Use your HSA as an unemployment safety net

If you lost your job today, how would you get by? It's not a fun topic to think about, but it's important to have a backup plan when you do find yourself in a bad situation. For most, jobs are the primary source of income, if not the only one. The last thing you want to be thinking of is how you'll cover your bills as you're on a job hunt.

But there are ways to offset this blow. If you've been contributing to an HSA, it can act as an unemployment safety net during temporarily lean times.

safety net

Pay for health insurance

One of the perks to having an HSA is that you can use these funds to pay for health insurance premiums while unemployed. Yes, that's right -- your health insurance premium counts as a qualified medical expense when you're out of work. You don't need to worry about digging into your savings, as you can just use your HSA funds until you find another job.

In order to qualify, you need to be receiving federal or state unemployment benefits. That, or you're electing to pay for COBRA or similar continuation coverage.

Use it as an emergency fund

It's your money, why not use it? The HSA is meant to help you with qualified medical expenses, so fully take advantage of it, especially when cash is tight. Use it as an emergency fund of sorts, taking money out tax-free.

Of course, you can't use your HSA for just any expense. In fact, using HSA funds for non-medical expenses will result in a 20% tax penalty on the amount withdrawn in addition to being taxed as income. But you can use it to reimburse yourself for previous qualified medical expenses (QMEs) you've paid for out of pocket.

  • It's simple: Whenever you pay for a medical expense with your own money, you can reimburse yourself anytime in the future using your HSA. All you need to do is transfer money from your HSA into a checking account with the exact amount of your QME (the only catch is the expense must have occurred after the account was established).
  • The cool thing is that you're allowing your HSA to compound and grow tax-free while also building up an emergency fund for possible rough patches. The funds you accumulate can be carried forward for as long as you like. For example, if you have $500 in QME in a given year, you can rest assured knowing that you can take out $500 if you find that you're out of a job and need it to pay some bills.

Listen, nobody likes to think a stressful situation such as a job loss but it's necessary. Dealing with such a blow to your finances will help if you're prepared. If you already have an HSA, rest assured that the money is there for you when you need it.

If you don't have one, it's always a good idea to find out if you're eligible and take a few minutes to open on up. Like they say, a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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