A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP). You can read about high deductible health plans on this government website.
HSAs can be an attractive tool to save money for healthcare expenses later in life, as well as to save on taxes today. HSA’s are one of the few “triple tax-free” benefits available in the US tax code. First, the funds contributed to an HSA account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Second, earnings in the account grow tax-free. Third and finally, distributions from the account are tax-free if used for qualified medical expenses.
HSAs do have contributions limits, however. For 2017, the maximum that can be contributed to an HSA is $3,400 for an individual, and $6,750 for a family. An additional catch-up contribution of $1,000 can be made if you are age 55 or older.
If you find that you didn’t contribute enough to your HSA during the calendar year, you’re permitted to make a contribution until April 15th of the next year (the standard tax-filing deadline). Catch-up contributions can be made anytime in the year you turn 55.
Most health insurance providers offer HSAs. If yours doesn’t have one, you can open a separate HSA account at most financial institutions. In fact, the custodian used by your insurance provider may not be the best solution. The fees and expenses, and investment options available, are important considerations in selecting a suitable HSA account custodian.
For example, if you are a young “30-something” with a long working career ahead of you, and don’t plan on needing to access your HSA account for decades, you may want to consider investing the dollars in your HSA account in equity mutual funds. The expectation would be that a more aggressive investment strategy would grow your account balance over time, leaving you with more dollars when you need them. In this case, you would be best-served by an HSA custodian that offers low trading costs and a good selection of low-cost mutual funds to invest in.
Alternatively, if you’re most interested in preserving what you’ve already accumulated in your account, you may want to consider a custodian that offers good CD or money market rates.
The website DepositAccounts can be a good resource and starting point. The finer points of earning a higher rate – such as minimum balances and monthly fees – are important considerations.
If you think an HSA might be appropriate for you, consult your tax professional or financial advisor.