***This post is written by Catherine Sokol, Wheel the World Blog Contributor***
Happy Disability Awareness Month! There are many things that are challenging about having a disability, but one aspect that doesn’t get talked about a lot is personal finance. Maybe that’s because, until recently, discussing one’s finances has felt like a taboo topic. We need to rip the band-aid off, though, because if no one talks about the disparity that exists concerning finances for people with disabilities, no one is going to know about this. The only minority group of which anyone at any time can become part are people with disabilities, so people must understand the challenges of being part of this group so we can enact change.
The disparity I'm referencing is the $2,000 asset limit set by social security. In order to receive benefits, you must not exceed $2,000 in assets. Assets include a 401k house, car, savings account, stocks, money in checking, an HSA, etc. If you exceed this limit, they cut off services and sometimes make you pay back payments. This limit makes it challenging to build savings and plan for the future while still receiving benefits, many of which are needed to maintain everyday life. It seems counterintuitive to punish people for trying to contribute to society and have gainful employment. Thankfully, there are ways for disabled individuals to save money, mainly special needs trust and able accounts. Shameless plug; check out my personal blog, to learn more about these tools. I wouldn’t be able to save for my future or have a prayer.
Another tool that helps me manage my personal finances is tracking my spending, where my money is going, and being mindful of how I tend to spend. Identifying these habits can help me understand where I need to be more attentive, and it holds me accountable because I know if I purchase something, I will have to note it. This year is my second one keeping a comprehensive list. Last year, I kept a note on my phone, but this year I purchased a tracking spreadsheet from Etsy, which makes it so easy. I can set my categories for purchases, and then it tells me what percentage of my income I spent on each of those categories. Plus, the colors in the spreadsheet make it fun, so I don’t mind taking the time each week to update it. My biggest tip for setting a budget or tracking expenses is to figure out what helps you stick with it because consistency lets you see patterns and sets you up for success. Since I am not able to take advantage of a company match, I must keep track of my money and plan for my future since I am the only one doing it.
Talking about personal finance for disability awareness may seem odd, but the two are linked. The lack of physical accessibility for people who are disabled is well known, but the lack of financial accessibility is not as well known. Everyone I talk to about this is shocked by the fact that I can’t build up wealth without risking being unable to get the care I need. It’s tough to be fully independent if you can’t even do something as essential as saving money, and awareness of something brings understanding and, ultimately, change. People need to know the laws and their consequent problems to understand how they need to be changed to keep up with the times.