Strategies for Maximizing Your Tax Deferred and Tax Exempt Accounts Before the Year End

Learn how to maximize tax deferred and tax exempt accounts such as your HSA, FSA, 401(k), and IRA and save money for the future.

With the end of the year approaching, many people are wondering how to make the most of their savings accounts, particularly those that offer tax deferrals or exemptions altogether. The good news is that there are a few different strategies you can employ to get the most tax benefits and save money for the future.

If you haven’t been contributing regularly to your HSA, 401(k), or IRA or regularly using your FSA, or if you find yourself with extra money in your budget at the end of the year, ensuring you maximise your contributions to these accounts can help you make the most out of your savings. It also helps you ensure that this money benefits you in the future. Here’s what to consider.

Maximize your HSA

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a great way to save money for qualified health expenses now and for retirement later. HSAs are tax advantaged accounts that allow you to save on taxes in three ways. First, the money you contribute to an HSA is tax deductible up to the annual contribution limits. Individuals over age 55 can make an additional $1,000 catchup contribution. You can contribute until tax day.

Second, your money grows tax free in your HSA. You can even invest it to possibly grow it further. Third, qualified distributions are tax free. You can spend your HSA funds on qualified medical expenses while you are under age 65. Once you turn 65 you can also spend your HSA funds on anything you’d like — you will simply have to pay taxes on it, like you would a distribution from a traditional IRA. There is also no required minimum distribution, like many other retirement savings accounts.

Get the most out of your FSA

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a great way to save money on qualified health expenses in the short-term. Crucially, FSAs are designed as use-it-or-lose-it plans, meaning you have to spend the money in your FSA each year, or you lose it. The funds you contribute to an FSA are tax free and the money you spend is tax free, when used on qualified expenses. This makes FSAs a great tool for spending now, while saving for the long-term in other accounts. You may be surprised what qualifies for FSA spending, so if you haven't used the money in your account, the end of the year is a good time to review eligible expenses, like a new pair of glasses.

Increase your contribution to your 401(k)

401(k) plans are tax deferred accounts that allow you to save for retirement. If you have a high amount of taxable income right now, contributing to a 401(k) can be a smart way to save on taxes in the present. Plus, many employers offer a 401(k) match, which can be a big boost to your savings.

Contribution limits for 401(k)s are typically much higher than other retirement savings accounts and those who are age 50 and up can contribute an additional $6,500.

Strategically contribute to your IRA

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a tax deferred savings account. If you expect to be in a lower tax bracket when you retire than you are now, an IRA may be a good choice for you to use to save. That’s because the money you contribute is tax free now, and subject to taxes when you spend it during retirement. Typically these distributions are always subject to federal income tax, but requirements for state taxes vary state to state. An IRA is a valuable tool in your toolkit when thinking about retirement planning.

The IRS sets annual contribution limits for IRAs, with an additional $1,000 allowed for individuals who are age 50 and up. You can contribute to your IRA, up to the contribution limit, until tax day. An IRA is a valuable tool in your toolkit when thinking about retirement planning.

Take advantage of tax savings to plan for the future

Thinking about your tax deferred and tax exempt savings accounts holistically is always a smart move. This allows you to save money in a variety of ways and create multiple sources of income during retirement. If you have questions about how to allocate your spending and savings, or how to balance all this with your taxable accounts, it’s a good idea to consult with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or financial advisor. They can help you figure out your investment strategy and the best options for your future.

Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.

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