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Financial Wellness for People with Disabilities and Their Families

Mark your calendars this October for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual celebration that raises awareness while honoring the contributions of Americans with disabilities to our workforce and society. 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 to 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 > GoalOften individuals with disabilities may not be familiar with the savings options available to them, or they may be afraid to save money in fear of jeopardizing their public benefits. However, individuals with disabilities can potentially access a wide variety of saving strategies to achieve their savings goals and improve their financial well-being. We are partnering with America Saves to leverage both of our networks and resources to expand opportunities for individuals across the spectrum of disabilities to make a savings plan by choosing a savings goal and an amount to save each month. At National Disability Institute (NDI), we focus on five key strategies that we believe can help individuals build a life of work, savings, and asset development. The five key strategies are:

 

  1. Benefits Planning and Work Supports

There are savings options available to individuals who receive a needs-based benefit, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA offers work incentives that support an individual to go back to work and maintain employment while receiving a public benefit. An example of this is the Plan to Achieve Self-Support, often referred to as PASS, which allows individuals to set aside income other than Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or resources for a specified period of time so they may pursue a work goal that will reduce or eliminate the SSI or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits they currently receive. An individual could, for example, 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 SSA’s Red Book.

  1. Employment

Employment is important to improving financial well-being, and individuals with a disability can access employment services to help them obtain, maintain, or enhance their employment status. A great starting point is to visit a local American Job Center (AJC), also called Workforce Centers or One-Stop Centers. AJCs are designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. They offer training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and similar employment-related services.

  1. Free Tax Preparation

Tax time is an ideal time to encourage individuals with disabilities to save money. We find that individuals with disabilities will often not file a tax return either because of low wages or in fear that if they file and receive a tax refund, they will lose their public benefits. It is important for these individuals to know that refunds received from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), or other refundable credits are not considered income. In addition, these refunds are 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. More information about disability and free tax services is available from the IRS.

  1. Financial Education

Financial education is a critical first step on the road to financial stability. There are a variety of financial education curriculum and tools available to help learn about savings. NDI has several initiatives dedicated to understanding and implementing key financial concepts to help people with disabilities take hold of their financial futures. Another source is FDIC’s Money Smart, which provides an accessible curriculum that is frequently used by disability organizations.

  1. Asset Development

Individuals may not be aware of programs that can assist them in saving money to buy a home, go back to school, or to start a business. One such savings options is an Individual Development Accounts (IDA). If an individual saves money in a matched IDA program, the funds will not impact their eligibility for federal benefit programs. Similarly, ABLE Accounts are a savings option for individuals with disabilities who qualify. ABLE Accounts allow an individual to save up to $14,000 per year without these funds impacting a needs-based benefit such as Supplemental Security Income. Money saved in an ABLE Account can be used to pay for qualified disability expenses.

National Disability Institute is the first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, asset development and financial stability for all people across the full spectrum of disabilities. We affect change through public education, training, technical assistance and policy development to help the one in three Americans with disabilities living in poverty take steps toward creating 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 programis 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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#SavingsTipTuesday

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 
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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 @RealEconImpact #SavingsTipTuesday
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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 @RealEconImpact @AmericaSaves
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Tax assistance is available for individuals with disabilities from @IRS: http://bit.ly/2cVBlb7 #SavingsTipTuesday
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.@FDICgov Money Smart has accessible materials frequently used by disability orgs: http://bit.ly/2cbUQQo #SavingsTipTuesday @AmericaSaves
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.@RealEconImpact has free classes on strategies to build financial wellness of ppl w/ disabilities http://bit.ly/2cVMc4K #SavingsTipTuesday
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#SavingsFactFriday

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 @RealEconImpact @AmericaSaves
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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
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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 @RealEconImpact @AmericaSaves
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#Savings is an option for individuals with disabilities: http://bit.ly/2cK6bbd #SavingsFactFriday @RealEconImpact @AmericaSaves
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#DidYouKnow IDAs are savings option for ppl w/disabilities where funds are matched? http://bit.ly/2czfvtg #SavingsFactFriday
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Tax refunds (incl EITC + CTC) are NOT considered income for those w/ public benefits #SavingsFactFriday @RealEconImpact @AmericaSaves
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Additional Posts

Save your savings tips for a chance to win $25

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Do you have a tip about saving as individual with a disability? Share it, you could win $25: http://bit.ly/2cVza7F   
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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 @RealEconImpact v/ @AmericaSaves
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.@MyFreeTaxes = free tax prep + filing help for qualified ppl w/combined income of $62k or less >> http://bit.ly/2cK8Rp3 v/ @AmericaSaves
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Let @AmericaSaves help you stay committed to your #savings goal! Take the pledge today: http://bit.ly/2coXx2v
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Making simple changes to spending is an easy way to help anyone start #saving: http://bit.ly/2cWR9iB #BetterMoneyHabits v/ @AmericaSaves
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When discussing people w/ disabilities, put the person first. Here are examples from @RealEconImpact: http://bit.ly/2cVAur6 @AmericaSaves
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America Saves Twitter Chat

Please join @AmericaSaves and @RealEconImpact on Monday, October 17 at 3pm Eastern for an hour-long discussion on financial wellness for people with disabilities and their families. 

In partnership with the National Disability Institute (NDI), we are excited to kick off National Disability Employment Awareness Month with an hour-long chat highlighting the tools and resources available to people with disabilities, their families, and service providers. Please join our conversation on how to approach employment, saving, and asset-building, and strategies for improving one’s financial wellbeing.

Hashtag: #ABLEToSave

Topic: Financial Wellness for people with Disabilities and Their Families (iCalendar | Google Calendar |  Outlook | Outlook Online | Yahoo! Calendar)

When: Monday, October 17 at 3pm Eastern

Easy ways to follow the chat: Twubs or tchat.io

The #ABLEToSave chat will feature these questions for discussion: 

Join @AmericaSaves @RealEconImpact 10/17 for #ABLEToSave chat on savings info/resources for people w/ disabilities: bit.ly/2dkOnm1
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