Building Your Assets and Wealth


Ron's Story

Ron is 20 years old and majoring in philosophy at the University of Arizona. He has cerebral palsy (CP) and uses a wheelchair. He works part-time in a local used bookstore.

Ron gets monthly income benefits from Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In addition to Social Security’s support, he has access to AHCCCS health coverage programs. Ron’s educational goal is to finish college and then go to law school to become an attorney.

Ron is eligible to start a PASS account because he is on SSI and he has income from his part-time job. After learning about the PASS program, Ron talked to someone in the PASS Cadre from Social Security. The PASS Cadre helped him write a detailed plan that included his living expenses, the cost of tuition and books, an LSAT prep course for law school, and the costs he would have when studying for and taking the bar exam.

Writing the plan took some time, but the process helped Ron clarify what it would really take to complete his goal. Even though it was a long path, once he had all the steps laid out in front of him it was something he knew he could do.

Once his plan was approved, he opened a separate checking account for his PASS savings.

Having a savings plan was one thing, but getting the money to fund it was going to take a little time. Part of Ron’s plan was to start an Individual Development Account (IDA).

Ron chose to start his IDA with MesaCAN. They provided him with 12 hours of financial literacy classes and 10 hours of career planning activities with a college counselor that helped him plan for graduation. His IDA goal was the same as the goal for his PASS account: covering tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for his college and law school courses.

He contributes $40 a month to his IDA account and the IDA plan matches it 3:1. After completing the full two years of the program, he will have contributed $960, and his account will have saved a total of $3,840 that can be applied to his education expenses.

Because of the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE), Ron is able to make more than $500 a month at his part-time job without the money being counted against his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. He put $40 a month into his IDA and was able to save another $460 a month in his PASS account. Because of the matching funds from his IDA account, he could save a total of $14,880 over the first two years of his plan.

Ron is already in school so he will be spending money from his PASS checking account to pay for qualified expenses as he saves. But being able to save so much money each month without it affecting his disability benefits makes him confident that he will be able to meet his goals if he sticks to his plan.

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