Sensible Cash Podcast: Open Enrollment Selections – NerdWallet


Liz: Welcome to the NerdWallet Sensible Cash Podcast, the place we reply your private finance questions and assist you to really feel a little bit smarter about what you do along with your cash. I am Liz Weston.

Sean: And I am Sean Pyles. you might have questions on easy methods to handle your cash. Nicely, we’re right here that will help you reply them. Name or textual content us on the Nerd hotline at 901-730-6373. That is 901-730-NERD. Or electronic mail us at [email protected].

Liz: And please hit that subscribe button to get new episodes delivered to your gadgets each Monday. If you happen to like what you hear, please depart us a evaluation and inform your folks. OK, we have yet one more plug earlier than we get into the episode. We wish to know, what has the pandemic taught you about cash? How has the best way you have dealt with your cash modified in 2020? We’re engaged on a particular episode about all the cash classes we realized this yr, however to make it occur, we have to hear from you.

Sean: We have already acquired some actually considerate and attention-grabbing responses, so please hold them coming. And since I am an audio-focused type of man, I would love to really hear as lots of your 2020 cash classes as potential. Meaning leaving a voicemail on the Nerd hotline or emailing us a voice memo.

Liz: This episode, we’re doing a deep dive into HSAs and FSAs with the assistance of our tax Nerd, Tina Orem. However first, in our This Week in Your Cash Section, Sean and I talk about open enrollment, which is presently taking place for lots of people.

Sean: That is proper, we have entered that magical and perhaps headache-inducing time of yr the place we make choices about what sort of medical health insurance we wish within the subsequent yr. And there is a lot to think about if you’re making this choice.

Liz: And really, it is greater than medical health insurance. It is every kind of advantages in the event you occur to be employed by an organization who provides advantages. But additionally there’s the Medicare deadline and the ACA deadlines. So all of them type of come collectively proper now.

Sean: And that is one factor I needed to put out proper off the bat, is all these completely different deadlines right here. So for market plans like and state exchanges and particular person plans, you might have from Nov. 1 till Dec. 15 to make your choices. If in case you have employer-sponsored healthcare, like Liz and I do, these will range. We had a few weeks to make our choices and we really simply completed our enrollment interval. After which for Medicare, you might have from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. And for Medicaid, there really isn’t any restriction and you’ll apply at any time.

Liz: And the Medicare one is if you sometimes are switching plans, if you wish to try this. You enroll initially inside seven months of your sixty fifth birthday, so both the three months earlier than or the three months after. Be sure you perceive all these deadlines as a result of there will be lifetime penalties in the event you miss your enrollment interval.

Sean: Or, in the event you do not enroll to your well being protection, even along with your employer, then you definitely simply will not have medical health insurance subsequent yr, which, in the course of the pandemic isn’t an awesome concept.

Liz: Sure, positively enroll, please. If you happen to’ve received entry to it, let’s do it.

Sean: So I wish to discuss in regards to the course of for selecting your healthcare plan and various things that folks ought to contemplate. What do you assume folks ought to concentrate on?

Liz: Nicely, clearly, the very first thing is do it.

Liz: However do not essentially simply choose the medical health insurance you had final yr, as a result of issues are altering on a regular basis. And that is true with all the pieces, Medicare, with ACA, with all the pieces. Deductibles would possibly change, the networks would possibly change, the medication which might be coated would possibly change. So sadly there is not any shortcut to this. You even have to take a look at the data and decide based mostly in your circumstances.

Sean: Proper. That is the one time of yr the place it is smart to sit down down, spend a little bit little bit of time digging by way of these numbers and fascinated with what sort of protection you would possibly want for your entire numerous components, and getting the factor that is best for you. As a result of when you make your choice, that is going to have an effect on the well being protection that you’ve all of subsequent yr.

Liz: And in addition, it is a good time to check out what your different advantages could be. Once more, when you’ve got employer-provided advantages, you might need much more than . Some firms are providing pet insurance coverage and a number of firms supply pay as you go authorized. And let me say, that pay as you go authorized can are available actually useful. It may possibly assist you to write that may that you have been laying aside and getting these healthcare paperwork that you just want.

Liz: And it is both low-cost or free, which is nice. There additionally may very well be psychological well being help. There may very well be every kind of little niceties that your organization is paying cash for, so that you would possibly as properly make the most of them.

Sean: And telemedicine is a brand new a type of that I believe a number of firms have adopted, particularly up to now yr. And if that is one thing that you could make a part of your advantages bundle, then I believe folks ought to actually dive into that and ensure they’ve that obtainable for themselves.

Liz: I used to be actually happy with our firm’s model of that, as a result of I used to be capable of make, if not a same-day, a next-day appointment with a health care provider. It did not really feel like there was a rush. I used to be capable of discuss to her a few bunch of various issues and get some readability on some issues. And that was very nice. I actually appreciated that.

Sean: Nicely, I’ve heard from some mates who’ve finished this as properly, they usually expressed one thing comparable, that they felt like they really had extra one-on-one consideration having a telemedicine appointment versus having an appointment in an workplace the place docs are sometimes rushed from one appointment to the following, which is type of ironic. You assume that you just would not have pretty much as good of consideration over the web, however since you’re in that one-on-one Zoom session along with your physician, it is a little bit bit extra intimate.

Sean: One factor that I additionally needed to speak about was individuals who’ve misplaced their medical health insurance this yr, as a result of they’ve perhaps been laid off from the pandemic.

Sean: For the parents who’re doing that, they’re seemingly going to need to get directed to ACA plans by way of Once more, I believe it is actually necessary for individuals who, perhaps even when they do not have the perfect choices obtainable to them, to think about all of those various factors when it comes to what protection they could want, whether or not they can have their prescriptions coated, in order that they’re getting the sturdy protection that they want for themselves in 2021.

Liz: And remember that these ACA, often known as Obamacare, exchanges will give you primarily sponsored premiums. It is tax-subsidized, so do not assume that you must pay the complete freight such as you do with a COBRA plan. That is the one which’s normally prolonged after you lose your job.

Sean: And it doesn’t matter what, makes certain you get that protection, as a result of going naked isn’t an awesome concept.

Liz: It solely takes one accident or one sickness, like can occur in a pandemic in addition to every other time, to essentially saddle you with simply life-altering, bankrupting payments. So it is positively value having.

Sean: Yeah. And sadly, given the very dysfunctional nature of our healthcare system, medical payments are sometimes one of many main causes that folks go into chapter 11 and even go into poverty. So doing what you may to just remember to have the protection that you just want in the event you do get medical payments, having ones which might be extra reasonably priced, can go a great distance for retaining you extra financially sound over the long term.

Liz: And when you’ve got any questions on your employer-provided advantages, your human sources division is a superb possibility for getting these questions answered.

Sean: We have now this glorious article that is really a step-by-step information to picking a medical health insurance plan. Shout out to Lacie Glover who wrote that. So in case you are having a tough time determining all the various factors that that you must contemplate and what could be the best choice for you, and in addition wading by way of the alphabet soup that’s all of those completely different healthcare choices, take a look at that article. Liz will hyperlink to it on our present notes put up. It is definitely worth the learn.

Sean: All proper, and with that, I believe we are able to get onto this episode’s cash query, which comes from Clement in Denver. They ask, “Which is best, an HSA or an FSA?”

Liz: OK, this one’s going to be sophisticated.

Sean: Sure. However fortuitously, to assist us reply Clement’s query, on this episode of the podcast, I will throw a bunch of questions at Liz, who is aware of these items in and out. And we’re additionally going to have our go-to tax nerd, Tina Orem, on to assist us perceive the tax implications of every possibility.

Liz: So happy to have Tina on. We have not had her on earlier than, and I am actually excited. So hello, Tina.

Tina Orem: Hello there. Good to be right here.

Sean: Welcome to the present. It is so good to have you ever on. To begin, let’s simply first break down what an FSA and an HSA is, and speak about some similarities and variations. Tina, are you able to lay that out for us?

Tina: Certain. So typically talking, an FSA is a office profit. So it is supplied by your employer. An HSA, equally, is out there actually solely to individuals who have high-deductible well being plans. So not all people qualifies. However from a tax perspective, they’ll each actually prevent some cash.

Contributions to an FSA are pre-tax, instantly out of your paycheck, so which means you do not pay taxes on the cash you earn if it goes proper out of your paycheck into your FSA account. HSA contributions are comparable. The contributions are tax-deductible, and that may decrease your tax invoice. And one of many nice issues about that’s you do not even need to itemize to say the deduction. You could have a couple of additional kinds to fill out, although.

Sean: One factor that I wish to lay out as properly, is that this what these letters imply? FSA stands for a versatile spending account whereas HSA is a well being financial savings account? Are there any key variations? What makes the FSA extra versatile versus the HSA?

Liz: The bizarre factor is that the versatile spending account is definitely much less versatile than an HSA. So with the versatile spending account, you must spend the cash by a sure level otherwise you lose it. With the HSA, you may roll the cash over from yr to yr. And actually, as a result of you are able to do that and since you may make investments the cash, it is not simply sitting there in money.

Loads of monetary planners like HSAs virtually as a lot as they like 401(okay)s. It is like they let you know to place cash right into a 401(okay) to get the match, after which they are saying, “Put cash in an HSA, as a result of it is so versatile.” And it has what Tina will let you know is a triple tax benefit. Are you able to speak about that, Tina?

Tina: Certain. Contributions to an HSA will be tax-deductible. In order that’s one benefit. Second is that the expansion inside the account clearly is tax-advantaged. After which third, withdrawals from the accounts — if the cash is used for certified well being bills, isn’t taxable.

Liz: So in the event you do pull the cash out, use it for medical bills at any level, together with in retirement, you are golden, which is fairly cool.

Sean: There is a fairly important catch with HSAs which make me considerably skeptical of them, and that is that you must have a high-deductible well being plan or HDHP. And that makes me a little bit bit nervous I believe partly, as a result of I are typically conservative in terms of issues like this. I do not wish to have a number of out-of-pocket healthcare bills. How do you guys take into consideration that issue?

Tina: One of many nice issues in regards to the HSA is that the cash isn’t a use-it-or-lose-it type of account. So that you get to maintain it perpetually. So in case you are nervous about perhaps not spending all the cash that you just plan to contribute for the yr, do not be. You possibly can hold it. There is no such thing as a expiration date on it.

Liz: So I believe Sean, what you are nervous about is the high-deductible plan itself, that as an possibility?

Liz: So, a high-deductible plan isn’t for everyone. I imply, your deductible could be hundreds of {dollars}, and if you do not have that cash sitting in money or within the HSA and you’ll be tempted to skip healthcare, then I’d say a high-deductible plan isn’t for you. And in addition, when you’ve got youngsters, I’d actually do the maths, as a result of we tried this one yr and it did not work out so nice for us. Youngsters are within the physician’s workplace lots, so one of many belongings you in all probability ought to do is have a look at your healthcare spending for the earlier yr, and see what you’ll’ve paid in the event you had a high-deductible healthcare plan versus the one you really had, and which may assist you to make up your thoughts.

Sean: I do know that is technically appropriate and that is how I must be approaching this, however I am extra nervous about my future potential prices, as a result of we’re in the course of a pandemic and issues appear so unsure proper now that I am nonetheless cautious of that high-deductible plan. However perhaps that is simply me.

Liz: No, I do not assume it’s simply you. I believe folks do have comprehensible considerations about this. However, once more, if you’ll be able to do the high-deductible route and also you would not skip therapies or medical care, these HSAs have nice benefits. I am glad I did it the yr that we did, as a result of I’ve received this little pile of cash that I hold investing and it retains rising, which is nice. However, as we stated, it is not one dimension matches all.

Sean: Nicely, how can somebody inform if an HSA or an FSA could be higher for them? We talked about a few the components, however is there the rest that folks ought to bear in mind?

Tina: With regard to FSAs versus HSAs, an attention-grabbing factor about versatile spending accounts is that they are really two flavors. One is for well being bills. However some employers additionally supply dependent care FSAs, and people are typically for belongings you would consider as daycare bills, little one care bills, in the event you want them to search for work or work. So that may be one other solution to stretch your finances. Not essentially only for healthcare bills.

Liz: So in the event you’re not going the HSA route and also you wish to do an FSA, can you set a specific amount within the FSA for dependent care after which one other quantity for the medical facet, or is it a complete cap? How does that work?

Tina: Proper. There are limits. So, for well being FSAs, you may contribute in 2020 as much as $2,750 in an account. If it is a dependent care, FSA as much as $5,000 a yr will be excluded out of your revenue. This implies if it goes proper out of your paycheck into your FSA, it’s cash that isn’t taxed. So that may stretch your finances.

Liz: Yeah. Not taxed in any respect? Not even payroll taxes?

Liz: Woo. OK. Nicely, that is good. However can I put $2,700 within the healthcare facet after which one other $5,000 within the dependent care?

Tina: It will depend on your office plan. So that you must verify along with your HR division to see what’s obtainable to you.

Liz: Nicely, I really like this, as a result of there’s not very many ways in which individuals who get W2 revenue can management their tax invoice. Most individuals select to not itemize. They’ll take the usual deduction. So one thing that shaves cash off the highest and significantly shaves cash off in order that you do not have to pay payroll taxes, that is a fairly whole lot.

Tina: Now, there may be one key factor to recollect with FSAs in that they are often, generally, use-it-or-lose-it accounts. So employers, nonetheless, can select, in the event that they wish to select, to will let you carry over a few of the cash for a couple of months into the next plan yr. So that you must verify along with your employer about what the foundations are. And due to COVID, the IRS has not too long ago given employers some extra flexibility about letting folks carry cash over. Clearly, in the event you’ve been placing cash right into a dependent care FSA for daycare and the daycare has been closed, that is of concern. So you must verify along with your HR division to see what your employer plans to do with the plan guidelines to perhaps have some flexibility for you. However, once more, that is completely different than an HSA the place the cash is yours to maintain so long as you want it.

Liz: And one in every of my favourite methods is with the healthcare FSA, it is spending it as early within the yr as potential, as a result of with the opposite form, the dependent care, you may solely spend the cash as you set it apart. However with the medical FSA, you may spend the cash Jan. 1 or Jan. 2, even when you have not already put it in there. We have finished this a few instances after we switched jobs, we really have been capable of spend greater than we put in. In order that’s only a thought.

Sean: Attention-grabbing. So in the event you depart the job that funded that account, you would not need to pay it again, even in the event you already spent the cash?

Liz: Yeah. The thought is that the employer, with the use-it-or-lose-it provision, the individuals who aren’t spending the cash are offsetting the individuals who …  recreation the system, like I did. I imply, that is the one solution to put it.

Sean: Proper. Nevertheless it’s completely aboveboard. You are simply being fairly intelligent about the way you’re utilizing this.

Sean: Nicely, is there the rest round funding these accounts that folks ought to learn about?

Tina: No. I imply, I am fascinated with, from a tax perspective, if you may have to spend cash out of pocket on medical care or childcare this yr and you’ve got entry to an FSA or an HSA, then operating your cash by way of one in every of these accounts earlier than you pay the physician or the daycare supplier actually can prevent cash. You will get 100% of the cash you earned as an alternative of 100% of the cash you earn minus taxes, which is mostly what would occur in case your employer simply deposited your paycheck in your common checking account.

The factor to recollect is that the cash in your accounts have to go to certified bills or else it blows up the tax advantages. So in the event you’re interested by what precisely counts, I’d say, go to your employer, which in all probability has a listing or a information of certified bills for you. However look there first in the event you’re interested by a selected expense.

Liz: There’s yet one more tip I needed to throw in having to do with well being financial savings accounts. These are those that go along with the high-deductible plans. And that’s lots of people select to not use that cash for medical bills. They simply hold rolling it over yr after yr with the thought it is going to pay for medical bills in retirement. However you would possibly wish to hold observe of your medical spending anyway, and your receipts, as a result of you should utilize these to take the cash out tax-free on the finish, even when you do not have medical bills that match up.

Did that make sense? It is mainly, so long as you gather the receipts as you might have the bills, you should utilize that cash at any time. You do not have to match it as much as the yr the place you really incurred the bills.

Sean: Oh, that is glorious. OK, you are promoting me on these accounts now, although I am considerably cautious of them.

Liz: I believe wariness is justified, however particularly in the event you’re younger and wholesome, I believe it is worthwhile at the very least investigating the HSA and seeing if it could be an excellent match

Tina: And on that observe, I have a look at tax documentation on a regular basis, and for folks on the market who wish to learn the foundations, who actually wish to know all the small print, there are two good locations I’d ship you. The primary one is IRS Publication 969, and that has guidelines for HSAs and FSAs. And one other one is IRS Publication 502, and that is all about what counts as certified for medical bills.

Liz: Oh, these are nice sources. Thanks, Tina.

Sean: All proper. We are able to hyperlink to these on our present notes put up, if you wish to get tremendous additional Nerdy like Tina and browse these precise tax paperwork right here. Circling again to Clement’s query, which is best, an FSA or HSA? It looks like the reply is actually it relies upon based mostly in your healthcare wants, your monetary circumstances, and your tax targets. Is that proper?

Tina: I agree with that. Everyone’s tax state of affairs is completely different, all people’s. So there is not any solution to say that one is all the time higher than the opposite for all folks. One factor I am going to add is that along with the tax financial savings, typically employers contribute to FSAs and HSAs, and in order that’s like free cash. So, once more, when you’ve got entry to those accounts and your employer is matching or contributing, throwing cash in as an incentive, positively attempt to make the most of that in the event you can and if it really works along with your state of affairs.

Sean: So that might make the HSA like a quadruple win financially, since you’re getting the tax advantages threefold plus the free cash out of your employer probably.

Tina: Sure. Sure, it is potential.

Sean: And this simply requires touching base along with your HR division, and if they do not have this profit, perhaps foyer them a little bit bit and see if they’ll try this subsequent yr.

Tina: That is proper. Make sure to learn what your HR division sends out. Take a look at it fastidiously and ask questions.

Sean: Nicely, Tina, thanks a lot for becoming a member of us. I actually admire it.

Sean: With that, let’s get into our takeaway suggestions, and I can begin us off. First up, it is not one dimension matches all. Everyone’s tax state of affairs is completely different, so spend a while researching your choices.

Liz: Subsequent, HSAs may very well be a quadruple win. However HSAs require a high-deductible medical health insurance plan, and people aren’t for everybody. FSAs may very well be a greater match.

Sean: Lastly, you might have a restricted time to behave. The time to decide on and enroll is throughout open enrollment.

And that’s all we now have for this episode. Do you might have a cash query of your personal? Flip to the Nerds and name us or textual content us your questions at 901-730-6373. That is 901-730-NERD. You too can electronic mail us at [email protected] and go to for more information on this episode. And, after all, keep in mind to subscribe, price and evaluation us wherever you are getting this podcast.

Liz: And this is our transient disclaimer thoughtfully crafted by NerdWallet’s authorized group. Your questions are answered by educated and proficient finance writers, however we aren’t monetary or funding advisors. This Nerdy data is supplied for basic instructional and leisure functions and should not apply to your particular circumstances.

Sean: And with that stated, till subsequent time, flip to the Nerds.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here