ABLE accounts are a game-changer for families with special needs, but there has been confusion about how they work. Here are...Read more
How ABLE Accounts Can Help Boost Your Financial Health
- September 20th, 2023
For many people with disabilities, maintaining financial well-being can prove particularly challenging amid the marginalization, societal stereotypes, and employment and health care barriers they may regularly face. This includes anything from inaccessible workplaces to reduced income to limited options for building up their savings.
Financial Health of People With Disabilities
According to a new report, those individuals with disabilities who receive benefits from means-tested programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid are at the most risk for financial ruin after an emergency.
Compiled by the Harkin Institute, National Disability Institute, and the Financial Health Network, the report surveyed people with disabilities on a variety of factors related to their spending, saving, borrowing, and planning habits to calculate their financial resilience.
The findings reveal that only 10 percent of people of working age in the disability community are financially healthy today. Meanwhile, a third of working-age people with disabilities are categorized as financially vulnerable, compared with 12 percent of people of working age without disabilities. These individuals may have significant debt and little or no emergency savings, and may often be living paycheck to paycheck.
When it comes to long-term savings, the report highlights ABLE accounts as one viable option for many people with disabilities who receive government means-tested benefits. Yet the researchers find that awareness of the benefits of these accounts among individuals with disabilities is severely lacking.
What Is an ABLE Account?
ABLE accounts are a type of savings account that allows qualifying people with disabilities to save $17,000 a year (in 2023), tax-free, without losing their eligibility for public benefits. An ABLE account helps beneficiaries of means-tested programs like SSI circumvent the strict asset and income requirements, allowing them to save up to $100,000 without penalty.
The money in this type of account can be used for the account holder’s benefit. Money held in an ABLE account can pay for such expenses as the following:
- Basic living expenses
- Housing expenses
- Transportation services
- Education and training
- Assistive technology
In addition to the ability to place money aside without losing benefits, the purpose of an ABLE account is to create a safety net that can reduce a beneficiary’s stress regarding their finances.
What Are the Qualifications for an ABLE Account in 2023?
As of 2023, these are the ABLE account requirements:
- The account holder must have been disabled before they turned 26 years old.
- The individual must either already be receiving benefits under SSI or SSDI, or they must have a letter of certification from a licensed physician stating that they meet the SSA’s criteria regarding significant functional limitations.
Note that in January 2026, the age limit will be extended. At that time, to be eligible for an ABLE account, beneficiaries will have to prove that their disability began before the age of 46.
Continued Financial Hardship May Create Another Barrier for Eligible Account Holders
Despite the benefits of using ABLE accounts, there are downsides that can keep people across the disability community from achieving financial health, according to the report.
ABLE accounts require a minimum balance and sometimes an annual fee, which may create a barrier to financial health for otherwise eligible participants. Many individuals have a hard time putting enough money aside to start utilizing an ABLE account. Being unable to contribute consistently poses a risk that their ABLE account will fall below the required minimum balance.
While anyone can contribute to an individual’s ABLE account, many families have trouble putting together enough money to take full advantage of their ABLE account.
Most People Eligible for an ABLE Account Are Unaware of the Service
Despite its benefits, many people who are eligible for an ABLE account do not know that these accounts exist. Findings from the report uncover the following:
- In 2022, only 120,000 of the estimated 8 million eligible beneficiaries have opened an ABLE account.
- Less than 1 percent of the eligible disabled survey participants had an ABLE account, all of whom had less than $10,000 in their accounts.
- 93 percent of survey respondents said they were unfamiliar with ABLE accounts.
In addition, the report states, “ABLE accounts also remain unfamiliar to many service providers who serve people with disabilities and could provide a critical link to helping provide access.”
Created date: 09/20/2023