Building Your Assets and Wealth


ABLE accounts let people who have disabilities that began before they turned 26 keep money in a special tax-advantaged account. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account does not count against the $2,000 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) resource limit, and none of the money in an ABLE account counts for Nutrition Assistance (formerly Food Stamps).

However, ABLE accounts have restrictions:

  • They can only be opened through specific programs or institutions.
  • You can only open one ABLE account.
  • You and the other people making contributions on your behalf have limits on how much you can deposit each year.
    • Up to $18,000 from any source (including you, your family and friends, your benefits, and other unearned income)
    • Another $14,580 from your own earned income (if you have a job).
  • You can only use money in an ABLE account for specific things, such as:
    • Education
    • Housing
    • Transportation
    • Help getting and keeping work
    • Health care
    • Assistive technology, and
    • Other approved expenses.

Learn more about ABLE accounts.

There are two basic reasons for opening an ABLE account:

  1. To save money without worrying about the resource limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Nutrition Assistance, and other benefits programs; and
  2. To take advantage of tax benefits.

ABLE accounts let people with disabilities build up a savings safety net and plan for the future without having to worry that their savings might cause them to lose their benefits. Learn more about why you should open an ABLE account.

An ABLE account is fairly easy and inexpensive to set up. You can set up the account yourself or your parent, legal guardian, or an agent with a valid power of attorney can set up the account for you. Each state is allowed to set up an ABLE account program, but not all states have chosen to create one. Arizona's ABLE account program is AZ ABLE, which is only open to Arizona residents.

You can open an ABLE account in any state you choose — you do not have to open an account in the state where you live. States with ABLE programs list their program details and explain their application process online. The ABLE National Resource Center lists details about each state’s ABLE program, with links to each state website.

Learn more about ABLE accounts.

To choose the best ABLE account for you, use the ABLE National Resource Center to learn which states offer ABLE programs, how each program works, and if you need to be a resident of that state to open an account there. You can only open one ABLE account, so you need to compare the different programs. Arizona's ABLE account program is AZ ABLE, which is only open to Arizona residents.

When comparing programs, check:

  • The minimum amount you need to open an ABLE account, and the cost of any fees
  • How you can deposit and withdraw money from the account — electronic transfer, paper check, debit card, etc. — and how long it takes to get your money when you need it
  • The investment choices you have (each state offers multiple options, but some offer more than others)
  • The level at which the program stops letting you make more deposits (usually somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000)

You can spend money you take out of your ABLE account on any “qualified disability expense,” which means anything that helps you increase or maintain your health, independence, or quality of life. This includes housing, transportation, medical expenses, prevention, wellness, education, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal assistance services, financial management, administrative services, legal fees, and basic living expenses. You need to keep all receipts to prove you spent the money on qualified expenses. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

An Individual Development Account, also known as an “IDA," is a savings account for low-income workers that can be used for small-business development, higher education, or the purchase of a first home (within a 3-year period).

The IDA program will keep track of the amount you deposit and contribute an additional deposit called a match. Most IDA programs have a match of one to four times the size of the deposit you make. So for an IDA with a 2:1 match, each time you deposit $25, you get an additional $50 toward your savings goal. IDA’s require monthly savings deposits for at least 6 months before the money can be withdrawn for the intended goal.

Learn more about IDA accounts.

Note: There aren't as many IDA programs as there used to be. Some are still active, but it can take a bit of effort to find one that is accepting applications.

For Arizona residents, the best place to look for an IDA program is the Assets for Independence Resource Center or the Prosperity Now IDA Directory.

Note: There aren't as many IDA programs as there used to be. Some are still active, but it can take a bit of effort to find one that is accepting applications.

Yes. An IDA can be a part of your PASS plan. The only requirement is that your goal for each program be the same.

Yes. You should ask your IDA caseworker to write a letter stating that you can participate in the IDA program without losing your SSI benefits. The letter should specifically mention the “Exclusions Under Other Federal Statutes” clause. You should take the letter to Social Security for documentation and keep a copy of it for yourself.

A PASS lets people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) set aside money and resources for a specified work goal. The purpose of a PASS is to help you get items, services, or skills needed to reach your work goal.

The work goal that you choose should help you earn enough to lower or get rid of your need for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI benefits.

Social Security will not count the money that is set aside under a PASS plan when deciding your monthly SSI benefit. This means you will get a higher SSI payment. Getting a PASS can also let you get an SSI check if your income or resources are currently above the limits.

For more information about PASS, click here.

To be eligible to use a PASS you must:

  • Want to work
  • Be eligible to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of disability or blindness, and
  • Have other income and/or resources to complete a work goal

SSI recipients who get benefits because they are above age 65 can only qualify for a PASS if they were getting SSI because of disability or blindness in the month before their 65th birthday.

To participate in a PASS you will need to have:

  • A written plan
  • A work goal that will reduce or eliminate SSI or SSDI benefits
  • A reasonable time frame for meeting your work goal, and
  • An explanation of the expenses necessary to achieve the work goal

If your PASS plan is for self-employment, you must provide a detailed business plan that gives a description of how you intend to make this business succeed.

Yes. You can see a list of successful PASS plans at The University of Montana Rural Institute.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal tax program that lowers the amount of income tax owed by low-to-moderate income workers. The credit ranges from $2 to $7,430 depending on your adjusted gross income and the number of qualifying children in your family.

There are a lot of requirements to be eligible to claim the EITC. You can read about them on the DB101 page about the EITC or you can refer to Publication 596 which is produced by the IRS.

If you are eligible, you can claim an EITC while filing your annual federal tax return, IRS Form 1040. If you have a qualifying child, you will need to attach a Schedule EIC.

While there are no asset requirements to claim the EITC, you cannot have investment income that exceeds $11,000 in 2023 (filing by April 2024).

The value of your EITC is based on your adjusted gross income and the number of qualifying children in your family. You can calculate your EITC yourself by using the Earned Income Credit Worksheet in Form 1040. Or you can ask the IRS to calculate it for you by noting an “EIC” in the Earned Income Credit line on your tax return.

If you are on a limited income, do not pay someone to do your taxes. Use a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Center to file. Most centers can e-file your return for free.

To find the nearest VITA site, visit the IRS VITA Site List for Arizona or 2-1-1 Arizona.

A Special Treatment Trust, sometimes called a supplemental needs trust, is a legal arrangement in which a person or organization (like a bank) manages assets for a person with a disability. The person with the disability is called the “beneficiary” and the person who is managing the assets is the “trustee”. Many kinds of assets can be put into a trust, such as cash, stocks, bonds, and real estate. Learn more about Special Treatment Trusts.

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