Category: Health Insurance

  • Tips to Maximize Your HSA Benefits

    September 8, 2020

    Tags: ,

    Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are great ways to save tax-free money for medical expenses both in the current term, and for your retirement years. By making wise choices, you can maximize the benefit of these fantastic savings accounts. Let’s take a quick look at the basics and then explore some tips on how to make your HSA money grow.

    What is an HSA?

    According to the website HealthCare.gov, a Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in an HSA to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other expenses, you may be able to lower your overall health care costs. HSA funds generally may not be used to pay premiums.

    In order to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). A HDHP is defined as a plan with a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan. The monthly premium is usually lower, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high deductible plan (HDHP) can be combined with a health savings account (HSA), allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with money free from federal taxes.

    HSA vs Traditional Insurance

    As mentioned, you are able to open a Health Savings Account when you enroll in your employer’s High Deductible Health Plan. A HDHP is different from traditional insurance in that with traditional insurance, you and your employer both contribute to the cost of your health insurance each month—otherwise known as the premium. You then have a fixed cost—a “co-pay”—that you pay when you visit a doctor, pay for prescriptions, or have a health procedure. With a HDHP, the patient is incentivized to shop around for lower cost doctor visits and procedures since they are paying for those costs out of their pocket at the full amount from the beginning until the high deductible amount is met.

    Now, when used in tandem, the two components of the HDHP and the HSA have the potential to save the insured party money on their health care expenses. Here’s how it works:

    1. Contribution Limits

    Each year, the government puts a cap on the amount of money that an individual and a family can contribute to their HSA. For 2020, an individual can contribute up to $3550 and a family can add in $7100 to their account. In 2021, the amounts both increase: individuals will be $3600 and families will be able to deposit $7200.

    1. Triple Tax Benefits

    When you contribute to your HSA, your money gets a triple tax benefit. There is a 0% tax on deposited money, your money grows tax-free while in the account, and, when used for qualified medical expenses, you can withdraw the money tax-free.

    1. Roll-over

    The money that you deposit into your HSA is yours to keep–forever. If you change jobs, the money follows you. If you don’t use the money you’ve contributed by the end of the year, it rolls over to the next year with no penalty.

    Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Your HSA This Year

    Don’t be complacent to let your tax-free hard-earned money simply sit in your HSA all year! You can by making some wise choices. Here’s some tips on how to do this:

    1. Do you get a bonus at the end of the year? You can use that bonus money to bulk up your HSA until April 15 of the following calendar year. Just make sure you don’t contribute more than the annual allowed amount or you will pay a 6% tax on the overage.
    2. Once you hit the minimum contribution amount for your particular plan, you can invest a portion of the contributions in an IRA account and watch your tax-free dollars grow even more! Check with your plan manager regarding the minimum amount required.
    3. There is a once-in-a-lifetime allowance for you to move money over from a traditional or Roth IRA to your HSA. This allows you to kickstart that HSA so that you can begin using that money for expenses right away. The annual contribution limit still applies to this scenario for the individual and family amount.
    4. Long term care insurance is expensive and you can use your HSA money to help pay for those insurance premiums. Again, check with your plan manager to make sure you are staying within the allowed range for using this money for those premiums.
    5. Finally, name your spouse as the beneficiary of your account. When you pass away, your spouse will have access to these funds with the same tax benefits as you did. In fact, your HSA money can even continue to grow tax-free after you pass.

    Finding ways to save money is always a good idea. Finding ways to maximize the benefit of your already saved money is even better!

  • No Gym Required for These (Financial) Fitness Tips

    February 20, 2020

    Tags: ,

    If you’re like me, your social-media feeds are jammed with headlines about getting “healthy and fit” in the new year. Of course, they’re referring to diet and exercise and common resolutions to drop pounds and work out more often.

    But it’s just as important to be concerned about your financial fitness—where you can also drop some baggage and get some strength training without going near a gym. (In fact, if you have a subscription to a gym membership but aren’t going, that’s one financial fix you can make right now.)

    Here are some tips to consider for any age:

    IN YOUR 20s:

    Workout: Have a portion of each paycheck deposited into your savings account, or take advantage of bank programs that “round up” or have other automated savings features. Trust me, you won’t feel this burn.

    Diet: Start making coffee at home or at the office instead of going for expensive lattes. Fewer calories, and more money in your pocket. This is a good time to consider getting life insurance (whether you are single or attached) as it is less expensive the younger and healthier you are.

    You also need to consider disability insurance, which pays you a portion of your salary if you are sick or injured and unable to work—because who would pay your bills if you couldn’t? Your work may offer this as an employee benefit, so check with your HR department to find out if you have it and what it covers (short-term, long-term disability, etc.)

    IN YOUR 30s:

    Workout: You probably have a retirement program at work or some other preliminary retirement planning in place. If you don’t, start.

    If you do, why not increase the amount you divert into retirement by a percentage point each year—equaling your company match percentage, if they have it, is a good target.

    Diet: You may not have gotten life insurance beyond what you have through your workplace, but now is the time to consider an individual policy that you own. Remember, when you leave a job, you typically lose that life insurance offered through your workplace. And, given that life insurance through the workplace usually equals one or two times you salary (or a set amount like $50,000), it’s no longer going to cut it if you have a growing family.

    If money’s tight, as it often is with a growing family, lingering student loans, and perhaps a mortgage, a term life insurance policy can protect you through the lean years. But don’t overlook the long-term benefits of a permanent life insurance policy. The cash value can be tapped later for needs that may arise. Plus, there’s nothing that says you can’t have a combination of both.

    Also, consider an individual disability insurance policy that you personally own and follows you throughout your career. If you’re relying on work coverage, know that it goes away when you leave that job, and often these policies have bare-bones coverage.

    IN YOUR 40s:

    Workout: Do you have a financial professional helping you out? Navigating the ins and outs of a growing investment portfolio can be tricky as you move through your career and want to use traditional or Roth IRAs, and the tax benefits of various planning strategies. This may also be the time that you can add a permanent life insurance policy, if you haven’t before, which allows you to accrue cash value and obtain benefits that extend later into your life.

    Diet: If you’re still carrying extra debt at this point, it’s time to get that paid down. Tackle higher-interest debts first, and celebrate each paid-off card or loan with … a bigger payment to the next one on the list.

    IN YOUR 50s:

    Workout: Max out your retirement contributions, especially once your kids are through college. This is also a good time to start researching things like long-term care insurance, and to make sure that your investment portfolio is built in such a way that you can reach your goals.

    Diet: It may be very tempting to take on a new debt now: some folks want a vacation home, or the time may be right to start a business. But beware of any super-risky moves that can spell catastrophe with limited time to recoup losses, or that leave you with unexpected bills.

    IN YOUR 60s and beyond:

    Workout: Evaluate your Social Security situation against your retirement portfolio to determine the best time to retire. Understand the “living benefits” of your life insurance policies and how annuities may help you create a retirement income stream that you can’t outlive.

    Diet: Is it time to downsize? It can be hard letting go of “stuff” so that you can go from that four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo. But the financial benefit of doing so may surprise you—plus there is less to clean and take care of (not to mention the ease of jetting off at a moment’s notice with no need for someone to look after your home.)

    A lot depends on factors like your relationship status, your career path, whether you have kids or not, and what your long-term goals are, and these can change at any time in our lives.

    The long and short of it is that just as when it comes to “health and fitness” goals, you’d get an annual physical. Need to know if you’re financially fit? Talk to an insurance professional or financial advisor today.

    By Helen Mosher

    Originally posted on lifehappens.org

  • Tips to Maximize Your HSA Benefits

    September 8, 2020

    Tags: ,

    Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are great ways to save tax-free money for medical expenses both in the current term, and for your retirement years. By making wise choices, you can maximize the benefit of these fantastic savings accounts. Let’s take a quick look at the basics and then explore some tips on how to make your HSA money grow.

    What is an HSA?

    According to the website HealthCare.gov, a Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in an HSA to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other expenses, you may be able to lower your overall health care costs. HSA funds generally may not be used to pay premiums.

    In order to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). A HDHP is defined as a plan with a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan. The monthly premium is usually lower, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high deductible plan (HDHP) can be combined with a health savings account (HSA), allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with money free from federal taxes.

    HSA vs Traditional Insurance

    As mentioned, you are able to open a Health Savings Account when you enroll in your employer’s High Deductible Health Plan. A HDHP is different from traditional insurance in that with traditional insurance, you and your employer both contribute to the cost of your health insurance each month—otherwise known as the premium. You then have a fixed cost—a “co-pay”—that you pay when you visit a doctor, pay for prescriptions, or have a health procedure. With a HDHP, the patient is incentivized to shop around for lower cost doctor visits and procedures since they are paying for those costs out of their pocket at the full amount from the beginning until the high deductible amount is met.

    Now, when used in tandem, the two components of the HDHP and the HSA have the potential to save the insured party money on their health care expenses. Here’s how it works:

    1. Contribution Limits

    Each year, the government puts a cap on the amount of money that an individual and a family can contribute to their HSA. For 2020, an individual can contribute up to $3550 and a family can add in $7100 to their account. In 2021, the amounts both increase: individuals will be $3600 and families will be able to deposit $7200.

    1. Triple Tax Benefits

    When you contribute to your HSA, your money gets a triple tax benefit. There is a 0% tax on deposited money, your money grows tax-free while in the account, and, when used for qualified medical expenses, you can withdraw the money tax-free.

    1. Roll-over

    The money that you deposit into your HSA is yours to keep–forever. If you change jobs, the money follows you. If you don’t use the money you’ve contributed by the end of the year, it rolls over to the next year with no penalty.

    Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Your HSA This Year

    Don’t be complacent to let your tax-free hard-earned money simply sit in your HSA all year! You can by making some wise choices. Here’s some tips on how to do this:

    1. Do you get a bonus at the end of the year? You can use that bonus money to bulk up your HSA until April 15 of the following calendar year. Just make sure you don’t contribute more than the annual allowed amount or you will pay a 6% tax on the overage.
    2. Once you hit the minimum contribution amount for your particular plan, you can invest a portion of the contributions in an IRA account and watch your tax-free dollars grow even more! Check with your plan manager regarding the minimum amount required.
    3. There is a once-in-a-lifetime allowance for you to move money over from a traditional or Roth IRA to your HSA. This allows you to kickstart that HSA so that you can begin using that money for expenses right away. The annual contribution limit still applies to this scenario for the individual and family amount.
    4. Long term care insurance is expensive and you can use your HSA money to help pay for those insurance premiums. Again, check with your plan manager to make sure you are staying within the allowed range for using this money for those premiums.
    5. Finally, name your spouse as the beneficiary of your account. When you pass away, your spouse will have access to these funds with the same tax benefits as you did. In fact, your HSA money can even continue to grow tax-free after you pass.

    Finding ways to save money is always a good idea. Finding ways to maximize the benefit of your already saved money is even better!

  • No Gym Required for These (Financial) Fitness Tips

    February 20, 2020

    Tags: ,

    If you’re like me, your social-media feeds are jammed with headlines about getting “healthy and fit” in the new year. Of course, they’re referring to diet and exercise and common resolutions to drop pounds and work out more often.

    But it’s just as important to be concerned about your financial fitness—where you can also drop some baggage and get some strength training without going near a gym. (In fact, if you have a subscription to a gym membership but aren’t going, that’s one financial fix you can make right now.)

    Here are some tips to consider for any age:

    IN YOUR 20s:

    Workout: Have a portion of each paycheck deposited into your savings account, or take advantage of bank programs that “round up” or have other automated savings features. Trust me, you won’t feel this burn.

    Diet: Start making coffee at home or at the office instead of going for expensive lattes. Fewer calories, and more money in your pocket. This is a good time to consider getting life insurance (whether you are single or attached) as it is less expensive the younger and healthier you are.

    You also need to consider disability insurance, which pays you a portion of your salary if you are sick or injured and unable to work—because who would pay your bills if you couldn’t? Your work may offer this as an employee benefit, so check with your HR department to find out if you have it and what it covers (short-term, long-term disability, etc.)

    IN YOUR 30s:

    Workout: You probably have a retirement program at work or some other preliminary retirement planning in place. If you don’t, start.

    If you do, why not increase the amount you divert into retirement by a percentage point each year—equaling your company match percentage, if they have it, is a good target.

    Diet: You may not have gotten life insurance beyond what you have through your workplace, but now is the time to consider an individual policy that you own. Remember, when you leave a job, you typically lose that life insurance offered through your workplace. And, given that life insurance through the workplace usually equals one or two times you salary (or a set amount like $50,000), it’s no longer going to cut it if you have a growing family.

    If money’s tight, as it often is with a growing family, lingering student loans, and perhaps a mortgage, a term life insurance policy can protect you through the lean years. But don’t overlook the long-term benefits of a permanent life insurance policy. The cash value can be tapped later for needs that may arise. Plus, there’s nothing that says you can’t have a combination of both.

    Also, consider an individual disability insurance policy that you personally own and follows you throughout your career. If you’re relying on work coverage, know that it goes away when you leave that job, and often these policies have bare-bones coverage.

    IN YOUR 40s:

    Workout: Do you have a financial professional helping you out? Navigating the ins and outs of a growing investment portfolio can be tricky as you move through your career and want to use traditional or Roth IRAs, and the tax benefits of various planning strategies. This may also be the time that you can add a permanent life insurance policy, if you haven’t before, which allows you to accrue cash value and obtain benefits that extend later into your life.

    Diet: If you’re still carrying extra debt at this point, it’s time to get that paid down. Tackle higher-interest debts first, and celebrate each paid-off card or loan with … a bigger payment to the next one on the list.

    IN YOUR 50s:

    Workout: Max out your retirement contributions, especially once your kids are through college. This is also a good time to start researching things like long-term care insurance, and to make sure that your investment portfolio is built in such a way that you can reach your goals.

    Diet: It may be very tempting to take on a new debt now: some folks want a vacation home, or the time may be right to start a business. But beware of any super-risky moves that can spell catastrophe with limited time to recoup losses, or that leave you with unexpected bills.

    IN YOUR 60s and beyond:

    Workout: Evaluate your Social Security situation against your retirement portfolio to determine the best time to retire. Understand the “living benefits” of your life insurance policies and how annuities may help you create a retirement income stream that you can’t outlive.

    Diet: Is it time to downsize? It can be hard letting go of “stuff” so that you can go from that four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo. But the financial benefit of doing so may surprise you—plus there is less to clean and take care of (not to mention the ease of jetting off at a moment’s notice with no need for someone to look after your home.)

    A lot depends on factors like your relationship status, your career path, whether you have kids or not, and what your long-term goals are, and these can change at any time in our lives.

    The long and short of it is that just as when it comes to “health and fitness” goals, you’d get an annual physical. Need to know if you’re financially fit? Talk to an insurance professional or financial advisor today.

    By Helen Mosher

    Originally posted on lifehappens.org

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