Jennifer opened an ABLE account to help her elementary school-age daughter, Kenley, who has Down syndrome, save for an independent future without jeopardizing her benefits. Jennifer has spoken before Nevada’s legislature in support of ABLE as a tool to help loved ones today and plan for tomorrow.
Jennifer (Jenny) Casselman’s daughter, Kenley, is a fourth-grader who just turned 11 years old. She loves her dog Baxter, rock-climbing, baking, painting rocks, playing board games with her parents and friends, and hamming it up in front of a crowd. Kenley’s mom Jenny, is fun too, but she also has more practical concerns when it comes to her daughter. This is why Jenny opened an ABLE account for Kenley with the Nevada ABLE program two years ago. This allows Kenley, who has Down syndrome, to save and prepare for her future, while supporting her independence.
Kenley probably doesn’t fully realize it (because what 11-year-old would?) but, she couldn’t have chosen a better mom, especially when it comes to the practical financial side of building out that “more promising future.” Jenny freely admits that “Finance is my jam.” This is undeniably true. Jenny has spent her career over the past two decades focusing on the operational aspects of finance–everything from compliance with federal regulations to everything it takes to deliver an end-user, financial product for clients. You see, Jenny is Vice President of Commercial Operations with Greater Commercial Lending in Nevada. She also serves as a member of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities in Nevada. All of these skills were put to good use recently when she spoke to the Nevada Legislature about ABLE accounts and the vital role they play in supporting individuals with disabilities and helping them prepare for a better future. Suffice it to say; Jenny knows her stuff. So when Jenny tells us that, “This (the ABLE account) is the easiest financial instrument you will ever open.” we believe her.
Jenny and her husband, Kenley’s dad, Gary, opened an ABLE account a few years ago to save for Kenley’s future. They chose the ABLE account because it will give her financial agency, (a sense of personal empowerment over her money) as an adult. She can choose to use the funds in the ABLE account to support herself and enhance her life without jeopardizing her means-tested benefits.
As both a loving mom and someone whose entire career has been in the world of finance, Jenny says it best, “The reality is, yes, Kenley’s extra chromosome has some genuine medical and cognitive ramifications. But, those ramifications don’t limit her ability to live a full and engaging life. We focus on her abilities and how we are going to support her best-self as she continues to gain independence. With hopes, dreams and many unknowns (because life always has just that), we are planning for her future and balancing it with the demands of today.”
Jenny continues, “Let’s face it, navigating social benefits is a herculean task, and we want to make sure we set Kenley up for success by not jeopardizing important social safety nets for her future. The ABLE account accomplishes just that for us. It is an asset in her name, and because we want Kenley to be as independent as possible, we need to plan through that lens. But the reality is, how do you carve out additional funds when you have to balance all the other demands of today? We have to save for dental work, which is extensive between the backward teeth, the teeth that don’t exist and the needed orthodontics. We also have a kid that tells the nurse how to take her blood pressure because we spend so much time at medical appointments. That means lots of copays, with very high deductibles since Kenley does not have SSI or Medicaid Benefits. So, it can be a conundrum – how do you carve out money for a monthly ABLE account contribution with everything needed for today? For us, we set up a manageable automatic deduction and ABLE deposit, monthly. When she receives gifts of $5 or $10 for Valentine’s Day or Easter from her Grandparents, we take that money and contribute to her ABLE account. Between the investment options of an ABLE account and the future value of our contributions today, it takes a bit of weight off our shoulders, knowing that we are putting the forth effort to help her be stronger tomorrow. That is why an ABLE account is our bright star.”
When Jenny has introduced ABLE accounts to other families who have children with disabilities they always ask her, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” with the second question being. “How do I set this up?” We’re working on that first question, by sharing Jenny and Kenley’s story with others to get the word out about the availability of ABLE accounts. As for the second question…
Drilling it down to the essential items needed to open an ABLE account – which again, Jenny swears is the “easiest financial instrument you will ever open” – Jenny tells people:
- Be sure to check out the ABLE National Resource Center to compare all your options. Use their resources as a starting place to help decide where to open the ABLE account.
- Gather personally identifiable information about the ABLE owner. This means you need the full legal name, instead of a cool nickname.
- Have the formal disability diagnosis available to demonstrate ABLE eligibility, as some ABLE programs will require that level of detail.
- You need a current bank account number and the bank routing number to make a deposit through the mail or electronically from your bank account. You can also set your account up for recurring contributions, or you can change your allocations for future contributions at any time.
- Read the state ABLE program’s disclosure agreement fully for the program that you have chosen before you sign up for it.
- Everything happens online, so if you don’t have the internet at home through a personal computer, head on out to your local library.
- Make it happen and open the account!