There are certain tax-advantaged savings plans that are more accessible to the general public than others. IRAs, for example, allow contributions, as long as you have earned income. But health savings accounts (HSAs) aren’t available to everyone who wants one.
Rather, to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. That definition changes every year, but right now, it means having an individual deductible of $1,400 or a family deductible of $2,800. In 2023, HSA eligibility will hinge on having an individual deductible of $1,500 or a family deductible of $3,000.
If you are able to fund an HSA, it pays to make the most of your account. Here’s how.
1. Make catch-up contributions
Many people are familiar with catch-up contributions in the context of IRAs and 401(k) plans. HSAs offer a similar option for older savers. The only difference is that with IRAs and 401(k)s, catch-ups begin at age 50. With an HSA, you can’t make a catch-up contribution until you reach age 55. But at that point, you’ll have the option to pump an extra $1,000 into your account.
2. Don’t spend your money as you go
Being told to leave your HSA funds alone as you incur medical costs might seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t that money supposed to be used for medical expenses?
While it’s true that HSAs are designed as a means of paying for near- and long-term healthcare costs, your best bet is to pay for near-term medical expenses out of pocket and keep your HSA funds intact. The reason? Those funds never expire, and you’re allowed to invest funds you don’t need to use right away.
Better yet, the money you invest in your HSA gets to grow tax-free in the same way Roth IRAs allow for tax-free investment gains. So you might as well take advantage of that benefit.
3. Know the rules once you turn 65
Because HSAs are loaded with tax breaks, the IRS really wants those accounts reserved for qualified healthcare expenses. If you take a non-medical withdrawal, you’ll face a 20% penalty for removing those funds.
But that rule goes out the window once you turn 65. From that point on, you have the option to remove money from your HSA for any reason without incurring a penalty.
One thing you should know is that HSA withdrawals taken for non-medical purposes are subject to taxes, whereas withdrawals taken for qualified healthcare expenses are tax-free. But in that case, you’re really in no worse a position than you would be with a traditional IRA or 401(k) plan. And that way, you get a lot of flexibility with your HSA balance later in life.
This year, HSAs max out at $3,650 for individuals and $7,300 for families (not including that $1,000 catch-up contribution for older savers). Next year, these limits are rising to $3,850 and $7,750, respectively.
It pays to try to max out your HSA, even if you don’t tend to spend a lot of money on healthcare. That way, you’ll buy yourself more options during retirement.