Guest Post by Michael R. Roush, Director, Real Economic Impact Network, National Disability Institute
Oftentimes 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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Engage with NDI on Facebook: RealEconImpact or follow NDI on Twitter: @RealEconImpact.