Practical advice on how you can improve your health care savings before you retire
Research shows that nearly 22 million people utilize a health savings account (HSA), and that number continues to rise. These accounts often prove invaluable throughout life, offering immediate funds to help pay for medical costs that insurance won’t cover without having to tap into your regular checking or savings account.
As a bonus, your contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible to help you maximize their benefits.
However, the glaring downside is that once you enroll in Medicare, you can no longer stash money in your HSA, which means you should do everything you can during your working years to maximize the account’s value.
Let’s look at some practical ways you can boost your HSA balance so that future medical costs won’t interfere with your ability to enjoy retirement.
1. Max Out Your HSA Contribution Limits
Each HSA account has a contribution limit. Take time to compare your annual contributions to the contribution limit to see how much more you’re able to add to your account each year.
If you haven’t reached your HSA maximum by the end of the year, you can deploy the “last month rule” strategy and contribute the full yearly maximum on the first day of the last month of the contribution period (usually December 1). This is a particularly helpful strategy for new account holders that may not have been eligible to contribute earlier in the year.
And if you’re 55 or older, you can take advantage of catch-up contributions and add $1,000 per year.
Take note: the contribution limits for 2020 have increased. Accountholders with individual insurance coverage can now contribute up to $3,550 (an increase of $50 compared to 2019). Those with family coverage can contribute up to $7,100 (an increase of $100 compared to 2019).
One caveat worth mentioning is that contributions to HSAs require you to be enrolled in your high deductible insurance plan for the remainder of the year. If you drop your insurance, you will have to prorate your contributions, since only those with high deductible insurance plans are eligible for HSAs.
2. Transfer Funds from an IRA or Roth IRA to an HSA
If you’re just getting started with an HSA or nearing your retirement, you may find it beneficial to make a lump sum payment into your account. Take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime rule that allows you to transfer funds from an IRA or Roth IRA into a health savings account without penalty.
The same annual contribution limits will apply, but it can give you a jump start on your savings if you have a new account or want to boost your savings before retirement.
3. Consolidate HSAs
Some people end up with more than one health savings account. For example, you might have had an HSA with a previous employer, then opened up a new one with your current employer.
If you have multiple HSAs, consider consolidating them into a single account to reach the threshold for investment and accelerate growth. HSAs that are eligible for you to invest a portion of your funds require a minimum balance, so combining accounts can help you reach those requirements faster.
4. Invest a Portion of Your Savings
If you have a minimum balance in your HSA (usually $2,100), you may be eligible to invest a portion of your savings. This can be an excellent way to grow your savings tax-free while also being able to pay for certain health care expenses, now and during retirement. The gains are not taxed if they are used to pay for medical expenses.
However, keep in mind that not all HSAs will be eligible for this benefit. Check with your provider to learn if you qualify.
5. Reimburse Yourself
Even with an HSA, you may still find yourself paying for certain medical costs out of pocket. Make sure you save your receipts, as they may come in handy one day. Note that if you have good cash flow and a small balance in your HSA, you may want to pay for all medical expenses in an effort to grow the money now in a tax-free account and take more out tax free later.
Many HSAs are flexible regarding the timeline in which you request reimbursements. If you have a healthy balance in your HSA, you may be able to reimburse yourself for all those out-of-pocket expenses to pay for major expenses.
For example, if you have a leak in your basement that needs repairing, you can cash in your medical receipts to get reimbursement, then use those funds to pay for your home repairs.
At Brighton Jones, we’re here to help you manage your wealth so that you can enjoy financial security, both now and in the future. For more information, read our recent white paper, Your Guide to Health Savings Accounts.
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