How To Complete a Technical SEO Audit In 8 Steps

For someone performing their first technical SEO audit, the results can be both overwhelming and intimidating. Often, you can’t see the wood for the trees and have no idea how to fix things or where to even begin.

After years of working with clients, especially as the head of tech SEO for a U.K. agency, I’ve found technical SEO audits to be a near-daily occurrence. With that, I know how important it is, especially for newer SEOs, to understand what each issue is and why it is important.

Understanding issues found within a technical audit allows you to analyze a site fully and come up with a comprehensive strategy.

In this guide, I am going to walk you through a step-by-step process for a successful tech audit but also explain what each issue is and, perhaps more importantly, where it should lie on your priority list.

Whether it’s to make improvements on your own site or recommendations for your first client, this guide will help you to complete a technical SEO audit successfully and confidently in eight steps.

But first, let’s clarify some basics.

Technical SEO is the core foundation of any website. A technical SEO audit is an imperative part of site maintenance to analyze the technical aspects of your website.

An audit will check if a site is optimized properly for the various search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

This includes ensuring there are no issues related to crawlability and indexation that prevent search engines from allowing your site to appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

An audit involves analyzing all elements of your site to make sure that you have not missed out on anything that could be hindering the optimization process. In many cases, some minor changes can improve your ranking significantly.

Also, an audit can highlight technical problems your website has that you may not be aware of, such as hreflang errors, canonical issues, or mixed content problems.

Recommended reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Technical SEO

Generally speaking, I always like to do an initial audit on a new site—whether that is one I just built or one I am seeing for the first time from a client—and then on a quarterly basis.

I think it is advisable to get into good habits with regular audits as part of ongoing site maintenance. This is especially if you are working with a site that is continuously publishing new content.

It is also a good idea to perform an SEO audit when you notice that your rankings are stagnant or declining.

What do you need from a client before completing a technical audit?

Even if a client comes to me with goals that are not necessarily “tech SEO focused,” such as link building or creating content, it is important to remember that any technical issue can impede the success of the work we do going forward.

It is always important to assess the technical aspects of the site, offer advice on how to make improvements, and explain how those technical issues may impact the work we intend to do together.

With that said, if you intend on performing a technical audit on a website that is not your own, at a minimum, you will need access to the Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts for that site.

For the most part, technical SEO audits are not easy. Unless you have a very small, simple business site that was perfectly built by an expert SEO, you’re likely going to run into some technical issues along the way.

Often, especially with more complex sites, such as those with a large number of pages or those in multiple languages, audits can be like an ever-evolving puzzle that can take days or even weeks to crack.

Regardless of whether you are looking to audit your own small site or a large one for a new client, I’m going to walk you through the eight steps that will help you to identify and fix some of the most common technical issues.

Step 1. Crawl your website

All you need to get started here is to set up a project in Ahrefs’ Site Audit, which you can even access for free as part of Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

This tool scans your website to check how many URLs there are, how many are indexable, how many are not, and how many have issues.

From this, the audit tool creates an in-depth report on everything it finds to help you identify and fix any issues that are hindering your site’s performance.

Of course, more advanced issues may need further investigation that involves other tools, such as Google Search Console. But our audit tool does a great job at highlighting key issues, especially for beginner SEOs.

First, to run an audit with Site Audit, you will need to ensure your website is connected to your Ahrefs account as a project. The easiest way to do this is via Google Search Console, although you can verify your ownership by adding a DNS record or HTML file.

Verifying ownership in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Once your ownership is verified, it is a good idea to check the Site Audit settings before running your first crawl. If you have a bigger site, it is always best to increase the crawl speed before you start.

Changing crawl settings in Ahrefs' Site Audit

There are a number of standard settings in place. For a small, personal site, these settings may be fine as they are. However, settings like the maximum number of pages crawled under “Limits” is something you may want to alter for bigger projects.

Setting the maximum number of pages crawled in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Also, if you are looking for in-depth insight on Core Web Vitals (CWV), you may want to add your Google API key here too.

Core Web Vitals settings in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Once happy with the settings, you can run a new crawl under the “Site Audit” tab.

Running a crawl in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Initially, after running the audit, you will be directed to the “Overview” page. This will give you a top-level view of what the tool has found, including the number of indexable vs. non-indexable pages, top issues, and an overall website health score out of 100.

This will give you a quick and easy-to-understand proxy metric to the overall website health.

Health score metric in Ahrefs' Site Audit

From here, you can head over to the “All issues” tab. This breaks down all of the problems the crawler has found, how much of a priority they are to be fixed, and how to fix them.

All issues tab in Ahrefs' Site Audit

This report, alongside other tools, can help you to start identifying the issues that may be hindering your performance on the SERPs.

Step 2. Spotting crawlability and indexation issues

If your site has pages that can’t be crawled by search engines, your website may not be indexed correctly, if at all. If your website does not appear in the index, it cannot be found by users.

Ensuring that search bots can crawl your website and collect data from it correctly means search engines can accurately place your site on the SERPs and you can rank for those all-important keywords.

There are a few things you need to consider when looking for crawlability issues:

  • Indexation errors
  • Robots.txt errors
  • Sitemap issues
  • Optimizing the crawl budget

Identifying indexation issues

Priority: High

Ensuring your pages are indexed is imperative if you want to appear anywhere on Google.

The simplest way to check how your site is indexed is by heading to Google Search Console and checking the Coverage report. Here, you can see exactly which pages are indexed, which pages have warnings, as well as which ones are excluded and why:

Coverage report in Google Search Console

Note that pages will only appear in the search results if they are indexed without any issues.

If your pages are not being indexed, there are a number of issues that may be causing this. We will take a look at the top few below, but you can also check our other guide for a more in-depth walkthrough.

Checking the robots.txt file

Priority: High

The robots.txt file is arguably the most straightforward file on your website. But it is something that people consistently get wrong. Although you may advise search engines on how to crawl your site, it is easy to make errors.

Most search engines, especially Google, like to abide by the rules you set out in the robots.txt file. So if you tell a search engine not to crawl and/or index certain URLs or even your entire site by accident, that’s what will happen.

This is what the robots.txt file, which tells search engines not to crawl any pages, looks like:

Disallowing search engines via robots.txt

Often, these instructions are left within the file even after the site goes live, preventing the site from being crawled. This is a rare easy fix that acts as a panacea to your SEO.

You can also check whether a single page is accessible and indexed by typing the URL into the Google Search Console search bar. If it’s not indexed yet and it’s accessible, you can “Request Indexing.”

Requesting indexing in Google Search Console

The Coverage report in Google Search Console can also let you know if you’re blocking certain pages in robots.txt despite them being indexed:

Pages blocked via robots.txt in Google Search Console

Recommended reading: Robots.txt and SEO: Everything You Need to Know

Robots meta tags

Priority: High

A robots meta tag is an HTML snippet that tells search engines how to crawl or index a certain page. It’s placed into the <head> section of a webpage and looks like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

This noindex is the most common one. And as you’ve guessed, it tells search engines not to index the page. We also often see the following robots meta tag on pages across whole websites:

<meta name="robots" content=”max-snippet:-1, max-image-preview:large, max-video-preview:-1" />

This tells Google to use any of your content freely on its SERPs. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress adds this by default unless you add noindex or nosnippet directives.

If there are no robots meta tags on the page, search engines consider that as index, follow, meaning that they can index the page and crawl all links on it.

But noindex actually has a lot of uses:

  • Thin pages with little or no value for the user
  • Pages in the staging environment
  • Admin and thank-you pages
  • Internal search results
  • PPC landing pages
  • Pages about upcoming promotions, contests, or product launches
  • Duplicate content (use canonical tags to suggest the best version for indexing)

But improper use also happens to be a top indexability issue. Using the wrong attribute accidentally can have a detrimental effect on your presence on the SERPs, so remember to use it with care.

Recommended reading: Robots Meta Tag & X-Robots-Tag: Everything You Need to Know

Checking the sitemap

Priority: High

An XML sitemap helps Google to navigate all of the important pages on your website. Considering crawlers can’t stop and ask for directions, a sitemap ensures Google has a set of instructions when it comes to crawling and indexing your website.

But much like crawlers can be accidentally blocked via the robots.txt file, pages can be left out of the sitemap, meaning they likely won’t get prioritized for crawling.

Also, by having pages in your sitemap that shouldn’t be there, such as broken pages, you can confuse crawlers and affect your crawl budget (more on that next).

You can check sitemap issues in Site Audit: Site Audit > All issues > Other.

Sitemap issues in Ahrefs' Site Audit

The main thing here is to ensure that all of the important pages that you want to have indexed are within your sitemap and avoid including anything else.

Recommended reading: How to Create an XML Sitemap (And Submit It to Google)

Checking the crawl budget

Priority: High (for large websites)

A crawl budget refers to how many pages and how rapidly a search engine can crawl.

A variety of things influence the crawl budget. These include the number of resources on the website, as well as how valuable Google deems your indexable pages to be.

Having a big crawl budget does not guarantee that you will rank at the top of the SERPs. But if all of your critical pages are not crawled due to crawl budget concerns, it is possible that those pages may not be indexed.

Your pages are likely being scanned as part of your daily crawl budget if they are popular, receive organic traffic and links, and are well-linked internally across your site.

New pages—as well as those that are not linked internally or externally, e.g., those found on newer sites—may not be crawled as frequently, if at all.

For larger sites with millions of pages or sites that are often updated, crawl budget can be an issue. In general, if you have a large number of pages that aren’t being crawled or updated as frequently as you want, you should think about looking to speed up crawling.

Using the Crawl Stats report in Google Search Console can give you insight into how your site is being crawled and any issues that may have been flagged by the Googlebot.

Crawling insights via Google Search Console

You will also want to look into any flagged crawl statuses like the ones shown here:

Crawl status codes you might seen in Google Search Console

Recommended reading: What Is Crawl Budget and Should SEOs Worry About It?

Step 3. Checking technical on-page elements

It is important to check your on-page fundamentals. Although many SEOs may tell you that on-page issues like those with meta descriptions aren’t a big deal, I personally think it is part of good SEO housekeeping.

Even Google’s John Mueller previously stated that having multiple H1 tags on a webpage isn’t an issue. However, let’s think about SEO as a points system.

If you and a competitor have sites that stand shoulder to shoulder on the SERP, then even the most basic of issues could be the catalyst that determines who ranks at the top. So in my opinion, even the most basic of housekeeping issues should be addressed.

So let’s take a look at the following:

  • Page titles and title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Canonical tags
  • Hreflang tags
  • Structured data

Page titles and title tags

Priority: Medium

Title tags have a lot more value than most people give them credit for. Their job is to let Google and site visitors know what a webpage is about—like this:

Title tag in Google search

Here’s what it looks like in raw HTML format:

<title>How to Craft the Perfect SEO Title Tag (Our 4-Step Process)</title>

In recent years, title tags have sparked a lot of debate in the SEO world. Google, it turns out, is likely to modify your title tag if it doesn’t like it.

Google rewrites around a third of title tags

One of the biggest reasons Google rewrites title tags is that they are simply too long. This is one issue that is highlighted within Site Audit.

Title tag rewrites highlighted in Ahrefs' Site Audit

In general, it is good practice to ensure all of your pages have title tags, none of which are longer than 60 characters.

Recommended reading: How to Create the Perfect SEO Title Tag

Meta descriptions

Priority: Low

A meta description is an HTML attribute that describes the contents of a page. It may be displayed as a snippet under the title tag in the search results to give further context.

Title tag in Google search

More visitors will click on your website in the search results if it has a captivating meta description. Even though Google only provides meta descriptions 37% of the time, it is still important to ensure your most important pages have great ones.

You can find out if any meta descriptions are missing, as well as if they are too long or too short.

Missing meta descriptions via Ahrefs' Site Audit

But writing meta descriptions is more than just filling a space. It’s about enticing potential site visitors.

Recommended reading: How to Write the Perfect Meta Description

Check canonical tags

Priority: High

A canonical tag (rel=“canonical”) specifies the primary version for duplicate or near-duplicate pages. To put it another way, if you have about the same content available under several URLs, you should be using canonical tags to designate which version is the primary and should be indexed.

How canonicalisation works

Canonical tags are an important part of SEO, mainly because Google doesn’t like duplicate content. Also, using canonical tags incorrectly (or not at all) can seriously affect your crawl budget.

If spiders are wasting their time crawling duplicate pages, it can mean that valuable pages are being missed.

You can find duplicate content issues in Site Audit: Site Audit > Reports > Duplicates > Issues.

Duplicate pages without canonical via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Recommended reading: Canonical Tags: A Simple Guide for Beginners

International SEO: hreflang tags

Priority: High

Although hreflang is seemingly yet another simple HTML tag, it is possibly the most complex SEO element to get your head around.

The hreflang tag is imperative for sites in multiple languages. If you have many versions of the same page in a different language or target different parts of the world—for example, one version in English for the U.S. and one version in French for France—you need hreflang tags.

Translating a website is time consuming and costly—because you’ll need to put in effort and ensure all versions show up in the relevant search results. But it does give a better user experience by catering to different users who consume content in different languages.

Plus, as clusters of multiple-language pages share each other’s ranking signals, using hreflang tags correctly can have a direct impact as a ranking factor. This is alluded to by Gary Illyes from Google in this video.

You can find hreflang tag issues in Site Audit under localization: Site Audit > All issues > Localization.

Localization issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Recommended reading: Hreflang: The Easy Guide for Beginners

Structured data

Priority: High

Structured data, often referred to as schema markup, has a number of valuable uses in SEO.

Most prominently, structured data is used to help get rich results or features in the Knowledge Panel. Here’s a great example: When working with recipes, more details are given about each result, such as the rating.

Recipe results with structured data

You also get a feature in the Knowledge Panel that shows what a chocolate chip cookie is (along with some nutritional information):

Knowledge card in Google search

Because structured data helps Google better understand not only your website but also detailed information such as authors, structured data can help both semantic search and improve expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, aka E-A-T.

Nowadays, JSON-LD is the preferred format for structured data, so keep it that way if possible. But you can also encounter Microdata and RDFa.

As part of your technical audit, you should be testing your structured data. A great tool for this is the Classy Schema testing tool.

Schema markup testing tool

You can also check your eligibility for rich results with Google’s Rich Results Test.

Google's Rich Results testing tool

Step 4. Identifying image issues

Image optimization is often overlooked when it comes to SEO. However, image optimization has a number of benefits that include:

  • Improved load speed.
  • More traffic you can get from Google Images.
  • More engaging user experience.
  • Improved accessibility.

Image issues can be found in the main audit report: Site Audit > Reports > Images.

Image issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Broken images

Priority: High

Broken images cannot be displayed on your website. This makes for a bad user experience in general but can also look spammy, giving visitors the impression that the site is not well maintained and professional.

This can be especially problematic for anyone who monetizes their website, as it can make the website seem less trustworthy.

Image file size too large

Priority: High

Large images on your website can seriously impact your site speed and performance. Ideally, you want to display images in the smallest possible size and in an appropriate format, such as WebP.

The best option is to optimize the image file size before uploading the image to your website. Tools like TinyJPG can optimize your images before they’re added to your site.

If you are looking to optimize existing images, there are tools available, especially for more popular content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress. Plugins such as Imagify or WP-Optimize are great examples.

HTTPS page links to HTTP image

Priority: Medium

HTTPS pages that link to HTTP images cause what is called “mixed content issues.” This means that a page is loaded securely via HTTPS. But a resource it links to, such as an image or video, is on an insecure HTTP connection.

Mixed content is a security issue. For those who monetize sites with display ads, it can even prevent ad providers from allowing ads on your site. It also degrades the user experience of your website.

By default, certain browsers restrict unsafe resource requests. If your page relies on these vulnerable resources, it may not function correctly if they are banned.

Missing alt text

Priority: Low

Alt text, or alternative text, describes an image on a website. It is an incredibly important part of image optimization, as it improves accessibility on your website for millions of people throughout the world who are visually impaired.

Often, those with a visual impairment use screen readers, which convert images into audio. Essentially, this is describing the image to the site visitor. Properly optimized alt text allows screen readers to inform site users with visual impairments exactly what they are seeing.

Alt text can also serve as anchor text for image links, help you to rank on Google Images, and improve topical relevance.

Recommended reading: Alt Text for SEO: How to Optimize Your Images

Step 5. Analyzing internal links

When most people think of “links” for SEO, they think about backlinks. How to build them, how many they should have, and so on.

What many people don’t realize is the sheer importance of internal linking. In fact, internal links are like the jelly to backlinks’ peanut butter. Can you have one without the other? Sure. Are they always better together? You bet!

Not only do internal links help your external link building efforts, but they also make for a better website experience for both search engines and users.

The proper siloing of topics using internal linking creates an easy-to-understand topical roadmap for everyone who comes across your site. This has a number of benefits:

  • Creates relevancy for keywords
  • Helps ensure all content is crawled
  • Makes it easy for visitors to find relevant content or products
Example of siloing on fitness website

Of course, when done right, all of this makes sense. But internal links should be audited when you first get your hands on a site because things may not be as orderly as you’ll want.

4xx status codes

Priority: High

Go to Site Audit > Internal pages > Issues tab > 4XX page.

4XX page errors via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here, you can see all of your site’s broken internal pages.

These are problematic because they waste “link equity” and provide users with a negative experience.

Here are a few options for dealing with these issues:

  • Bring back the broken page at the same address (if deleted by accident)
  • Redirect the broken page to a more appropriate location; all internal links referring to it should be updated or removed

Orphan pages

Priority: High

Go to Site Audit > Links > Issues tab > Orphan page (has no incoming internal links).

Orphan page issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here, we highlight pages that have zero internal links pointing to them.

There are two reasons why indexable pages should not be orphaned:

  • Internal links will not pass PageRank because there are none.
  • They won’t be found by Google (unless you upload your sitemap through Google Search Console or there are backlinks from several other websites’ crawled pages, they won’t be seen).

If your website has multiple orphaned pages, filter the list from high to low for organic traffic. If internal links are added to orphaned pages still receiving organic traffic, they’ll certainly gain far more traffic.

Recommended reading: Internal Links for SEO: An Actionable Guide

Step 6. Checking external links

External links are hyperlinks within your pages that link to another domain. That means all of your backlinks—the links to your website from another one—are someone else’s external links.

See how the magic of the internet is invisibly woven together? *mind-blown emoji*

External links are often used to back up sources in the form of citations. For example, if I am writing a blog post and discussing metrics from a study, I’ll externally link to where I found that authoritative source.

Linking to credible sources makes your own website more credible to both visitors and search engines. This is because you show that your information is backed up with sound research.

Here’s what John said about external links:

Linking to other websites is a great way to provide value to your users. Often times, links help users to find out more, to check out your sources and to better understand how your content is relevant to the questions that they have.

John Mueller
John Mueller, Search Advocate Google

As always, just like anything else, external links can cause issues. These can be found in the audit report (similar to internal links): Site Audit > All issues > Links.

External link issues via Ahrefs' Site Audit

As you can see from the image above, links are broken down into indexable and not indexable and you can find the same issues across both categories. However, each issue has a different predetermined importance level—depending on whether the link is indexable or not.

Page has links to broken page

Priority: High (if indexable)

This issue can refer to both internal and external links and simply means that the URLs linked to are returning a 4XX return code. These links damage the user experience for visitors and can impair the credibility of your site.

Page has no outgoing links

Priority: High (if indexable)

Again, this issue refers to both internal and external links and essentially means a page has no links from it at all. This means the page is a “dead end” for your site visitors and search engines. Bummer.

But in regards to external links specifically, if your page has no outgoing links, it affects all of the benefits of external links as discussed above.

Step 7. Site speed and performance

Site speed has become quite a hot topic among the SEO community in recent times, especially after Google announced that mobile speed is indeed a ranking factor.

Since May 2021, speed metrics known as Core Web Vitals (CWV) have been utilized by Google to rank pages. They use Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) to assess visual load, Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) to test visual stability, and First Input Delay (FID) to measure interactivity.

Google’s goal is to improve user experience because, let’s face it, no one likes a slow website. In today’s society, the need for instant gratification encourages site visitors to leave before they finish what they intend to do.

Although sites with only minor speed issues will probably not see any improvement in rankings from speed optimization, studies show that very slow sites can likely see improvements in organic traffic, click-through rates, and more.

Within the Ahrefs audit report, you can find information about site speed: Site Audit > Reports > Performance > Overview.

Performance report via Ahrefs' Site Audit
Recommendation
You can get detailed page speed data from Google PageSpeed Insights if you enable Core Web Vitals in the Crawl settings.

There are also a number of excellent speed testing tools available, including PageSpeed Insights from Google and my personal favorite, GTmetrix.

GTMetrix

Speed optimization for sites that are very slow can be a complex process. However, for beginners, it is advisable to use one of the available tools such as WPRocket or NitroPack (both paid) to significantly improve site speed.

Step 8. Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly

In the world we now live, more individuals than ever before are continuously utilizing mobile devices. For example, mobile shopping currently has 60% of the market, according to Datareportal’s 300-page study.

It is no wonder that over the last few years, Google has looked to switch to mobile-first indexing.

From a technical standpoint, it is good practice to run a second audit on your site using Ahrefs’ mobile crawler. As a standard, Ahrefs’ audit tool uses a desktop crawl to audit your site; however, this can easily be changed under “Crawl Settings” within your “Project Settings.”

User agent selection in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Our comparison function will compare your mobile and desktop sites and inform you what has changed or if any “new” issues have arisen once you have crawled your site a second time, e.g., problems that exist only on mobile.

Issue changes between crawls in Ahrefs' Site Audit

From here, you can select any of the “New,” “Added,” or “Removed” numbers to determine what has changed with respect to each problem.

Recommended reading: Mobile-First Indexing: What You Need to Know

Final thoughts

In all honesty, this is just scratching the surface when it comes to performing a technical SEO audit. Each of the points above can easily have an entire blog post about it and additional, more advanced issues like paginations, log file analysis, and advanced site architecture.

However, for someone looking to learn where to get started in order to successfully complete a technical SEO audit, this is a great place to begin.

Whenever you perform a technical SEO audit, you’ll always have tons to fix. The important thing is to get your priorities straight first. Luckily, Ahrefs’ Site Audit gives you a predefined priority rating for each issue.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that regardless of the issue, its importance depends on the website or page you’re working on. For example, the main pages you want to rank will always take priority over pages you don’t want to index.

Jenny is an award-winning SEO consultant who specializes in using branded PR to maximize SEO results for clients by building E-A-T and has an extensive background in niche affiliate and technical SEO.

Source: How to Complete a Technical SEO Audit in 8 Steps

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An Economist Calls For Homeowner Celebration Over High Inflation

Justin Wolfers, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, recently posted something on Twitter that stirred the collective pot:

“Lemme ask one of those tone deaf economist questions that annoy almost everyone. Today, many families learned that the amount they owe on their mortgage has declined—in real terms—by 9.1% over the past year. Why do we hear so little about this? Why don’t we see folks celebrating?”

Some other economists agreed with him, at least in terms of how people think of economics. Many non-economists quickly came in to explain their thought processes—that the points, while technically correct, were out of context and touch.

Essentially, the critics made two points as accurately as Wolfers and company related the technicalities. People are set upon from all quarters, not just housing. And the U.S. is becoming a country, not of poverty, but entrenched poorness. That is, in the sense of “small in worth” or “less than adequate” by the Merriam-Webster definition.

It is true that as inflation increases, the monetary value of a loan with terms that established lower interest rates decreases in favor of the borrower, at least while inflation is running hot. If the total remaining on the mortgage, including interest and principal, is $X, then over the last year it’s now 9.1% less expensive because the value of the dollars is falling. The mortgage likely has no inflation escalation rider.

Now, that mortgage only remains 9.1% less expensive if there is no deflation. You do get a savings even if inflation drops to a lower rate, because the value of what a dollar can buy continues to drop. As it does pretty much every year anyway. This is one of the advantages of owning a home. The amount you own drops because there is some degree of inflation in virtually every year, as, unless you have an adjustable-rate mortgage (a bad idea in the long run that might make sense in specific circumstances in the immediate future), you’ll locked in at the level of cheaper dollars.

There’s nothing new with that and it’s how a lot of people build wealth over time. Then they, in theory, pass that property down to their children, who now have greater wealth that, in theory, can get passed down in turn, and so on. The growth of wealth becomes a multi-generational process. The longer you’re around, the greater an advantage you have.

There are two other ways you build value as a homeowner. One is, on the whole, there will be some appreciation in value over time. That comes without additional payments. The other is one of those “you get a benefit because you’re not doing something else that would cost more” kind of financial planning arguments. If you don’t own, you’re a renter and the amount you pay climbs each year. If you do own, then there’s an annual additional amount you don’t have to pay, which is a savings.

That doesn’t mean that homeowners don’t pay more every year because there’s more to owning a house than the payment. Taxes, utilities, maintenance and repair, upgrades, and so on see regularly rising costs. Still, this remains a case that things could be much worse, and you are ahead in some significant ways.

So, why aren’t people dancing in the street? The first reason the critics note is that housing, while a significant cost, isn’t the only place where people are hit. For many years, important areas of living have endured significantly higher increases than income in real terms after inflation. Healthcare, childcare, education, energy (both electric and heating and cooling), all drive up everyday expenses. They leave pay increases in the dusty plains of personal financial ledgers. Personal savings rates are dropping; credit card debt has again reached new heights.

One reason you don’t see conga lines in the street is because people are anxious about the economy and their position in it. Consumer sentiment is up a touch from June, as the newest University of Michigan polling shows, but that’s still down massively from a year earlier. If a patient is in bed with a serious illness and a doctor tells them that they don’t have an additional one, they might be glad to hear it and yet not be in a position to leap to their feet.

The second criticism is even stronger, in a social sense. If housing ownership is at about 65% in the country, should people clap for joy as they see a third of the country having to struggle much harder? When many who are not in a position to own homes are their children or nieces and nephews or kids of friends or younger people they work with? You can be thankful that you weren’t part of a massive traffic accident and yet reluctant to outwardly rejoice so as not to rub others’ noses in the dirt.

My credits include Fortune, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Magazine, Zenger News, NBC News, CBS Moneywatch, Technology Review, The Fiscal Times, and…

Source: An Economist Calls For Homeowner Celebration Over High Inflation

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02:15
23:36 Thu, 14 Jul

Record share of US consumers blame inflation for eroding living standards Anadolu Agency

Inflation rises to 18.60 per cent in June – NBS International Centre for Investigative Reporting

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Does AI Have The Answer To The Customer Experience Riddle?

The telecommunications industry is so many enterprises wrapped into one—they have to get every aspect of customer experience right. It’s a challenge every organization can learn from.

Everywhere you look, there’s another business attempting to harness data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to help them increase sales and crack the code to provide higher-quality, lower-cost goods and services.

Travel and hospitality companies want to make persuasive, personalized offers at just the right moment to drive bookings. Retailers are honing inventory management to better anticipate customer demand and drive same-store sales—while navigating the current supply chain challenges. Hospitals, health insurers, and even governments utilize AI to comb through vast data sets to develop predictive models of disease.

Financial institutions have accelerated credit and risk underwriting decisions using AI/ML models; they’ve also enhanced customer satisfaction online and on the phone with AI-driven virtual assistants. Manufacturers are employing AI to improve process efficiency, enable predictive maintenance, and scale quality control efforts in their core operations. And everyone is trying to reduce customer churn.

When you stop and think about it, the telecommunications industry and its myriad communications service providers (CSPs) do all of this—advertising, supply chain, online and physical stores, operations and maintenance, customer care—and more, for both consumers and businesses. Thus, CSPs offer a unique lens through which to examine how companies in any industry can utilize AI to convert data to insights and information to actions.

The pressure on CSPs to take action, to do more with less, has never been greater.

Growing demands on the network, growing demands for the network

CSPs are in an unusual position: As global demand for data has grown 256% between 2016 and 2020, intense competition has meant that revenues grew less than 13% over the same period. Operators have so far relied upon technical advances and gaining scale efficiencies through consolidation to manage the gap, but one of the greatest untapped opportunities remaining is to become dramatically better providers of customer service.

While the concept of “AI-driven customer service” may seem like an oxymoron—after all, what do algorithms really know about serving people better?—the answer now turns out to literally be more than you could ever know.

The decline of third-party cookies has many operators renewing their focus on collecting and acting upon their own first-party data across the customer lifecycle.

In an evolving industry like telecommunications, the race for customer acquisition and retention is paramount. This is driving heightened operator focus on better advertising performance and retail sales—whether in their own stores, their retailer partners, or various digital channels. AI can help here with informing target audience creation, creative optimization, and inventory forecasts.

Related: Google and Automation Anywhere reimagine customer experience by giving virtual agents a boost

The decline of third-party cookies has many operators renewing their focus on collecting and acting upon their own first-party data across the customer lifecycle. Here, too, AI models can help CSPs identify and act upon signals, such as usage patterns or customer care calls. This type of customer context, an often overlooked signal, can be especially valuable when it comes to identifying “at risk”’ customers for retention efforts.

Contact centers supporting upwards of 100 million subscribers are an expensive endeavor. Several top global operators have turned to conversational AI to decrease agent volumes and document AI tools to shorten call handle times. Some companies report Google’s conversational AI can cut the number of customer inquiries that need a human agent by half.  Besides helping reduce costs and maintain margins for the operator, many customers also appreciate the efficiency and control of self-service.

Furthermore, while CSPs may not have a “factory” in the traditional sense, their network operations are far-flung and national, even global, in scale. They must operate at the industry standard of “five 9’s” (i.e., 99.999%) reliability for emergency communications and simultaneously deliver massive amounts of bandwidth to meet the public’s insatiable demand for communications and data.

And if it seems like a lot now, just consider the 23% annual bandwidth growth the industry will undergo with the rise of 5G and all the IoT, VR, and Web3 experiences that come with it. Keeping up, and keeping customers happy, will take new levels of network automation and predictive maintenance that only AI can provide.

Related: Deploying and operating cloud-based 5G networks

TELUS, a world-leading communications technology company based in Canada, is already leveraging conversational AI through Google Cloud’s CCAI Insights to better serve its roster of global clients and their customers.

Read more:

Most Important Artificial Intelligence Skill: A Sense of Imagination

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in Business and Society

How Artificial Intelligence Powered Customer Service Will Help Customer Support Agents

Artificial Empathy: Call Center Employees Are Using Voice Analytics to Predict How You Feel

“As a company that supports our customers through many channels, we are able to provide a streamlined experience that transitions from digital support to live agent support,” Phil Schultz, vice-president of customer experience, told us in an interview. “With this new experience, we are able to provide a simple, consistent, intuitive, and friendly experience for simpler tasks, with our agents being able to focus on supporting our customers’ more complex issues. CCAI and Data Insight help TELUS ensure our customers get the support they need, when they need it.”

Realizing the value of AI for customer experience

Of course all of these grand data aspirations are easy to articulate but hard to implement—at Google Cloud, we know these challenges first hand. It’s why we empathize with the added challenges CSPs face from their legacy systems, and from the network complexity that has arisen over generations of technology and industry consolidation. It’s also why we’re excited to be partnering with top CSPs to solve these challenges.

Through our experiences in these partnerships, Google Cloud has identified four key success factors for driving business value from AI applied across the customer experience:

  1. Clear Focus. Success starts with a clear and shared understanding of what CSPs are solving for and the business value of doing so. This clarity will drive every activity to follow, with the business value serving as an important motivator to plow through challenges.
  2. No Silos. Nearly all enterprises struggle with how to break down data silos. Successful companies have a proactive strategy for data integration, data management, and analytics platforms to address the current as well as future needs.
  3. Data-driven. Choosing which part of the problem to tackle first and how to do so is a major determinant of value. Leading companies rely on data to help inform their approach to everything from deciding which use cases to tackle first, to developing and optimizing AI-driven virtual assistants.
  4. Shared risk & reward. We have found that success takes a partnership in which incentives are aligned, with partners having skin in the game.

In Google Cloud’s new report, “Using AI to win the customer experience battle in telecommunications,” we delve into these dimensions, using CSPs as a vehicle, and examine new and innovative ways to apply AI, and best practices for building an AI program focused on delivering value, not just promises.

For TELUS, the investment of time and planning required to execute on AI was apparent from the start. “Through our 10-year partnership with Google, TELUS is able to dive into all the phases of our customers’ journey ensuring it is easy for them to get the support they need,” Schultz said. “This allows our customers to more easily service themselves online, and our world class agents to have all of the information they need to provide quicker and easier support to our customers.”

AI solutions offer the exciting potential to transform the customer experience and bend the value curve for enterprises. Realizing this value requires thoughtful preparation, technology excellence, iterative progress, and a committed, aligned partnership. No company—whether an operator, cloud provider, or solution provider—can afford to let the sizable program investment become just another hype-cycle science experiment that fails to deliver business results.

Sean Allbee, Senior Principal, Customer Value and Transformation Advisory, Google Cloud

Sean works with telecommunications and media companies

Amol Phadke joined Google Cloud in June 2020 as managing director: global telecom industry solutions. He is responsible for working with the product and

Source: Does AI Have The Answer To The Customer Experience Riddle?

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Related Posts

How To Protect Yourself From Overdraft Fees

Citing the impact of Covid-19 on many consumers’ finances, some banks, including Ally Bank and KeyBank, have stopped charging overdraft fees or have offered relief from them. Other banks, however, have gone in a different direction. Between March 13, 2020, and September 20, 2021, account holders filed over 1,600 complaints against various banks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about overdraft fees, the agency’s records show.

“Wells Fargo picks and chooses when they are going to charge overdraft fees and when they are going to pay a bill or not,” one complaint filed against Wells Fargo on September 1, 2021, reads. “I will go to sleep and my account [is] positive and there is enough to cover pending charges. Then all of sudden days later the date of the [charge] is changed and I have been charged an overdraft fee. They have recently even had notices within the app that says your balance amount may not be accurate.”

These fees, which can be as high as $35 per overdraft transaction, are an incredible hardship for some consumers. As the complaint continues, “I have a second chance checking account and because of some hardships I am limited in who I can bank with. I feel like Wells Fargo takes advantage of the underprivileged.”

Overdraft fees composed $2.32 billion of those service charges in Q4, a 64 percent spike from Q2 2020

Though some US banks temporarily paused on charging overdraft and other service fees, an analysis of banks with more than $1 billion in assets and some smaller institutions that chose to disclose data suggests that banks are on their way to charging service fees at pre-pandemic levels even as the Covid-19 pandemic resurges.

A March 2021 report from S&P Global Market Intelligence indicated that banks collected $3.6 billion in service fees in the fourth financial quarter of 2020. Overdraft fees composed $2.32 billion of those service charges in the quarter, a 64 percent spike from just six months prior in the second quarter of 2020, the report noted.

Put simply, these fees amount to another tax on the poor, an extraction from the country’s poorest Americans to its wealthiest banks, experts say. Overdraft fees are meant to safeguard banks from risks associated with covering account holders’ overspending, but they can disproportionately hurt low-income consumers who need protection the most, experts told Vox.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups had called for the curtailing of these fees even before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the US economy. Now, the call to regulate bank fees has returned as the coronavirus crisis continues to upend consumers’ financial lives.

Why do banks charge account maintenance and overdraft fees?

The FDIC defines overdraft fees as a fee assessed whenever an account holder spends more than what’s in their account. Banks may also charge an account maintenance fee, also known as monthly service fees, just for having the account or for falling below a certain minimum balance, per the FDIC. Banks, of course, can charge a range of other fees, including ATM use fees, per-check fees, and stop-payment fees.

It’s hard to pinpoint when banks began charging overdraft fees in the US. Vox reached out to JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America to ask when they started charging account maintenance and overdraft fees, but none of them shared when they implemented these charges.

According to a 2020 report from the Center for Responsible Lending, banks historically declined debit card charges when account holders lacked the funds to cover charges. But over time, banks — at the urging of software consultants who were promoting overdraft programs on a contingency fee basis — began allowing overdraft transactions to go through and charging customers fees.

“I think that at some point it was clear that it was a helpful situation, so that bills didn’t bounce, checks didn’t bounce, mortgage payments didn’t bounce,” said Peter Smith, senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending. “This was a fairly informal service, but when people started using debit cards more [and] people started using electronic payments more, I think banks began to see this as an opportunity for revenue and not just a convenience service they could offer their account holders.”

“I think banks began to see this as an opportunity for revenue and not just a convenience service they could offer their account holders”

Though overdraft fees can be costly for low-income households, they make up a small share of banks’ overall income. Per the Center for Responsible Lending’s analysis, bank overdraft fees average $35. That fee tends to be higher than the value of the transaction that triggers it, which is $20 on average. For banks with assets of $1 billion or more, overdraft or insufficient funds fees are about 5 percent of their non-interest income, the report noted.

Banks charge overdraft fees to account for the risks associated with covering charges on overdrawn accounts, said Deeksha Gupta, assistant professor of finance at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Though banks are profitable without charging these fees, they want to avoid risks for paying merchants’ charges and deter account holders from overspending, Gupta said.

Bank fees’ impact on vulnerable consumers

Banks don’t want to take on the risks of covering consumers’ overdrawn transactions, but it remains up for debate whether the fee is truly worth it given its impact on low-income consumers. Overdraft fees tend to prey upon low-income consumers, Rebecca Borné, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, said. The center’s 2020 report found that 9 percent of bank account holders pay 84 percent of the more than $11 billion overdraft fees banks collect every year.

Borné said while other fees serve a function — it does cost banks to administer checking accounts, rendering account maintenance fees somewhat necessary, for instance — with overdraft, the effect is different. Besides charging a high overdraft fee per transaction with insufficient funds, banks engage in a range of practices that can leave customers with compounding overdraft fees, including charging more than one fee per day, charging fees for debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals, and imposing another overdraft fee if previous fees aren’t paid within a set period of time, the Center for Responsible Lending’s report explained.

As some banks resume charging overdraft fees, pre-pandemic research suggests such fees play a role in excluding unbanked consumers from accessing traditional bank accounts. According to the FDIC’s 2019 How America Banks report, about 5.4 percent (7.1 million) of US households were unbanked, meaning nobody in the household had a checking or savings account at a bank or credit union.

Among the reasons why respondents said they don’t have a bank account: Almost half of respondents said they don’t have enough money to meet minimum balance requirements, and more than a third said bank account fees are too high.

Complaints filed to the CFPB offer a window into consumers’ struggles with overdraft charges. “In … 2021, US Bank had enrolled me into an overdraft protection program which I never authorized. One time I was out traveling and forgot to put money in my checking account, and my balance hit negative. I was unaware and kept using my debit card for small transactions like coffee,” reads one complaint filed August 27 against US Bancorp. “The majority of these transactions are below [$10].

Instead of declining these charges, US Bank charged me a series of overdraft fees, each of them [$36]. In the end, the total overdraft fees ended up being [$360] for over a couple of days. They waived three of them, bringing my loss down to [$250] … Talking to their customer service, they never offered an option to opt out of their overdraft ‘protection’ program. They offered some even more predatory protection options instead which I declined.”

With bank fees pushing consumers away from traditional bank accounts, vulnerable consumers may be driven to use even costlier alternative financial services. According to a May 2020 Federal Reserve report, 16 percent of US adults were underbanked in 2019, meaning they had a traditional bank account, but also used alternative financial services like check cashing services, money orders, and payday loans.

The report also noted that unbanked and underbanked Americans were more likely to have lower education levels, be people of color, or have lower incomes. For consumers who are worried about overdraft fees, they’d rather turn to riskier alternatives instead.

As for why consumers turn to alternative financial services, some consumers have no other option, and these alternatives are actively targeting them. The Federal Reserve report noted that 43 percent of credit applicants with incomes of less than $40,000 were denied credit, compared to 9 percent of applicants who earn more than $100,000.

Even for underbanked consumers who have traditional bank accounts, payday lenders and other high-cost installment lenders aggressively target customers in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and people who need extra cash, Borné wrote in a follow-up email. Meanwhile, banks don’t always offer affordable small loans for consumers, and they have little incentive to do so because regulators can allow them to charge high overdraft fees for each overdraft, she added.

“Those who go to payday lenders because they believe they will be in and out of the loan quickly are often stuck for the long term, incurring a lot of overdraft fees when the payments are extracted from their accounts,” Borné wrote. “Ultimately, they often lose their accounts. These wealth-draining products tend to feed each other, creating needs rather than filling them, and leaving customers with fewer credit options down the line.”

“These wealth-draining products tend to feed each other, creating needs rather than filling them”

Gupta agreed underbanked and unbanked consumers are often forced to turn to more expensive alternatives. As the coronavirus pandemic continues with no discernible end in sight and assistance programs come to an end, overdraft and account maintenance fees can compound for households that are struggling now, she added.

“Ideally, the banking system should be helping low-income consumers. We don’t want that type of money to be flowing from lower-income households to banks because they’re in overdraft,” Gupta said of the billions of dollars in overdraft charges.

Even though overdraft fees and other service charges make up a small share of major banks’ revenue, some experts questioned whether limiting these fees would disincentivize banks from offering affordable financial services that could attract low-income consumers. As Gupta explained, some banks could opt not to offer certain affordable bank accounts to avoid taking on additional risk. An April paper from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also suggested that capping overdraft fees could cause banks to offer fewer affordable account options for low-income people.

What to do if you’re being charged too much in overdraft fees

Banks could do a better job of disclosing bank fees to consumers, said Desmond Brown, assistant director of the CFPB’s office of consumer education. He said depending on the institution, overdraft fees can be structured in a complex way. Some bank accounts offer the option to opt in to overdraft fees, so consumers should see whether it’s an option to opt out when looking for a new account.

When signing up for a new account, Brown said, consumers concerned about fees should shop around and ask for bank accounts that are tailored to low-income consumers and learn about the bank’s cost structures. Consumers can also look for banks that provide alerts when their funds are low, he added.

Brown also encouraged consumers to file complaints with the agency if they’re experiencing fee problems with their bank. Doing so not only allows CFPB to assist consumers directly, but it also helps the agency assess issues happening in the marketplace, he said.

“If we have seen a spike in an area of complaints, then we can look to other tools at the bureau to help drill down and find out exactly what’s going on, and be more responsive to consumer needs,” Brown said.

For consumers looking for affordable bank accounts, Brown pointed to the FDIC’s Model Safe Accounts program, which works with banks to determine how they can offer affordable bank accounts. Some financial services firms offer accounts with no overdraft or account maintenance fees.

(In their respective statements, JPMorgan Chase said during the pandemic it has waived $650 million in fees, including overdraft fees, between January 2020 and March 2021; and Wells Fargo touted its low-cost, no-overdraft-fee bank account, its zero balance alerts, and its overdraft fee waivers.)

“We’re talking about billions of dollars every single year being drained, disproportionately from Black and brown communities”When asked what the agency is doing to assist consumers who’ve been charged excessive overdraft fees, a CFPB spokesperson said, “Overdrafts have the potential to be very costly for consumers, and we are continuing to closely monitor developments in this area.”

But as consumers file complaints or seek low-cost bank accounts on their own, advocacy groups and lawmakers have pushed for more restrictions on overdraft fees. On June 30, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Overdraft Protection Act of 2021, a bill that aims to regulate the marketing and charging of overdraft fees at financial firms. During a House Committee on Financial Services hearing on July 21, Borné provided a statement on behalf of the Center for Responsible Lending calling for Congress to hold regulatory agencies like the CFPB to protect consumers from harmful overdraft fee practices.

“What to me is especially frustrating is that financial inclusion is all the buzz in a lot of circles. I feel like in a lot of these conversations people just try to talk around the elephant in the room, which are bank overdraft practices,” said Borné. “We’re talking about billions of dollars every single year being drained, disproportionately from Black and brown communities, and kicking people out of the banking system, eroding trust in banks. It’s just a huge barrier to real financial inclusion.”

Source: How to protect yourself from overdraft fees

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More contents:

How To Choose The Right Employee Benefits For 2022 During Open Enrollment

For employees, it’s not pumpkin spice season right now, it’s Open Enrollment season. That means it’s time to make the health and retirement plan choices that will be right for you in 2022.

It isn’t easy, and many workers feel uneasy about choosing wisely. In its 2021 State of Work in America survey of 1,500 U.S. employees, the professional services firm Grant Thornton found that 36% of workers weren’t confident they’d chosen the best medical plan. And 80% of employees surveyed by Lincoln Financial said they wish they better understood some aspect of their retirement plan.

Employees can expect to see rising out-of-pocket health costs through their employer coverage in 2022, including premium increases of 4% to 5%. Some higher-paid workers will be asked to pay more for their health insurance than lower-paid workers. Roughly a third of employers surveyed by the benefits consulting firm Willis Towers WLTW +0.1% said they’d consider narrowing the network of doctors and other health care providers available to patients.

But you may be in for a few pleasant surprises.

“As employers continue to compete for talent, many are adding a number of new benefits to their lineup for next year including resources and additional paid leave for caregivers, surgery Centers of Excellence [more on this below], financial planning and expanded mental health benefits, virtual physical therapy and other digital health programs,” says Erin Tatar, senior vice president of workplace consulting at Fidelity Investments.

Some employers have added an emergency savings account option through payroll deductions, too. About 23% of employees are currently offered one, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Tatar’s advice: “Take time to attend virtual benefits fairs to review the growing list of health, wealth and other benefits from your employer this fall.”

Getting the Right Health Coverage

For many older workers, access to affordable health care coverage is the No. 1 employee benefit they seek. Before you enroll in a health plan for 2022, ask yourself: How much did I pay in premiums this year? How many trips to the doctor, hospital or emergency room did members of my household make? What else did we spend out-of-pocket for health care in 2021?

Then, start comparing the features and prices of your options, since they can vary significantly. Compare the benefits, rules, restrictions and costs such as co-pays, annual deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. You may well need to deal with Alphabet City, deciding among a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account or HSA (an HSA lets you save money in a tax-advantaged account and then withdraw cash tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses), a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan and a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan.

Don’t assume that whatever health plan and benefits you had in 2021 will be the best for you in 2022. Your plan may have changed. Your circumstances may have changed; for example, if your last son or daughter is now in college, it might make sense to buy a university plan for that child while you and your spouse change from family coverage to “employee + 1” coverage.

And don’t miss out on the panoply of health benefits in your plan choices, especially new benefits that can save you money.

“An often-overlooked benefit for older workers is a surgery Centers of Excellence program,” says Tatar. Here, if you are planning to have surgery — such as spine, knee, hip or bariatric surgery — the company will arrange for you to receive care from a Center of Excellence to receive top notch and affordable treatment.

“They will often provide more generous benefits coverage for patients who participate and will cover any upfront travel costs for you and a companion if the best care is outside your community,” Tatar notes.

If you’re in good health, says Seth Mullikin of Lattice Financial in Charlotte, N.C, “an HSA (with a high deductible plan) generally makes sense. From a financial planning perspective, it gets better if you can fund these costs from personal savings and let your HSA money grow tax-free over time.”

The HSA also lets you pay for health expenses in the future, even into retirement, adds Mullikin. In 2022, employees with high-deductible health plans will generally be allowed to contribute up to $3,650 in an HSA; as much as $7,300 for family coverage.

Time for a Second Opinion?

You may also be able to sign up to get a second opinion as part of your health coverage. Some employers have even expanded eligibility to receive a second medical opinion for an employee’s parents and grandparents.

“As we get older, the risk of having a serious health event increases. If this happens to you, it’s natural to seek a second opinion. Some employers we are working with now want to give employees better peace of mind, so they offer ‘second opinion’ benefits,” notes Tatar. “Then they can provide an entire medical diagnosis and treatment plan as an option for you to discuss with your doctor. And it is usually covered one hundred percent.”

Mental Health Coverage

The pandemic and revelations by star athletes including tennis’ Naomi Osaka and gymnastics’ Simone Biles, has made taking care of our mental health a priority.

More than three-quarters of large employers surveyed by the nonprofit Business Group on Health say access to mental health care is now a top priority. In 2021, 62% of employers this group surveyed added mental health benefits.

To that end, check to see if your employer is incorporating resiliency and mindfulness training and mental health options such as telehealth counseling into its benefits offerings.

Disability Coverage

You may also want to look into getting disability insurance coverage through work.

“Your chance of being disabled is much greater than the risk of premature death,” says wealth adviser Graham Ewing of Financial Consulate in Hunt Valley, Md. “If your employer is offering disability insurance, consider it.”

But, he adds, “you need to understand how disability is being defined by the insurance company. For example, some policies will pay out benefits for only two years if you can’t do your current job. Others won’t pay beyond two years if you are not completely incapacitated. So, find out what’s covered and what’s not.”

Group disability coverage typically pays up to 60% of salary if you can’t keep working at your job or switch to another position and you expect to be disabled for a year or more.

Care Giving Benefits

If you are caring for an aging loved one or someone with a serious illness, inquire about work/life balance or employee assistance programs. Some companies are now offering caregiver navigation benefits which connect you with experts to help find local elder care resources or options for assisted living or nursing homes.

If you’re a caregiver, you’ll likely need some give and take with your schedule, so see what HR will do for you.

Says Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings: “Everyone has a unique set of responsibilities outside of the office. As companies return to the office, it will be more crucial than ever to give people the time they need to take care of what’s important at home.”

Financial Wellness and Retirement Planning

Open Enrollment season may also be a good time to revisit your retirement plan and do a “financial check-up,” similar to getting an annual wellness physical from your doctor, says Ewing.

“You may want to revisit your risk tolerance, especially if you are concerned about gyrations in the stock market,” he adds.

Mullikin notes that many of his 50+ clients are worried about having enough money to retire comfortably. “So, our first order of business is to find out if they can increase, or max out, their 401(k) contributions,” he says.

Another way to save more for retirement when you’re over 50 is to make catch-up contributions to your retirement plan.

These let you put in up to $6,500 more than others can in a 401(k) or 403(b) plan or up to $1,000 in an Individual Retirement Account. “Plus, you and your spouse (if they are also enrolled) can make catch-up contributions of up to a thousand dollars to your HSA at age fifty-five,” notes Mullikin.

Reimbursing Your Remote Work Expenses

If you’ll be working remotely in 2022, even part of the time, check with your HR department about getting reimbursed for home office expenses like a standing desk, a Wi-Fi extender, a headset and any ergonomic equipment designed to keep you healthy and productive.

About a fifth of employers the benefits consulting firm Mercer surveyed said they’d be adding or enhancing reimbursement for off-site workers in 2021, including subsidizing ergonomic furniture.

Some firms pay for setups of $200 to $300. Others offer partial ongoing reimbursement for an employee’s home internet service and cell service.

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