Retiring from Emory:

How to Understand Your Benefits

As an employee of Emory University or Clinic, you have great benefits. However, you may be struggling to understand how to make the most of them. After all, Emory’s compensation is extensive, and deciding how to allocate your income to the various benefits can be complex. Adding to the complexity, if you happen to be an employee of both the university and the clinic, you have the additional task of understanding how your benefits are coordinated between the two institutions.

This article will take a look at the most common challenges Emory employees face and how a multifaceted financial plan can help you understand and optimize your benefits both now and in retirement.

At Minerva Planning Group, we help Emory employees plan for retirement with confidence. We hope this information can help you make informed decisions about your retirement options. We encourage you to reach out should you have any questions about how to apply your benefits to your situation.

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The Challenge: Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Both Emory University and Emory Clinic offer a wealth of benefits, from retirement plans with sizable employer contributions, to various types of insurance, to options for FSAs (flexible spending accounts) and HSAs (health savings accounts).


For physicians working at both Emory University and Emory Clinic, things are even more complex. The Personal Total Compensation Statement is eight pages long because, yes, there are just that many benefits.


This wealth of compensation leaves you with the primary challenge of making sense of the complexity—doubly so for physicians and others who work at both the university and clinic. In such cases, you need to understand not only how your compensation works for each employer but also how it overlaps. And you will likely have questions about how benefits coordinate among the institutions.


It is easy to get lost in the details and miss the larger picture. We have worked with many employees who found navigating the benefits daunting and wanted help in understanding how to best use them to achieve the retirement they envisioned.


Retirement planning is a highly individual process. That may not be readily apparent since you and your colleagues are likely asking similar questions, such as:


  • Which provider should I use for my 403(b) plan?
  • How does the 457 plan work, and how does it differ from the 403(b) plans?
  • What can I do with the retirement account from the previous university I worked at?
  • What disability insurance coverage do I need as an employee?
  • How should my health care coverage change in retirement?

Although you and your colleagues may ask similar questions, your answers will probably diverge. This is particularly true if you take the time to understand your benefits and the role they can play in providing for your retirement. The more informed you become, the more specific the strategies you can apply. Of course, this takes ongoing effort, and you may not have the time or desire for such a high level of financial diligence.


Retirement planning is complicated for just about everybody. But given the complexity of your benefits, it can be worthwhile to start laying the groundwork early. A longer time frame can give you time to craft and implement long-range strategies that minimize taxes and boost your spendable income in retirement.


In addition to the specific benefit questions above, you will need to answer questions such as:


  • How should my investment portfolio change with retirement?
  • Should I keep or downsize my home?
  • In what order do I withdraw from my income accounts?
  • How much can I get from Social Security if I retire early?
  • Can I afford to leave work completely, or should I continue in a consulting role?

Our Complete Guide to Retirement Planning provides more detail on the issues that pre-retirees commonly face.


Consider crafting a detailed retirement plan that encompasses the entirety of your life—investments, cash flow, expenses, taxes, housing, travel, health care, risks, and so on. A comprehensive perspective can help give you confidence that you have taken care of key issues, while an early start can give you time to implement the plan.


As an Emory employee, you are busy. Not only do you have career obligations, but you have family responsibilities as well. Plus, you probably want to spend what little free time you do have on enjoying life, rather than sitting at a computer and trying to figure out which of the 403(b) plan providers you should pick.


The right financial advisor can help you make informed decisions about your future. They will take the time to understand your goals for the short term and in retirement, then create a financial plan that helps you achieve those goals. However, because your benefits as an Emory employee are so extensive, you may be challenged in finding an advisor with the expertise to optimize those benefits.


We recommend that you seek an advisor who:


  • Has at minimum expertise with university or clinic benefits, and ideally deep experience with Emory’s options
  • Puts your best interest first—namely, a Registered Investment Advisory firm that has a fiduciary obligation to all your accounts
  • Is fee-only rather than fee-based or working by commission
  • Provides comprehensive financial and retirement planning rather than just investment management
  • Offers goals-based planning so that you know your plan is custom-tailored to your specific situation
  • Has the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) certification—the most highly regarded designation in the industry for its stringent requirements in experience, ongoing education, and ethics

By seeking out a financial advisor with these traits, you can set a course that leaves you confident that your Emory benefits can support you throughout your retirement.


At Minerva Planning Group, we have longtime expertise in helping physicians and other employees of Emory University and Clinic successfully retire. We are a Georgia-based advisory firm serving clients throughout Atlanta and nationwide. As a fee-only, fiduciary firm, we take our legal and ethical obligation to act in your best interest seriously.


If you are interested in seeing how a financial advisor can help you optimize your benefits for a successful retirement, please contact us. We offer a complimentary consultation and would be happy to talk with you.

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