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Financial Wellness for People with Disabilities and Their Families

In partnership with the National Disability Institute (NDI), the nation’s leading nonprofit for advancing the economic opportunities of individuals with disabilities, we are eager to highlight the tools and resources available to people with disabilities, their families and service providers that encourage financial wellness and asset-building.

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Savings is an option for individuals with disabilities

By Michael R. Roush, Director, Real Economic Impact Network, National Disability Institute

NDI key strategies cycle: Goal > Benefits Planning and Work Supports > Employment > Free Tax Preparation > Financial Education > Asset Development > GoalOftentimes individuals with disabilities may not be familiar with savings options that are available to them or they may be afraid to save money due to the fear of jeopardizing public benefits. There are a wide variety of saving strategies that individuals with disabilities can potentially access to achieve their savings goal and build their financial well-being.

At the National Disability Institute, we focus on five key strategies that can assist an individual build a life of work, savings and asset development. These five key strategies create opportunities for individuals to learn more about savings strategies The five key strategies include:

  1. Benefits Planning and Work Supports

There are a variety of savings options that individuals can access if they are receiving a needs-based benefit such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Social Security Administration offers work incentives that support an individual to go back to work and maintain employment while receiving a public benefit. An example of a work incentive that promotes savings is the Plan to Achieve Self-Support or often referred to as PASS. Plan to Achieve Self-Support is a plan for an individual’s future. PASS lets an individual use income or other things they own to help them reach their work goals. For example, an individual could set aside money to go to school to get specialized training for a job or to start a business. To learn more about PASS or other work incentives, review the Social Security Administration's Red Book.

  1. Employment

Employment is important for an individual to build their financial well-being. We need wages to save money. There are a variety of employment services that an individual with a disability can access to obtain, maintain or enhance their employment status. A great starting point is to visit an American Job Center (AJC). American Job Centers are designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. American Job Centers offer:

  • training referrals,
  • career counseling,
  • job listings, and
  • similar employment-related services.

AJCs are also called Workforce Centers or One-Stop Centers. To locate an AJC, visit www.servicelocator.org.

  1. Free Tax Preparation

Tax time is an ideal time to encourage individuals to save money when they receive their tax return. Oftentimes individuals with disabilities may not file a tax return because of low wages or for fear that, if they do file and get a tax refund, that they will lose their public benefits. Refunds received from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC) or other refundable credits are not considered income. It also is not counted as a resource for at least 12 months from when an individual receives it for benefits or assistance under any Federal program or under any State or local program financed in whole or in part with Federal funds. To learn more about disability and tax services, click here.

  1. Financial Education

Financial Education is an important strategy for individuals to build their financial well-being. Oftentimes financial education may not be delivered to individuals with disabilities. Financial Education provides an individual with the knowledge and skills they need to build their financial well-being. There are a variety of financial education curriculum and tools available to help an individual learn about savings. FDIC’s Money Smart provides an accessible curriculum that is frequently used by disability organizations. To learn more about financial education tools and resources, click here.

  1. Asset Development

Asset Development is the final key strategy to assist an individual build their financial well-being. The previous strategies identified help move an individual to this point. ABLE accounts are a savings option for individuals with disabilities who may qualify for these accounts. ABLE accounts allow an individual to save up to $15,000 per year without these funds impacting an individual’s needs-based benefit, such as Supplemental Security Income. Money saved in an ABLE account can be used to pay for qualified disability expenses (QDEs). To learn more about ABLE accounts, click here.

National Disability Institute is the first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, asset development and financial stability for all persons across the full spectrum of disabilities. We affect change through public education, training, technical assistance and policy development to help the nearly one in three Americans with disabilities living in poverty take steps toward building brighter financial futures. To learn more, visit www.realeconomicimpact.org. If you have specific questions on savings options for persons with disabilities, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Engage with NDI on Facebook: RealEconImpact or follow NDI on Twitter: @RealEconImpact.

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Three Things to Know About Saving as a Person with a Disability 

By Darlene Aderoju, America Saves

Now is the perfect time to learn what it takes to become a good saver. Saving for your future can be a lot simpler than you might imagine. Use today and every day moving forward to get yourself in a comfortable financial position. Here are three things you should know about saving as a person with a disability or as the caretaker of a person with a disability.  

1. Saving is not just about having a certain amount of money, it’s an activity

When you make the decision to save money, understand that saving is an ongoing activity that will benefit you over time. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to save too much, too soon. Start small, at an amount that you can afford to save regularly, and think big, so you can continue to save in the long run.  

If you’re unsure of where to start, an emergency fund is a great option. Aim to save $500 in a rainy day fund that you can access when life’s emergencies pop up, such as a broken down car or an emergency room visit. Once you reach that benchmark, set a goal of saving for three months of expenses.  

2. People with disabilities are ABLE to save

Many Americans with significant disabilities are eligible to open and save in a new type of savings account called an ABLE account, created by the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. The accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts where the account owner, their family or their friends can make contributions.

But here’s the best part: tens of thousands of dollars can be saved in an ABLE account without affecting eligibility to receive critical benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), SNAP and Medicaid.

If you have significant disabilities that began before you turned 26-years-old and are already receiving benefits through SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you are automatically eligible to create an ABLE account.

If you do not receive SSI or SSDI, you could still be eligible to open an ABLE account. If you meet Social Security’s definition and criteria regarding significant functional limitations and receive a letter of certification from a licensed physician, you may qualify.

You can use your ABLE account to fund any expense related to living with a disability. This includes basic living expenses, education, assistive technology, hiring personal care attendants, accessible housing, healthcare costs, transportation and more.

ABLE accounts are operated by individual states. You can create an ABLE account in any state that accepts outside residents into their program no matter where you live. Each state’s programs offer different terms, so it’s best to shop around to find out which program is best for your needs. (Learn more about ABLE accounts through National Disability Institute’s (NDI) ABLE National Resource Center)

Bonus: Your friends and family can send money to your ABLE account online as a gift contribution. You can even create a gifting page with your account so your loved ones can add money to your savings. One thing to note is that you won’t be able to use the money gifted to you until 30 business days have passed.

3. Savers with a plan are twice as likely to save effectively

Here’s our favorite trick: savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully. That’s it! Hack that psychology by setting your savings goal and making a plan this month. As you begin your savings journey, keep in mind that your decision to save should be a lifelong one.

We partnered with National Disability Institute to offer you the America Saves pledge with a goal of saving for disability-related expenses. When you take the America Saves pledge, you make a commitment to yourself to save money. Tell us how much money you want to save and how long you want to do it, and we’ll keep you motivated to reach your goal. We’ll send you helpful emails and reminder text messages to keep your savings momentum going.

Make a commitment to save money today – you’ll be glad you did.

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Social Media Content

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Employment services are available to help individuals with a disability obtain, maintain, or enhance their employment status.

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Looking for a great employment starting point for ppl w/ disabilities? Start with @Career1Stop #SavingsTipTuesday 

Individuals with disabilities can save up to $14,000 per year in ABLE accounts without impacting federal benefits.

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People w/ disabilities can save w/out impacting benefits: bit.ly/2cVyQWt @NatDisability #SavingsTipTuesday

Tax time is an ideal time for individuals with disabilities to save money.

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Learn more about tax time savings here: http://bit.ly/2cVKDnD #SavingsTipTuesday @NatDisability @AmericaSaves

Tax assistance is available for individuals with disabilities from @IRS: http://bit.ly/2cVBlb7 #SavingsTipTuesday

.@FDICgov Money Smart has accessible materials frequently used by disability organizations: http://bit.ly/2cbUQQo #SavingsTipTuesday @AmericaSaves

.@NatDisability has free classes on strategies to build financial wellness of ppl w/ disabilities http://bit.ly/2cVMc4K #SavingsTipTuesday


ABLE Accounts were created by the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 so that Americans with disabilities and their families can build savings.

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5 things to know about ABLE accounts: http://bit.ly/29xKYj7 #SavingsFactFriday @NatDisability @AmericaSaves

Financial education is a critical first step on the road to financial stability for people with disabilities

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Financial edu helps ppl w/disabilities take hold of their futures! http://bit.ly/2cGMJLd #SavingsFactFriday

The first ABLE accounts, a savings option for individuals with disabilities, launched in June 2016.

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Multiple states now offer #ABLE accounts. Compare programs: http://bit.ly/2cVza7F #SavingsFactFriday @NatDisability @AmericaSaves

#Savings is an option for individuals with disabilities: http://bit.ly/2cK6bbd #SavingsFactFriday @NatDisability @AmericaSaves

#DidYouKnow IDAs are savings option for ppl w/disabilities where funds are matched? http://bit.ly/2czfvtg #SavingsFactFriday

Tax refunds (incl EITC + CTC) are NOT considered income for those w/ public benefits #SavingsFactFriday @NatDisability @AmericaSaves

Additional Posts

Save your savings tips for a chance to win $25

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Do you have a tip about saving as an individual with a disability? Share it, you could win $25: http://bit.ly/2cVza7F   

8 steps to become ABLE account ready

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Here's how you can become ABLE account ready: http://huff.to/2cVCY8J by @NatDisability (cc: @AmericaSaves)

.@MyFreeTaxes = free tax prep + filing help for qualified ppl w/combined income of $62k or less >> http://bit.ly/2cK8Rp3 @AmericaSaves

Let @AmericaSaves help you stay committed to your #savings goal! Take the pledge today: http://bit.ly/2coXx2v

Making simple changes to spending is an easy way to help anyone start #saving: http://bit.ly/2cWR9iB #BetterMoneyHabits @AmericaSaves

When discussing people w/ disabilities, put the person first. Here are examples from @NatDisability: http://bit.ly/2cVAur6 @AmericaSaves

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