Saving for the Future

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are accounts that are funded by pre-tax income and these funds remain untaxed so long as they are used for qualified medical expenses. HSAs are generally overseen by an employer or if it is an individual HSA, it is overseen by a bank, credit union, or insurance company. Anyone can open a health savings account if their medical insurance plan is a high-deductible health plan. However, when you’re enrolled in Medicare, your options change substantially because Medicare is considered insurance and is not a high-deductible health plan. Many people who age into Medicare eligibility actually have an HSA. What do you do with your HSA once you can enroll in Medicare? What is the best legal option for you, and how will it affect your finances? These are important questions to ask as you plan your retirement or help your loved ones plan for theirs.

Medicare and IRS Compliance

You are unable to open an HSA or contribute money to an HSA if you have any other insurance other than a high-deductible health plan. Though you can no longer contribute to your HSA with Medicare, you can still make withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. It can be confusing for consumers to navigate the rules because Medicare is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and HSAs are overseen by the Department of Treasury. Here are some points to consider:

  • Some individuals decide to put off Medicare enrollment in order to continue work and continue before tax contributions to their HSA.
  • An individual is still able to open a HSA if eligible, despite a spouse enrolling in Medicare.
  • HSA funds can be used to cover copayments, premiums, prescriptions, and more despite being enrolled in Medicare.
  • It is completely legal to use HSA funds to pay for the medical expenses of your spouse and any tax dependents even if they aren’t themselves HSA-eligible.

Deferring Medicare Enrollment

There is no real reason to defer Medicare enrollment when eligible. Many decide to defer enrollment if they are still employed and can continue making contributions to their HSA. However, waiting to enroll in Medicare can result in steep penalties. The late enrollment penalty for Medicare Part B alone is 10 % for each year after your 65th birthday and continues for the rest of your life. Find out more about Medicare late enrollment penalties here.

Planning for Your Future Today

You can reduce your medical costs by enrolling in a high deductible health plan either through an employer or individually. This insurance plan comes with a lower monthly premium but a higher deductible. Talk with your employer or banker about opening a health savings account to help you pay your deductible by using tax-free HSA funds. When prioritizing your health, your medical needs will be minimal and the funds in your HSA will accumulate until you are a senior, at which point you can enroll in Medicare, stop contributing to your HSA, and use the funds for your Medicare premiums. Upon your death, your HSA funds will be liquidated and distributed to a beneficiary of your choice who will be able to use the funds for any purpose. This is the way that programs are designed for the consumer, and how you can best benefit from them.

 

 

For years we have seen diet programs as a joke in the United States. Fad diets monopolize our television screens either by ad space or through subversive promotion in shows and movies. Fad brands take up retail space in our drug and grocery stores, and “diet and fitness” books account for a good deal of self-help and lifestyle publications in the book store. For all the help we have at our very fingertips, there are still 160 million people in the U.S. who are obese or overweight (adults and children). Either consumers don’t understand the dangers of obesity, or we don’t understand how to stop it. Perhaps it’s because of the mixed signals we’re getting from the diet and fitness industry—a money-making machine that is just as dangerous as obesity itself.

Keto, Paleo, and Atkins, Oh My!

“My sister lost 60 pounds in six months!”

“I lost 10 pounds in ten days!”

“The weight is coming off like never before!”

These are just some of the things that my friends have said when they kiss carbs good-bye. The weight comes off in pounds each week. No more counting fractions! No more weigh-in dread. The three biggest low-carb diets in the U.S. today work. They work because Americans eat too many carbs, not enough of the complex carb, and too much sugar and not enough fiber. Low carb diets cut calories drastically and replace it with healthy proteins and fats which results in significant and sometimes fast weight loss. Though they’re similar in that they are low-carb, the keto, paleo, and Atkins diets are quite different.

The Keto Diet is a low-carb, high fat diet in which a person enjoys any and all fatty foods they want while restricting carbohydrates drastically. The danger with the Keto Diet is that restricting carbs to less than 50 grams per day results in a state of ketosis—the goal of the diet. As your body enters Ketosis it responds with what has become known as “the keto flu” in which you have all the symptoms of regular Influenza. Body aches, fever, flushing, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea are common. When you maintain ketosis for an extended period of time, your physical performance begins to suffer, and in people with undiagnosed illnesses such as Diabetes or pre-Diabetes, a Keto Diet plan can cause Ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that can cause permanent damage to essential organs.

The Paleo Diet brings humanity back to the cave-man era. Carbs are restricted because processed foods are not permitted, and many of today’s foods are processed. Instead of the usual staples, Paleo focuses on high-protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables—just like the hunters and gathers did it. The problem with this type of diet is that the hunters and gathers of the Paleolithic Era had physically demanding lifestyles from sunup to sundown. Americans who have sedentary lifestyles and only exercise at the gym a few times per week do not need this type of diet high in fats and proteins, especially red meats and saturated fats.

The Atkins Diet is specifically branded as a low-carb diet. First, participants maintain a diet comprised of only 20 to 25 grams of net carbs per day. Then, slowly, this amount is raised to 80 to 100 grams per day. A healthy, balanced diet should include 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day, according to Mayo Clinic, so both phases of Atkins are low-carb and will fail to provide enough sugar and fiber to your diet.

Too Good to Be True

The old saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true it usually is” and the best, most sustainable weight loss happens when a 2,000 calorie per day diet is maintained along with healthy activity and exercise as well as medical oversight for conditions which contribute to weight gain and unhealthy eating habits. You may lose weight on a fad diet, but the weight will return because the underlying cause of the weight gain is not addressed. If you suffer from an eating disorder, unhealthy eating habits, or serious and life-threatening weight gain, talk with your doctor about healthy weight loss options today .

Flu season in the U.S. is in fall and winter, peaking in December and January, but can last as long as May in some cases. It’s during this time that the flue circulates the fastest, effecting the most people and putting some at great risk of complications and even death.

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

There are very little side effects to the flu vaccination and professionals agree that the benefits outweigh the risk in most cases. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over 6 months of age should be vaccinated with the annual flu vaccination. Those who are at higher risk for flu complications are people 65 and older, people with chronic medical conditions, women who are pregnant, and children younger than 5 years. Children younger than 2 years old are at greater risk of complications of the flu and flu-related deaths. In order to prevent unnecessary illness, loss of time at work or school, stress to the body, and more, have your family vaccinated against the flu. The only people who should NOT have the flu are those younger than 6 months and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to ingredients in the flu vaccine. People with an egg allergy may still have the flu vaccination but should talk to their doctor about this concern. People who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome should also talk to their doctor before having the flu shot.

The Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine

Some people prefer a nasal mist flu vaccine instead of a shot. The nasal mist vaccine is effective against influenza and specially formulated each year just like the injection. It is approved for ages 2 through 49 and is unsafe for individuals outside of this age group. Pregnant women and people with severe allergies to ingredients in the nasal mist should not use this vaccine. Other people who should not use this vaccine are children who receive Aspirin or salicylate-containing medications, those with compromised immune systems, children under four who have Asthma, anyone who has taken influenza antiviral drugs within 48 hours, and persons who require a protected environment.

Flu Vaccine Availability

Ideally, there is enough flu vaccine to go around. Clinics, health departments, hospitals, and pharmacies often have standing orders. However, in some cases, flu vaccines may be in short supply for various reasons. In this case, children under four and adults over 50 years of age are prioritized as well as those at high risk. It’s important to maintain scheduled doctor’s visits and to take the flu vaccine when you are healthy in order to avoid illness later. If you have concerns about taking the flu vaccine, discuss it with your doctor right away so that you can take it as soon as the vaccine is made available this fall.

In addition to flu vaccines, older adults should also consider two vaccines recommended by the CDC, two pneumococcal vaccines for adults aged 65 and older. Protect against influenza, pneumonia, and other serious illnesses by discussing vaccines with your doctor.


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