How Attainable® Accounts Can Eliminate the Need for Spend Downs

Prior to the creation of Attainable® accounts, individuals receiving federal benefits were not allowed to retain more than $2,000 in assets, which often resulted in spending down their funds on unnecessary items. With Attainable®, individuals can now avoid spend downs and save for their actual needs.
Family in sandbox

As the resident expert at MEFA on the Attainable® Savings Plan, a resource for individuals with disabilities, part of my job is to educate others on the terminology associated with Attainable®. Today, let's talk about "spend downs."

Anyone who provides financial assistance to, or lives or works in a residential program for individuals with disabilities is sadly familiar with this unintended consequence of the system. For those of you who are not, here is a summary:

Prior to the ABLE Act, which permitted the establishment of Attainable®,  individuals receiving federal benefits were not allowed to retain more than $2,000 in assets at any time or their benefits would be reduced accordingly per SSA rules. Naturally, individuals would sometimes be in danger of going over that $2,000 limit, often when they were trying to save money for an expense (to get an apartment, pay for a surgery, repair their car, etc.). This necessitated a "spend down," in which money needed to be spent on something that was not counted as an asset, in order to protect that individual's ability to continue to receive federal benefits and afford to live.

In most residential programs, this money could only be spent on something that was for personal use. As such, the individual couldn't get a new couch for the communal living room, for example. Frequently, the money was spent on items like bedroom sets, new personal televisions, curtains, etc. regardless of whether or not these items were needed or wanted. The individual often had little to no say over their finances or how that money was utilized.

But there's good news! The ABLE Act solved this problem by permitting the creation of ABLE savings accounts, of which Attainable® is one. Attainable® provides a method to allow qualified individuals to save funds in significant amounts to increase their independence without impacting their federal benefits. It allows money that would otherwise be used in a "spend down" to be saved for the individual's actual needs. That's a life-changing opportunity for anyone eligible to save in an ABLE account.

Attainable® (ABLE) funds can be used to pay for expenses related to health, housing, transportation, education, assistive technology, employment training and support, personal support services (including accountants, lawyers, etc.), and basic living needs.

So let's continue to spread the word on the significant benefits of Attainable® accounts for individuals with disabilities. If you, or someone you know, are interested in opening an Attainable® account, visit Or contact Fidelity Investment's Attainable® Team at: 844-458-2253, TTY: 800-544-0118.

And to stay updated on changes and improvements to the Attainable® Savings Plan, please join our mailing list here.

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