Meet our Current ABLE NRC Ambassadors

Michael Zybura

Michael is the parent of an ABLE account owner with Autism.
Clinton Township, MI
ABLE Program: MiABLE

Michael opened an ABLE account for his school-age son, Colin, so that he could maximize his independence and secure his financial future. Michael advocates for inclusion in his son’s school system, mentors other parents and advocates to employers on the benefits of ABLE.

Mike Zybura and his family

2020 ABLE NRC Ambassador, Mike Zybura lives in Township, Michigan and opened a MiABLE account for his 13-year-old son, Colin, who has autism, so that he could help him maximize his independence and secure his financial future.

In Mike’s own words, “I have always been an advocate for fiscal responsibility and have never had a problem spouting the virtues of investing early and often to anyone that is willing to listen (or even if my audience is unwilling to listen). Very few people will ’fall into’ financial security during their lives. The person in charge of their financial future is typically going to be the man or woman in the mirror.

You would think I’m a financial advisor, but I’m not. I’m a simple man with a simple life and a simple plan. My ’simple plan’ was made decisively more difficult when my wife and I added a special needs son to the mix about 10 years ago. We thought ’simple’ went out the window with all our other plans and dreams.

We were stuck in idle, feeling sorry for ourselves. Now what do we do? We assumed our son would never be able to take care of himself and that the duty to care for him emotionally and financially would be solely our burden to bear. Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t. What I do know is that our son has made remarkable strides and is accomplishing things we didn’t think he could or would at this point. The sun shines brighter for us these days. He’s a joy and we remain extremely optimistic about his future. However, this doesn’t mean we can abandon our updated plan.

Once my wife and I climbed out of our dark hole of self-pity, we searched for options and one stood out far and above all others – the ABLE Act. This was our vehicle to get us moving in the right direction.

So it adds up – a parent with a special needs child that constantly tries to educate people on investing for the future and the ABLE Act. National Ambassador to promote the ABLE Act?    Sign me up!”

What the ABLE Act Means to Me By ABLE NRC Ambassador Mike Zybura

I have always had an internal plan of how I was going to financially prepare for the future. I never wrote it down. To me, it was simple. Time and money! That was it. Start investing early, automate the contributions to my financial goals (retirement, college, emergency), put away enough that I felt it, but not so much that it left me cash-strapped each month.

The plan was easy to follow as long as my wife and I were afforded enough time to let the eighth wonder of the world – compound interest – do its job with our investments (time) and were blessed with good, stable jobs (money).

Time and money! Piece of cake plan.

By the time we would hit retirement, we would have 20-25 years of life to fund. We’d be reasonably prepared considering our savings discipline, my wife’s teacher’s pension and Social Security. The house and college would be paid off. The kids would be doing their own things, knowing mom and dad were there in a pinch.

And it was going according to plan, at least for a few years.

In 2010, our only son Colin was diagnosed with Autism. Of course, we knew something was wrong. He didn’t really play with other kids, he played near them. He didn’t talk very much, a word or two here and there. Eye contact wasn’t great. He screamed a lot! He was missing all the typical developmental benchmarks three-year-old kids should hit. Did I mention he screamed A LOT? Regardless, I always felt he would snap out of it. I was wrong. He hasn’t.    He won’t.

Fast-forward about seven years and our financial plan was a mess. We were still contributing to our retirement accounts, but nowhere near the amounts needed. We were putting a little away monthly for the kids’ college funds. Again, it wasn’t nearly enough. And forget the emergency fund, this was the emergency.

Upon receiving the diagnosis, we immediately sought out ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) for Colin. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan did not mandate coverage for ABA therapy. And as bad luck would have it, neither one of our employer plans covered it. Before we knew it, our credit card balances totaled over $50,000. (Before marriage and kids, I never carried a credit card balance.) I had no plan for this predicament. Something needed to change in our favor. I was worried we would soon be at a point of no return.

Thankfully, things did change. Michigan finally passed legislation mandating ABA therapy coverage on fully-insured plans. YES! This gave us an extra $3,000 each month. We could start whittling away at our debt, which we did in earnest.

But the enormous obstacle remaining in front of us was the future of Colin. It’s hard enough to save for your own retirement. Try saving for your child’s entire life, half of which will unfold after your death. To say this is overwhelming is to put it mildly.

We could win the lottery. I could ask for a 400 percent raise at work. We could receive an unforeseen inheritance. None of this, of course, is likely. We are on our own in this world and, to be frank about it, I would not have it any other way. My family is my charge, my responsibility.

We looked at insurance policies and other options, but it all felt like gambling to me.  We needed something built for us. Then I stumbled upon the Michigan ABLE Act. I don’t even remember how I learned about it. I just immediately knew it was exactly what my wife and I were looking for.

The ABLE Act allows you to invest after-tax dollars that grow tax-free as long as distributions are used for qualified purposes. It was like a dream come true! It isn’t free money. The onus to contribute still lies with us. But it allows us to control our son’s financial future much more than we could have otherwise. He can live off our incomes while we’re alive, get his piece of our inheritance, then use the ABLE funds when/if necessary.

The ABLE Act allows us to hope for the best while planning for the worst.

My immediate family is the MOST IMPORTANT thing in my life. My greatest insecurities revolve around whether or not I am doing a respectable job as husband and father. I’m not exactly sure how I’m doing so far.

But one thing I do know for sure is that the ABLE Act has provided an opportunity to take care of the financial end. I encourage everyone to strongly consider researching and, hopefully, opening an ABLE account for you or a loved one. You’ll be glad you did!

Good luck,

Mike Zybura