A Work of Community: The Attainable Savings Plan
As I reflect on Attainable, the Massachusetts ABLE Savings Plan, MEFA's savings product that allows individuals with disabilities to save for short- and long-term expenses, the one word that keeps coming to mind is community. In fact, there's a quote attributed to Helen Keller that states "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" that solidly defines the power of community and the impact that the relationships formed in building communities can have.
From the beginning of Attainable, several organizations in Massachusetts have come alongside MEFA as champions of the program. They have participated in stakeholder meetings to provide feedback on best practices in sharing Attainable within our Massachusetts communities and beyond in order to get the word out about this valuable and powerful program. One of the key take-aways from those initial meetings was to build trust with and to learn from the disability community and the organizations that serve it, in order to best deliver ABLE information.
I have taken that message to heart, from both a professional place and a personal one. I strive to spread awareness of ABLE accounts and their benefits, but also to be a resource for families and individuals, because as a mom of a daughter with a disability, I know firsthand how challenging the journey is. And in a way, the most valuable information I have learned personally has been from parents who have dealt with similar challenges and sought to find their own path in their journey to do the very best for their children. Someone once said to me that this parenting journey is like building your very own resource quilt; each quilt sewn is unique, and no two will ever be the same.
In fact, the idea for the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act, enacted in late 2014, first began with a group of parents of children with Down Syndrome sitting around a kitchen table in Northern Virginia. The families wondered why they could establish college savings accounts, but that similar savings programs didn't exist for parents of children with disabilities. When the federal government passed the ABLE Act, it paved the way for states to pass their own ABLE legislation that allows individuals with disabilities (and their families) to save for disability-related expenses without impacting their eligibility for certain means-tested federal benefits. Massachusetts passed its own ABLE legislation, and with it the Attainable Savings Plan was launched. The Attainable Savings Plan is offered by MEFA and managed by Fidelity Investments. Anyone in the country can start saving in an Attainable account—there are no regional limitations or requirements.
Launching this program has allowed me to meet many families across the Commonwealth and beyond who are passionate about beginning to plan and save for disability-related expenses. In our efforts to spread the word about Attainable, some key questions arise frequently. We've shared some commonly asked questions below.
Are there tax benefits to having an Attainable Savings Plan?
When money is used from an Attainable account, the owner won't pay federal income tax on any withdrawals or account earnings, provided the money is used for qualified disability-related expenses.
Is there a minimum amount needed to open an account?
There is no minimum needed to open an Attainable account.
Who is the account owner?
The eligible individual with a disability is always the Attainable account owner. If the account owner, also called the beneficiary, is a minor child or incapable of managing the account, a person with signature authority (PSA) can open and manage the account. The PSA has full control over the account and must be the beneficiary's parent, legal guardian, or agent acting under the Power of Attorney (POA).
What counts as a "qualified disability-related expense"?
Qualified disability-related expenses are those incurred by the account owner and used to maintain his or her general health, independence, or quality of life. Examples include costs associated with daily living essentials such as food and clothing, education, housing, healthcare-related expenses, transportation, employment training and support, and personal support services.
As we continue to provide Attainable information to local organizations and grow awareness of the program, I feel fortunate to be able to share all of the benefits of the Attainable Savings Plan to families and organizations, and even more fortunate to hear the stories they all have to share as they sew their own version of their quilts for themselves or families they serve.
To learn more about Attainable, and find out how to open an account, visit us online here.
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