Eligibility

Wage Up! A quick plan for buying health care items

Since you already have an HSA (or seriously considering one), no doubt you're someone who loves to save money. You're already saving money by using tax-free savings to use for qualified medical expenses, but there could be ways to save even more. With some patience and know-how, you can time your purchases so that you're maximizing your hard earned dollars.

Even if you find deals, you can learn how to find coupons and rebates so you practically don't have to pay full price again. Intrigued?

Is there really a best time of the year to buy health care items?

In theory, yes. However, it's not always the case. During the spring and winter months, you'll typically find cold and allergy medicines on sale. Summer is (generally) when you'll find better deals on items like sunscreen and even first-aid kits.

If you want to purchase medical equipment, you may find it harder to predict when these will go on sale, if at all. Typically, electronics are on sale around January and November, so check around those times if you can wait that long.

What can I do if I want to save money?

Just because it may be hard to predict when certain health items will go on sale, doesn't mean you can't save a few bucks here and there. Believe it or not, it's not that hard to find discounted items. Here's what you can do to maximize your chances of getting discounts:

Search for rebates

If you intend on purchasing any sort of equipment, manufacturers sometimes have promotions and offer rebates. In most cases, you can head to their official site to check for any current ones. All you really need to do is make a purchase, mail in a copy of your receipt along with the rebate coupon and you should receive a check for the amount back within the timeframe stated.

If you can't find any rebates, poke around and sign up for newsletters of brands you shop from often. Usually, they'll send out seasonal emails for promotions only subscribers will have access to. For those short on time (who isn't?), there are a ton of websites dedicated to couponing you can check out.

Install money-saving browser extensions

Those who love to shop online can rejoice - there are a ton of free browser extensions that'll help when you make purchases. Apps like Ebates, Honey and Invisible Hand help you search for promo codes and online coupons and applies automatically when you check out. Some even show you other places that offer lower prices, helping you save even more money.

Join loyalty rewards

There's no shortage of stores that offer incentives. Many have rewards cards that give you points every time you make a purchase. These points can go towards discounts on future purchases or cash back options.

For example, large pharmacy and grocery chains offer rewards points. Some stores even offer store credit cards that give you discounts or more points. If you go this route, make sure you use your credit card responsibly before signing up.

And when it comes to using your HSA, we recommend a site where there's no guesswork or concern about eligibility.

Bottom line

Just because health care is supposed to be expensive, doesn't mean it has to be. Keep a running list of items you regularly use and monitor websites and stores to see when they go on sale. It takes a little preparation on your part, but the savings you reap will be so worth it.

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

Wage Up! Warm weather safety with an HSA

Warmer weather means it's time to open the windows, start planning camping trips, biking around the neighborhood and more (do any of you still chase down ice cream trucks?). While we all like to have a great time, injuries and other unfortunate events can happen. That's why it's important to squirrel a bit of money away - or at least be prepared to use your HSA funds - for those "just-in-case" moments.

Allergy testing and products

Everyone seems to think allergies only happen in the spring and fall. But tell that to the people currently battling runny noses and itchy eyes, even when the thermometer looks ready to break. Summer allergies can drum up some unusual symptoms, and if you love the outdoors, it can seem really unfair.

Common allergy culprits during the summer are insect bites, mold and pollen. Getting tested for any possible allergies is helpful in determining what you may need to be cautious of. Even if you've been tested before, it doesn't hurt to get one again after some time. For example, I used to be able to eat eggs, but if I touch them now I'll break out in hives.

Getting tested for allergies counts as a qualified medical expense for both HSAs and most medical FSAs. As for which type of allergy test to get, ask your doctor which one is best. The three most common types are the skin prick test, skin injection test and patch testing. All will involve being exposed to common allergens to see how you react.

Depending on your results, you may need to get an allergy medication regimen or get some shots. Luckily, allergy medications can be covered by your HSA and most FSAs as long as you have a prescription from your doctor. Some of these include antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants of bronchodilators (inhalers for asthma sufferers).

Hydrotherapy

Also called aquatic therapy, hydrotherapy uses water to to treat conditions like arthritis, rheumatic conditions and even sports injuries. You do get into a warm pool but it's not like swimming at all.

Instead, you work with a physiotherapist who will guide you through various exercises. As you do so, the water helps to release tight muscles and increases blood circulation, kind of like a massage does.

Of course, it's better if you don't go too crazy in the summer. But injuries and ailments aren't exactly avoidable if you're super active in the summer. As long as you get a letter of medical necessity, hydrotherapy can be a great way to help heal those injuries.

Athletic treatments

Facing minor abrasions and injuries are common if you're going to be active in the summertime. While you may not need anything as extreme as hydrotherapy, there are items you can purchase to help deal with discomfort and pain.

Items that don't need a prescription to be HSA-eligible include ankle braces, arch support insoles, cold packs and even cast covers (on those warmer days, even broken bones won't keep us out of the water on a hot day).

Have fun, be safe

Nobody wants to think about the not so fun parts of summer activities. As always, it helps to be prepared. Start budgeting now for what you could need, just in case. This way, an ice pack or bandage is ready and waiting when it comes time to nurse those wounds.

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

Future Healthy: Why we moved to an HSA-qualified HDHP

Last year, my husband and I decided to open a dependent care FSA (DCFSA) so that we could save money on my son's preschool expenses. It was a great decision as it lowered our taxable income and we knew we had the money set aside for a specific purpose.

However, we don't need the account for next school year — my son will get to go to preschool for free (thanks Florida!). That doesn't mean I'm not looking for ways to save money in terms of taxes and other expenses. Our current health plan allows us to open a FSA or an HSA, but we're leaning more towards an HSA. Here's why:

More flexibility

I loved our DCFSA, but it wasn't quite the best fit for our family. As in, we were only allowed to use it for my son's child care expenses. While it served us for the last year, now that we don't need to earmark that money for it anymore, we need to look for other options.

Now, to be clear, a DCFSA isn't the same as a standard health care FSA, so let's not get confused. This point was simply to highlight how different accounts can serve varying needs, depending on the family.

That said, while a traditional FSA is also a great option, for some it can be more restrictive than an HSA. Most notably, with how you need to use your funds within a calendar year and it's gone. Sure, some plans allow you to roll over up to $500 or give you a grace period to use up your funds, but that may not be flexible enough for you. What if you end up with more than $500 left over? Or you want to save up more money?

If you're considering making the move from a FSA to a high-deductible health plan with an HSA, keep this flexibility in mind. If you don't have fixed health care expenses and want the ability to set money aside in case of larger expenses, an HSA could be the best choice for you.

But don't let that deter you from exploring FSAs -- these accounts are perfect for a lot of people. For example, if you have immediate needs at the beginning of your plan year, FSA funds are available in full on day one. If that's something that fits your expected health spending, an FSA might be the right choice.

Investment options

As someone who is obsessed with maximizing their cash, the ability to invest my money in my HSA is really appealing. Of course, this will depend on your specific HSA, but once you reach a certain balance, you can invest a portion of your money into an investment account (like mutual funds).

This can be a really appealing option because your money can make money, especially if your money is going to sit there indefinitely. With an FSA, you don't really have this option.

Emergency funds are there if needed

Think of having an HSA as a long-term benefit, compared to an FSA where you need to plan out your purchases within a calendar year. If you leave your employer or are unexpectedly let go, your FSA funds are gone with limited exceptions.

With an HSA, that's not the case. The money is there until you decide to take it out. And considering the fickle nature of my line of work — freelance writing — I want to be able to have a sizable emergency fund in case work slows down or something happens to my husband's job. Having an HSA can help because I can pay for COBRA during those lean times or I can get my qualified medical expenses reimbursed.

As I'm making this transition away from an DCFSA, and still debating whether a standard FSA or an HSA is the best fit for the coming year, I'll be weighing the benefits of each. If you're making the same decision, make sure to look at your financial situation so that you can shift your mindset from FSA to an HSA owner.

And remember that just because this situation makes sense for me, doesn't mean it will make sense for you. We're big proponents of HSAs and FSAs around here and know the clear benefits of both. Whichever avenue you choose, taking the time to set aside pre-tax dollars for your future out-of-pocket medical expenses is the way to go.

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Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

Wage Up! The importance of keeping your medications up-to-date

When I first met my husband he told me he had a severe allergy to bees. As in, he had to have an epi pen on him at all times because if he didn't to the hospital on time, the allergy can be life threatening. How's that for a second date?

As we grew closer and I learned about epipens, I realized that these needed to be replaced every year or so. If it expired, it's not as potent, which isn't exactly reassuring especially if you're in a life or death situation. When we lived overseas, we made sure that my husband would get a new one when we would visit the U.S. during the summer holidays.

One year, he forgot to bring the epipen back to the U.S. so that we could get it replaced. Now I know what you're thinking: why is this an issue? You see, we both lived and worked in China at the time and we had no clue how to get a epipen. Even asking locals and visiting clinics, we were never able to explain what my husband needed.

My husband told me not to worry, even though I knew his epipen expired within a few months. Sure, it wasn't going to just stop working (there's anecdotal evidence it'll still work within two to three years) but I didn't want to take the chance of us traveling overseas and have something happen to my husband.

Taking stock of your medications

Even if you don't have a serious allergy like my husband, it's still important to keep your medication updated. Whether you take one or many types of medication on a regular basis, keeping organized is crucial for your well-being. This is where you can seek the help of a professional — like your local pharmacist — on what to do to ensure your medication is up to date and other important related details.

Something to keep in mind is how you'll store your medication and proper usage. For example, I learned that my husband has to store his epipen at room temperature, so he had it in his briefcase for work by his desk and in our hallway closet when were at home.

Whatever your situation, make sure you consult your doctor to find out what you need to do. Getting organized is crucial, especially if you are planning on getting your purchases reimbursed from your FSA or HSA.

We didn't have the luxury of consulting the pharmacist that gave my husband his epipen because we were still living overseas at that point, so we kept all records that were given to us. You bet I read those papers and brochures from top to bottom so that I understood how to use it.

As for my husband's expired epipen, we kept it on hand until we were able to replace it. Luckily, we found an international hospital that was able to prescribe my husband a new one. It was expensive to do so, but so worth it.

As always, we're not doctors. Be sure to discuss any and all medication-related concerns with a qualified medical professional before making any decisions about your regimen.

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

Wage Up! Exploring drug-free pain relief treatments

As an avid hiker, I get a few scratches here and there considering how clumsy I tend to be. Unfortunately, I banged up my knee once all because I wanted to jump atop a big rock — and my knee smacked up against it instead.

After my shock wore off, I walked back to my car thinking I was fine. As the day wore on, I could barely move my right leg. I remember looking down and seeing a massive bruise the size of my knee.

After going to the doctor, I was prescribed some medication after determining I didn't break anything. A few weeks pass and the pain comes and goes. It wasn't unmanageable, so I braved the pain and forged on.

When you can't ignore your pain

I had a pretty hectic work schedule ahead of me — I was prepping for testing when I was still a teacher and my husband and I were packing to move — so all I did to manage the pain was to wear more supportive shoes and a knee brace. I'm not a fan of taking medication all the time (especially since I thought the pain wasn't that big of a deal) so I thought that my DIY solution was good enough for now.

As the weeks wore on, even the knee brace could only do so much. After much prodding from my husband, I finally booked an appointment with my doctor to see what was going on. The good news was that I got an appointment. The bad news was that he was on vacation for the next two weeks, so I had to wait.

So, what types of drug-free treatments are available?

I knew I had to do something while waiting to see the doctor, so I looked at other drug free treatments to ease the pain. My husband suggested I try a TENS machine which is a small battery device that applies small electric currents so that the pulsing sensation helps to reduce pain. While it worked, a few hours later the pain would return.

Something else one of my friends who regularly practices meditation suggested was using visualization and mind-body therapy. The theory is that pain can be heightened when you're stressed or reacting to pain in a negative way.

Now, I'm not a doctor, but I did have some success with some alternative-type treatments. I started practicing meditation daily and practiced reducing stress by delegating a few tasks on my to-do list to my husband and inviting friends over for coffee.

The pain didn't go away, but it did make me feel better while I was awaiting my doctors appointment.

Getting help

After going to the doctor, it was determined that I had a small fracture in my knee that was causing the swelling and pain. After doing some physical therapy and another round of medication, the pain went away. Every once in a while I'll feel a numbing pain that'll go away in a day, so I'm glad I went to do the doctor when I did before it got worse.

I'm also thankful I explored some drug-free options while I was waiting to see the doctor. If I had tax-free funds to use back then, I would have done some research to see if any of those counted as qualified medical expenses. Either way, I'm glad I made my health a priority.

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Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something big, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Taxes

Tax Facts: Your HSA tax-time checklist (for before you file)

Organized or not, digging through stacks of paperwork is no fun, especially if you're still preparing before the tax deadline. Making sure you have everything ready before you file will make the difference between not hearing from the IRS to potentially getting audited (we hope not!).

Before you send in that tax return, here's a checklist of things we find helpful when doing our own filing. Be sure to speak with a qualified tax professional before making any decisions about your own situation.

Check that W2

If you work a 9 to 5, your company needs to send you a copy of your W2 by January 31. This form shows your salary, including taxes you've paid and any tax-deferred contributions like your HSA. Remember that only contributions you made through payroll will show up there so take that into consideration.

Having these numbers handy will help -- if you made contributions outside of payroll (also known as ad hoc contributions), don't forget to include those. For example, if your W2 shows a $2,500 contribution and you made a $500 ad hoc contribution, you need to put down you contributed $3,000 to your HSA.

Your 5489-SA form will also show any contributions you've made outside of a 9 to 5, such as if you're self-employed so use that when filing taxes as well.

Double check those distributions

Your 1099-SA is a HSA tax form that shows your account distributions. If you spent $1,000 last year on qualified medical expenses (QMEs), this number should be reflected on your form. But this form is only required if you got any QMEs reimbursed, so you may not need to worry about if it you didn't use your HSA at all this year.

Hopefully you'll have all your receipts organized so it matches what it says on that form. If there are any discrepancies, double check to see if the paperwork is accurate on your end. Maybe you got a few electronic receipts you forgot to add in or there was a simple miscalculation.

Any questions should be directed to your HSA provider. You'll want to do this before reporting your distributions or contributions on Form 8889.

Always check for ways to contribute more money

Maybe you took a large distribution from your HSA and you want to get the account back to what it was before, or you have higher anticipated medical expenses this year. No matter your situation, consider whether you want to max out your annual contribution before filing. In 2018, the maximum contribution was $3,450 for those participating in the health plan as individuals and $6,900 for couples or families.

Whatever amount you choose (if any), try to do it a few weeks before the tax filing deadline so that there's plenty of time for any changes to appear on your account. That way your HSA provider will have processed your contribution and you can still file your taxes before the deadline.

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Tax Facts is a weekly column offering straight up, no-nonsense HSA tax and finance tips, written in everyday language. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the HSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Accounts

Compound It! When a new job is part of your new year

If that's the case, I bet you're wondering what happens to your HSA. Don't worry — that money is rightfully yours. If you did switch employers, there are a few options for your HSA. However, figuring out what to do with the HSA funds can get complicated because it can depend on a variety of factors, such as if you have your HSA funds invested, or if you're no longer on a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

Rolling it over or leaving it be?

It's up to you on what you want to do, but if your new employer offers a better HSA than the one you currently have, consider moving your money. If not, you can maintain your current HSA as long as the HSA plan allows it If you no longer have access to a plan which allows for active HSA contributions going forward, you'll still have access to any leftover HSA money if you need it (we'll discuss this later in the article).

If you do decide to transfer your funds to a new HSA you have two choices:

  • Request a trustee to trustee transfer
  • Complete an HSA roll over

The IRS allows you to roll over your HSA funds every 12 months and still maintain the tax-free status. After you request a rollover, your current HSA provider will either send you the money via bank transfer or by mailing a check. Once you receive the funds, you'll need to deposit that money into your new HSA account ASAP.

Okay, you technically have 60 days from when you receive the funds to deposit it into the new account, but you'll want to make sure you get it deposited within that deadline. Otherwise, the IRS will count the money as a taxable contribution, meaning you'll need to pay taxes on it. You'll also face a 20% penalty.

A trustee to trustee transfer doesn't require you to touch the funds nor is there a limit on how many times you can do this each year. What happens is that you request a transfer of funds from your current HSA provider and fill out the necessary paperwork.

Afterwards, the provider will take care of the rest. The funds should land in your new HSA provider without you doing anything else and you avoid any tax and penalties.

What if I don't have an HDHP anymore?

If you no longer have an HDHP with your new employer, you can't make any more contributions to the HSA. If you have access to an HSA-qualified HDHP at your new job, your employer may or may not offer you the option of a new HSA, so it's best to check on all of your options to find out what you should do. The good news is that, regardless of your situation, you can still use the money in your past HSA for qualified expenses tax-free, even if you are no longer eligible or able to contribute..

Here's the caveat: if you've already maxed out your HSA contributions and you no longer have an HDHP in the same calendar year, you may need to withdraw some of your contributions and pay taxes on the amount you take out. HSA annual maximums apply on a 12-month basis, so if you don't participate in an HSA-eligible plan for the full year, you may need to prorate the maximum. This only counts for money you've contributed in the same year you switched jobs.

And the cost?

Something else to consider is that rolling over or transferring your HSA funds can cost you money. Before making your decision, checking with your current HSA provider to see if there are any fees and what else you need to know.

At the end of the day, your HSA funds are still available to use for qualified medical expenses and you can keep it in there as long as you need to if you're intended on treating your HSA as an investment account.

Even better news? There are lots of highly qualified financial and tax professionals out there to help guide your through these complicated changed if you need.

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Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Basics

Future Healthy: Are you using your HSA the right way?

If you're the owner of a HSA, you probably know the benefits of your account already. You've even made a mission to max out your contributions so that you can either invest the cash, lower your taxable income or save it for a rainy day.

However, are you using your HSA the right way? Yes, there can be a right and a wrong way to use the account — one that's right or wrong for your individual situation. You want to be able to use your HSA to maximize your life and, by extension, your financial life.

Are you interested in a safety net?

As cheesy as it sounds, there's no such thing as a guarantee. And the same goes for work. Let's say you're self-employed — meaning your paycheck varies from month to month and you're enrolled in a HDHP. Ideally, you will have enough money each month set aside to pay your health premiums and prescriptions.

What happens though, when you're relying on a big payment from a client and the check gets lost in the mail?

Delays in payment is super stressful (trust me, 99% of freelancers will most likely tell you stories related to client payment woes) and your HSA can come in handy. Let's say you have a sizable chunk of cash in there and you want to pay for a doctor's visit just that month. That's what it's there for, right?

In this case, it makes sense because you're using your HSA as an emergency fund of sorts, so that you don't need to whip out a credit card to pay your bills. As in, you may risk not being able to pay the credit card in full by the end of the month leading you to get in a bit of debt.

Even if you're not self-employed, using your HSA for doctor's visits can come in handy. For example, maybe you had a bike accident and had a deep cut on your leg. In this case, you can take your HSA funds out since you're only down to a few hundred dollars in your regular checking account by the time your medical bill shows up.

You decide to negotiate with the hospital, setting up a payment plan and then paying your bills each month as part of your paycheck goes to your HSA. You can still afford all the other expenses in your life, so this is a fine option. Some people may take the money out from their HSA (assuming there is enough) and later in the year contribute more to their account.

Does an HSA make more sense than supplemental insurance?

An HSA can be helpful if you decide you want to plan for occasional medical expenses. For example, let's say you were debating whether you want to pay for dental insurance versus contributing money to your HSA and using those funds each year.

You comb through your previous year's expenses and notice that you only went for two checkups per year, including teeth cleaning. Upon more reflection, you believe your teeth are in pretty good health and that's it's cheaper to forego dental insurance and just pay for teeth cleaning out of pocket.

(To be clear, we're not advocating you forego dental insurance or making recommendations on how you should handle your benefits enrollment, we're simply outlining that situations can vary.)

Or you were debating whether or not to contribute more to your HSA funds because you want to complete a vision exam each year. Your family happens to have a history of eye disease and you want to make sure you get all possible risks check out. Opting for vision insurance and supplementing with your HSA for things like glasses or eye drops makes sense, because it may be cheaper to pay for vision insurance since if could lower the cost of your specialized eye exams.

Can you afford to invest your HSA funds?

Let's say your goal is to invest as much money as possible. You want to be able to max out all your retirement accounts — and you can afford to do so. Instead of using your HSA funds only as a way to pay for qualified medical expenses, you use it to invest in mutual funds and other types of assets.

Since you're a great saver, you open up a regular savings account for the sole purpose of using it as emergency medical fund. When you break your glasses and need new ones, you can opt to pay for it using that savings account instead of your HSA.

If you don't have the funds to do so, or your goal isn't to max out your retirement funds, you don't have to do any of the above, especially if you're going to stretch your budget too thin.

How will you use your HSA?

Bottom: there's no right or wrong way to use your HSA as long as you follow the rules. What's important is that you assess your situation carefully and make a choice that can help you save time, money and unnecessary stress. (Not to mention avoidable health concerns.) After all, an HSA is supposed to help you be healthier, right?

Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Future Healthy: No, we didn't forget about No-Shave November

Movember… No-Shave November… Even at the end of the month, you're probably still hearing these terms from time to time. In case you don't know what either of these are, the goal for both is to raise awareness for men's health issues. Movember is designed to raise awareness about issues in general, No-Shave November is more focused on helping to educate about cancer prevention. Both are gaining steam as an annual event.

While this column is usually focused on long-term retirement planning, we also want to remind people about the "health" portion of their health savings accounts. And helping to raise awareness about issues specific to men's health is important.

You'd want your husband, father, son, or other friends and family members to stick around for a long time, so encourage them to understand some of the health risks specific to them.

What are some men's health risks?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that affects your mood when the season changes - typically starting in the continuing into the winter months. You may want to brush it off as a case of the "winter blues" where you're just in a funk, but SAD goes deeper than that.

Some of the seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Having low levels of energy
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or having frequent thoughts of death
  • Constantly feeling sluggish and agitated
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Losing interest in any and all activities

As for causes, it could be one or a combination of things. Sometimes it's a biological reaction to the level of sunlight during season changes. What could happen is that your serotonin levels - a neurotransmitter that affects your mood - drop and lead to SAD. It could also disrupt melatonin levels, which helps your body regulate mood and sleep.

Colorectal cancer - a term that includes both colon and rectal cancer - is the second leading cause of death in men when it comes to cancer. Research shows that the lifetime chances of men developing colon cancer is 1 in 22 for men. It doesn't sound like a lot, but you don't want to be a part of that statistic, do you?

Skin cancer - According to the American Academy of Dermatology, men are more likely to die from melanoma than women. The older you get, the rate increases - men are three times more likely to develop some sort of skin cancer by the time they reach 80.

It's not a matter of using sunscreen. Researcher believe that men's skin are more likely to develop cancer because of their skin. Research shows that men's skin has more elastin and collagen, making it more susceptible to skin damage.

Go get tested

Here's a sobering statistic - by 2030, the number of new cancer cases is expected to go up to 23.6 million. It may seem inconvenient (and frankly uncomfortable) to go schedule a doctor's appointment and get a checkup, but it really is worth it. Your health is at stake.

The best case scenario? You have nothing to worry about. Even if your doctor does detect something, hopefully it's caught early and you'll receive plenty of help. In short, if you haven't schedule your yearly physical yet, now's the time to do it.

Next week, we'll get back to more-traditional discussions about financial wellness. But it's always good to be reminded of what those HSA dollars are for, and how important your health is for a prosperous retirement.

Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Future Healthy: Why I'm thankful about paying for health insurance

It's not uncommon to hear people complaining about how much they pay for health insurance, and I used to be one of them. I get that healthcare is a big line budget item for many people and those with preexisting conditions or chronic health conditions, it can get really pricey real fast.

However, I choose to see this expense in a different way. Sure, I'm still trying to find ways to slash costs, but I no longer complain about having to pay for health insurance.

The truth is, the money I pay goes towards goods and services that benefit my entire family. As in, if my son is sick, there are a bunch of great doctors that I pay to diagnose and treat my son. Or if my husband's epi-pen is near its expiration date, he can go get another one without worrying about if it'll affect our overall budget in any given month.

Whenever I feel nervous about money I'm spending, I use the following two ways to help me shift my mindset.

List everything I got from the money spent

There are times when I literally feel like I'm bleeding money. I pay annually for a bunch of expenses and all these bills tend to be due around the same time each year.

If I feel anxious or like I'm ready to complain about how much money I've spent, I grab a pen and notebook. Then, I force myself to sit and list out every single expense I have and the value it brings me. Here's an example list of part of a list I created a few months ago:

Health insurance

  • Helped me recognize I have a Vitamin D deficiency and supplied me with a 3-month supply of prescribed supplements.
  • Helped to reassure me my son is healthy and reaching his milestones.

Rent

  • Gave us shelter and keeps us cool (bless you, air conditioning!)
  • Allows me to work from my dining room table.

A new mattress

  • My entire family gets a good night sleep.

(If you're already getting a good night's sleep, that last one might seem silly. If you're not, you know just how thankful you'd be for a better one…)

Spend five minutes being grateful

Once I make this list, I look it over and feel grateful I spent all the money to have that in my life. After all, health is wealth, so being able to spend money in that area is super important to me. I also realize that being able to take care of my health now will help me save money in the long run - it's far cheaper to pay for preventative care compared to paying for services and products to fix a problem.

Feeling grateful for the things I have in my life has helped me be a lot less stressed with paying for healthcare and other related expenses. Sure, I'd love to pay less, but having the money to afford what I pay for gives me peace of mind, knowing that my family's future is taken care of.

As the holiday season comes around, I encourage you to find a few things about your health insurance you're grateful for. Is it that your favorite doctor is in network? Or your deductible is lowered, even though your premiums stayed the same? Or it could even be that your health insurance company offers a lot of discounts?

Whatever it may be, my hope is that you understand that money is meant to be spent well, even if it is for what seems like an obscene amount for health insurance.

From all of us at FSA Store and HSA Store, best wishes for a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Eligibility

Wage Up! Use your HSA to stay healthy this winter

Where did the time go?

As the last few months of 2018 are upon us, you know it's going to get busy - between holiday parties and other festivities, who has time to rest? However, cooler weather shouldn't make it the least healthy time of year.

Sure, we'd all love to hibernate when winter comes, but you can still keep healthy, no matter what it looks like outside your window.

Besides, this could be the best time to use some of your tax-free funds on something you've been putting off. So let's close out 2018 the right way...

Manage your asthma

Even if you or your family doesn't have asthma, please read on. For starters, many people will stay inside more during the winter months (duh, it's cold!). What this could mean is that allergens or even mold can trigger an asthma attack. Winter darkness and wet weather can also contribute to the mold on the home.

Meaning, if you or anyone in your family have breathing issues, you may want to prepare your home for the winter months. This could include making sure the home is well ventilated (which can include things like purchasing an air purifier), stocking up on medication and cleaning your home more often.

Also, cold and flu symptoms can also trigger asthma, so it may be a good idea to get the flu shot and ensure that you and your family take precautions if anyone has the cold.

The most practical way to control mold is to have good ventilation, adequate heating and to keep your home and wet surfaces clean and dry.

As colds and flu are more common in winter, the change of climate can trigger asthma attacks in children.

Breathing in cold air, wood smoke, and mold associated with winter climates, can also induce asthma symptoms.

Get those injuries taken care of

If you don't mind the chilly air, winter is a great time to be outdoors - activities like snowboarding, skiing and the polar bear plunge seem like fun.

If you're an avid sports junkie, it may be time to finally get those nagging injuries taken care of. Even sometime seemingly innocent such as a sore shoulder can turn into something major. Like they say, better safe than sorry.

Other ways to ensure your body is in tip top shape is to make sure your equipment is well suited to do its job. For example, if you like to go hiking in the winter, you can add in some inserts to make sure you're walking properly or use a knee brace when snowboarding so you don't injure your knees.

Integrate a new eating plan

To clear the air, we're not suggesting you give up cookies or any of the delicious dishes you'll find during the holiday season. What we are saying is that the holidays shouldn't be an excuse to completely abandon your sound eating habits.

If you've been putting off seeing a doctor for your annual checkup, this may be the time to do it. While you're there, make sure you ask your doctor about any health concerns you may have and whether you need to adjust your diet accordingly. Even something as simple as adding in a daily vitamin can do wonders for your mood and health.

Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Accounts

Compound It! How much do you want to spend on your HSA?

Health savings accounts are great because you can spend tax-free funds on qualified medical expenses. But just because you have money that can be spent, doesn't mean you should. As in, you want to think long and hard before you spend your HSA funds.

For one, some of us can pay our healthcare-related expenses without digging into your account balance. Yeah, you could, but you can also accumulate a bit of interest in your HSA. You can also use this money to invest in different types of assets such as mutual funds and stocks.

The idea is simple - boost your HSA funds so that when it comes time to retire, you can use the money for health care needs, which is when costs could go up. But, what's the best choice for you?

(As always, remember we're not tax advisors and this article isn't meant to be professional financial advice. Please speak with a qualified financial professional before making these decisions.)

The devil's in the (personal finance) details

Before you get started, it's probably a good idea to look over your financial situation. You'll want to see what it is you're spending your money on and how healthcare fits into the whole picture.

Another important aspect to look at is whether or not you have emergency savings, such as money in a buffer account. Arguably, having an emergency fund is more important than an HSA because you'll want immediate access to cash to use for any purpose.

Next, take a look at your spending habits to see what areas of your budget you can cut back. Think about it - if a prescription costs you $100 and you can easily cover it, then use your everyday funds to pay for it. Then you can leave your HSA alone so it can accumulate interest.

But, if the qualified medical cost will set you back more than a few hundred dollars and dipping into your HSA means you don't need to take out a medical loan, then by all means do it. Sure, there are personal loans or credit cards available, but these options aren't generally worth it.

Using it as an unemployment safety net

If you didn't know already, you can use your HSA funds to pay for health insurance premiums in the event you're unemployed. While we're certainly not suggesting you hoard our HSA funds in case you lose your job, it's not a bad idea to keep that in the back of your mind.

If you've been diligently setting aside money in your HSA funds, you may want to set a limit as to the lowest your HSA can go. For example, if your health premium will set you back $400 a month and you want to make sure you have three months' worth of premiums covered in case you're unemployed, then you don't want it to go lower than $1,200.

This could be a good way to gauge whether or not you want to pay for a qualified expense out of pocket or to use your HSA account.

Never sacrifice your health

It's fine to create self-imposed rules for your money - it's yours after all. However, never sacrifice your health to save a few bucks. If it's the difference between saving a few hundred dollars and purchasing a much-needed item that'll benefit your health for years to come.

Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Living Well

Compound It! Are you being too protective of your HSA?

As most of us know (especially from reading this blog), a health savings account (HSA) provides a variety of benefits - tax-free spending on qualified medical expenses, reducing your taxable income, and even giving you another way to invest your cash.

It's not that these benefits aren't great. In fact, they're more than great. But, it's how some use (or don't use) their HSA that may be the culprit. In other words, some people may be too protective of their HSA accounts.

Why it might be true

Before going into the nitty-gritty of why you may be too protective of an HSA, let's talk about how you can qualify for one. It'll help you see how insurance deductibles may affect how you act around money, especially with health care.

To qualify for an HSA you'll need to get a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This type of plan is generally defined as having a $1,350 deductible for individuals or $2,700 for a family -- how much you'll need to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in (this amount is subject to adjustment for inflation each year).

Considering that the current 2018 HSA contribution limit for an individual is $3,450 and $6,900 for a family - assuming you max out your contribution limits - you can pay the entire deductible and keep some of it for a rainy day. Even if you wanted to keep that for retirement savings, you can do that too!

In theory, all of the above is great. In reality, it's not entirely how it was designed to work.

According to data from eHealthInsurance, the average annual insurance deductible was $4,328 for individuals and $8,352 for families. What this means is that people are generally paying more for healthcare out of their own pockets. And if you need to dip into your HSA for these qualified medical expenses, you may not really be saving much compared to a plan that has a higher premium.

In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation Data is showing that deductibles are increasing almost 10 times faster than inflation, and almost six times faster than salaries. Given all these facts, let's talk about why knowing these numbers can hurt your health.

A miser mindset may be hurting your health

While it's great that you have a HSA, it's designed to cover healthcare costs (hence the name). If you don't have any major health concerns or need to see the doctor often, it's really not that big of a deal. However, research from Kaiser Family Foundation found that most people with HDHPs actually put off care they need to preserve more money for retirement. As you know, this can have serious consequences.

Think about it: if you're so intent on saving money, how willingly are you going to part with your HSA funds? The intent with the HSAs and HDHPs was to give more power to the consumer to control healthcare costs. Unfortunately, once we get into the saving mindset, it's hard for us to even consider wanting to pay because we're the ones who need to provide the funds.

Studies dating as far back as the 1970s by the RAND Health Institute reveal that people cut back on their healthcare related spending as much as 15% when they know they need to spend their own money.

It's not uninformed consumers that are guilty. Ashish Jha, a Harvard health policy researcher and physician went on a bit of an experiment when he switched to a high-deductible plan. During this time he experienced a racing heart he couldn't slow down. He knew it might lead to a heart attack but he decided to stay home instead of risking a high medical bill.

Bottom line: if you have an HSA or a HDHP to save costs on medical care, think carefully about your actions. It's great to have these tax-free ways to save for retirement. But being too protective of your HSA and cutting back on common-sense healthcare management can be counterproductive to all of your long-term planning.

Compound It! is your weekly update of achievable, effective, no-nonsense HSA saving and investment advice, delivered by people who make it work in their own lives. For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out the HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.