A flexible spending account (FSA) might sound something more suited for older people or individuals with chronic health conditions, but the truth is that people of all ages and health statuses might be able to benefit from opening an account.
But when I mentioned this to a former coworker he laughed in response. "You're young and healthy. You don't need one of those," he said.
I shrugged off his comment, but here's the deal—whether you're a 25 or 55, medical concerns and health problems don't discriminate. But even beyond that, it's always a good idea to save money (especially when you're young!).
Here's why it might be a smart move to open an FSA even when you're in the prime of your life.
The cost of prescription medicine
In many ways, "young and healthy" is a myth. People of all ages experience a variety of health issues that include both mental health and physical health. In fact, according to a recent study, nearly 40% of 18 to 44-year-old Americans used prescription drugs in the last 30 days. After all, just because you take prescription medicine doesn't mean you are old or have ailing health. It simply means that you take care of your health.
A lot can happen in a year. Whether it's an unexpected surgery or a persistent cold, you might find yourself visiting the doctor more than you anticipated. Luckily, you can use FSA funds to pay for copays and deductibles.
That's great news for your bank account because it means that you will save an amount equal to the taxes you would have paid on the money you set aside. You might be young and healthy, that doesn't mean you're not young and broke too.
You set the amount
One of the best things about flexible spending accounts is that you get to determine the amount of money you contribute each year. There's a limit to how much you can add to the account—$2,700 in 2019—but you're able to contribute less.
If you're young and generally healthy, then it might be a good idea to create a list of estimated medical expenses for the upcoming year.
Remember, you can use FSA funds to pay for dental, vision and mental health visits, so estimates for those services should also be included. If you estimate your costs beforehand, it's a win-win for your bank account and your health.
"Use it or lose it" isn't as scary as it sounds
In general, you must use the money in your FSA within the plan year. If you don't, there's a chance you might "lose it" (the money goes back to your employer to help offset the costs of administering the program). But some employers offer grace periods and some employers even allow employees to roll over up to $500 per year.
But even if you end up with some extra money in your FSA at the end of the year and your employer doesn't offer any of those benefits, you don't have to "lose it." You can use your remaining FSA funds to buy FSA-eligible products, and there are thousands of FSA-eligible health items to choose from.
Of course, not all FSAs are created equal. While the IRS has defined IRS-eligible categories, employers can choose to design their FSA to cover some or all of those IRS-allowed expenses. Therefore, we advise that you always check with their FSA plan administrator or HR department about exactly what their FSA will cover.
Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.