How $125 can improve your well-being and bring joy

With uses as varied as our employees are diverse, Ohio State’s Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) reimburses a wide range of activities and items to help bring joy and alleviate stress – like pet adoption, dance classes, car repairs, marathons, emergency child care, and so much more.

The LSA, a benefit available now, reimburses faculty and staff up to $500 each year for expenses not covered by traditional benefits. The benefit launched in 2023 and enhances Ohio State’s robust wellness program and competitive benefits. It’s an opportunity to use Ohio State funds to try something new, pay for unexpected expenses or support a regular hobby.

The account can cover everything from gym and zoo memberships to tickets to Buckeye sports and health improvement programs. LSAs reflect the diversity of today’s workforce, says Pam Doseck, associate vice president of Total Rewards for the university.

“We recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address the unique needs of different employees,” Doseck says. “The LSA offers flexibility that complements existing benefits and, with more than 55 expense categories, it provides employees some control over how they manage their own health and well-being.”

Medical researchers on the run

There is a team within Clinical Trials Office at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

It’s a group of colleagues who, at the start of 2023, decided to use the LSA benefit to run in the Columbus Half Marathon – and motivate each other to train and reach the finish line.

After one member of the Clinical Trials team decided to use the LSA benefit to cover race fees for the Columbus Half Marathon, Megan Nussbaum and three other colleagues signed on to run as well. Several Clinical Trials colleagues trained together before the race, and Nussbaum, who typically trains alone, appreciated the in-office inspiration.

“It helped me feel part of the larger running community,” she says.

In addition to covering her race entry fees, Nussbaum used the LSA to pay for new running shoes and apparel for this year’s race. While she’s been running for years, it was the first race for two of her fellow research coordinators on the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia clinical research team, working out of the new James Outpatient Care building on Kenny Road.

“I think that’s what is so great about the LSA — it encourages continuing wellness activities and trying something new,” Nussbaum says. “It definitely gave us a shared experience outside of work.”

Nussbaum’s favorite part? On the day of the race, the Clinical Trials team met up at the finish line for a group picture, and to congratulate each other for finishing the race. For Nussbaum, running has been a way to improve her physical health and reduce stress, but also to promote social wellness.

Megan Nussbaum, Trisha Elegino, Nina Bounemany and Keira Wharton run along Fred Beekman Park near The James Outpatient Care Building where they work.

Megan Nussbaum, left, Trisha Elegino, Nina Bounemany and Keira Wharton run along Fred Beekman Park near The James Outpatient Care Building where they work. Megan and her co-workers use their Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) to pay for things like running shoes and race entry fees.

Finalizing finances for the future

As an initial step towards planning for retirement, Gaila Konneker, Administrative Manager, OSUCCC – Head and Neck Cancer Research Program, booked a complimentary consultation with a certified financial planner for high-level guidance.

During that session, she was so impressed with the advice and personalized guidance, that she booked two additional sessions to work with the financial planner.

She used the LSA reimbursement to cover the planner sessions to develop a comprehensive, customized financial plan for retirement based on current spending versus expected future spending. It was the first time she had taken a serious look at the changes she and her husband would need to make as they approach retirement.

“This allowed my husband and I to have a clearer picture and to better plan for retirement over the next 10 years,” Konneker says. “It has taken the guesswork out of what the financial situation and daily life might look like at retirement, and it’s relieved certain emotional and financial stresses related to the unknowns of the future.”

Footwork, fans and flamenco

The social aspect was a big part of the reason why Professor Vondolee Delgado-Nixon, chief diversity officer of the College of Optometry, used the LSA to enroll in flamenco classes at Gabriela Flamenco Academy. Along with enjoying the health and fitness benefits of dancing, Delgado-Nixon has valued the emotional and social wellness aspect of the experience.

“I have so many new friends,” says Delgado-Nixon, who savored new friendships over a paella dinner with fellow dancers after an end-of-the-year flamenco recital. “Some of them have been dancing for years, and others are beginners. Some of them are older than me and others are in high school.”

Over the course of the year, Delgado-Nixon took classes in technique, footwork and dancing with fans. She says flamenco requires more balance than she’d imagined, and, as someone who lectures about neurogenerative diseases, she knows balance and activity is an important form of preventative medicine. Likewise, she describes the focus required to get her hands, wrists and feet into proper position as meditative.

This year, Delgado-Nixon plans to enroll in an introduction to the manton technique, in which dancers incorporate a Spanish scarf, and to travel to New Mexico with her classmates for the Festival Flamenco Albuquerque. She says if it weren’t for the LSA, she’s not sure she would have started dancing.

“My favorite part of flamenco is how much it makes me laugh. It brings me joy. It really requires that I use a different part of my brain than my ‘work’ brain,” Delgado-Nixon says. “It has made me a better and more focused employee.”

Vondolee Delgado-Nixon practices incorporating a Spanish Manton Shawl into her weekly flamenco dance class at Gabriela Flamenco Academy.

Vondolee Delgado-Nixon practices incorporating a Spanish Manton Shawl into her weekly flamenco dance class at Gabriela Flamenco Academy. Vondolee has been taking classes for less than a year and utilizes her Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) to pay for the classes.

Reaping rewards in the garden

For Kris Dalton-Young, assistant director of the Strategic Enrollment Management Imaging Center, gardening has always been a respite from life’s stresses. When she and her husband moved to Plain City to refurbish an old farmhouse, one of the first projects she wanted to tackle was planting a vegetable garden—and she took advantage of the LSA reimbursement to go big.

“My first foray into gardening was in our previous house, where I only had room to grow a couple of zucchini plants,” Dalton-Young says. “But now we had three acres of property so I could really plan out a big garden to plant all sorts of veggies.”

She used LSA funds to build a fenced-in, 315-square-foot vegetable garden, where she planted a variety of beans and peppers, Russet and sweet potatoes, three varieties of cherry tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, corn, spinach, kale—and, of course, zucchini.

Originally from Georgia, Dalton-Young prides herself on her southern cooking and has been able to incorporate her homegrown produce in recipes for family and friends to enjoy. Working in the garden, she says, provides her an outlet to move her body in a fun and engaging way while keeping her mind focused on the present moment.

“When I enter my garden, I become focused on taking care of each plant to meet its special wants and needs,” Dalton-Young says, “and I forget about all the stresses and worries of everything else.”

How it works

Eligible employees can submit claims for reimbursement of personal expenses related to health, fitness, family, emotional and social wellness.

This benefit reimburses you up to $125 quarterly (a total of $500 per year) for an eligible service or expense. Eligible expenses must be incurred during the calendar quarter for which you are being reimbursed and submitted no later than 15 days following the end of the quarter. Unused funds do not roll over to the following quarter.

No enrollment is needed to participate. Eligible Ohio State employees include full-time and part-time (at least 50% FTE) in a regular or term position.

You may submit multiple claims each quarter, but you will only be reimbursed up to the benefit maximum of $125 each quarter. The LSA is administered by Ohio State’s vendor, Health Equity. Find the link to submit your claim in Workday under “benefits” in the main menu. Please note, the IRS classifies LSA funds as taxable income for employees if spent.

Learn more about the Lifestyle Spending Account

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