What the experts say
Where HSAs fall short
Health Savings Accounts “are not yet ready for prime time” as investment vehicles, said Mark Miller in Reuters.com. Proponents argue that HSAs are often “a superior option for saving.” Account holders contribute untaxed income, which grows tax-free and can be spent at any time on qualified medical expenses. But a new Morningstar analysis of 10 major HSA platforms found that account maintenance fees fluctuated “wildly” among providers. Fees were “one of the most important predictors of long-term performance.” While some plans were invested in low-cost index funds, others employed active strategies with high fees that could substantially eat into a portfolio’s returns. Morningstar also found that shopping for an HSA wasn’t easy. While most plans offered a wide range of investment choices, information about fund lineups and fees was not always readily available.
‘Travel hacking’ for lazy people
Some obsessives dedicate countless hours “to the fine art of using credit card points to score thousands of dollars in free travel,” said Kristin Wong in Lifehacker.com. But “travel hacking” is actually easier than it seems. Simply picking a card with a massive sign-up bonus “is the primary way travel-rewards hackers get free flights.” Opening a rewards card before a major expense, like a wedding or renovation, can also reap a points windfall, because many cards offer bonuses for spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening the card. You can rack up additional points by using your card to pay for every purchase you make. Remember, this strategy is only smart if you pay off the card in full every month. Otherwise, those rewards “are totally pointless.”
Never miss another bill payment
A “trusted system” is all it takes to keep from missing bill payments and other financial deadlines, said Trent Hamm in USNews.com. Most online banking services can help you avoid late fees and fines by setting up scheduled bill payments. You can also receive reminders for regular bills with an online calendar or to-do list app, as well as nudges for one-off expenses. Get in the habit of adding such reminders a week or so in advance of the actual due date, with alerts sent to your smartphone. “The goal is to simply make sure that you’re reminded of these upcoming financial events when you need to be reminded of them, and that any regular financial tasks are handled automatically without your intervention.” ■