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Money Mondays: Saving Under Social Security's Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)

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The Social Security Administration’s Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) is a Work Incentive provision that can help people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of a disability to return to work.

The PASS program allows disability beneficiaries receiving SSI to save money, as well as things of value that an individual owns, to pay for items or services needed to achieve a specific work goal. PASS allows a person to set aside money (without  affecting your benefits) for installment payments or a down payment on things like a vehicle, wheelchair or computer if needed to reach a work goal. If the goal is self-employment, a business plan is required.

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Money Mondays: Expenses to Consider Before Attending College or a Vocational Program

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As the summer ends, you may be preparing to start college or a vocational program. This transition can be exciting but it also comes with new responsibilities, such as managing your personal finances like income, benefits and monthly expenses.

It is important to begin to learn about financial matters, like creating and managing a budget and saving for emergencies. In order to manage a budget, it helps to know what to expect.

Here are some common expenses for students in college or a vocational program:

  • Tuition Tuition will probably be your single largest expense, ranging from a few thousand dollars per year for an in-state college to $35,000 for private colleges.
     
  • Books & Supplies The cost will vary depending on the course you’re taking. A good estimate for your book budget is about $500 per semester. You will need a constant supply of pens and paper, especially if you do not have a computer or tablet, as well as other items such as a backpack, organizer, binders and highlighters. Today, many find having a computer or tablet and a printer essential for schoolwork and research. Computer labs at schools are also available for students, but hours and space are limited.

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Money Mondays: Are You Considering Self-Employment As A Work Option?

Money Mondays logoWorking for yourself can be rewarding. For people with disabilities, the flexibility of self-employment is another work option to consider. Through self-employment, many people meet their career and financial goals.

Think about how it would feel to get paid to do what you love. If you are working for yourself, it is likely that you are doing work that you enjoy. You can choose who you will work with, and select the type of customers or clients you will serve. At times, you may even have days when it hardly feels as if you are working at all. Harmony between your work and your personal life can make self-employment both financially and personally rewarding.

As your own boss, you are in control of the decisions affecting your work life. You develop your business plan, your quality assurance procedures, your pricing and your marketing strategies. Your job security depends on your own ability to make your business a success. In addition, as your business progresses, you learn new skills and broaden your abilities.
 

Rewards

There are some benefits of self-employment to keep in mind as you explore this or other work options:

  • increase your income
  • determine your own working hours
  • decide where to work
  • enjoy job satisfaction
  • try a new career

Risks

As a person with a disability you may often confront barriers when attempting to start your own business. For example, you may have a hard time getting the money needed to start a business. Also, you may not have the information and resources needed to develop an effective business plan.

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We Heard You! More about Saving Money While Receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

We recently posted a Money Mondays blog, The Importance of an Emergency Fund and have heard your comments and concerns! We understand that saving money for emergencies can be a challenge if you have a disability and depend on public benefit programs that have resource and asset limits, such as SSI, to meet your basic living expenses. However, there are a variety of programs that may help you set aside money while you are receiving SSI and working towards financial independence.
 

Here are some saving options:

  • Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) – PASS is a Work Incentive that allows you to set aside money from your income or resources to pay for training, equipment, support services and employment-related expenses that can lead to a job and higher income. Meet Michelle B. and learn how the PASS worked for her!
     
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – The EITC is a tax credit that helps people with low-to-moderate income reduce the amount of federal income tax they owe. (Even if a person doesn’t earn enough money to owe federal income taxes, he or she may qualify for the EITC.) To learn more, read Money Mondays: Don't Overlook The EITC Tax Credit! and Money Mondays: Your Earned Income Tax Credit.
     
  • Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) - The SEIE allows an individual who is receiving SSI, under age 22 and regularly attending school to have earnings excluded from income. In 2013, the amounts excluded are $1,730 monthly up to a yearly maximum of $6,960. To learn more, visit Social Security’s webpage on SEIE.
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Money Mondays:Thinking About College? Financial Aid Tips for Students with Disabilities

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Attending college can be an exciting and enriching experience. It can also be a costly one. In addition to tuition, fees, books, and supplies, other expenses include room and board, health insurance, transportation, and spending money. A combination of financial aid and other funding resources can help you meet college costs. Some common types of financial aid include loans, grants, work-study, and scholarships. People with disabilities are often eligible for additional financial assistance for education. Many students use a combination of these resources to enable them to attend college. The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is a good place to begin your search for financial aid information. An administrator there can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources.
 

Types of Financial Aid

Loans – You may have options to borrow federally funded or private loans from banks or other lending institutions (For example, Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, SunTrust).  These types of aid usually require payment of interest and may have different repayment plans, so it’s important to research all the options to decide what is best for you. To be considered for any federally funded financial aid, including loans, students must first fill out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA is used to determine eligibility and the amount of funds that you are eligible to receive based on questions related to your parents, dependency, citizenship and financial status.

Grants – Unlike loans, grants do not have to be paid back, making them especially attractive to many students. However, grants usually have more requirements that you must meet to receive the funds. Grants can come from many sources, including the federal government, state governments and colleges. One of the most commonly used grant programs is the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Pell Grant. In addition, students with disabilities may be eligible for additional financial help through their state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency. VR agencies help people with disabilities develop the skills they need to gain employment. After eligibility is determined, the student will work with a counselor to define an employment goal and develop an IPE (Individualized Plan for Employment). You may find a VR near you in our Find Help tool.

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Money Mondays: The Importance of an Emergency Fund

Money Mondays logo Since life does not always go as planned, having an emergency fund is essential to achieving and maintaining financial independence. An emergency fund is an amount of money that you have saved to be your safety net for times of financial need.  This type of fund can prepare you for life’s unexpected situations. It is money that you can draw on if your car breaks down, your house floods, or you or a family member needs additional care. An emergency fund helps you to “expect the unexpected” and gives you something to fall back on during hard times.

How much money should you keep in an emergency fund? Well, it depends on what you or your family’s needs are and what your income is. Generally, a good emergency fund should contain enough money to pay all your bills for at least 3-6 months. This may seem like an overwhelming goal, but saving can be possible; it just takes time. Learn about saving in our post Start Saving With Your New Bank Account.

How do you know how much you need?

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Money Mondays: Spring Round-up!

Money Mondays logo As we start summer, we wanted to highlight some of our recent Money Mondays posts that included resources and tips for our readers on their journey toward financial wellness!

Check out these posts on entrepreneurship, personal finance for students, managing debt and more!

Money Mondays: Entrepreneurship as a Veteran: There are a variety of sources available for Veterans who want to start their own businesses, such as special grants and loans that can help jumpstart a business.
 

Money Mondays: Try Work as Your Path to Financial Independence: Learn what financial independence means and access Success Stories about people who used the Ticket to Work program and Work Incentives to get there.
 

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Money Mondays: Entrepreneurship as a Veteran

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It’s no secret that being in the military taught you valuable skills. However, you may not have considered some of the civilian-life applications for those skills. One way to use the skills you developed during your military career is becoming an entrepreneur, or starting your own business. Entrepreneurship is a way to both be your own boss and become financially independent. According to the Small Business Administration, over 14% of all small businesses in America are started by veterans. In fact, veterans are twice as likely to start a small business as non-veterans. Many skills that you learned in the military are also relevant to successful small business owners. These include:
 

  • Strategic Outlook: Your service probably taught you to identify problems and solve them quickly. Products or services that solve problems can be big sellers.
  • Organizational Skills: Organization is a fundamental element of military service. Owning your own business means managing deadlines, budgets, product development, sales, customer relations and much more. Being organized will help you keep on top of it all.
  • Risk-Tolerance: Starting a small business can be a risk. It can take months or years to turn a profit, even after investing your time and money into a business. Until then, you’ve still got to pay your bills and market your product. Time in the service equipped you perform in high-pressure situations, which will help you tolerate the risk inherent in unknown profit expectations.

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