overwhelm us.

The five tips below are from, a resource recommended by Penn Behavioral Health. These tips can help you find purposeful pauses throughout your day. Experiment with them to discover which technique works best for you.

1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you—begin each day by noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed.

2. Use transitions wisely—choose some days to drive to and from work without the radio or phone. When you arrive at your destination, allow yourself a few moments to sit in the car, noticing the breath.

3. Nourish yourself—mindfully eat your lunch attending to the colors, taste, and smells of the food.

4. Just walk between meetings—no emails or texts—feeling the feet on the floor, the air on the skin, and the possibility of greeting colleagues you pass rather than bumping into them while you text!

5. Sit at your desk while your computer is turning on, noticing the sensations in the body as you sit.

Try one technique each day in the coming week. Pay attention to what you notice. Using these mindfulness techniques may not change how busy you are, but it can change how you feel about and respond to the stresses of any given moment.

When you’re ready to take your mindfulness farther, consider Guided Meditation, a free, one-hour workshop for faculty and staff. Upcoming Guided Meditation sessions are scheduled for Friday, April 29 from 12:30 to 1:30 and Tuesday, May 10 from 12:30 to 1:30. Instructor Sandra Herman has 30 years of experience in the fields of social work and health education. She has a special interest and expertise in holistic approaches to stress reduction. Online registration is open now for the April 29 session and May 10 session.

Source: Web MD,

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