Jesse Gelsomini in the Houston Chronicle: Vow to Save and Plan in 2014


The start of the new year is a natural time for reflection. It's also a natural time to make changes...

This year I've got a few more ideas on how we can improve our working lives, mostly from a financial perspective. My list includes some ideas to make sure we're ready for retirement when the time comes...

Better manage your health care flexible spending account.
When you elect to put aside, say, $2,500 for health care expenses for the year, you have access to the money the first day of your plan year. That means if your plan starts on Jan. 1, you can schedule eye surgery, dental surgery and anything else you might need immediately after New Year's and drain your entire balance. Then immediately fill out the paperwork to get a refund -- even though it's so early in the year you might not have contributed the first dollar to your account. The reason you don't want to procrastinate is that many people leave their jobs before they've spent  any of their dedicated health care funds and forfeit what they contributed.

But if that happens, your employer should provide you with a COBRA notice letting you know you can continue the plan, giving you time to use up the remaining account balance, said Jesse Gelsomini, an employment lawyer who specializes in employee benefits at Haynes and Boone, LLP in Houston. COBRA refers to the law that allows employees to continue receive health plan coverage even after their leave their job.

Excerpted from the Houston Chronicle, January 2, 2014. To view full article, click here (subscription required).

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