Friday, January 14, 2011

Endurance Training for a Flexible Spending Account

I’m completely prepared to give an elephant a bath.  Thanks to cycling, I found that I have mustered the strength and flexibility necessary to tackle just about any mundane task imaginable like washing an elephant or wrestling receipts for the “wonderful” employee benefit of being able to pay for Tylenol with pre-tax dollars from my Flexible Spending Account.  The concept even gives me a headache and coincidently another receipt to file for next year. 

It’s not spinning on the trainer under the buzz of florescent lights in the garage that gives me the real headache in winter.  It’s the once a year chores.  Especially being a more creative personality, anything to do with math or planning might as well be gearing up for a 6 Hour marathon mountain bike race or using a mop as a Q-tip on an elephant ear.  Below is my Honey Do list from last week.  If it weren’t for cycling, I would never have crossed #3 off my list.

Honey Do:
1) Fix the shelf in the closet
2) Consolidate old employer 401(k) plans into one account
3) Submit receipts for the Flexible Spending Account

For me, "submit receipts for the FSA" might as well be wash the elephant.  While it appears soap and water simple, I know that first I’ll need to go to the hardware store and buy a hose, a 10 foot extended spray nozzle, 3 gallons of soap, a mop, an assortment of brushes and a colossal bag of peanuts.  That’s way before I forgot that I’ll need a step ladder, a garbage can for a bucket and a set of waders. 

And while this appears to have nothing to do with cycling, submitting an FSA claim takes every bit of concentration and minute of endurance built of from years of riding bicycles to get through it.  Here’s what “Submit receipts for the FSA” really means:

1) Go through a pile of receipts.  They’re in the file cabinet.  Well, there are some in the basket on the counter.  Oh yeah, there’s one in my car.  Don’t forget about the one in the armoire.

2) Make more coffee.  Turn off the crappy Sunday Morning TV and put on some music.

3) Spread everything out on the dining room table.  See if the items on the receipt meet the requirements of the FSA account.  Go to the pantry and get out the magnifying glass to read the microscopic font on the receipt.  Remember that the FSA company revised the rules and now prescription medications require the name of the drug be written on the receipt.   Drive to the pharmacy and kindly ask them to re-print the receipt with the drug name.  Stop to fill up for gas because you filled the prescription at the pharmacy nearest the doctor’s office which is on the complete opposite side of town.

4) Make lunch at dining room table.  Spill mustard on 3 receipts.

5) After dabbing receipts with paper towel, translate each acceptable item from each receipt to a line on the form.  You did print out the form from your employer’s website didn’t you?  “The laptops in the office honey!”  You do remember the user name and password for the website that you visit once a year?  You do know the answers to the security questions in case you can’t remember your password?  You still have the email account that you used to originally set up the account?  Plug in the computer because batteries are running low.  Dig user name and password out of benefits folder in file cabinet.

6) Turn on the dining room table light.  Translate each acceptable item from each receipt to a line on the form. 

7) Photocopy everything while watching the nightly news.

8) Go to the store to buy more ink cartridges for the office printer.

9) Copy the last page and sign the form.

10) Put it in an envelope and mail it.  Dammit!  Go to the post office for envelopes and stamps over lunch at work on Monday.

Suddenly a century, a stage race or the Mohican MTB 100 doesn’t seem so hard.

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