An ABLE account is a tax advantaged investment account that a person who is blind, and her family, can use to save for the future without impacting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI benefits are a common source of income for people who are blind; especially young people who have never worked.
Libby was an 18-year-old high-school student when she applied for SSI benefits. By the time her application was approved, she’d started college and moved into a dorm with her first guide dog, Nimitz. Her state rehab agency paid for most of her college expenses, but the $783 a month she received from social security really helped cover care and feeding of Nimitz, a cell phone so she could call home, and money for the bus and the occasional Uber or Lyft ride so she could get around off campus.
Libby’s parents, Augie and Susie, believed strongly in getting Libby ready for the future, so they helped her set up an ABLE account. Libby contributed $78 a month, and Augie and Susie contributed another $78 a month to match Libby’s contribution. During the holidays, Libby’s grandparents, aunts, and uncleles, also contributed small amounts, all without impacting the $783 a month Libby was receiving from Social Security.
Libby worked hard, got good grades, and landed an internship while she was in college. Her savings habit continued, and when she graduated, her ABLE account was worth over $10,000 and her internship had turned into a full-time job paying $52,000 a year. Because of her increase in income, she lost her SSI benefits, but the $1300 a month paycheck every two weeks more than made up for it.
Libby, Augie, and Susie found Libby a great apartment conveniently located a short bus trip away from work and close to lots of shops and restaurants Libby loved. She was able to use $1000 from her ABLE account to pay her security deposit, but she left the rest alone.
Five years, and pay raises, later, Libby was making $57000 a year and decided to look for her first home. Augie and Susie connected her with a realtor they’d used in the past, and Libby soon found a wonderful townhouse. By that time, her ABLE account had grown to over $15,000, and she’d saved another $16,000 in a high-yield savings account. This was enough to make a 20 percent down payment on the $155,000 purchase price of her townhouse. Because of this, her mortgage payment ended up being lower than her rent payment used to be.
In just nine short years, Libby was able to save up over $31,000 without losing any of her SSI benefits or impacting her lifestyle much at all. She did this by saving $78 a month throughout college, and $130 every two weeks during her first five years of work. She took advantage of the opportunities she’d been given: her parents help, the SSI benefits she received, and the help she received from rehab to pay for her college education. She worked hard and paid attention to Augie and Susie’s advice to save for the future, even though she had very little idea what that future held. She also took advantage of an ABLE account; something that is only available to people who became blind or disabled before they were 26. Life with a visual impairment has many disadvantages, but sometimes it presents unique opportunities. These paid off for Libby.