November 18, 2013
If you’ve used your Ticket, found a job, are keeping a budget and have started to save a little, you might still have questions about saving limits. In this post, we will share some ways you can manage your cash and benefits while saving.
The Saving Limit
If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you should make sure you are aware whether your total resources (for example, the total of your cash, checking and savings accounts, or stocks, bonds or IRAs) are within the program guidelines so that you can anticipate any changes to your cash benefits and avoid overpayments.
For example, if you receive SSI, the total for your countable resources cannot be more than $2,000 for an individual. You can own a home and one car for essential transportation, and the value of these items is not counted against the $2,000 resource limit. The limit is $3,000 for a couple. Remember, if you exceed cash benefit limits, your cash benefits will stop.
Certain assets are not counted when Social Security determines financial eligibility for SSI or your state determines financial eligibility for Medical Assistance. For a complete list of assets that are not counted, go to: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/textresources-ussi.htm.
Ways to Save and Receive Benefits
There are ways to save money while you are collecting benefits and trying work. In past posts we shared information about Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), and an Individual Development Account (IDA). Today we are sharing another option, a Special Needs Trust.
Posted in Financial Literacy, Money Mondays: Your Path to Financial Independence | 3 Comments »
October 21, 2013
When credit card users carry balances, one of their top priorities (besides paying down the balance) should be to lower their interest charges. Credit card balances and high finance charges cost you more money and can limit your financial options. And, if you let those balances continue to grow or just linger, they could keep you from achieving other important goals and dreams, such as buying a car, home or just being financially independent.
This week we are sharing some tips and strategies to lower your credit card interest rates to help you keep more money in your pocket.
What you should know first
Paying off high-interest credit card debt is an important step in the right direction. There are two ways to accomplish this:
Decrease balances by paying down debt
Get a lower interest rate.
While paying down debt requires cash, getting a lower credit card interest rate does not.
Get organized. You need to get organized. Gather up all your credit card information. Make note of the balance, interest rate, due date, and minimum payment for each card. Then, assess your situation. Ask yourself questions like: Do I have lots of balances spread out over many different cards? Do I have one big balance and several small ones? Have I consolidated my debt to one card but can't seem to make any headway on my balance? Have I been playing the balance transfer game for months and months?
Know your credit score. High credit card balances and interest rates also negatively impact your credit score. High balances also affect your credit score. Check your credit score and find out ways to improve it. Learn more in our post Money Mondays: Know Your Credit
If you weren’t given the lowest possible rate, and have reason to believe that that your credit score has gone up, call your bank and request to have your interest rate lowered. Many credit cards feature a range of interest rates, and the one you received depended on your credit worthiness at the time you applied. Maybe your situation has changed such as you are now working and earning more money.
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October 7, 2013
WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress established the month of October as National Work & Family Month (NWFM) in 2003. This year marks the 10th anniversary of NWFM and will focus on encouraging employers to think strategically about work-life benefits.
Work-life benefits and policies such as working from home, flexible schedules and health and wellness programs are especially important for people with disabilities who are pursuing financial independence. Many people on Social Security disability benefits find it more difficult to perform the work they did in the past due to their disability, so policies like working from home or flexible schedules can benefit them greatly.
Working from home can also help save money on work-related costs like transportation, food, clothing, childcare, and other assorted office expenses. According to Daily Finance, employees who work from home save around $4,300 annually on gas, food and clothes. However, one should be aware that there can also be some hidden costs when working from home, such as higher electricity, heating, cooling and phone bills. Here are a few tips to avoid higher hidden costs when working from home.
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September 23, 2013
The Social Security Administration’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) is a Work Incentive provision that can help people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of a disability to return to work.
The PASS program allows disability beneficiaries receiving SSI to save money, as well as things of value that an individual owns, to pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific work goal. PASS allows a person to set aside money (without affecting your benefits) for installment payments or a down payment on things like a vehicle, wheelchair or computer if needed to reach a work goal. If the goal is self-employment, a business plan is required.
Posted in Financial Literacy, Money Mondays: Your Path to Financial Independence | 4 Comments »
August 26, 2013
As the summer ends, you may be preparing to start college or a vocational program. This transition can be exciting but it also comes with new responsibilities, such as managing your personal finances like income, benefits and monthly expenses.
It is important to begin to learn about financial matters, like creating and managing a budget and saving for emergencies. In order to manage a budget, it helps to know what to expect.
Here are some common expenses for students in college or a vocational program:
August 12, 2013
Working for yourself can be rewarding. For people with disabilities, the flexibility of self-employment is another work option to consider. Through self-employment, many people meet their career and financial goals.
Think about how it would feel to get paid to do what you love. If you are working for yourself, it is likely that you are doing work that you enjoy. You can choose who you will work with, and select the type of customers or clients you will serve. At times, you may even have days when it hardly feels as if you are working at all. Harmony between your work and your personal life can make self-employment both financially and personally rewarding.
As your own boss, you are in control of the decisions affecting your work life. You develop your business plan, your quality assurance procedures, your pricing and your marketing strategies. Your job security depends on your own ability to make your business a success. In addition, as your business progresses, you learn new skills and broaden your abilities.
There are some benefits of self-employment to keep in mind as you explore this or other work options:
increase your income
determine your own working hours
decide where to work
enjoy job satisfaction
try a new career
As a person with a disability you may often confront barriers when attempting to start your own business. For example, you may have a hard time getting the money needed to start a business. Also, you may not have the information and resources needed to develop an effective business plan.
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August 1, 2013
We recently posted a Money Mondays blog, The Importance of an Emergency Fund and have heard your comments and concerns! We understand that saving money for emergencies can be a challenge if you have a disability and depend on public benefit programs that have resource and asset limits, such as SSI, to meet your basic living expenses. However, there are a variety of programs that may help you set aside money while you are receiving SSI and working towards financial independence.
Here are some saving options:
Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) – PASS is a Work Incentive that allows you to set aside money from your income or resources to pay for training, equipment, support services and employment-related expenses that can lead to a job and higher income. Meet Michelle B. and learn how the PASS worked for her!
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – The EITC is a tax credit that helps people with low-to-moderate income reduce the amount of federal income tax they owe. (Even if a person doesn’t earn enough money to owe federal income taxes, he or she may qualify for the EITC.) To learn more, read Money Mondays: Don't Overlook The EITC Tax Credit! and Money Mondays: Your Earned Income Tax Credit.
Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) - The SEIE allows an individual who is receiving SSI, under age 22 and regularly attending school to have earnings excluded from income. In 2013, the amounts excluded are $1,730 monthly up to a yearly maximum of $6,960. To learn more, visit Social Security’s webpage on SEIE.
Posted in Youth In Transition, Financial Literacy, Money Mondays: Your Path to Financial Independence | 3 Comments »
July 29, 2013
Attending college can be an exciting and enriching experience. It can also be a costly one. In addition to tuition, fees, books, and supplies, other expenses include room and board, health insurance, transportation, and spending money. A combination of financial aid and other funding resources can help you meet college costs. Some common types of financial aid include loans, grants, work-study, and scholarships. People with disabilities are often eligible for additional financial assistance for education. Many students use a combination of these resources to enable them to attend college. The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is a good place to begin your search for financial aid information. An administrator there can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources.
Types of Financial Aid
Loans – You may have options to borrow federally funded or private loans from banks or other lending institutions (For example, Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, SunTrust). These types of aid usually require payment of interest and may have different repayment plans, so it’s important to research all the options to decide what is best for you. To be considered for any federally funded financial aid, including loans, students must first fill out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA is used to determine eligibility and the amount of funds that you are eligible to receive based on questions related to your parents, dependency, citizenship and financial status.
Grants – Unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back, making them especially attractive to many students. However, grants usually have more requirements that you must meet to receive the funds. Grants can come from many sources, including the federal government, state governments and colleges. One of the most commonly used grant programs is the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Pell Grant. In addition, students with disabilities may be eligible for additional financial help through their state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency. VR agencies help people with disabilities develop the skills they need to gain employment. After eligibility is determined, the student will work with a counselor to define an employment goal and develop an IPE (Individualized Plan for Employment). You may find a VR near you in our Find Help tool.
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