Using Your HSA for Retirement

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Fidelity’s latest survey puts the healthcare costs for a couple both aged 65 at $275,000. This is up from $245,000 in the 2015 survey and $260,000 just last year. This is a big number even for those with sizable retirement nest eggs.

Anyone saving for retirement who doesn’t factor healthcare costs into the amount they will need risks coming up short and outliving their money or being forced to downsize their anticipated retirement lifestyle.

There is another option beyond vehicles such as 401(k)s or IRAs that is perfect for saving to cover retiree medical costs. This is the health savings account, or HSA.

What Is an HSA?

An HSA is a medical savings account that can be used only in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance plan. To qualify, in 2018, the plan’s deductibles must be at least:

  • $1,350 for an individual, or
  • $2,700 for family coverage

HSAs are funded with pre-tax contributions that can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified medical and dental expenses, including Medicare premiums and the cost of tax-qualified long-term care insurance. High-deductible plans are common among health insurance options offered by many employers and may also be available to those buying private insurance policies.

The maximum pre-tax contributions for 2018 are:

  • $3,450 for a single person, or
  • $6,900 for a family.
  • Those 55 and over can contribute an additional $1,000.

In addition to these amounts, some employers also make contributions to employees’ accounts.

The Retirement Savings Opportunity

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and HSAs both allow for pre-tax deferrals to cover qualified medical expenses. The FSA has a “use it or lose it” provision that says all funds deferred during the year must be used by the end of the year; otherwise, the money is lost to you.

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