American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Winter 2019 FINANCE
by Kane Brolin
Reprinted from Braille Monitor, Volume 62, Number 1, January 2019
From the Editor: Kane Brolin is the owner/operator of a financial planning and brokerage business based in Mishawaka, Indiana. He serves as president of the Michiana Chapter in the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. You can read his article “Maximizing Return: How an Investment of Time in Your Blind Child Can Pay Dividends in the Financial Services Industry” at https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/
It seems the internet has become a great leveler. Just a click or two can make any of us sound like an expert. And let's face it: The only thing more stimulating than taking part in a heated debate is feeling like we've won that debate. But would you trust your child's financial future—or your own, for that matter—to an internet search engine or an online discussion forum?
Recently while perusing an email list for parents of children with visual impairments, I ran across some well-intentioned advice that was meant to help one of the listers figure out how to save for her daughter's college education. There was only one problem: the advice presented was wrong.
As a Certified Financial Planner Professional, I have learned over more than a decade that often the best thing I can do is prevent a client from making irreversible, costly mistakes. While qualifying to hold the Chartered Special Needs Consultant designation, I learned that if you're investing for the future needs of a son or daughter with a disability, some mistakes are so costly that they may disqualify your child from receiving critical government-sponsored benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. At the very least, not understanding the characteristics of the investment product you could be buying could dramatically lower the amount of money your son or daughter will have access to when it comes time to spend some of it. So let's bust two myths that I find to be annoyingly persistent in today's marketplace.
Myth #1: If I am the recipient of SSI, SSDI, Medicare, or Medicaid, going to work will cut off my benefits. It's not worth it.1
Not only is this statement false, believing it prevents many people with disabilities from attempting to earn higher education because they think that working full-time at any job eventually will deprive them of health benefits or much-needed home- and community-based services from Medicaid. Why try for a college degree if there is no way to use that degree later without risking financial ruin?
A lot of people don't realize that the Social Security Administration has an incentive program called Ticket to Work. Its purpose is to help recipients of SSI, SSDI, Medicare, and Medicaid transition into the workforce without sacrificing their benefits. By drawing upon expert advice, keeping good records, and wisely using impairment-related work expenses to offset earnings from employment on your income tax returns, working gainfully might be more lucrative and less painful than you think.2
To find a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program that serves your area or an employment network with a benefits counselor, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 866-968-7842 (voice) or 866-833-2967) (TTY), Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Myth #2: If I'm disabled, even if I have prosperous people in my family who could contribute to my standard of living, I must remain destitute, or else I lose eligibility for SSI, SSDI, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Not necessarily true. You would do well to remember a couple of facts that many people miss.
First, if you receive Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), "there is no limit to the amount of assets, cash, or resources you own." SSI and Medicaid do impose strict limits on the value of cash or investment assets that may be held in your name directly. However, thanks to the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, signed into law in 2014, disabled Americans now have access to the ABLE account. This account, which can receive contributions from many different sources, is a place where money can grow through tax-favored capital gains, dividends, and interest income. It may be used for your benefit without jeopardizing your eligibility for government programs.3
How may this money be used? It may be used for "qualified disability expenses" related to the individual's disability or blindness and made for him/her benefit in maintaining or improving health, independence, or quality of life, including:
So take heart. Living with a disability can be challenging on many levels. But don't let the fear of enforced impoverishment stop you from taking risks, gaining skills, and working toward a productive and affluent future. Do your homework, seek the advice of legal and financial professionals, and—above all—don't let the fearful things some people say stop you before you start.
1. (2018) "Spotlight on Impairment-Related Work Expenses," Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-work-expenses.htm
2. (2015) "Money Mondays: Wage Reporting—Myths, Tips, and Ticket to Work," Social Security Administration, May 15. https://choosework.ssa.gov/blog/2017-05-15-mm-wage-reporting-myths-tips-and-ticket-to-work
3. "Is There a Social Security Disability Asset Limit?" Disability Secrets, https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/page7-5.html
4. (2016) "Promoting Access and Inclusion in ABLE Programs: New Opportunities for Saving, Financial Inclusion, and Economic Security for Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families," ABLE National Resource Center, www.easterseals.com/shared-components/document-library/promoting-access-and.pdf