You’ve worked hard to build your career at Amazon. Make sure you’re getting the most from your benefits. 

Below we’ve dug into all of your Amazon benefits and provided our honest opinion on everything you need to consider. Learn more about your 401(k), insurance, and parental leave. Have questions about your personal situation? We’re here to help. Schedule a free introductory meeting and we’ll go through all of your benefits as we explore your unique situation together. 

401(k) Advice

How much should you invest? Which funds should you buy?

Benefits Explained

Learn more about insurance, parental leave and more.

Relevant Articles

Learn more about investing topics that may apply to you.

eBook Resources

Dreaming of early retirement or a big tax refund?

YOUR AMAZON 401(K), EXPLAINED

N

Things we like about your plan

Vanguard is a great, low-cost provider

Some index funds are available

Lowest-cost US Large Cap fund

M

Gaps in your plan options

No real estate investments available

No emerging markets investment options

Matching contributions are made in Amazon stock

First, decide how much to contribute.

If you can, take full advantage of the employer match from Amazon.

  • Amazon matches 50% of every dollar you contribute up to 4% of your salary per year. The match is made in company stock unless you change your preference, and we suggest you do so. We’ll go into why later.
  • The match vests after 3 years, meaning if you decide to leave the company before your third work anniversary, the contributions Amazon made won’t go with you.

Here’s an example of how the employer match looks for an employee making $100,000 per year:

Your Contribution

Amazon’s Matching Contribution

$1,000

$500

$4,000

$2,000 (Amazon’s cap for this employee; 50% of 4% of salary)

$6,000

$2,000

$18,500*

$2,000

*2018 Federal Limit

If contributing to the match is too hard, consider starting lower and increasing your contributions by 1% each quarter to reduce the pinch you might feel from less take-home pay, while also getting your savings to where you want it to be over time.

We recommend a target of 10 to 15% of your annual salary.

Then, decide how to invest.

Below are three portfolio allocations (each using the same mutual funds) with different exposures to the stock market, and therefore, different potential for growth and volatility. We’ve included guidelines on who might be suitable for each portfolio, but each situation is unique, and these recommendations are just a starting place.

*Based on plan information as of 3/31/2018.

100% Stocks

Who’s the best fit?

  • Young professionals (between 20 and 40 years old)
  • Investors with high tolerance for risk who are willing to adjust their retirement plan if needed
  • US Large Cap – Vanguard Institutional Index (VIIIX) 22% 22%
  • US Large Cap – State Street Russell Large Cap Value Fund 14% 14%
  • US Small Cap – American Beacon Small Cap Value (AVFIX) 24% 24%
  • International – Vanguard Total Int’l Stock Index (VTSNX) 40% 40%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTIX) 0% 0%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Retirement Savings Trust (VBTIX) 0% 0%

80% Stocks

Who’s the best fit?

  • Mid-career professionals (between 40 and 60 years old)
  • Investors with lower tolerance for risk who still have a long time horizon
  • US Large Cap – Vanguard Institutional Index (VIIIX) 17% 17%
  • US Large Cap – State Street Russell Large Cap Value Fund 12% 12%
  • US Small Cap – American Beacon Small Cap Value (AVFIX) 19% 19%
  • International – Vanguard Total Int’l Stock Index (VTSNX) 32% 32%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTIX) 12% 12%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Retirement Savings Trust (VBTIX) 8% 8%

60% Stocks

Who’s the best fit?

  • Professionals nearing retirement (age 60+)
  • New retirees should consider continuing with a 60% stock portfolio after leaving the workforce to allow for future growth to fund a 30-year retirement
  • US Large Cap – Vanguard Institutional Index (VIIIX) 13% 13%
  • US Large Cap – State Street Russell Large Cap Value Fund 9% 9%
  • US Small Cap – American Beacon Small Cap Value (AVFIX) 14% 14%
  • International – Vanguard Total Int’l Stock Index (VTSNX) 24% 24%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTIX) 24% 24%
  • Bonds – Vanguard Retirement Savings Trust (VBTIX) 16% 16%

Additional Plan Considerations

Traditional or Roth

Amazon offers employees both a Traditional 401(k) made with pre-tax contributions and a Roth 401(k) made with after-tax contributions. How do you decide which to choose? In general, the Roth is the better option for investors who are younger and/or in a lower tax bracket. The traditional is better for investors in a higher tax bracket now, and who expect to be in a lower tax bracket at retirement. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

Amazon stock in your 401(k)

Amazon makes their matching contribution to your 401(k) in company stock. You can change this setting if you wish, and we suggest you do so. There are a few reasons why we advise against holding Amazon stock in your 401(k), and they are not a reflection on Amazon as a company. Instead, they demonstrate our belief in a diversified portfolio to manage risk.

You’ve already got a lot invested in Amazon! You work hard every day and rely on Amazon for your paycheck, your health insurance and other benefits. Many employees also receive Amazon stock units (RSUs) as part of their total compensation package, tying their financial stability to the company’s growth. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s best to reduce company-specific (in this case Amazon-specific) risk to the extent that you can. Use your 401(k) to diversify away from Amazon and let the RSUs and the human capital you’ve invested through your hard work be your investment in the company.

Concentration builds wealth, diversification keeps it.

 

It’s also important to remember that if you do choose to sell the Amazon stock in your 401(k) while employed with the company, you’re subject to certain blackout dates for trading and can only sell during certain periods of the year unless you have previously established scheduled trading plan, called a 10b5-1. Be sure to review Amazon’s full policy, including the dates when it’s okay for you to sell those units, and share it with anyone who has trading authority on your account.

YOUR AMAZON BENEFITS, EXPLAINED

Your Benefits Package

Amazon offers a whole suite of amazing benefits for its employees. Expand each section below for a quick overview of each one and the things you should consider when evaluating your benefits package as a whole.

*Based on plan information as of 3/31/2018.

Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

Restricted stock units (RSUs) are a common part of many compensation packages that Amazon offers. RSUs are basically promises of future stock in the company. They are usually issued in a block, with varying numbers of shares vesting over a future time period, meaning the units aren’t yours all at once. RSUs provide an incentive for you to stay with the company because you can’t take unvested units with you if you leave. A typical RSU block at Amazon vests over four years. Typically, 5% vests after the first year, 15% after the second, 20% after the third and every six months after that. Here’s an example.

 

Unvested SharesVested Shares
Initial RSU Grant10000
Year 195050
Year 2800200
Year 3600400
Year 3.5400600
Year 4200800
Year 4.501000

An important consideration is whether to hold on to the units once they vest and become shares of Amazon stock. In general, we suggest you sell them when you have the opportunity. Your investment in Amazon is already strong – you work hard every day and already have your future compensation tied to the company’s success through those RSUs while you wait for them to vest. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s best to reduce company-specific (in this case Amazon-specific) risk to the extent that you can and sell those RSUs when they vest.

Amazon enforces certain trading windows – time periods when its employees can trade their shares of Amazon stock. This means there are times of year when you aren’t allowed to buy or sell shares of AMZN, whether those shares are held in a brokerage account or in your 401(k). The only way around these black-out dates is with a previously established scheduled trading plan, called a 10b5-1. You should have access to all of the details of Amazon’s policy, and we recommend you review that and share it with anyone who has trading authority on your account.

Life and AD&D Insurance

Basic Life and AD&D

Amazon provides basic life insurance along with accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance at no cost to its employees. These policies are pretty straightforward. If you pass away during your tenure with Amazon, your named beneficiary, such as your spouse, children or other close family member, will receive the death benefit from these policies. They are issued without a doctor’s visit for proof of good health. Here are the basics.

PolicyBenefit
Basic Life2x your annual base salary up to $500,000
AD&D*2x your annual base salary up to $500,000
*AD&D is a benefit on top of your life insurance policy that is only paid out if death is caused by a covered accident, whether you’re at home or at work

The most important thing to remember about these benefits is that they are based on your annual base salary, which may not include a substantial percentage of your total compensation. Many companies don’t consider RSUs or stock options as part of your base salary, meaning the life insurance benefit may be less than what you really need. Here are some important things to consider.

  1. What exactly constitutes your annual base pay, according to your company?
  2. How much money are you spending each year and is there a gap between your annual base pay and that figure? In other words, how much of your spending is covered by those extra sources of income, like RSUs?
  3. If something were to happen to you, what worries, goals, and wishes would you want taken care of for your family in your absence? College for your kids? Paying of the mortgage?

Answering these questions can help you determine whether there’s a gap in coverage, meaning the death benefit offered by the policy won’t cover your family’s cost of living and other goals.

A final note about AD&D: Because this benefit is only paid out in the unlikely event that death is caused by a covered accident, we disregard the dollar value of this benefit when calculating how much life insurance a client should purchase. We suggest you do the same as you figure out your insurance needs.

Supplemental Life Insurance Options

Say you’ve established that there’s a gap in your coverage, and you need more insurance than Amazon’s basic coverage provides. Amazon offers several choices for purchasing supplemental life insurance. Premiums are deducted from your paycheck on an after-tax basis. Here are the basics.

PolicyBenefit
Guaranteed Issue (no doctor’s visit required)3x your annual base salary or $500,000, whichever is less.
Proof of Good Health (Requires a doctor’s visit)4 to 10x your annual salary; $2,000,000 maximum benefit.
Automatic Acceleration (no doctor’s visit required)Coverage increases by 1x your annual base salary once per year up to 10x salary or $500,000, whichever is higher. $2,000,000 maximum benefit.

Supplemental life insurance may be a way to help cover the gap, but keep in mind that most company-provided life insurance policies won’t move with you if you leave the company. If you’re between jobs for a period of time without any independent coverage, you won’t have any coverage at all. A life insurance policy from an independent carrier may be worth considering. Again, we can help you determine how much and what type of life insurance you may need.

Disability Insurance

Amazon provides both short- and long-term disability coverage at no cost to its employees. This coverage provides you a percentage of your salary if you aren’t able to work due to a covered illness or injury. Maternity benefits are also included in this type of coverage. Your plan document will go into the details of the types of illness and injuries that are covered, and how to submit a claim. 

Basics of coverage

Here are the basics of Amazon’s coverage.

Waiting PeriodBenefitDuration
Short Term7 days60% weekly pay, max $2,300/week26 weeks
Long Term180 days60% monthly pay, max $25,000/monthTo age 65

Just like with life insurance, it’s important to verify what Amazon considers your weekly or monthly pay to be. It probably doesn’t include RSU grants and other sources of income, which could create a significant portion of your compensation, and you may have a gap. Just like with insurance, an independent disability policy might be a good choice for you and your family.

Health Insurance

Medical Plan Comparison

Amazon offers four health insurance plans from two different insurers, with various deductibles, copays and coverage limits. Choosing the right plan for you and your family is an important step that may require an in-depth look at the types of care you anticipate needing in the coming year. Changes to your health insurance plan can only be made under qualifying events – a change to your marital status, the birth of children, a change to your or your spouse’s employment status, etc. – or during Amazon’s open enrollment period in February.

Broadly speaking, the four health insurance plans can be divided into two groups:

  • The Shared Deductible Plan and the Health Savings Plan have lower payments for premiums, but higher deductibles for medical expenses.
  • The Standard Plan and the In-Network Only Plan have higher payments for premium, but lower deductibles for medical expenses.

The first two plans will be better for people who expect to have few annual medical expenses, and who have money set aside to cover the higher costs that have to be paid out of pocket.

The last two plans will be better for people who expect to have higher annual medical expenses (for themselves or a spouse / child covered under the plan.

Shared Deductible Plan

Has low paycheck contributions and a relatively high deductible ($1,000 for individuals, $3,000 for families). Amazon covers 50% of the deductible with money set aside in a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA). This plan is best for employees with few regular medical expenses, are looking for low premiums, and can still have a comparatively low annual deductible.

Health Savings Plan

Has low paycheck contributions and the highest deductibles ($1,500 for individuals, $4,500 for families). Amazon contributes $500 to $1,500 to a Health Savings Accounts instead of contributing to the deductible (as with the Shared Deductible Plan). Employees can save additional money tax-free in the HSA. This plan is best for employees with few regular medical expenses, are looking for low premiums, have families on their Amazon health insurance, and have additional money to set aside in a tax-advantaged account for healthcare costs.

The Standard Plan

This is perhaps the most “traditional” type of health insurance plan. The employee contribution to premiums are about 25% – 40% higher than under the Shared Deductible Plan or the Health Savings Plan, but the deductible is significantly lower. This plan is good for employees who are only covering themselves (no spouse and/or children) because the increase in premiums is minimal. It’s also ideal for employees expecting regular medical expenses, because plan will start covering expenses sooner.

In-Network Only Plan

This plan is similar to the Standard Plan, but with a higher premium and lower deductible. It is the most restrictive for choosing your care provider. Except for emergencies, the plan will not cover expenses incurred out-of-network. Any services must be through a referral from your primary care provider. This plan is best for employees with expected medial costs, want to keep out-of-pocket costs down, and are willing to accept significant restrictions on the specialists they are allowed to see.

Funding Your Healthcare

Depending on which plan you enroll in, you may be eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA), a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) allow you to contribute money on a pre-tax basis (reducing income and Social Security taxes). Any funds in the account not used by the deadline (generally March 31 or May 31) are forfeit. These should generally only be used for known expenses. There are two types of FSAs: Health Care FSAs and Dependent Care FSAs.

Health Care FSA

Allows you to contribute between $120 and $2,600. Money contributed is not included in taxable income and is not taxed when used for medical expenses. The Health Care FSA cannot be used if you’re enrolled in the Health Savings Plan.

Dependent Care FSA

Allows you to contribute up to $5,000 per year for child care expenses. Money contributed is not included in taxable income. The Dependent Care FSA can be used by anyone, regardless of health plan. This is ideal for employees with young children and fixed daycare expenses.

Parental Leave and Maternity Benefits

Maternity benefits

The limits and rules for short-term disability are different if you’re a new mother recovering from childbirth. Here’s what to expect.

Waiting PeriodBenefitDuration
Maternity benefitNone100% weekly pay, no maximumUp to 4 weeks prior to birth with doctor’s authorization, plus 10 consecutive weeks after birth

Parental leave

New fathers and adoptive parents are eligible for leave benefits as well. Full and part time employees receive up to six weeks of leave, to be taken within the first year after birth or adoption placement. As an added benefit for those on parental or maternity leave, Amazon offers their Ramp Back program, which allows employees to return to work gradually over an eight-week period.

Additional Benefits

Amazon offers a number of great benefits that may be useful to you or your family. Here are just a few.

  • Adoption assistance
  • Employee Assistance Program – Resources and referrals for counseling for bereavement, marital issues, mood disorders, etc.
  • Referrals for childcare, eldercare and pet care.

Have more questions? Schedule a free introductory meeting.


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