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Through the State Employee Assistance Program, commonwealth employees have access to financial services and articles to help you make a budget that works for you.
Also, the United States Government provides helpful tools for everyone. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s My Money Five may help you take the first steps. Through mymoney.gov
you have access to hints and tips, a budgeting worksheet and more.
The IRS has a Tax Withholding Estimator and other helpful tools, including understanding taxes, free tax preparation tools, and more. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Smart About Money site has tools, free classes and more.
Buying a Home
If you are thinking it is time to buy a home, the PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has homebuyer counseling and education available. PHFA can also help qualified buyers with loans.
Sometimes, it may take too long to save enough money to purchase something you need, in which case you may need to borrow money.
Having good credit influences the amount you can borrow, and how much you pay to borrow. You can get free credit report to figure out where you stand.
Paying for College
For an overview of Financial Aid Planning, view this video from the PA Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).
PHEAA’s education planner provides tips on borrowing, and other free resources. Also, see tips for paying back loans after graduation.
Financial Services are available through the State Employee Assistance Program that can help you set goals and figure out how to get there.
The Treasury Department’s 529 College and Career Savings Program or the ABLE program can help you put aside money as well as offer some relief to increasing tuition costs. Employees can sign up for a payroll deduction right into a 529 plan with Treasury.
The U.S. Department of Education’s site includes information on aid, grants and programs.
Ready to apply? PHEAA’s 5 Steps to Financial Aid walks you through the process. As a commonwealth employee, you may be eligible for college loan forgiveness. This program allows employees who have been responsible with payments for ten years to have a remaining balance forgiven as long as you work in the public sector. Learn more in this video or check out the U.S. Department of Education’s information page.
If you are a recent graduate and just entered the workforce, take a look at the student aid guide to figure out the best repayment plan for you and see what choices you have if you need to change your monthly payment.
Planning for Retirement
If you are a permanent commonwealth employee, you are enrolled in the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) and are already saving for your retirement. The options you have depend on when you were hired. If you were hired before January 1, 2019, you are in the defined benefit plan. If you were hired on or after January 1, 2019, you chose between enrollment in the defined contribution or the hybrid plan.
Remember that the retirement benefit you receive from the commonwealth is only one portion of what you will rely on for a healthy retirement. Participate in an optional deferred compensation plan to grow your retirement savings with personal investments that supplement your commonwealth retirement.
Select from several different options depending on how much risk you are willing to take, from aggressive to moderate to conservative. Additionally, what you contribute is withheld before taxes, which means you can lower the taxes you pay. SERS also provides online calculators to help you decide.
Additionally, be sure to factor in your Social Security benefits. While Social Security was once a staple for Americans in retirement, it is now better to think of this as a supplement.
As a commonwealth employee, you may be eligible for the Retired Employees Health Program (REHP). Your SERS counselor will confirm if you are eligible and what your cost will be to enroll in the REHP. View these videos for a convenient review of some important pieces of retiree health insurance.
As you consider your retirement goals, the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP) has some useful articles, and PSECU also has information on retirement planning.
Protecting Against Loss
Insurance can help you protect yourself from unexpected events. As a commonwealth employee, you receive access to affordable insurance coverage.
All permanent commonwealth employees have life insurance coverage of 1 x annual salary (up to $40,000 for most employees). Figure out if that’s enough using a free insurance calculator.
Commonwealth employees can purchase optional life insurance at competitive group rates through the Prudential Insurance Company of America. Log into Employee Self Service (ESS) or check out the customized website just for commonwealth employees.
Statistically, you are more likely to become disabled than need life insurance. The commonwealth also has a contract with Prudential for both short term disability insurance and long term disability insurance at custom group rates only available to commonwealth employees.
When your excellent health insurance is not enough, there is also critical illness insurance offered by MetLife. Critical illness is cash that you can use for anything – from co-pays and deductibles to groceries and gas – to help make ends meet when a major illness strikes.
Protecting Your Information
There are many different types of services that can help you protect your identity. Some will insure you against the loss caused by ID theft, others monitor times when your information is accessed, while others still will help with repairing damage caused by your stolen identity.
Consider the identity theft protection available to you through the commonwealth’s employee savings program.
You can help reduce the risk of identity theft by using sensible cybersecurity practices. Keep up to date on cybersecurity to protect yourself.
Saving for the Unexpected
Setting aside money in savings can help you be prepared for expenses that are not part of your monthly budget, such as a car repair, new appliance, or holiday shopping.
To get started, watch this video on building an emergency fund.
More questions? Unsure where else to look? You have access to free financial counseling through the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP). Call 800.692.7459 to request a financial counselor.
To help prepare for a natural disaster, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) created an action sheet to help make sure you can access your financial information in an emergency. Consider creating an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit with important financial documents.