Matthew Shapiro serves as an ambassador for the ABLEnowSM program.* As part of this role, he is helping ABLEnow talk to people with disabilities about how the new ABLE accounts will affect them. Matthew, a 26 years old individual with Cerebral Palsy, lives in Richmond, Virginia with his family. Matthew recently shared his thoughts on several topics related to the new ABLEnow accounts, which are now available for qualified individuals with a disability nationwide.
Achieving a better quality of life
The ABLEnow program talks a lot about “a better quality of life” – and those words hold a lot of power. For me, a better quality of life means several things. First, it means having everything that I need to live a long, independent, productive, meaningful life. I need to have resources available, because I never know when my wheelchair might need repair or I might need to hire a personal care attendant. A better quality of life also means that I don’t have to constantly stress about my financial situation or worry about my SSI benefits being taken away. I will no longer constantly have to ask myself, “Do I have more than $2,000 in assets right now?” With my ABLEnow account, I will be able to save for the future for the first time and still retain critical benefits.
Building financial stability
The most important aspect of ABLEnow accounts that encourages me for the future is the ability to start building up a nest egg. I plan to set as much money aside as I can on a regular basis. The development of my very own personal “rainy day fund” is really exciting because I don’t know what my future expenses might be on a day-to-day basis. And, I like knowing that when I want to do something, personally, professionally or socially, I will now have the means to do so.
One of my favorite features of the ABLEnow account is that anyone can contribute to it. My friends, family, and colleagues can all contribute to the account on birthdays and other holidays. They’ll know that their contribution will not only be helpful but also will no longer potentially affect my eligibility for some benefits.
Being able to save money is important, because one of the biggest challenges many in the disability community face is the ability just to afford what they need. Living with a disability is expensive! From a healthcare and equipment standpoint, most of what an individual with a disability needs is extremely costly and very rarely is completely covered by insurance. For example, the wheelchair that I currently use cost $32,000. In my case, most of that was covered by insurance and Medicaid. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as I am. And that doesn’t even take into consideration what it costs to live your everyday life. Sometimes, I just want to go out and have a good time with friends or family, like every other 26-year-old. Now, with my ABLEnow account, I can save money to help pay for disability-related expenses like wheelchair repairs or transportation while also using the funds in my account to go out on a Friday night. This will help me maintain my quality of life and, if I have saved enough in my ABLEnow account, I’ll be able to do it without stressing.
In my experience, people are excited but cautious when it comes to programs like ABLEnow. People with disabilities and their families may have been told on occasions with other programs that their benefits would not be affected, only to find out that the opposite was true. I would recommend talking to the good folks with the ABLEnow program to understand and believe the benefits of these accounts. You will be able to see how easily you can save money and know that their benefits will not be touched. I look forward to the day when hopefully millions of people around the country have opened ABLEnow accounts.
You may have a lot of questions – I know I did. I have spoken with many of my friends personally about ABLEnow, and I’ve attempted to answer questions and calm concerns. Many of the concerns and questions are similar:
- Will the account affect any of my benefits?
- Who can contribute to my account?
- How can I spend the money I’ve saved?
- How much money can I save?
- Why hasn’t my state opened up an ABLE program yet?
What’s refreshing is that the organization running ABLEnow understands the concerns of people with disabilities and has worked with them to develop an easy and user-friendly system. None of these questions should become deterrents to opening an ABLEnow account. You can find the answers to these questions and more in the ABLEnow FAQs.
Sometimes it’s better or more reassuring to hear directly from someone with a disability, so I’ll attempt to answer these questions!
- No, an ABLEnow account will not affect SSI or Medicaid benefits you receive. The only exception would be if you have more than $100,000 in your account, then SSI benefits are suspended.
- Anyone can contribute to your ABLEnow account.
- The money in your ABLEnow account can be used to help pay for a variety of expenses, including daily living expenses, equipment repairs, continuing schooling, or any other expense that helps you maintain your independence and quality of life as an individual with a disability.
- An account holder can save up to $14,000 a year.
- Anyone, regardless of where they live, can open up an ABLEnow account! You don’t have to live in the state that runs ABLEnow to participate.
Ultimately, I could not encourage people with disabilities more strongly to consider opening an ABLEnow account today and to start saving for their future. As an account holder myself, I can tell you that I had some questions and concerns, but in the short amount of time I’ve had it, my account has already become a great asset to me. It has been easy to use and has not affected my benefits in any way. Visit www.able-now.com to open an account. Your mind will be put at ease instantly, and it will be one of the smartest decisions you ever make.
* Matthew Shapiro is a paid ambassador for the ABLEnow program. His experience as an account owner may not be representative of other account owners.