It’s autumn, which means that football season is in full swing, the leaves are turning colors, and employees throughout the country are taking part in open enrollment. Many are deciding, among other choices, whether to select a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA).
Most people understand the advantages of setting aside pre-tax money to pay for medical expenses, but not as many people take advantage of the retirement savings aspects of these plans, which can bring a triple play of tax benefits.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, or if you anticipate a lot of health care expenses next year, you might want to prioritize saving for one or both of those before funding an HSA. But if you’re relatively healthy and have money set aside for emergencies, HSA plans are a can’t-miss savings option.
Know the rules
Before you can save in an HSA, you have to be eligible for one. To participate, your health insurance must be a high-deductible health plan. An HDHP has a deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family, according to the IRS, though the average deductibles for these plans are a bit higher. An HSA user cannot be a dependent on another tax return or be eligible for Medicare.
Like IRAs, HSAs have annual contribution limits. In 2016, an individual will be able to contribute up to $3,350, while a family can contribute up to $6,750 (these amounts include any employer contributions). If you turn 55 or older during the year, you can contribute an extra $1,000.
Once you have an HSA, be sure your withdrawals are in line with the IRS guidelines for qualified medical expenses. Doctor or dentist visits, as well as prescription drugs, likely fall under this definition. Just make sure they occur after your HSA is officially open.
Understand the tax advantages
A closer look at HSAs reveals that they have unique advantages. You can roll over unused HSA funds into the following calendar year — and beyond — unlike FSA funds. Participants can also “shoebox” receipts. That’s another way of saying you can document the qualified medical expenses you incur after opening your HSA and wait to withdraw that amount at a later date, tax-free — even during your retirement.
To recap: An HSA participant can set aside money from a paycheck before that money is taxed, let the savings grow tax-deferred for years if necessary, and withdraw it tax-free to use for medical expenses. That’s a tax “triple saver.”
FSAs also offer tax-free saving and spending, but they have a lower contribution limit than HSAs, and in most cases, you must spend the balance of your account within the calendar year.
Avoid missing out on investments
Even though 1 in 4 workers are now enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan, many are leaving savings in the bank accounts within their HSA accounts earning very low interest rates. Others spend their balances the same year they deposit them. Of those making contributions, 80% had a distribution in the same year.
If you’re in either of these groups, you’re missing one of the biggest opportunities of the HSA: investing the savings in stocks and mutual funds.
Most HSAs have a brokerage account option, allowing you to invest your account in securities that have the potential for better long-term returns than a bank account. But you’ll want to double check the fee structure, as some plans require a specific balance in the checking account portion to avoid a small monthly fee.
By investing the savings in your HSA, you benefit from compounding returns. So if you’re using a diversified and disciplined investment strategy with your savings, you’ll effectively have another retirement account. But through the end of 2014, only 6% of HSA savers had an associated brokerage account.
If you have questions about your HSA, seek out a financial planner to help you make the right individual decision.
Maximizing your opportunities within an HSA account may be one of the best gifts you make this holiday season.
Weapon Sales Across the Globe Drive Safety and Security Theme
How to Sharpen Your Social Skills with Two Distinct Listening Styles
How to Find Your Authentic Voice
A Smile Is Vital to Your Message
Myth Busting the Settlement Industry
Advisors: Consider These Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Clients
7 Steps To Hire Great Team Members
An Acronym You Should Remember When Leading Change
India’s Booming Economy Expected to Firm Up Gold Demand
Being Accountable Will Be The Key to Your Success
Investments9 hours ago
Global Equity Views 4Q 2018
Development10 hours ago
How To Deliver Value During Prospect Engagement
Financial Podcasts10 hours ago
How to Merge a CPA Firm With a Wealth Management Firm
Learn1 day ago
Millennials and Responsible Investing: Bridging the Generation Gap
Social Selling1 day ago
Is Spending Piles of Money on Marketing Just a Waste?
Building Smarter Portfolios1 day ago
Understanding Hedge Fund Replication
Insights3 days ago
Leaders: How Your Audacious Goal Can Actually Hurt People
Development3 days ago
Discouraged? Remember Why You Got in This Business