Category Archives: news

November 5, 2018

Nine-Point Retirement Checklist

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

9 Steps to Help Your Retirement Assets Last

By Gregory S. Ostrowski, Managing Partner, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, CRPC®  Scarborough Capital Management

9 Steps to Help Make Your Retirement Assets Last
What should you be thinking about when nearing retirement? Here’s nine tips to help ensure that you can make the most of life’s next chapter.

What should I be thinking about when nearing/considering retirement?  It’s one of the most common questions we’re asked and it’s critical to review your personal finances and plan how to spend money after you retire.

Retirement means different things to different people. To some, it could mean having additional time to visit family. To others it might present more opportunities to volunteer in the community. And to some it might even mean having the chance to get a little more golf or tennis in with close friends.

But while some of these things can be very low or even no cost (think hiking or reading in the shade), many of them will still require money.

If you’re getting to the point where the idea of retirement is becoming more of a reality, but you haven’t yet considered its financial impact, here are nine tips to help ensure that you can make the most of life’s next chapter.

Take stock. All this step requires is that you examine your assets and liabilities. In other words, did you leave a 401(k) at an old job? Have you checked your main stock portfolio lately? Do you have a number of outstanding loans? Do you have too much cash saved in a low-interest savings account, or even worse, a basic checking account?

Once you can get a handle on what you have and where you have it, record everything in a simple spreadsheet or in a notebook. Once you do, you can move on to step two.

Evaluate expenses. The financial world has lots of plans for people to save for retirement, but very few people talk about how to spend during retirement. This fact alone can get the best saver off track very quickly.

For example, if someone said to you that you’d have $1 million in the bank for retirement, you may say, “hey, that’s great!” But in reality, that sum might only equate to about $40,000 to $50,000 per year of income. Would this be enough for you and your spouse for the rest of your lives?

For this step, first, figure out all of your current expenses – and yes, we mean all of them. Even those “inexpensive” stops to the coffee shop can add up. Again, this can be as simple as making a list and totaling it up.

Next, figure out what expenses you will still have after retirement, those that you may be able to cut, and even those that may come up.

For example, you may have a car payment, and that won’t change. But what about your mortgage payment? Could that be adjusted if you downsized? Relocating could reduce not only the cost of the mortgage, but also property taxes, utilities, and maybe even travel expenses if you move closer to places you visit frequently.

In terms of what could arise, some people have the dream of wanting to own a beach or mountain home as a vacation spot, or even simply taking more vacations. These costs will add up fast, so be sure to give your best estimate.

And if you think this step doesn’t matter, please reconsider that thought. Just a few years of outpacing your budget at the beginning of retirement could mean trouble later.

Formulate a plan. This is the most involved part of planning for retirement and where you should consider reaching out for help.  At Scarborough Capital Management we’ll help provide visibility on your retirement picture and can develop side-by-side scenarios of what retirement might look like under various circumstances.

If you’ve created a budget and have an idea of what you’ve already set aside and what you’ll be spending, you have the basis to build your plan. With that, we’ll really be looking at two things – money you currently have, and money you may still need to make.

What to do with cash. Volatility in the stock market has often caused retirees stress, as they have fewer years to recoup any losses they suffer as a result of a market dip. While it might be a good idea to keep 40 percent to 50 percent of your assets in some type of bonds or cash in retirement, the smart investor knows that taking all of your money out of the stock market or other interest bearing vehicles may not be a good idea.

The reason is that without any capital gaining interest, any money that’s just stored “in a mattress” for instance can’t keep pace with inflation. This “longevity risk” could be more risky than having a solid, diversified portfolio.

Timing of investment account withdrawals. How much you withdraw early on and how the market performs can be some of the most important factors in your retirement picture. In this case, the guidance of a professional may be key in helping you avoid some serious mistakes.

Timing of income, such as employer pensions or deferred compensation plans. Depending on your circumstances, you may have some flexibility in when you commence your pension or deferred compensation benefits. In other cases, there may be pre-defined dates and timelines for income.

Further, many large employers are also offering lump-sum pension payout options versus a monthly check over time. Be sure to evaluate these decisions as part of your broader plan.

Timing of Social Security benefits. As recently as early 2016, the Social Security system had more than 550 claiming scenarios. Recent legislation has reduced that amount somewhat, but commencement of benefits (or delaying them) is a decision that should not be made lightly. There is no “one size fits all” advice in this arena, so it’s important to examine your options to see how they fit your situation.

“Pecking order” of accounts. Various types of accounts – like a Roth IRA or tax-deferred annuity or checking account – have various tax treatments. Understanding the characteristics of all your assets – in conjunction with your goals, timeframes and legacy wishes – will help you determine a tax-efficient strategy to draw on your assets during retirement.

Review protections. You may be paying for insurance you don’t need (for instance, an old life insurance policy that has adequate cash-value to maintain itself); in other cases it might be beneficial to add coverage you don’t currently have (such as an umbrella policy or long-term care insurance).

You may find though that after going through the budgeting process that you have a gap between what you have and what you are planning on spending. If you’re going to maintain your spending plan you’ll need a small income stream during this period of your life.

In fact, this exact scenario has caused a number of retirees to go back into the job market. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. Some of these individuals have earned some extra income by looking for employment at places they find enjoyable or meaningful, such as a garden store, library, or even community center.

In other words, it doesn’t have to be viewed as work if you find enjoyment or meaning from it, and if you’re setting your own schedule.

As a final note, sometimes it may seem like planning for retirement can be too daunting of a task to take on, but it doesn’t have to be.

While these steps are not meant to be exhaustive, they are designed to help retirees see that with some preparation and professional assistance, you can help put your mind at ease and enjoy everything that you worked so hard to achieve.  Call us; we’d love to help you.

September 4, 2018

Live Webcast – 6 What Ifs of Retirement Planning

Informative webcasts brought to you by carborough Capital Management

Join us for a live webcast presented by David Sizemore, CFP®

webcast, retirement planning
Register for our live webcast below.

Scarborough’s Educational Webcast Series presents: The 6 What Ifs of Retirement Planning. Retirement can be full of questions and it’s common for retirees and those approaching retirement to have fears about maintaining a comfortable lifestyle in an era of volatile markets and rising costs. Please join us for a webinar as we outline six common “What Ifs” of retirement and present some strategies to address them.

Please join us for this informative webcast. We encourage you to forward this invitation to your family, friends, or anyone who is nearing retirement.

 

Click a link below to register for a session.

Wednesday, September 19th @ 10am Eastern

Wednesday, September 19th @ 6pm Eastern

Get to know David.

Click here to learn more about  David Sizemore, CFP®.

August 7, 2018

Live Webcast – Halftime Report

Informative webcasts brought to you by carborough Capital Management

Join us for a live webcast presented by Shawn Walker, CFP®, CRPC®

webcast, market commentary
Register for our live webcast below.

Scarborough’s Market Commentary: From market volatility to geopolitical drama, many topics have dominated headlines in 2018. Separating fact from hype-and knowing where you stand-is critical for making sound decisions.

Join us as we review the year’s events so far and provide context for your own financial life.

We’ll cover:

  • What is driving market performance?
  • What does the data tell us about the economy’s health?
  • What do financial experts predict for the rest of the year?

Please join us for this informative webcast. We encourage you to forward this invitation to your family, friends, or anyone who would appreciate learning more about today’s markets and economy.

 

Click a link below to register for a session.

Tuesday, August 14th @ 6pm Eastern

Thursday, August 16th @ 10am Eastern

Get to know Shawn.

Click here to learn more about  Shawn Walker, CFP®, CRPC®.

 

July 25, 2018

The Importance of Rebalancing Your Portfolio

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

The Importance of Rebalancing Your Portfolio

By Joshua P. Goldsmith, Vice President of Investments, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, CRPC®,   Scarborough Capital Management

Do you rebalance your portfolio?
Rebalancing is an important part of managing the performance of your portfolio. Are you ready to rebalance your portfolio?

When the market takes a downturn, what do you do?

You probably know better than to panic and start selling. Selling when values start to fall goes against the basic premise of trading, “buy low, sell high.” But holding tight during a downturn can be a nerve-wracking experience.

That’s why most experts suggest a strategy of regularly rebalancing your portfolio to help minimize vulnerability if things take an unexpected turn. There’s evidence to back it up—a study  published in May 2014  found that rebalancing is a far safer strategy than selling during a downturn, and can even outperform portfolios that demonstrate “hands-off” patience.

What it Means to Rebalance Your Portfolio

Rebalancing is where you evaluate your portfolio and make adjustments to your investments. When rebalancing, essentially, you’re looking to sell high and buy low on a small scale. You’ll divest from assets that are over-performing, and invest in items that are underperforming. This puts you in a position to potentially minimize risk and maximize gains if those assets’ performances correct themselves.

So if rebalancing is shown to work, why is it even an option? Why wouldn’t everyone do it?

The answer is that rebalancing requires you to be a little counterintuitive. Yes you’re selling high and buying low, but you’re also selling gains and buying investments. Remember, you’re looking to rebalance outliers, meaning that you’ll be selling stocks that are outperforming their expectations in favor of picking up ones that are underperforming.

And for some investors, that’s just plain silly.

But that’s an emotional decision, not a rational one. Statistically, rebalancing works. Which is why it’s best advice to remove emotional attachment to investments and enlist the help of a certified professional to help manage your assets!

Rebalancing in Three Simple Steps

While actually rebalancing your portfolio is best left to a professional, it’s important that you understand the steps they’ll take when moving your money around. After all, it’s your money—you should know what’s happening with it.

Rebalancing, on a basic level, involves three steps:

Record

Rebalancing relies on comparing the performance of individual assets against their history, so the first step is recording that history. Your portfolio manager will look at the values of your assets when you acquired them, and divide that value by the total value of your portfolio to determine a weight for the asset. The idea is that, going forward, you’ll maintain these asset weights by making adjustments to individual assets.

Compare

Your portfolio manager will look at how each asset class is performing, compared to its historical record. They’ll come up with new weights for your asset classes and compare them to the original weights. If there’s a significant change (positive or negative) it may be time to make a change.

Adjust

If there are any major changes to your portfolio, your financial manager will use a formula to figure out how to readjust your investments to reduce your exposure to risk. This will involve getting rid of assets that have grown too large in your portfolio, and using that money to reinvest in underperforming assets.

When to Rebalance Your Portfolio

You have two main options for determining when to rebalance your portfolio: Time and Performance. Both of these strategies have some merit.

If you choose to rebalance based on time, you’ll set annual, semi-annual, or quarterly dates where you revisit your portfolio and make adjustments to your asset classes. The benefit of this approach is that it lets you control exactly how often you’ll be rebalancing your portfolio—and paying the fees associated with it.

Rebalancing based on performance thresholds means that your financial manager will constantly monitor your portfolio, and make adjustments any time an asset class is off by a certain percentage (which you’ll pick based on your risk tolerance). This makes sure your portfolio is always optimally balanced, but it could be costly to maintain.

But there’s a third path, one recommended by a number of experts, that combines time and performance into a hybrid approach. You set one or two dates each year to check your portfolio, but only make adjustments to assets that have hit a certain performance threshold. This approach optimizes maintenance costs with performance gains.

Are You Ready to Rebalance Your Portfolio?

Rebalancing is an important part of managing the performance of your portfolio and being prepared for unexpected downturns in the market. Even though it involves selling assets that are outperforming your expectations, rebalancing has been shown to help minimize risk and maximize potential gains.

If you don’t have a rebalancing plan in place, we highly recommend meeting with a financial professional to get one set up!

July 9, 2018

Live Webcast – Take Control of Your 401(k)

Informative webcasts brought to you by carborough Capital Management

Join us for a live webcast presented by Jonathan Szostek, CFP®, CRPC®

401k, defined contribution plan management
Learn the the information you need to help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your 401k. Register for our live webcast below.

The 401(k) plan has become the single largest source of retirement savings for a majority of American workers. By design, they require people to manage their own investments. In many cases people do not have the time, talent, or tools to do so effectively or efficiently.

Learn how to take control of your 401(k). Join us for an educational webinar to learn how to more effectively manage your 401(k).

You’ll learn:

  • Important plan features and option of typical plans*
  • Opportunities you may be overlooking
  • Actionable steps you can start today

We encourage you to forward this invitation to your family, friends, or anyone who has questions about their 401(k).

 

Click a link below to register for a session.

Wednesday, July 25th @ 6pm Eastern

Get to know Jon.

Click here to learn more about Jon Szostek.

 

* Every 401k plan has unique characteristics. To maximize your plan you need to know all of your specific plan options.

July 9, 2018

Live Webcast – What to do When Your Company Offers a Pension Buyout

Informative webcasts brought to you by carborough Capital Management

Join us for a live webcast presented by Gregory Ostrowski, CFP®, CRPC®

What to do when offered a pension buyout
Changes in a company’s pension plan call for a thorough analysis of what option is right for each individual based on a number of different factors. Find out what questions you should be asking.

A pension buyout with a lump-sum option can drastically alter original retirement plans that otherwise had been based on receiving traditional monthly pension payments; however, there are other options available to you. Changes in a company’s pension plan call for a thorough analysis of what option is right for each individual based on a number of different factors.

We’ll guide you through the retirement plan basics, as well as offer a perspective on the trends contributing to what many consider to be the combination of circumstances creating today’s environment of pension buyout activity. We will outline general options available to those individuals who are faced with a buyout situation, and examine major considerations and personal factors to assess.

Please join us for this informative webcast. We encourage you to forward this invitation to your family, friends, or anyone who may be impacted by a pension buyout.

Click a link below to register for a session.

Tuesday, July 17th @ 6pm Eastern

Thursday, July 19th @ 10am Eastern

Get to know Greg.

Click here to learn more about Greg Ostrowski.

June 27, 2018

The Secret to Timing the Stock Market: Don’t

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

The Secret to Timing the Stock Market: Don’t

By Ian Arrowsmith, Managing Partner, CMFC®, CRPC®  Scarborough Capital Management

Don't be tempted to time the market.
A good investment plan will help set you up for success in the future, without the constant agitation and struggle of chasing trends.

Do you have that one friend who is always trying to time the stock market, analyzing the ups and downs of past performances to predict the perfect moment to strike? Do they approach investing the way TV detectives approach a hard case, with cork boards full of pictures connected by miles of red string?

Did it ever occur to you that this friend might just be a little… off?

Sure, there are certain pundits who swear “timing the market” is the key to making ridiculous gains. And there are plenty of people who believe it’s possible, especially among those who aren’t heavily involved in the market.

It certainly seems plausible that it just takes is the right insight, and presto! You predict when the market is about to make a big swing and rake in huge profits.

But the truth is that it’s no easier to predict the future of the market than it is to predict the future. There have only been a few successfully predicted bear markets over the past 100-some years; most “predictions” around market swings are actually just examples of a prognosticator getting lucky, and the “experts” are the ones who try to pass off that luck as skill.

No offense to your friend, but when it comes to investing, successfully “timing the market” is one of the biggest myths around.

Don’t Try to Predict the Future

You can look at the past performance of an investment to get a general idea of how it’s performing, but there’s no way to turn that into any sort of accurate prediction about its future earnings—and its future earnings are what will matter to you as an investor.

Performance indicators change all the time, and when a reliable indicator is actually found, it quickly leads to crowding that negates the potential benefit. In addition, the advanced models and simulations needed to create a reliable prediction are often so expensive that they cost more than the potential benefits to begin with!

Instead of looking for particulars, focus instead on broader trends. You can get a general sense of the direction a particular investment is trending, and use that to make an informed decision. Just don’t fall into the trap of focusing too much on past performances; you can’t make an accurate prediction about when an investment will reach an exact value, no matter how much research you do.

Remember, if investors could accurately predict how well their investments will behave, everyone would be a millionaire.

That’s why the best investment strategies are the ones that balance tolerable risk with potential gains. You want a portfolio that can be adjusted and corrected, and that relies on probability to earn you money over time without gambling on hitting it big with one well-timed transaction.

Play the Long Game

Patience might just be the most important part of a successful investment strategy. Make long-term investments that can grow steadily, rather than trying to time the market for short-term gains. Take the long view and approach your investments with an attitude that you won’t see results right away, but that your portfolio is growing.

Investing successfully is like growing an apple tree; it’s going to take years for it to grow and develop. If you plant one tomorrow, you wouldn’t expect to eat an apple from it the next day. The same is true of investments. Invest now, but don’t expect to see profits from your investments until far down the road.

By focusing on the long game, you’ll deftly avoid the most common pitfalls for inexperienced investors: panic and overconfidence. These are the major drivers of irrational investment decisions, especially when it comes to short-term investing. Investors with a short-term view are easily spooked by fluctuations and corrections in the market, and their decisions suffer for it.

Don’t fall victim to these common mistakes. Instead, set up a plan with a qualified financial advisor and stick to it. You’ll be more likely to end up with a diverse, long-term investment strategy that’s tailor-fit to your goals—and your risk tolerance. Just understand that you’re establishing a long-term plan, not chasing after quick gains.

A good investment plan will help set you up for success in the future, without the constant agitation and struggle of chasing trends. When it comes time to cash in on your investments, you’ll be glad you took this approach. Your friend, however, will probably still be chasing after that big windfall from one “properly timed” investment… and most likely chasing after a whole lot of lost money right along with it.

June 13, 2018

The New College Graduate’s Guide to Investing

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

The New College Graduate’s Guide to Investing

By Jonathan W. Szostek, Vice President of Investments, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, RICP®, AIF®, CRPC®,  Scarborough Capital Management

Getting financially organized is no different than getting organized in any other aspects of your life.
Since you’re already balancing so many things as you start your life after college, you can consider your investments just another piece of the puzzle.

Congratulations, graduate! You’ve made it through all the tough years of school, and now it’s time to set out on the rest of your life. And while your immediate concerns may be focused on finding that first post-college job, or setting out on some grand adventure, you’re also in a unique position to make the financial decisions that will set you up for success from here on out.

Unless you were a finance major, you probably didn’t learn a whole lot about investing money during your college career. And what you already know is probably a little confusing—maybe even downright scary.

After all, investing can be a complicated process. But we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be—and that you’re in a prime position in life to maximize the benefits of a sound investment strategy.

Starting From Scratch

You have a college degree (again, congratulations). You may already have a new job (if so, congratulations again). Maybe you just moved into a hip downtown apartment with some friends. You’re establishing yourself as a genuine, bona fide adult.

And as you get acquainted with your new adult responsibilities, you may find that your money is flying out to cover things like rent, utilities, and food (not to mention those delightful student loan payments) faster than it’s coming in. The whole thing may be a bit overwhelming… but don’t panic!

Getting financially organized is no different than getting organized in any other aspects of your life. How did you move all your things into that new apartment? How did you manage all that classwork in college? You had a plan, and you stuck to it.

Since you’re already balancing so many things as you start your life after college, you can consider your investments just another piece of the puzzle. It’s the perfect time to get used to budgeting for your future—after all, what’s one more thing at this point? Start planning for it now, and it can become second nature.

Get acquainted with the basics of investing, and consider sitting down with a qualified financial advisor to custom-tailor your investment strategy.

Save into a 401k

One of the easiest ways for a new college grad to get started making investments is with a 401k. If offered by your employer, these specially designed accounts may help you maximize your retirement savings, and the sooner you start contributing to one, the better off you could be.

Your employer may even offer to match your 401k contributions up to a certain point, which is something you should definitely take advantage of—after all, it’s free money! This is usually done as a percentage of your salary, and it’s a good indication of what your minimum contributions should be.

For example, if an employer offers to match the first 3% of your salary contributed to your 401k, you should contribute at least 3%; otherwise, you’re losing the matching money. You should always look to save as much of your income as you can, even though it may be tempting not to. But think of it this way: if you’re not taking advantage of an employer’s 401k matching, you’re effectively reducing your savings rate.

Get Help from Technology

One of the biggest advantages today’s graduates have when it comes to investing (and to a lot of things, really) is technology. There are apps out there that make investing and budgeting easier than they’ve ever been before. Some of these apps even go so far as to make personal finance management into fun, using colorful graphics and game-like elements to keep users engaged.

It’s a far cry from the ledgers and spreadsheets of yesterday. And it’s generally every bit as effective, as long as you’re aware of a few key things.

The first thing you should look into is a good budgeting app. Many budgeting apps make it easy to see all of your accounts, keep tabs on your debt, and set up monthly budgets with automatic alarms for overspending. What more could you want?

But the key to getting the most out of any budget is to actually pay attention to it. While an app can tell you when you’ve hit your monthly limit on takeout food, it can’t stop you from ordering more the next time you’re hungry!

Get Started Now

No matter how you plan to save for retirement, the key is to start doing it as soon as possible. Investments tend to grow over time so the sooner you start, the better off you can be.

If you’re ready to start saving, your best bet is to talk with a professional and come up with a strategy that fits your exact needs. Having a qualified financial advisor on your side will give you a huge advantage not just in tackling your everyday expenses, but in putting away the money you need for a long and comfortable retirement.

And yes, you may have just graduated college, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about retiring—it makes it the perfect time to start planning.

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts:

What retirement might look like for Millennials

Why saving early on in life is underrated

14 Questions for Joining Finances with Your Significant Other

 

 

May 22, 2018

David Sizemore, CFP® has earned the title of Vice President of Investments

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

Help Us Congratulate David!
Our Newest Vice President of Investments

David Sizemore Scarborough Capital Management
Annapolis, MD – May 22, 2018  David Sizemore, CFP® has earned the title of Vice President of Investments.

David joined us back in 2007 working as an intern, then an associate, and most recently as a Retirement Advisor.  He has been doing an exemplary job over the years working with clients and delivering the service on which we have built this firm.

David joins the other senior advisor staff in continuing to deliver the quality client experience that his clients have come to expect, as well as helping to direct the firms continued growth.

Please join us in congratulating David on this achievement.

Click here to learn more about David Sizemore.

 

 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CFP® in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

May 8, 2018

HSAs: A Compelling Way to Save for Healthcare Costs in Retirement

401k advisor annapolis in maryland at SCM

HSAs: A Compelling Way to Save for Healthcare Costs in Retirement

By Gregory S. Ostrowski, Managing Partner, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, CRPC®,  Scarborough Capital Management 

reduce your tax bill with an HSA
You HSA could allow you to reduce your tax bill while putting money aside for future health care expenses.

One of the most common questions we get is, “how do I prepare for my healthcare costs in retirement?”

And one of the best answers just might be three little letters: HSA.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can be useful tools when it comes to paying for healthcare costs, because they are specially designed to lighten your tax burden in three different ways. Money goes in on a tax-deductible basis, grows on a tax-deferred basis, and can be spent tax-free as well—so long as it’s spent on qualified medical expenses (including Medicare premiums).

This gives them an advantage over other forms of retirement planning accounts—not even your IRA account lets you save this much on taxes. The only catch is that your HSA account must be used for qualifying expenses—namely, healthcare. But, according to our research, the average retiring couple will need at least $200,000 saved up for medical care in retirement. That’s a lot of cash—and it doesn’t even include the costs of long-term care.

If you’re going to need that much money just for medical costs, you may want to consider a dedicated account for it. Choosing an HSA as your dedicated account for future healthcare costs could make sense under the right circumstances. An HSA may even help you save on your current taxes.

The Basics of an HSA

In the simplest of terms, an HSA works like a savings account. You put money in, and you take it out when you need it. But there are very specific rules that must be followed, around how that money is spent that make an HSA different.  Adhering to those rules allows for tax breaks that may make an HSA another way to save for future healthcare costs.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. You own the account, and the funds don’t expire.
    1. There’s no “use it or lose it” provision with an HSA, so your funds won’t disappear if you don’t touch them. You can even keep the funds if you change employment—once the money is in your HSA, it’s yours. It is important to note, however, that some accounts have maintenance fees that can add up over time.
  2. Contributions are limited.
    1. Like all good things, there’s a limit to how much you can contribute to your HSA each year. These limits change from year to year, so do your research before making any big financial plans.
  3. They’re the only account to offer triple savings on taxes.
    1. Money contributed to an HSA is tax deductible. It grows tax-deferred. And it comes out tax free, as long as it’s spent on qualified medical expenses1. This may save you 30% or more on every dollar you put in.2
  4. Misuse the funds, and you will be penalized.
    1. If you’re under 65, you will be subjected to a penalty for using your HSA funds for anything other than qualified medical expenses. The amount you withdraw will be subject to income tax and may be subject to an additional 20% tax. Be sure to review the rules and regulations of your HSA, and contact your tax professional with questions.
    2. Regardless of age, withdrawals will be subject to taxes if not used for eligible medical expenses.
  5. You must meet the requirements to enroll.
    1. You are covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP), on the first day of the month.
    2. You are enrolled in only in that HDHP plan.
    3. You cannot be enrolled in Medicare.
    4. You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes.

If you meet the above requirements, you’re good to go! And, like all savings accounts, the earlier you get started, the better off you are.

Getting the Most out of Your HSA

Now that you know the basics, let’s talk a little about the details around your HSA.

First and foremost, being enrolled in an HSA-compatible health plan means having a high deductible. If you tend to spend a lot on medical expenses to begin with, you may be better off with a different type of plan (if your employer offers one). One unlucky medical event, or even a lucky but expensive one like the birth of a child, and thousands of dollars could vanish from your HSA to cover your deductible.

That being said, an HSA may be a good plan option for younger, healthy individuals who don’t usually spend a lot of time (or money) at the doctor’s office. That’s because the costs of the plan tend to be low, and most employers offer some sort of contribution matching. All of this means you won’t be paying for a health insurance plan you won’t likely use, as you would under a traditional plan; you’ll be contributing to a savings account that can pay off down the road, when you need it most.

HSAs also offer a nifty tax benefit—since the money you contribute to an HSA is tax-deductible, you may be able use your HSA to reduce your taxable income and get into a lower tax bracket if you’re on the cusp. This could be a benefit, if you qualify, so be sure you take advantage of it if it makes sense for your individual situation.

A Priority for Retirement Saving

While an HSA should by no means be your only way to save for retirement—it can be, after all, an effective option for covering medical expenses—it should definitely be an option you consider as part of your retirement portfolio.

When used properly, and for those who qualify, no other savings account is as tax efficient as an HSA. That makes these accounts a valuable way to maximize your current income for future expenses. If you think an HSA might be right for you, get in touch with a professional today and see how it fits into your personal retirement plan.

 

 

1 For detailed information on HSAs and qualified medical expenses see: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p969#en_US_2017_publink1000204046

2 There are no federal taxes on HSA contributions, but some states will tax them. Consult with an expert to know all the details before starting your HSA. SCM does not provide tax or legal advice.