By Ellyn Hefner
The City Sentinel series
Families having an emergency fund is necessary – the pandemic has shown us that when families have budgeted for an emergency fund it made a difference in how their family lived during the COVID 19 crisis. The Federal Reserve reports that 39 percent of Americans don’t have enough money on hand to cover a $400 emergency.
In 2014, Congress passed federal legislation, Achieving A Better Life Experience “ABLE” Act. ABLE accounts are similar to a 529 college savings account.
Paul Curley, Director of Savings Research for 529 and ABLE solutions, ISS Market Intelligence tells me, “ABLE accounts help families with disabilities to save over $2,000 without impacting their federal benefits. By finding ways such as stimulus benefits to open and fund the account, individuals are able to save more than the national average to build up their emergency accounts for every day qualified living expenses as opposed to spending the amount down to retain federal benefits. As such, ABLE accounts help families to save and save efficiently to improve their quality of life, and have helped families to open 82,019 accounts investing $643 million in assets as of 4Q 2020 per ISS Market Intelligence. In Oklahoma we have OKSTABLE accounts for people who have a disability to budget and save.
I have asked my friend, Robin Arter, from Think Ability Inc. to help with this article.
Think Ability is a non-profit organization, a multi-service organization that provides residential services, and independent living supports services for people with intellectual, cognitive, and other related developmental disabilities in Duncan, Oklahoma.
Robin says, “After so many years of adults and children with disabilities being limited to only $2,000 in total resources, we found it a freeing experience to be able to adapt our budgeting program to include savings accounts without risking eligibility for so many beneficial programs. Finally, we can BUDGET for SAVINGS!”
At Think Ability, the Direct Support Professional reviews the Monthly Budget with the individual. They discuss Expense Obligations such as Rent, Utilities, Bank Service Charge, Groceries, medical co pays and other monthly necessities.
“Then Wants – Extras, Money for things I WANT but don’t need to survive or meet my obligations; pocket money, weekly spending money, activities, games, movies, eating out, etc. We review our City’s Community Calendar for local events we might like to attend, discuss birthdays and special events that might need to be included in our ‘wants’ budget.”
Robin goes on, “We discuss SAVINGS – Money I want to save for special purchases, activities, trips, vacations, events. Money that will be deposited into the STABLE account to save for a dream.”
Having never had the opportunity to save before, the STABLE account was opened, dreams were restricted and limited. Robin said that they have learned that they needed to prompt individuals to dream, really exploring each individual interest with meaningful and intentional conversations to come up with ideas on what they can save for.
“It was an eye opening experience when someone learned they could travel outside Oklahoma!”, said Robin. Some STABLE account expenditures have been a new recliner, bedroom suit, video game system, a down payment on a house, or a trip to Hawaii, they are limited only by their imaginations!
“Finally, using a calculator to add totals together and subtract this amount from total income. If the spending amount exceeds income, we don’t automatically reduce the budgeted savings amount without a conversation about our wants. Maybe there are some wants in our budget that we can do without.”
With the advent of OKSTABLE accounts, people with disabilities are budgeting, saving and putting money towards an emergency fund, just in case.
Readers, if you have any questions, please email [email protected] or call, 405-233-0928.