Meet our BIPOC Outreach ABLE NRC Ambassadors

Sarah Perez

ABLE Account Owner
Norfolk, VA
ABLE Program: MiABLE Program

Sarah Perez is saving for transportation, continuing education classes, her YMCA Membership and art supplies.


Sarah Perez in front of computer smiling
Sarah Perez at Courage event

In Sarah’s Own Words…

My name is Sarah Perez, I am 38 years old and live in Jackson in Southern Michigan. I am an artist and volunteer at a local art and history museum and I have had an ABLE account since December 2016 with the MiABLE program. Since 2018, I’ve been an ABLE Ambassador building awareness on the benefits of ABLE accounts for those living with a psychiatric disability. In 2021, my work with the ABLE National Resource Center expanded to helping bring awareness on ABLE accounts to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color(BIPOC) community as well.

Before I got my ABLE account, my life and financial situation were very much always changing. I have a Bipolar Disorder and was just learning to manage it. I never had funds for anything as I was on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at first then Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). At those points in time, when I had more money than I was allowed with those benefits, I would have to spend it quickly. I felt like half a person because I couldn’t save for things or make plans for the future like a lot of my peer group. I felt isolated because of my illness.

I first learned about ABLE accounts from my mother who worked for a local community mental health authority. Before she retired, she was talking to a coworker who knew of our situation and suggested ABLE accounts. Since opening my ABLE account, I feel much more in control of my financial situation. I feel more hopeful about my future. I’ve been able to do things like save money for a computer and printer to assist with my art. Additionally, my family feels more secure and hopeful about my future. Now I’m living in a house I am renting from my parents that I am renting to own. My boyfriend James and his dog Tali are living with me and we are starting to build a life together with James and I each paying our share of expenses. I am a volunteer at a local art and history museum, the Ella Sharp Museum. I am active in the local Girl Scouts.

For other members of the BIPOC community, and for those who are living with psychiatric disabilities who are eligible, I want you to know that financial independence can be achieved with the help of an ABLE account. It can be an empowering tool to use to gain self-confidence and financial independence that your family and friends can feel good about contributing to and that can help you have the resources for a good life. And it does all that without jeopardizing your benefits. I felt hopeless and powerless in my own life in a lot of ways before. Now, with the help of my ABLE account, I have a tool to help me take control of my life and future.

ABLE NRC is my number one place for finding information on ABLE accounts. The ABLE Roadmaps (Roadmap to Enrollment and Roadmap to Independence) and the new ABLE Decision Guides are wonderful tools that I only wish had existed when I first opened my account.

To hear more from Sarah about her experience with her ABLE account, check out the archive of our May webinar: Mental Health Awareness Month and the Power of ABLE Accounts.

 


Sarah Perez’s Highlight from the October 2018 AchievABLE Newsletter

Sarah Perez, 36, is a mixed-media artist building her small business. An ABLE account owner with the Michigan ABLE Program, MiABLE, she is ABLE-eligible due to a mental health disability. Sarah and her parents are contributing to her ABLE account to improve her overall quality of life.

While Sarah lives in Michigan now, she wasn’t living in Michigan when her mom helped her open up her ABLE account two years ago. Due to a series of events that seemed unfortunate at the time, a change in her relationship status and not meeting eligibility for needed benefits in the state she had been living in, Sarah decided to move back home to the Irish Hills area of Michigan. She’s really happy with this move and feels she has turned a corner in her life. It’s been the definition of crisis turning into opportunity. Her parents and extended family, who are incredibly supportive, still live in the area. Sarah has fully re-engaged with her hometown, spending time at the lake and being active in the social scene. She is volunteering with a local Girl Scout troop and also running for election this fall for a position on the school board.

A major weight is being lifted off her shoulders now that Sarah is finally in a position to get out debt! She’s on a payment plan and making good progress paying down some large medical bills that weren’t covered in her previous state of residence. Her ABLE account is the vehicle she is using to make all of this happen. She’s also using her ABLE account to offset medication costs moving forward, in addition to using her account to build her photography business. The ABLE funds she invests in her business (e.g. purchasing equipment, exhibiting at local arts events) will give her the ability to earn and put more money back into her ABLE account. Sarah has also been in job search mode for a day job while she gets her photography business off the ground. Such is the life of the artist!

Sarah is being smart about building her business and her day job exploration. Understanding that earnings will have an impact on her benefits, Sarah has met with a certified benefits advisor to better understand the work incentives and supports she can access through SSA’s Ticket to Work program. Her job search and trips to her benefits advisor are supported by her ABLE account, which helps her pay for gas to and from these activities. Sarah is working hard, being smart and having fun on her path to achieving a better life experience.

“I want everyone to have an ABLE account who is eligible. For me, it was a way to get out of debt in a way that was stress free. Plus, you don’t have to contribute a lot to it, but whatever you contribute is well taken care of and you know it’s there if you need it.” – Sarah Perez

The ABLE National Resource Center is proud to have Sarah as one of our 2018 ABLE Advisors.

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