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It is still possible for an individual with a disability to maximize their income despite being constrained by a fixed income. Depending on your medical condition, you may face additional costs to meet your unique needs. And your expenses are always higher than most, from food to medical care and other costs due to living with a disability. But elder law attorneys know that people living with disabilities (or their financial advocates) must learn to effectively manage money wisely to live a life without constant worry.
What is a Fixed Income?
Living on a fixed disability income means your money comes from sources such as the government, work pensions, or other fixed income products such as corporate, treasury, or municipal bonds. The amount of money coming in will not vary monthly except for small incremental government cost of living increases (COLA) for programs such as Social Security benefits.
There is something positive to be said about living on a reliable source of monthly income; however, it requires some budgeting skills, especially with rising inflation. Disability income typically includes SSI and SSDI Social Security benefits. Many Americans receive these benefits concurrently, and if they are your primary source of income, you will have to be careful about how you spend money on housing, food, medical costs, and other expenses.
Preparing a Budget
Monthly planning is the most effective tool for managing monthly costs. If you are unsure how to begin a disability budget and understand its financial impacts, visit the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA) website to get information on how to proceed using the tracking tool they provide. The tool provides tips on how to stick to a budget.
The first tip is the most basic and intuitive. Start saving money today. Accruing a safety net of cash on hand for an emergency that requires immediate access to funds can be a lifesaver. If you never have to use it, that’s great. Determine a comfortable monthly amount to start putting away.
If you can’t imagine how you might save, think of strategies like quitting a costly habit, buying fewer snacks, lowering your thermostat, and cooking your meals instead of eating out. These are cost-cutting measures that people use regardless of the size of their budget. You can put your monthly savings into a bank account or a safe on your property, permitting immediate access if required. The rule of thumb is to pay your savings account before other expenses. Eventually, it becomes an automatic money-saving habit. A few dollars grows to a few hundred and a few thousand in months or years.
Find discounts wherever they exist and take full advantage of them. Organizations and stores provide tremendous discounts for seniors and individuals with disabilities. AARP online is an excellent resource for learning about savings and available discounts. From cutting costs to meal planning or vacationing, AARP has an array of money-saving options for you to explore.
Look into PASS Accounts, an SSI provision to help individuals with disabilities return to work. Although a recipient benefitting from SSI has a $2,000 asset limit, you can save money exceeding this asset limit and remain SSI eligible by opening a PASS account. This account type allows you to set money or resources aside for a specific work goal. The permissible deposits include unexpected gifts of cash from birthdays or tax refunds.
Before returning to work, you may want to consider re-entering the workforce under the rules that will allow you to continue receiving your government benefits. The Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work offerings can help you get started on the pathway back to work.
Access vocational training webinars, tutorials, and job placement opportunities available to anyone receiving Social Security disability benefits. Ask for counseling regarding benefits to explain how working will affect them. Speaking to a disability benefits lawyer is also advisable to ensure that any new employment and additional income will not jeopardize your existing benefits, home, or other assets.
Search the internet for free services that can help you maximize your savings potential while living on a fixed disability income, including:
- NationalDebtRelief’s recommended free budgeting apps
- The US Department of Agriculture’s SNAP-Ed Connection outlines tips for meal planning, shopping, and budgeting
- AARP’s best-ranked customer loyalty programs to save while shopping
- The federal USAGOV food assistance website can connect you to immediate food assistance
Family members, caregivers, or your disability attorney can also help you find local community resources that help people with disabilities on fixed incomes. If you are feeling overwhelmed but know that you must find additional help, reach out to those who can directly provide aid or point you in the right direction. Applying for supplemental income programs or navigating available services to augment your fixed income can be daunting; however, your efforts can greatly increase your resources to improve your quality of life and reduce financial and emotional stress.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact our Albany office today at (518) 452-6979 and schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matters.