The November/December issue of our AchievABLE™ Newsletter contains stories on the following:
- Introducing the ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit
- Thank you to our ABLE BIPOC Outreach Ambassadors!
- Archive of November’s ABLE Collaboration Spotlight is Now Available
- AchievABLE™ Top 3 Questions
- ABLE Program News
- ABLE Plan Updates
Introducing the ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit
The ABLE National Resource Center (ABLE NRC) is committed to improving the financial stability and prosperity of people from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community who experience additional and significant expenses associated with having a disability. Across all racial and ethnic groups, households with a working-age member who have disabilities have lower net worth, compared to households without a member who has a disability ($14,180 versus $83,985). Households who are Black and disabled have the lowest net worth ($1,282).*
This toolkit is intended for agencies, organizations and community groups to build awareness about ABLE accounts. It was designed in partnership with our ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassadors to showcase and provide guidance on how 529(A) ABLE savings and investment accounts can benefit eligible members of minority populations while helping them maintain eligibility for critical public benefits.
As community leaders and service providers, you can now take full advantage of the ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit as part of your work to help address the inequalities faced by BIPOC individuals. Increasing financial stability for this population will have a net-positive impact across all aspects of life for those you serve, and ABLE accounts can make that difference.
ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassadors embody the diversity of this country, representing cross-segments by type of disability, race and ethnicity, age, gender, sex, geographic location and a wide range of ABLE goals. They are ABLE account owners and family members actively working to increase engagement and buy-in around ABLE accounts in their communities. The ABLE NRC BIPOC Ambassadors were instrumental in developing the toolkit, informing the materials to include the goal of ensuring that others in the BIPOC community benefit from ABLE accounts as they have. This includes achieving milestones such as home ownership and accessible vehicle purchases, technology, accommodations and creation of emergency expense funds, along with long-term planning for retirement and other needed services and expenditures not covered by other programs or providers.
Thank you to our ABLE BIPOC Outreach Ambassadors!
The ABLE National Resource Center focused our efforts in 2021 on increasing outreach to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community. For this year’s ABLE Ambassador program, we pulled from existing alumni and also brought on new Ambassadors, who are all BIPOC ABLE account owners and family members. They have been working within their own networks and with the ABLE NRC to build awareness around ABLE accounts among minority populations who experience higher rates of poverty at the intersection of race and disability. We are grateful for their contributions as their efforts will support ongoing engagement with the BIPOC community for years to come. At our year-end meeting earlier this month, the Ambassadors shared highlights from their work along with lessons learned after a year full of outreach activities. A few of our Ambassadors share their thoughts below:
Nathan Turner shared, “I often think about how, out of eight million people who are ABLE- eligible, only about 100,000 have an ABLE account. There is still a lot of outreach to do! I have started working with Legal Aid in Ohio and sharing information on ABLE accounts. They are excited to move forward. I’m also working more closely with my ABLE program out of Ohio. I’ll be starting training early next year to become a Certified Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) through Virginia Commonwealth University, in addition to my financial coaching work and will continue to promote ABLE both as a financial coach and as a benefits planner.”
Davinna Christian updated us on the progress her Caregiver Network was making. “I’m in the process of getting a solicitation license from the state of Michigan and its Facebook page will be going live soon. The group is going to be sharing the ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit and links to ABLE NRC resources have already been posted on the site.” Davinna also spoke about her favorite ABLE BIPOC Ambassador experience this year. “I was participating in a Symposium for Caregivers, working with people who have sickle cell anemia, with the expectation I would just be a member of the audience. However, when I attended the financial planning session, the topic of needing to be able to save money without losing benefits came up. I had to speak up! I shared information on ABLE accounts and that I am an ABLE Ambassador. I told the participants they should visit the ABLE NRC website for more information. They want me to speak at next year’s symposium with the Parent Caregiver Group.”
Cheryl Walfall-Flagg, shared that while her younger son, Sean, has had an ABLE account for years; opening an ABLE account for her nephew Davante this year was a big step. Davante’s ABLE account will help safeguard his future and has given Cheryl and her husband, who are Davante’s guardians, peace of mind. Cheryl added, “Knowing Davante can save for his future and prepare for any unexpected turns his road might take, as he returns to college, makes me feel good as a mom. It’s a good feeling to help people I don’t know personally to open an account, but it was so satisfying to be able to help a member of my own family on the road to financial independence.” Cheryl also told us how her son, Sean, was able to accept the gifts of cash he received for his graduation without worrying about affecting his asset levels. When asked to tell us her favorite ABLE BIPOC Ambassador activity, Cheryl said it was the two interviews she did with Nerd Wallet and Business Insider, sharing her experience as a parent and guardian for two young ABLE account owners. Cheryl also told the group that, because we had worked so much more closely together this year, she really felt connected to her fellow ambassadors. “They have all been an inspiration to me,” she shared.
Edward Mitchell said, “I’ve reached my initial ABLE savings goal of purchasing a fully accessible vehicle this year, and now I’m saving for my next big goal of a down payment for an accessible house. I’m also excited about the work we’ve been doing with Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest Black Greek letter association in the U.S.” As an Alumni member and with his help, ABLE NRC is working with Alpha Phi Alpha to incorporate information about ABLE accounts through their national service programs. These programs support Alpha Phi Alpha members beyond their college lives and into their careers by assisting both undergrad and graduate members. “My hope is that, by pairing ABLE information with Alpha Phi Alpha’s outreach activities, we can reach people who may not have heard about ABLE from a source they really trust.” When asked what he has taken away from his time as an ABLE BIPOC Ambassador, Edward added, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned this year is that ABLE accounts can be a pressure relief valve for eligible unbanked people in these troubled times that helps people save and attain financial security.”
Edward was also asked to speak on behalf of the ABLE NRC last week to share information about the new ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit during National Disability Institute’s Financial Inclusion, Disability and Race: National Convening. During the virtual National Convening, NDI highlighted its portfolio of work with disability partners and organizations, as well as financial institutions, government agencies, foundations and corporations that are working on economic and racial equity. If you missed the event, a recording of the webinar is posted on NDI’s website.
Thank you again to all of our ABLE BIPOC Outreach Ambassadors for their amazing work this year and please check out the ABLE BIPOC Outreach Toolkit.
Archive of November’s ABLE Collaboration Spotlight is Now Available
The Oregon, Maryland, Washington, Alabama and Hawaii ABLE programs have just posted new information about their plans’ shared features. Be sure to check out the high quality, low-cost ABLE savings and investment accounts featured there. These plans are available to eligible individuals nationwide. Watch the archive of the ABLE Collaboration Spotlight webinar.
AchievABLE™ Top 3 Questions
1. As we come to the end of 2021, how can I maximize my ABLE contributions for this year?
The ABLE account maximum contribution limit for 2021, from all combined sources for the calendar year, is $15,000. Working account owners, who have not had contributions made into a retirement plan within this calendar year, may deposit additional money from their earned income into their ABLE account. Residents of the continental U.S. may contribute up to an additional $12,760; residents of Alaska $15,950 and residents of Hawaii $14,680.
If you have not reached these limits, there is still time to:
- Contribute your earned income and/or benefits into an ABLE account;
- Rollover a 529 college savings account into an ABLE account;
- Request that the Trustee of your special needs or pooled trust deposit money into an ABLE account;
- Ask your employer to contribute money into an ABLE account (this is countable earned income for the ABLE account owner); and
- Ask friends or family to contribute to your account.
ABLE contribution amounts are increasing to $16,000 for 2022. The ABLE to Work Contribution Limits for 2022 are $12,880 for residents of the Continental U.S.; residents of Alaska $16,090 and Hawaii $14,820.
2. How much money are ABLE account owners earning from their investments?
You may want to review the investment reports of performance that are posted on many state ABLE plan websites and also review their disclosure document. Keep in mind that past investment growth or loss does not guarantee future earnings. You may find the information helpful in making choices when looking at growth and comparing it with your short-term and long-term goals, timelines, risk tolerance and unique circumstances.
You can use the information to move a portion of your ABLE savings into one or more of the investment options within the ABLE plan you selected. There is flexibility with an ABLE account and you may make changes in investment choices twice per calendar year. You may change the way in which future contributions are invested at any time. Periodic reviews and changes may help you to earn money from your invested money. ABLE investment earnings are not taxable and do not count as income for means-tested programs.
3. I have had a disability, but I have assistive technology that allows me to work and earn more than Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), $1,310 per month (this amount increases to $1,350 in January 2022). I do not receive a disability benefit from Social Security. Am I still ABLE-eligible?
A person who uses a hearing aid, cochlear implant, prosthesis, screen reading software or drives an accessible vehicle and earns more than SGA, in most cases, may still have a disability despite their work activity. The person is simply accommodating their disability by using assistive technology. Therefore, a person who works above the SGA level, but still has a “marked and severe” disability, which has lasted at least 12 months or more and began before the age 26, may still be ABLE-eligible so long as their disability meets Social Security criteria. See our Frequently Asked Question under “Medical Criteria, Certifications and Improvement” and find a Sample Disability Certification.
ABLE Program News
New Contribution Limits for 2022
The ABLE contributions limits have been posted on the IRS website. The annual ABLE contribution limit is the same limit as the annual exclusion for gifts. It increases to $16,000 effective January 1, 2022. The ABLE to Work Contribution Limits for 2022 are $12,880 for residents of the continental U.S.; for residents of Alaska $16,090 and Hawaii $14,820.
Latest ABLE Numbers:
September 2021 Quarterly ABLE 529 Data from 529 & ABLE Research
Nearly 106,000 ABLE accounts have been opened with $937 million in assets; ABLE account balances average $8,883.
Social Security Administration (SSA) Update on ABLE Regarding Repayments:
On September 28, 2021, the Social Security Administration received guidance from the Internal Revenue Service allowing: (1) the repayment of benefit overpayments to SSA as an ABLE qualified disability expense and (2) the repayment of representative payee fees from an ABLE account for pre-approved fee-for-service representative payees. Both fall under the category of “financial management” under § 1.529A–2(h)(1).
ABLE Plan Updates
- The Maine ABLE program launched on October 18, 2021. The ABLE accounts can be opened at any Bangor Savings Bank branch by any qualified Maine resident. Be sure to check out the new Maine program.
- The Hawaii ABLE Savings Program joined the State of Oregon’s ABLE for ALL Savings Plan network on November 1, 2021. The Hawaii ABLE Savings Program joined with the ABLE Collaboration to offer ABLE account owners lower fees and enhanced services.