So, we just opened an ABLE Savings Account for our son, Troy.
It took about 10 minutes, and cost us nothing other than what we plan to save for our son.
What is an ABLE account you ask?
Let me explain by first sharing this shocking statistic I recently discovered while advocating in Washington, D.C., and at the end of this blog post I’m going to ask you to do your part to make a change in millions of people’s lives!
Recent studies found 78% of eligible adults with intellectual disabilities are NOT WORKING!
Just take that in for a moment. Less than one third of people with intellectual disabilities have a job! That’s almost 50% lower employment rate than people without disabilities.
No job. No work relationships. No expansion of skills after high school. No savings. No self-reliance. No self-worth.
It’s no wonder then that poverty and disability are bedfellows. Millions (1 in 3, in fact) of people with disabilities are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty. This is historically by design…
Before Achieve a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a person with a disability (who benefits from Supplemental Security Income or SSI) could only have $2,000 to their name. Any more, and they would forfeit any government assistance — in healthcare, job training, transportation, and independent living services. This has had a chilling effect on jobs for the disabled.
Even if they can work, why bother when they can’t have more than $2,000 to their name? For those that do find jobs, some are paid less than minimum wage and/or work in sheltered workshops.
But since the ABLE Act passed in 2014, things are looking up!
The pocketbooks of people with disabilities will, for the first time, have the opportunity to grow without the threat of losing the government assistance they need to stay self-reliant.
So, what can you do to help lift up those with disabilities, and nudge them towards financial independence?
What You Can Do Today:
1.First, take the pledge! Disable Poverty is an amazing organization that’s trying to spread awareness about poverty in the disability community.
Visit their website at www.disablepoverty.org to take their pledge to end poverty in the disability community. The website gives facts about the relationship between poverty and disability.
Share this with your friends on social media.
You can do this even if you don’t have a loved one with a disability.
2. Second, open an ABLE account if you’re a self-advocate or your loved one has a disability.
It’s essentially like a 529 College Savings Account. You can save up to $14,000 a year, and the person with a disability will not lose government services as long as the account does not surpass $100,000.
Adult self-advocates can use their savings on anything related to improving their health or independence, as well as furthering their education or employment.
Even before your child becomes an adult, you as the legal guardian can use the savings account for anything disability related: medical bills, therapy, assistive technology, orthotics, etc.
There are a lot of myths surrounding ABLE accounts. Visit here to get the TRUTH!
Twenty-seven states have started ABLE account programs, and most allow non-residents to sign up. Since our family is active duty military and move a lot, we had no problem shopping around for the state with the best deal.
We chose Tennessee’s ABLE plan because there’s no start up fee or annual fee, and it has the most investment options at the lowest cost.
The down side of Tennessee’s plan is no debit card option, which isn’t a problem for us since we plan to have Troy use the money as an adult. Check your state too, because often they have a state income tax credit if you’re an in-state resident.
Visit the ABLE National Resource Center to compare state ABLE plans and choose which option is best for your child.
3. Lastly, call your legislator!
There are several bills in Congress right now that hope to improve the ABLE Act.
The one most salient to the Down syndrome community is the Able2Work bill, which would allow Troy and others with disabilities to save even more in their ABLE account as long as they’re employed. They can save up to $26,500 a year, or the national poverty rate (although the $100,000 SSI limit still applies).
A second improvement bill would allow parents to rollover a 529 account into an ABLE account. This is fantastic for all my mom friends whose child had a later diagnosis, like Autism.
The last improvement bill increases the age of disability onset from 26 to 46 (or half way to retirement age).
Sign up for advocacy alerts related to the ABLE Improvement Bills here, and make sure to call your legislator and tell them to approve these bills.
All of this is integral to pushing people with disabilities out of the poverty cycle. They must be able to work and save their money with pride. And Troy’s on his way to doing just that!