Have you reviewed your beneficiary designations lately?
It’s certainly a difficult question to think about – what will happen in the event of my passing? That question can stir many emotions, but it is an extremely important topic to consider as we navigate through our daily lives and careers. One of the most important things you can do in this regard is to ensure you have your beneficiary designations for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies exactly as you wish to have them. We may not have the ability to control many aspects of life, but one thing we can control is what happens to these assets should something unfortunate happen to us.
Whether you are updating beneficiary information through Lehigh’s offerings or with an external policy that you may hold, you will likely see two beneficiary options: primary and secondary (or contingent). Your primary beneficiary will receive the funds in the event of your passing. Should your primary beneficiary also be deceased, if you have designated a secondary beneficiary those assets will then pass to him or her. You also have the option to designate multiple primary and secondary beneficiaries, splitting the allocation between each one based on your personal preference.
At Lehigh, there are two benefits which require a beneficiary designation: the Lehigh University Retirement Plan accounts and life insurance. Generally, you may designate anyone to be a beneficiary: a spouse, partner, sibling, parent, friend, organization, or your estate, to name a few options. This is a very personal decision that you should consider carefully.
In early 2017, Human Resources announced that new Retirement Choice and Retirement Choice Plus contracts would be issued along with additional investment options. If you were employed prior to the issuance of the new contracts, you may have already logged into your online account (www.tiaa.org/lehigh) to review the changes, your account allocations and your beneficiary information. However, we encourage you to take a few moments to review this information again to be sure that your beneficiary information is up to date for each contract listed in your account. If you did not already do this or are unsure, or if you began employment after the retirement plan changes went into effect, it is strongly recommended that you access your online account at this time to review your information.
To do this:
1. Log into your TIAA account at www.tiaa.org/lehigh.
2. Select your account preferences, shown via the circle with your initials in the upper right corner of the page.
3. Select Beneficiaries.
4. Review the beneficiaries on file; if you need to make changes, this can be done by selecting “Actions” next to each contract.
Important: Each of the Retirement Account contracts need to have designated beneficiaries assigned to them.
If you are married, your spouse must be designated as a primary beneficiary to receive at least 50% of your TIAA account benefits. You may drop this designation to below 50%, however your spouse will need to sign a waiver relinquishing his or her rights to those funds. The TIAA website will prompt you with the directions to download and submit the waiver accordingly.
Additional information can be found in TIAA’s FAQ section within their website.
Your life insurance beneficiary information can be accessed anytime within the Lehigh Benefits enrollment website:
1. Log in to Connect Lehigh at https://connect.lehigh.edu/app/login
2. Select Employee
3. Select Lehigh Benefits from the dropdown menu
4. Select “Click Here to View Your Benefits” under Enroll Now
5. Click “Benefits” on the left hand menu. You will then see an overview of all of your current benefits.
6. Navigate down to your Life Insurance options. Depending on your personal selections, you will see Basic Life Insurance as well as Supplemental Life Insurance (if elected).
7. Review the beneficiary information listed for each benefit, depending on your elections. You may enter any necessary changes via the “Edit” button (with the pencil icon) next to your beneficiary listing.
Note: your beneficiaries for your basic life insurance coverage may be different from your supplemental life insurance coverage.
In the coming weeks, Human Resources will be sending additional information out to campus on computer lab hours in which staff and faculty members can drop by for in-person assistance for updating beneficiary information. Keep a lookout for further information. If you prefer making any necessary changes sooner and have questions on the process, you may always contact TIAA at 800-842-2252 or the Lehigh Benefits Service Center (for life insurance beneficiary updates) at 844-342-4002 for over the phone guidance.
Remember: if there is one thing we can all be sure of, it is the fact that life is unpredictable. There are ways for us to ensure that at least a few of our assets are handled the way we want them to be, and the first step in doing so is reviewing your beneficiary designations.