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How does a health savings account work and do you need one?
Health insurance is probably not on the top of anyone’s list of favorite subjects to discuss. But what you might not realize is that there are options within your insurance that may be able to help you save money—which, of course, is a favorite thing for everyone. So if you’re wondering what a health savings account is and if you could benefit from one, keep reading: we have some answers for you.
What’s a health savings account?
Put simply, a health savings account, or HSA, is an account that is essentially designated for medical expenses, funded by your own contributions and often contributions from your employers. Much like health insurance, you set a monthly percentage aside in your HSA fund to use as needed for doctor’s appointments, medical tests, lab work, and other related items.
Can everyone have one?
In order to contribute to an HSA, you need to be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) for your health insurance. An HDHP is essentially an insurance plan that usually lowers your monthly premium payments but will likely increase your deductible, meaning you pay for more healthcare services or items until your deductible has been met for the year.
Why would I increase my deductible?
An HDHP may seem counter-intuitive, but in conjunction with an HSA, it can be very beneficial. You can pay toward your deductible with your HSA funds, meaning you are essentially only using money you have designated for healthcare and not spending out of your other financial resources.
Who does an HSA benefit most?
Whether you need or would benefit from an HSA depends on a few factors, including:
- Your health
- Your budget
- Your age (i.e. how close to retirement you are)
- Your job
Not everyone wants or needs an HSA to cover their medical expenses.
Who should avoid an HSA?
Again, deciding to open a health savings account depends on a lot of your individual needs and circumstances. But for some people or families, an HDHP/HSA may not make as much sense. For instance, if you have a chronically ill family member that requires a lot of tests and specialized appointments, it may be more difficult to pay the higher deductible on top of the out of pocket expenses, even if you utilize your HSA. On the other hand, if you have a family member who requires regular testing that is always expensive, you may meet your deductible earlier than you think, meaning you will be able to enjoy the benefits of lower monthly premiums. You are the only one who can decide which scenario best applies to your situation.
How do funds get to my HSA?
The amount you decide to contribute to your HSA is up to you—consult your budget and see how much you think you can add each month without compromising other financial needs. You will work with your employer to set that amount and can speak with an HR rep to learn what the company average is to give you a starting point. Your company may also contribute to your HSA fund—many companies often match your contribution up to a certain percentage, meaning it may be worth it to do contribute a little more of your own paycheck if your employer is going to add more, too.
What if I don’t use it?
You may have a banner year with few visits to the doctor, which is what everyone hopes for. In this case, you may not use all of your HSA funds, but no need to worry—those funds will roll right over into the next year and remain available for your use. The HSA funds also stay with you even if you change jobs, meaning you can start saving now for a lifetime.
What are the pros and cons?
Pro: Having designated funds for healthcare may allow you to seek treatment that would be otherwise financially unavailable.
Con: Because funds are added monthly, it can be tempting to skip appointments or avoid testing because you want to wait for HSA funds to be available. Your healthcare provider can tell you what can wait for now and what needs to happen immediately.
Pro: The money in your HSA account is yours to spend. You are not obligated to see a specific medical practice or use certain medication brands—you have a choice.
Con: In emergency situations, you will need to receive treatment from the closest medical facility available, which may not be one you have budgeted for. Try to leave some extra funds in your HSA when possible.
Pro: The money you contribute to your HSA is tax-free, meaning you will get the full value of each contribution.
Con: Health is hard to predict. Just because you have an HSA doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan for your health expenses outside of your HSA funds. Hope for the best but always plan for emergencies.
Using an HSA can be immensely helpful for many people, so talk to your employer this week about whether that’s an option for you and how you find out more information. Remember, your budget is always up to you—don’t trade necessary expenses for additional funds. Look at your finances, review your health history, and learn how an HSA may make a difference for you.
Couch to 5k: How to get moving this summer
At Georgia’s Own, not only do we care about your financial wellness—we care about your physical wellness, too, because being physically healthy is just as crucial as being financially healthy. Are you finally committing to your physical health and your dream of becoming a runner? You may have a goal of entering a race, or maybe you’re just tired of the gym and need a new way to exercise. Whatever your motivations are, if you’re looking for an easy way to get started, below are some great ideas to get you moving off of the couch to running a 5k.
I don’t run
We understand—running isn’t for everyone. But, it is a great (and free) way to get some exercise in and some calories burned. It should be noted, however, that running is considered a high-impact activity, meaning it can take a toll on your joints and muscles. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it—it just means you might be sore afterward.
When you get dressed for a good run, you will want to be comfortable. Even if it’s cold outside, you will probably get warm when you run, so dressing in light layers that you can remove along the way is a great idea. And, you need shoes that will support you for the long haul, so put away the flip flops and grab your tennis shoes.
Where should I go?
Where you run is up to you—you might find a nice park nearby, or maybe you’re more of a treadmill person. Running can happen anywhere you have the space. One note: you might want to consider occasionally changing your running spot so you don’t get bored, which is not very motivating for a run.
You will want to be well-hydrated before and after you run. But, don’t drink too much water right before a run, because that can make you feel sick. Drinking throughout the day is a good idea anyway, because your body needs the hydration. And if you’re going for a run—forget about it. Your body will thank you for the extra water while you’re running!
I keep giving up!
Motivating yourself to run is hard, especially if you are doing it alone. Try joining some local running clubs or ask a friend to join you on your next run to help you stay accountable and to make the run more enjoyable. You can even set up a running schedule with a group to help you make it part of your weekly routine. While you’re training for your 5k, consider rewarding yourself by opening a savings account to reward your hard, physical work with financial gain. Georgia’s Own has a number of savings accounts to choose from to help you reach your financial goals along the way. Consider this a motivator along your running journey.
How often should I run, anyway?
This is another area that is really up to you. We encourage you to start small, especially if you aren’t a frequent runner. Try setting a goal to run two or three days a week for twenty minutes and work your way up to more days for longer periods of times. If your goal is to run a race, start small there, too. Try to make your first race a smaller distance, like a 5k, rather than a half marathon.
How do I even start?
A lot of people feel lost in the process of becoming a runner. We love apps like C25k®, an eight-week running program which helps you start at a reasonable pace and gives you cues for slowing down, speeding up, and increasing your overall speed—ultimately helping you run a 5k. Most basic features of the app are free, so it’s an ideal tool for someone who isn’t sure they want to fully commit. C25k can be found on the App Store and Google Play.
You may want to add some tunes to your run as many runners find that they can pace themselves more easily to music, allowing them to meet their time goals and give themselves some breaks as they run. Multiple music streaming platforms, like Spotify, have ready-made playlists that will give you some inspiration.
What if I hate it?
You might not be a runner—and that’s okay. But how will you know unless you try? Using an app like C25k will help you master the basics, and you might just discover that there was a runner in you all along. And if not, you can still rest assured that you can hold your own in any spontaneous three-legged race challenges.
If you’re ready to get moving this summer, there are lots of ways to start! Running gets bonus points for requiring no extra equipment, being available 24/7, and allowing you to exercise while catching up on Netflix. Start small, and you’ll be running a 5k in no time—and reaching your savings goals along the way.
How to manage stress and anxiety during a pandemic
With news about the current pandemic on a loop, as well as other factors looming over our heads, right now is a stressful time for everyone. News about the Coronavirus has affected almost every aspect of society. And, with more people staying in and practicing social distancing, this can severely impact mental well-being. If you’re coping with feelings of stress and anxiety, you’re not alone—here are a few tips to help you manage those feelings:
Stick to your usual routine
In this era of uncertainty, having a sense of normalcy is critical to maintaining your mental health. It’s one of the few factors you can control, so it’s essential to ensure you’re sticking to a routine, just like any regular day. Do what you would accomplish on a normal work morning—wake up, shower, and get dressed as if you’re going to run into people. It’s also vital to avoid burnout by enforcing your work hours.
Keep yourself occupied
While it seems easy to treat this period of social distancing as an opportunity to veg out and watch Netflix, it quickly grows old. There are surprisingly a ton of things you can do from the comfort of your home. You could experience a virtual tour of the Louvre, started spring cleaning, or even learn a foreign language. Either way, finding something to stay occupied will relieve some boredom you might face.
Take a break from the news
It’s essential to stay informed, but constantly hearing news about the pandemic is exhausting. Every once in awhile, take a break. Whether it’s from social media, reading, or even having the news playing in the background, shut it off. Find something uplifting to watch or listen to, so your mind will be on other things. Puppy videos are highly recommended, because who doesn’t love puppies?
Yoga and meditation are highly beneficial—there are numerous physical and mental benefits. Yoga and meditation are proven methods to help relieve stress and anxiety. People of all ages and fitness levels can participate, and you don’t have to be an expert, either. There are dozens of apps and YouTube channels that guide you on the essentials of yoga and meditation. Headspace is an app that’s great for beginners—their free basics pack instructs you on the fundamentals of meditation. Yoga with Adriene is another fantastic resource—her YouTube channel is filled with over 500 free videos for all fitness levels and ages. From simple meditation to yoga for writers, there’s something for everyone.
Talk to others
Just because people are social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch with people. Staying home and not having any social interaction can take a huge toll on your mental health. As humans, social interaction is essential for coping with stress and anxiety. So, it’s especially important to maintain contact with friends and family. Set FaceTime dates, or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. It’s always great to hear someone else’s voice and have someone to talk with about whatever issues you may be facing.
We understand this is a difficult period for many of you. We hope that these tips will help you manage your stress and anxiety and get you through this crazy, confusing time.
For more information on coping with stress and anxiety during COVID-19, visit cdc.gov.
Getting healthy & joining a gym on a budget
It’s that special time of year where everyone resolves to do achieve a goal or to try something new. For many people, they vow that, beginning with the new year, they will become healthier than ever before. Many people decide join a gym or a fitness class, while others commit to eating more greens. But how do you go about actually achieving these goals – especially if you are on a tight budget? We have some ideas on ways to make your resolutions come true.
Do your research
It’s okay to admit that you probably spend a lot of time on social media. We understand. And we think you should put it to work for you! Ask your friends about their favorite way to get healthy, and look up reviews of some of your local gyms or health centers.
Start with small goals
You may have big plans for the year, but you’re actually more likely to be successful at getting healthier if you set smaller goals to help you get to your big goal. If you want your veggies to cover half your plate, try adding them to your dinner twice a week, and then four times a week, and work up from there. Starting too big too soon will just lead to frustration.
Joining a gym can be pricey, but there is good news – you don’t have to join a gym to exercise. Try going for a walk around your neighborhood, or swimming at a local pool, or biking through a park. If it’s raining outside, look up some videos on yoga or dance routines. Invite a friend to join you so you’ll enjoy your exercise more and keep each other accountable in the process.
Know your options
If using a gym seems like a better fit for you, great! Many gyms will allow you to pay per class instead of purchasing a monthly membership, or will give you a free trial period to make sure the facility is a good fit for you. Taking advantage of these options will be easier on your wallet and allow you to experience a range of classes and equipment at the gym.
Make a plan
A popular phrase you may hear is “failure to plan is a plan to fail.” It may be a cliché, but it’s also true. Decide not only what your goals are, but how you will accomplish them. Write it down in a journal, email it to yourself, or text it to a friend who can help you stay accountable. Or maybe do all three if you’re really forgetful.
Grocery shop online
Several grocery stores chains have started offering an online grocery shopping experience, where you select what you want from the store’s website, arrive at the store at a designated time, and relax while a store employee loads the groceries into your car. This is not only a great way to keep an eye on your budget, but it also saves you from impulse-buying the discounted candy in the seasonal aisle on a whim.
Open that Pinterest app
Again, it’s pretty likely that you have a Pinterest account set up already. And if you don’t, we highly recommend it. Why? Because Pinterest is home to dozens of new recipes that can be tailored to both your budget and your health goals. Search for your favorite recipes and enjoy the dozens of results that come pouring in.
Substitute healthy choices
Have you ever tried spaghetti with veggie noodles? Do you think a turkey burger could be delicious (provided you have enough cheese, of course)? Look for ways you can swap out the less healthier parts of your menu with some lighter, better substitutes. Zoodles might not be your favorite thing, but you won’t know until you try! This is another instance where asking your friends for their favorite healthy meals could be very helpful.
Tell the world
Okay, you don’t have to tell the whole world about your fitness goals. But you should consider telling a friend or a group of people about what you hope to accomplish with your help. They will become a great resource for you to rely on when that birthday cake at the office is just too tempting. And they will be the ones to celebrate with you when you reach your final goal!
Ask an expert
If you are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of a health overhaul for your life, we get it. Consider reaching out to your primary care provider and asking him or her what they would recommend to help you become the healthiest version of yourself. They will be able to provide you with expert advice, and since you probably haven’t gone in for a yearly physical in at least three years, this is a great chance to make sure you don’t have any underlying health concerns that will affect your fitness goals.
Getting healthy won’t happen overnight. But if you start with some small steps, like these, you can start your journey to a healthy year.