Use It or Lose It

Use It or Lose It

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Let the traditions begin this week! Gather with loved ones, give thanks, and try – really try – to eat everything your eyes see. Take a break from finances for the week but next week, remember that holiday leftovers may not be the only thing going to waste this time of year. Certain health care benefits also have a shelf-life that is quickly approaching. To ensure that you don’t miss out on your own, hard-earned money, read on and set a reminder to revisit next week.

If you’ve already met your insurance deductible or out-of-pocket maximum for the year, now could be a great time to move up the appointment with your dermatologist or finally schedule more expensive procedures you’ve been putting off like dental work, an MRI or a stress test. While waiting until after the new year may sound easier, remember that you are also waiting for a whole new deductible, ensuring that you will pay more.

If you contribute to a health flexible spending account (FSA), remember: use it or lose it. A healthcare FSA plan is an employer-provided benefit that allows employees to set aside up to $2,600 to be used for approved medical expenses throughout the year. The benefit of an FSA is that contributions are not subject to income tax. This means that you can apply one full dollar toward medical expenses, compared to one dollar less taxes, if instead you paid for the expenses from your checking account. But, as with all tax-related perks, there is a catch: if you don’t use the funds, you lose them. Depending on your plan, one of two options will exist to help you use your funds:

  1. Carry over up to $500 of unused funds contributed in 2017 to cover expenses in 2018 (think of them like rollover minutes). Funds in excess of $500 will be forfeited- as in gone and lost for good,


  1. Use the account balance by March 15th, 2018 or the funds will be forfeited.

Fortunately, the list of approved expenses is pretty broad and usually includes paying for co-pays, deductibles, prescriptions and items like sunscreen, first aid kits, lip balm, contact solution, eye glasses and lenses. Check with your employer for carryover rules and a complete list of qualified expenses.