'Twas the night before Christmas when all through HR

The year's work was done, some mundane and some bizarre.

Open enrollment had closed for the year

For participants and also those they hold dear.


Beneficiary forms rested snug in their files,

While year-end reports were stacked in huge piles.

Our director in her suit and I in my skirt

Discussed compliance issues that made our heads hurt.


When out on the floor there arose such a din,

I spilled my hot coffee and smashed my left shin.

As away to my laptop I flew like a flash,

Would it be another QDRO or a pension fund crash?


The fluorescent lighting was hard on my eyes

So I blinked, then pursued my next benefits surprise.

Would it be another health reform with all its ins and outs

Or a disenchanted employee (the kind that screams and shouts)?


Perhaps a silver-haired retiree with her premiums too high

Or a claimant with input on what to pay and/or deny?

More rapid than IM, the possibilities they came,

I whispered, and shouted and called them by name:


"Now FSA! Now PPA, Now HSA, Now COBRA,


To the top of Wall Street, to the top of the Hill,

No more compliance procedures ... be still!"


Like 401(k) balances throughout this past summer,

My spirits fell fast as I braced for the bummer.

So out to our cubicles my peers and I flew

With a brainy actuary and our ERISA guy, too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the hall

A voice I didn't recognize, with a soft southern drawl.

I spun around in my chair as he began to speak.

He had my attention, my interest was piqued.


He thanked us for our efforts all the whole year through,

"I know," he said smiling, "it's not easy work to do.

There's enrolling new employees in the cafeteria plan,

With pretax options for each woman and man.


"Your communication, how it engages! Your website, how merry!

Your procedures are solid, your systems quite 'cherry.'

Your staff is well-trained and quite on the ball.

When someone has questions, you answer them all!


"I've noticed your plan docs are quite up to snuff,

And the SPDs, mercy, that's really good stuff!

Your 5500s are in great shape.

And your PBGC payments have never been late."


He was doling out compliments at a rapid fire pace,

And as he continued, a grin froze on my face.

"What's more," he went on, "there's your 401(k),

You ought to be proud of that robust array."


"Your pension plan's funded. Your SARs are all done;

Your leaves are well-managed and that wellness program's fun.

You incent employees for changing their ways,

And don't get me started on paid holidays!


"You're doing good work here, so don't be concerned

When the next round of regulations is turned.

I know you'll be ready. I know that you're smart.

It's a brand new plan year for ya'll, so take heart!"

And I heard him exclaim as he strode out of sight:

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Contributing Editor Cindy Bucher is a senior benefits analyst for a Midwestern financial services company and has been in her current role since 2004. She and her staff serve more than 2,500 active employees and 650 retirees, as well as their families. She can be reached at cindy1967lou@aol.com.




Fun gift exchange idea

Each guest brings an inexpensive, undesirable gift, then puts his or her name in a hat. After all the gifts are piled together, the host selects a name from the hat. That person picks a gift, opens it and shows it to everyone, then selects another name from the hat. Subsequent people may either steal an already opened gift or pick a wrapped gift from the pile. When someone's gift is stolen, he or she may pick an opened gift (not the one stolen from them) or a wrapped gift from the pile. This process proceeds until the stealing and opening is complete.

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