How To Use Your Health Savings Account (HSA) For Retirement
Once you turn 65, you can use them for anything you want—without incurring penalties.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are designed to cover future medical expenses. But that’s not the only way to use them. Thanks to their tax benefits and withdrawal rules, HSAs can make a valuable addition to your retirement plan.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- HSA eligibility
- The benefits of HSAs
- HSA contribution limits
- HSA withdrawal rules
- Using an HSA for retirement
Am I eligible for an HSA?
To be eligible for an HSA, you have to:
- Be covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP).
- Not be enrolled in Medicare.
- Not be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
- Have no other health coverage except what the IRS covers under “Other Employee Health Plans.”
Your employer may have information on HSA providers available to you. The expanded IRS rules can provide more detailed eligibility information.
What are the benefits of an HSA?
Health Savings Accounts have a couple tax benefits that help you make the most of your assets. Your contributions are pre-tax, meaning you can deduct them from your income taxes. You can use these funds at any time to pay for qualified medical expenses without paying taxes or penalties. And when you turn 65, you can use your HSA for anything without incurring a penalty.
While you must have a high deductible health plan in order to contribute to your HSA, your HSA isn’t tied to a specific employer. It stays with you when you change jobs or retire. The money doesn’t leave the account until you use it. Also, your employer may contribute to your HSA—and since the contribution is pre-tax, it doesn’t count toward your gross income.
Some HSAs are specialized savings accounts. But some are actually investment accounts. Any interest and earnings that come from these HSAs are tax-free provided you don’t use them on unqualified expenses before you turn 65. So HSAs can rank amongst the best ways to save for retirement, on par with some 401(k)s and IRAs depending on factors such as an employer match, fees, and/or investment choices.
HSA contribution limits
In 2023, the HSA contribution limit for self-only HDHP coverage is $3,850, while the limit for family HDHP coverage is $7,750.
HSA withdrawal rules
Need some money to cover unexpected medical costs? Make a tax-free withdrawal. Don’t need it? Save it for your retirement. Withdrawing from an HSA for non-medical expenses comes with a 20% penalty . . . unless you’re over 65.
Once you turn 65, withdrawals from an HSA work a lot like withdrawals from a traditional IRA or 401(k). Your withdrawals count toward your annual income, so you’ll pay income taxes based on your tax bracket. However, if you use your withdrawal to pay for medical expenses, it’s still tax-free.
Basically, there are three possible outcomes when you withdraw from an HSA—and it all comes down to your age and what you use the money for.
Qualified Medical Expenses
Less than 65 years old
No taxes, no penalty
Taxes are applicable, 20% penalty
65 years old or older
Taxes are applicable, no penalty
How to use your Health Savings Account for retirement
When you reach retirement age, medical bills can start to add up quickly. Use your HSA to cover these expenses, and you’re triple-dipping on the tax benefits! Your contributions are tax free, your interest and earnings are tax free, and so are your withdrawals. From a financial planning perspective, that’s hard to beat. And it can make expenses like long-term care a lot less frightening.
But an HSA is also a great supplement to your IRA or 401(k). Since the 20% penalty disappears when you turn 65, you won’t have to worry about whether an expense is qualified—just use your money as you see fit.
Considerations before you choose an HSA
An HSA is like a financial Swiss Army Knife. But while it’s highly versatile, it’s not the right choice for everyone. So, before you switch health plans and open an HSA, there are a few things to consider.
Know the fees
When it comes to fees and other costs, HSAs are often less transparent than accounts like 401(k)s. Look at the full fee schedule for your HSA before contributing. Also, sometimes your employer will cover all, or a portion, of your fees—so find out about that, too.
Explore the investment options
Ideally, you want an HSA with investment options that fit your goals. Some providers only allow investments with low risk and low returns, like money market funds. Other HSAs offer multiple mutual fund listings with higher returns and more risk exposure. Some HSAs have minimums before you can start investing. For example, you might only be able to invest your money once you’ve contributed $1,000 to the HSA.
Stay current on withdrawal rules
Withdrawal rules around taxes and penalties can change with new regulations, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with any new changes that take place.
Don’t just switch to an HDHP
A high-deductible health plan isn’t right for everyone. Before switching to an HDHP so you can use an HSA to save for retirement, make sure that works for you and your family. A high-deductible health plan brings with it the potential for higher out-of-pocket medical costs.