It’s December already, and we’re counting down the final days of 2019 before we get to the year 2020—and you know that’s going to be a favorite year for all of us in optometry, right? After all, 20/20 vision is the measurement of ideal visual acuity.

Because it’s December, it’s a critical time to determine whether you’re one of the 38 million Americans who has a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)―a tax-free savings account offered by your employer. An FSA is where your employer sets aside a percentage of your paycheck each month to be used only for medical expenses. It’s a great benefit from a tax savings perspective, enabling you to spend “pre-tax” money (money diverted to the FSA before taxes are deducted from your paycheck) on medically necessary services and products that your health or vision insurance doesn’t cover.

Use it or Lose it: Your Flex Spending Dollars

In 2019, the maximum amount Americans could set aside was $2,700, with most FSA participants earmarking about $1,200 for the year in their FSA accounts.

While this is an excellent employee benefit that can save you money on your tax bill, there’s an important rule governing FSA accounts that sometimes goes unnoticed: The money saved in your FSA account can only be used in the same calendar year that it’s contributed to the account. That means if you have an unspent balance of funds in your FSA at the end of the year—December 31–you forfeit that money and your employer gets to keep it to offset the costs associated with administering the FSA benefit.

Don’t let your employer keep your hard-earned money because you forgot to spend it!

Does Your FSA Account have a Rollover Feature?

While some FSA accounts enable employees to roll over up to $500 in unspent funds for use in the following calendar year, others don’t. It’s essential to check with your employer about whether your FSA program allows rollovers. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to spend your hard-earned money by the date specified on the account or risk losing it. Usually, this date is the end of the year: December 31.

Does Your FSA Account have a Grace Period?

Some FSA accounts feature a grace period of up to 2½ months, giving you extra time to spend Flex funds. If your employer has a grace period, it’s possible that you may have additional time in the year 2020 to spend the Flex funds you contributed in 2019—in a best case scenario, up until March 15, 2020.

While a majority of Flex Spending Accounts offer either a rollover or extended grace period, employers can’t offer both.

It’s an unfortunate statistic: about 8% of Flex Spending Account benefit holders leave money in their FSA accounts and lose it at the end of the year. The average amount lost is $172!

9 Eye Healthcare Expenses that are FSA Approved

If you find yourself with FSA funds that must be spent before December 31 or lost to you forever, come in and see us. Here are nine ways you can use your FSA funds to benefit your eye health care now and for the coming year:

  1. Schedule a comprehensive Eye Exam
  2. Bulk purchase a year of contact lenses
  3. Treat yourself to a second pair of prescription eyeglasses
  4. Relieve Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms with computer glasses
  5. Get a new pair of prescription sunglasses
  6. Stock up on contact lens solutions
  7. Buy your allergy or other eye drops in advance
  8. LASIK corrective eye surgery
  9. Dry Eye Disease treatment