How to Use ABLE Accounts to Save

Episode #53. Host Jonathan Hughes first talks to co-host Julie Shields-Rutyna about an online panel she moderated with Robert Dais, Director of GEAR UP Robert Dais, Iris Godes, Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management at Framingham State University, Monica Blonden, Assistant Dean of Enrollment for Financial Aid at Assumption University, Jillian Glaze, Director of Financial Aid at Bunker Hill Community College, and Dr. Clantha McCurdy, Senior Deputy Commissioner at the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance. They discuss the Massachusetts campaign The Time is Now for students still making a plan for college this fall. Then they go to the MEFA Mailbag where they answer a question about parents with foreign tax returns. Finally, Jonathan has a discussion about Attainable®, the ABLE Savings Plan, with Community Outreach Manager for MEFA Savings Programs Adam Hartwell. They discuss investing with Attainable®, benefits of the program, and the different types of qualified expenses. If you enjoy the MEFA Podcast, please leave us a review.

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Resources Mentioned in the Episode:

The Time is Now

College Options this Fall Panel




0:00 Intro

1:23 College Option this Fall Panel

9:11 MEFA Mailbag

13:53 Adam Hartwell Conversation


Jonathan Hughes: [00:00:00] Hello everyone and welcome to the MEFA podcast. My name is Jonathan Hughes.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: And I'm Julie Shields-Rutyna.

Jonathan Hughes: And as always, we have a great show for you today. We are recording this in August, which is Able to Save Month, and so we have on our show, The director of Outreach for I'm sorry, the director of community outreach for MEFA's Able Program, Adam Hartwell, and he's going to be telling us how to use an ABLE account as a long-term savings tool.

And all the different things that you can use it for, and it's always an education, when you hear Adam talk about this stuff, he has so many years of experience in this field and with this community that we're trying to reach, you know, more so than all of us put together here at MEFA. So just a great, great intellect and energy.

So stick around for that. But Julie, [00:01:00] What do we have first?

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes. Well, you mentioned we're recording in August and that means we're knee deep in our August campaign called The Time is Now. And this is targeting recent high school graduates who maybe don't have their plans set for the Fall. So maybe they made some tentative college plans, but are wavering or haven't taken those next steps.

So we had a great webinar specifically for those students on college options, and you talk about great intellect and energy. Woo. We were joined by such good guests. We had Robert Dais. Who's head of GEAR UP programs for the Commonwealth? You know Robert?

Jonathan Hughes: I sure do. Yeah. He was just on the show a couple weeks ago.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yep. And then we had Iris Godes, who's a Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management at Framingham State University. Monica Blonden, assistant Dean of Enrollment for Financial Aid at Assumption University and Jillian Glaze, who is [00:02:00] Director of Financial Aid at Bunker Hill Community College. Last but not least, we had Dr. Clantha McCurdy, who is our Senior Deputy Commissioner at the Massachusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance, and that's the agency that gives out financial aid from Massachusetts. So quite the impressive group. So I thought we could hear a few highlights from them. First, let's start with Robert Dais, because I like how he addresses here, who exactly. We are trying to reach and where they might be at.

Robert Dais: So I'll use the school bus analogy. I remember as a boy, occasionally I'd wake up, hit this snooze button, hit this snooze button. Next thing you know, you hear your friends outside, they're at the bus stop, and all of a sudden you wake up and realize you're running late.

It's a good analogy because it's the same thing. It doesn't mean you've missed the bus. It just means you're going to have to hustle to get on that bus. And if you listen to our college professionals here and our financial aid professionals, what we're [00:03:00] saying is we're here to help you catch that bus because it's not too late, but you got to get moving.

So if you're sitting at home thinking, oh man, I feel like I didn't get it together, and you're beating up on yourself, guess what? You're not alone. There are many, many other students whose plans have changed and they're looking at, what are my options? Maybe you got into a job and you realized, Hey, I really don't like what I'm doing.

I can't see doing this for the rest of my life. That's okay. You're identifying the fact that you want to reset things, you want to take another look. That's what we're here talking about.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: So good. Now let's hear from Iris Godes as she talks about what the next steps for these students who want to move on should be it.

Iris Godes: It might feel a little overwhelming at this stage if you haven't gotten too far into the college search process, but if you try to just take a step back and just take it one step at a time. So if you haven't applied yet, then just do that application [00:04:00] and then the next step will follow and we'll help you through it.

If you've applied but you didn't finish your application and you're not sure what to do and you've sort of lost track of where you are in the process, then definitely get in touch with the admissions office again, either by phone or email, and we'll let you know exactly you know, what we know and what we have and what you need to do next.

And we'll get you right back on track. And help you get through the rest of the process. It's not too overwhelming when you look at it just one step at a time. So take it step by step and you'll get there and before you know it, you are sitting in class and really enjoying your college opportunity.

Jonathan Hughes: All right. I love that you said. It's not too overwhelming because we always talk about people being over overwhelmed and they are sort of emotionally overwhelmed sometimes. But I think what she's talking about here is the actual process itself is not that overwhelming. You know, the, the emotions may be, but not what you actually [00:05:00] have to do, so it's easier than you think.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yeah. And I like that she introduced the idea that schools are here to help you with getting your, your applications, your filing, the FAFSA, all of that. And they're, you know, so that's free help and they want to help you. So let's hear more about that from Jillian Glaze at Bunker Hill. She's going to tell you if you do want to take college up on that offer, what you need to do to get started when you go into a college office.

Jillian Glaze: Some insider tips to help you get through the process in one day. If you can bring a few key things with you onto your community college campus, we can most likely get you through the whole process. You're FAFSA filed, accepted to the college, into a program, and advised within the same visit. The first thing you want to bring with you is a photo id.

This just helps us find you in our systems. Make sure that everything's getting connected the way it should. The second thing that's really [00:06:00] helpful is a high school transcript. This helps us place you into the right classes to get you started. If you don't have a high school transcript, that's fine. You have a GED or high set or your diploma, those are great to help you get through the admissions process, but that transcript does give us a little more information on where you might be as far as taking math classes and English classes. If you've taken college classes anywhere before and you can get a copy, even if it's unofficial of your transcript, definitely bring that with you.

We want to make sure that you're getting credit for anything you've earned in the past and taking that into consideration right as you get started so we can get you on your fastest path to success. And of course if you're looking to file a FAFSA and you want some help with that, if you can bring your 2021 tax information with you, and if you're under 24, your parent information as well, we'll help you get the FAFSA filed and on its way.

And then of course, if you're working and you have a work schedule, it's helpful to have that [00:07:00] information available so advisors can help you find classes that work within your schedule. And also the last one, and this one is, isn't always super obvious, but your health insurance information. And that's so we can help get that cost waived off your bill.

That takes a big chunk of money off your bill at the community colleges. So if you've got health insurance and you've got your card, make sure you bring it with you and we'll help you get that process taken care of as well.

Jonathan Hughes: Now let's hear from Dr. Clantha McCurdy on everyone's favorite topic, scholarships, and you know, well financial aid in general and what's newly available, or maybe not newly available, but still available from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in terms of aid that can help students to pay for college achieve their education.

Dr. Clantha McCurdy: High demand scholarship, not based on need. We want to make sure in Massachusetts that we have enough talented and skilled employees to meet our workforce demand. So [00:08:00] we have $50 million to put out there for public and private college students in high demand disciplines. That application for that program will open up on August 15th.

You need to complete that FAFSA. Why? Because there's financial aid that's available and it comes in various forms. There's scholarships and grants. There's work study on campus and of course their loans, and you can get that aid through various sources. At this point, you may be a little late catching outside scholarships that you might apply for in competitions or through local organizations, corporations, and things like that. But you're not too late at the state level or the federal level, especially for a Pell Grant. So when you complete that FAFSA, that's going to right away tell you if you qualify for the largest grant in the country and that is the Pell Grant.

Jonathan Hughes: Well, that sounds like it [00:09:00] went great and you moderated that, Julie.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: I did.

Jonathan Hughes: And we'll put a link to this webinar in the show notes in case anyone wants to check out the full webinar, which you absolutely should. Okay, well now it's time for the MEFA Mailbag and these are questions that have come into us over the past weeks and have been answered by our college planning team.

So remember, if you have any questions, you can email us at You can call us at 800-449-MEFA and you can reach us on social media on Facebook that's @MEFAMA, on Twitter at @MEFATweets and on Instagram at @MEFA_MA. This is a big one today, Julie. It, our question comes to us from Mohammed and I was surprised there were actually a couple of these questions that have come in this past month.

I was going through the emails you wouldn't think this would be a topic around this time of the year, but this is why I included it. We got it a few times. He writes, "I'm a US [00:10:00] citizen and one of my parents is a US citizen, but both of them live abroad. My parents don't file taxes now in a foreign country or the USA as they are retired and not running any business, and my siblings take care of them financially." Lots of variables here. "What should I report on the FAFSA for parents' tax return information? Should I select foreign tax and then put $0 amount of income tax, or should I select will not file as an option? Will I need to provide any extra documents to FAFSA?" There's a lot there. Julie, what do you have to say?

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Alright, well, yes. Let me give you my understanding of how the process will work for next year in this situation. And let me say it's, it's a slight change from the past, so we will, we will keep you updated. Here's my understanding. The parent should, needs, is going to need to provide [00:11:00] consent on the FAFSA no matter what. So the parent should still provide consent. And that is to allow the i r s to confirm that they do not file us taxes. So they should go, go ahead, do that confirmation, and then the IRS will confirm that they did not file, so they can say they did not file us taxes.

Jonathan Hughes: Can I ask you and. Oh yeah. What do you mean by that?

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Parents need to need to give consent.

Jonathan Hughes: Okay. Alright.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: So yeah, what that is, it's a slightly new process where in order to complete the FAFSA, every person whose information is going to be on the FAFSA is going to have to consent to have the IRS bring their income information directly into the form.

So that's going to happen in a really easy way going forward, but because of that, every person whose information is on it needs to consent to [00:12:00] having their information be brought over.

Jonathan Hughes: So, so this is the updated income data retrieval tool, is it?

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Yes.

Jonathan Hughes: Okay. Okay. Yes. Gotcha.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: So the parent would say that they do not file US taxes, however they must provide consent so that the IRS can double check that that's correct. So that's how that would work. And then there will be a follow-up question and it would say They would have to say that they also do not file a foreign tax return and they would just say, do not file a foreign tax return. So yes, answer it honestly. Say you're not filing in the US not filing a foreign tax return, but giving the federal government consent to, to verify all of that information.

Jonathan Hughes: Okay. So that's actually simpler than I thought it would be. So that's good score another one for FAFSA simplification, I guess. Let's hope. And now does this [00:13:00] person need to provide any extra documents?

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Well, Not initially to complete the FAFSA, but you know, Jonathan, our favorite thing to say on this, on this show is, you know, pay attention to what the financial aid office communication is, and if they ask you for something, you know, you want to stay in touch with that office and provide whatever they need.

Jonathan Hughes: Yeah. Alright, well that's, that's great. I learned something new. There's a new process that I learned about and it's good news for everybody involved because it sounds pretty easy. So thank you Julie. So one more time. If you have any questions, you can email us at You can call us at 800-449-MEFA and our Facebook is @MEFAMA, Twitter at @MEFATweets and Instagram @MEFA_MA.

We have a bench of college guidance experts waiting to answer your question. Now let's go to my interview with MEFA's Director of Community Outreach for [00:14:00] Attainable® Adam Hartwell. August is ABLE to Save Month, and today we're going to talk about a post that was written by our guest, Adam Hartwell. He's a Community Outreach Manager for the ABLE Program.

We met him on an earlier show to talk about some ABLE updates, but this is the first time we're actually meeting him for a full segment. So I feel that this is really your first full appearance on the show. So welcome to the show, Adam.

Adam Hartwell: Well, thank you so very much. I'm very pleased to be here.

Jonathan Hughes: Well, I mentioned Able to Save Month. You wrote a blog about ABLE to Save Month, that's currently on, and we are going to link to that in the show notes. But if I can ask you a few questions about the blog itself. A few sentences right at the beginning, grab me as they're supposed to do. And one of them you wrote, one of the most successful paths to independence for Americans is through a well thought out investment plan. Unfortunately, many people believe that this [00:15:00] is an activity reserved for the wealthy. Can you give an illustration of what you mean about a path to independence?

Adam Hartwell: One of the things that we often run up against, particularly when we're talking about significant disability, is that there are certain financial limitations and there are a lot of extra expenditures that are necessary for someone to be able to be able to live independently.

You know everything from augmentative communication devices to mobility aids to perhaps if you are someone who is, say in a wheelchair, you're going to want your counters at a lower height. These things cost a lot of money. And being able to afford to put those in place is a frequent barrier that would allow people to be able to.

Interact with the world in the way that everybody else gets to. You know we often talk about the curb cut scenario because oftentimes accommodations as when they're put into place benefit the community at large, even though they were initially prepared for [00:16:00] somebody with a disability. So the curb cut thing is the place in a curb where there's a cutout with a ramp on it that was initially put into place for somebody, perhaps with a wheelchair to be able to go up.

When they're put in place, we find that they're so much easier for someone who's using a moving dolly. For someone who's got a kid in a stroller, for someone who needs to pull a wheeled suitcase, there is a, you know accommodations tend to benefit the world at large, but they do require someone to put them in place and.

There is a financial barrier when it comes to being able to achieve that in certain scenarios, and if we can help people to be able to generate their own independent wealth so that they're able to start Putting those things in place for themselves and you know, hopefully as a society we also put them at large.

We create systems that make people be able to be much more successful. We have seen in general that if we put $2 of [00:17:00] investment towards people with disabilities and employment, that we get $5 back in the economy in general. It is always a net good to assist people to be able to achieve their best selves.

Jonathan Hughes: I think you're absolutely right about, you know, most people assuming that investing is only for the wealthy. I know myself, I would, I don't actively invest. It's hard to get over that hesitance to think that you should be able to invest because investing is something that you think is only for wealthy people.

So that's just me. But I imagine that that hesitance is felt even more so by the folks who may be helped by able.

Adam Hartwell: I think that that's absolutely true and I think that it's, it's true on multiple levels. One of the big things is that there's this idea that you need hundreds of thousands of dollars to start investing. Where we have proven that, you know, returns are returns no matter how much money you're putting into an account that's netting those returns. And you also don't need to be an investment [00:18:00] expert. You could a lot, you know, Large companies, like we work with Fidelity for ABLE here in Massachusetts, do a fantastic job of maintaining portfolios.

So yes, you're not going to get as much back if you're putting $10 a month into account as you'll be getting if you put $10,000 into same, that same account, however, You know, investment returns, you know, they, depending on what kinds you do, they have all sorts of different levels, right? But, you know, my savings account has like a 0.5%, you know, return in interest.

Investments tend to get somewhere, you know, a lot of in retirement accounts get nine or 10%. You know you know, depending, ABLE has eight levels of portfolios. Which will of course chew based on level of aggression. We'll have different things. But historically, hypothetically, you're going to probably, if you go for sort of the middle ground, you're probably going to end up around a 6% return.

Hypothetically. I don't want to try and guess what the market will do, but again, 6% is way better than 0.5. And so, you know, [00:19:00] using that, that math, I mean, if I put a hundred dollars a month in, Right. For 20 years that, that, that 6% return, just that math goes from $24,000 to $46,000. Is it millions? No, but it's an extra $22,000.

And if it's an ABLE account that doesn't count as income, you're not going to be taxed income on that. But even if you put, you know, $15, you know, a month into an account and you get that 6% back. Okay, so maybe you've only got a couple extra thousand dollars instead of $22,000, but it's still more than you had before that you can then utilize to elevate your yourself and be able to perhaps accomplish things.

You know, I understand fully, especially when we're talking about the limitations going in where we've got the $2,000 asset limit that a lot of folk deal with, which also tends to, there's an income limit in how much hours that an individual wants to work without endangering their benefits. Hmm. But Doing like that Netflix subscription amount, you know, five, 10, $15 a month, you won't yield [00:20:00] huge returns.

It won't get hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars back, but it will you'll end up better off than if you just put it into a checking account. Because you're going to be participating in the way the, the economy works and what we as a society have decided to try and emphasize as important for how we want to money to be treated. And that is, that money does its best when it's put into that scenario rather than put aside and taken out of the economy, which is sort of what savings tend to do. So when we're talking about someone being able to afford. First, last, security. Talking about someone being able to afford the, being able to buy a house, being able to afford getting a car, being able to move closer to a specialist that they need to be able to increase their quality of life.

Being able to maybe move to a different state where they can increase their quality of life. Being able to make that change can be a massive benefit. [00:21:00] Even if once again, say I got an extra $10,000 out of it, that $10,000 I wasn't counting on initially. Might be the difference between me being able to live the life I've always wanted versus the life that I'm currently settling for.

And what about people who maybe, you know, they hear investments and they worry that they're going to lose money. They, you know, they're this sort of what, knowing that we are not investment experts, as you said, we don't want to guess what's going to happen with the market. What would you what resources do we have for those folks?

There is a wonderful team at Fidelity that we work with, who we can. You can, they're fiduciaries, they can, they, they will advise you in your best interest and that's one of the best places. As you said, I do never want to speak, like I am an investment expert. I know. Just enough to get me in trouble.

But you know that we, we have experts who are available to us that we can talk to, and I think that that's one of the things that we can emphasize when we're talking to individuals is that we can refer you to [00:22:00] someone who might be able to give you the answer that you're really looking for. On the whole, generally what we've seen, if we look at the pattern of, of how investments have worked, is that yes, they go up and down, but they go up and down like this.

They go up and down in an upward direction. And so particularly if you're putting a small amount aside so that you are really looking this as a long-term savings opportunity as opposed to this is like a different kind of checking account. I'm going to put the money in and take it out and spend it immediately.

But you look it at, I'm want this to put this aside and I'm not going to touch it. I'm going to let it grow over time. Then those things can really have the opportunity to go up and down. But go up and down in that upward trajectory that usually ends up with a net benefit. You mentioned having earnings taxed or not taxed before as well as benefits.

Jonathan Hughes: So this sort of brings us to the overall question of what ABLE is, and I know we talked briefly about it before, but for folks who may not be aware, can you give a brief [00:23:00] description of ABLE, so what is it and what, what can it be used for? What are the benefits?

Adam Hartwell: Sure. ABLE is a Federal change to the tax code at the most basic level.

In 2014, the President put into the into law the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life. Accounts, you know, that that's what these are. Is, is that so what these the, and what this was to giving a better life experience, I apologize, I almost forgot the, the e there act. And what this did is it added 529A to the tax code.

Now a lot of us are familiar with 529 accounts particularly. Over at MEFA as 529 accounts are where you can do investment accounts to save for college. That's sort of the bones on which ABLE was built. The, so if you're familiar with the 529, you kind of have a sense of what able accounts do because as a 529 account is those, that money can be used for qualified education expenses, an able account, it can be used for qualified disability expenses.

So the money that goes into these [00:24:00] accounts, The growth is income tax free. So, you know, the, the, any growth on the investment that if we talk, use that example from where the 24,000 to 46, that extra $22,000, that's not considered income. And the, that money does not count against a person's asset limit.

Who is receiving SSI or SSDI? And so the Social Security Administration actually has their own Spotlight page on their website all about ABLE, because they really like this program, it helps them. So we're not against the Social Security Administration. We're their teammates in this.

And what able does is you can use that money to pay for things like housing, education, transportation daily living expenses, one-to-ones you know advocates, lawyers, accountants. You can use it for training. You can use it for college. So you can spend it on almost anything that's not recreation. And it gives you people an opportunity to save for opportunities that they won't otherwise not be able to have. And in addition what we often see as a [00:25:00] problem in this industry is when people are heading towards that $2,000 limits, the people in their lives say, we have to spend some of that money so that you don't end up losing your clinician.

Losing your assistance, losing your residence because, you know another federal program housing that able doesn't affect is your, your housing voucher. But the point is, is that so people spend money that they didn't need to in order to keep themselves under the line, and instead they can just put that money into an ABLE account and then use it for their need.

And so in many ways this is an incredible tool. It's not a silver bullet. It doesn't solve all problems, but it is an incredibly useful tool to assist people with being able to move towards independence and have better control over stages and what might happen next in their lives. We talk about some of the general categories of expenses.

Jonathan Hughes: We talk about eligible expenses and so and so they are, as you said anything except recreation. You just mentioned them, but they're sort of broken down in vague categories. So let's go through them and, [00:26:00] and just talk about some examples. So You know, you can use your able funds and not be subject to, to tax if you use them for health expenses.

Adam Hartwell: Correct. Right. So you can use them for your copays. You could use it to save up. One of the things that I, that we often see is like someone needing to save up for a surgery. So I had new, a guy who had saved up for a hand surgery and he saved up for a couple years and a week, be two, a couple weeks before he was going to get the hand surgery, he slipped on a floor and he ended up needing surgery on his foot.

So he went and he paid for the surgery on his foot, and then he started saving up again. He. For surgery on his hand, and while he was saving up, he had a, like, you know budget for going out in the community and having a life. This is a grown man of about $5 a week. Because that's what he could afford in addition to his monthly expenses and, you know the savings he needed to be able to get out of chronic pain because he had a [00:27:00] damaged hand.

Because he, and he was working, but he and he had been offered more work and he had to turn it down regularly because once again, he was, if he, if you go over 20, 25 hours a week you're going to start actually putting yourself in a position where you're going to lose your house. So there, this is one of those places where a lot of times there is no step between To go from, I'm on assistance to wanting to be off assistance.

There's no area where you can move yourself out of that space and able is one of the places where you can help with that because you can perhaps overcome. You know, you can get the health assistance you need to perhaps be able to work to be able to go back to being able to work full-time because, you know, ABLE does apply for people who are in long-term cancer recovery.

It applies to people who have significant organ damage. It applies to people with a TBI. It applies to not just developmental struggles, but all definitions of disability [00:28:00] that that are, you know, applicable under the IRS. If people have questions about You know, whether or not they fall under this umbrella of able, where can they go?

Well, there, there's the ABLE has a national resource com commission, which has a wonderful website. They can always, of course, go, go see There, there's some really nice folk over there who, who will do their best to help you. You know, they can reach. Please reach out. We got as an email address, reach directly out to me. I'll talk to you. I'll do whatever I can to help you. And there's, there, there are actually a lot of resources available ABLE today does a lot of great work. There's a lot of excellent online resources for people who are looking for more clarification.

Jonathan Hughes: Okay, so let's move on to education. Give me some education expenses.

Adam Hartwell: This is one of those things where there's a wide variety where you could think about it because it's all about how you apply it, right? Because there's just the education itself you can use, able to pay for college. You can pay for use for able to pay for your college [00:29:00] textbooks.

You could also use it for a trade school. You could use it for a certification. You could use it for something like a certification you need in order to better your circumstances, like say a SERV Safe certification in order to be able to work in food services. You could use it to get the certificate you need to elevate yourself perhaps to get a promotion you could use.

Able to pay also though for this for perhaps technology because another thing that's on the list is as if of technology and a lot of these things tend to work together. So there are pens that if you drag them across texts, they'll read the text aloud to you. And that's very helpful for not just someone who might not have the ability to read, but also for someone who's got severe dyslexia or ADHD struggles with the words jumping around on them and just needs to have, receive them in an audio format.

There are augmentative communication programs. There are Computer programs that can read graphics and describe them to you in addition to reading with the words allowed to you. There are applications that can translate things for [00:30:00] you, help you be able to prioritize, put things in lists and what have you. And all of those things are things you can also use able to pay for.

Jonathan Hughes: You mentioned earlier, first, last insecurity or mortgaging. So let's talk about housing.

Adam Hartwell: Housing is one of those things where people, we, we have, we have an unhoused community that is often looked down upon, and we also have a system that kind of.

Requires people to stay in that circumstance a lot of times because again, they're not allowed to save. We have a lot, a very significant of our in-house population are people with disabilities and they might be receiving some assistance, but they've never been allowed the opportunity to try to save money, to be able to get off of assistance and put themselves in a circumstance where they can move forward and able can assist with that.

In that you can use your able to pay for Housing you can use, able to pay for your first last security or pay your rent. There is a special IRS thing though, where if you're going to use your ABLE account to [00:31:00] pay for your rent, you need to take the money out in the same calendar month that you're going to use it.

So don't take it out on the 30th and pay your rent on the first. You'll get in trouble. Take it out on the 28th and pay your rent a day early. But you can also use it to put a down payment on a house. Because you're allowed to have up to a hundred thousand dollars in your able account without it even affecting your SSI in Massachusetts because these are different In state by state in Massachusetts, you're allowed to have $500,000 in your able account total, but you're allowed to have up to a hundred thousand before it affects your SSI. So you can really save some good money in those accounts to be able to sort of progress yourself.

Sometimes it's not just like you, maybe you have housing. But your housing, it is in an area that makes it very hard for you to be independent. It doesn't have good public transportation. It doesn't have good access to clinicians that you need. It doesn't have, you know a, a proximity to the mental health services that you need.

Or, you know, or maybe you need an a emergency room or an urgent [00:32:00] care available to you because you have a significant issue that requires that. So I need to move. Okay, now I have to afford to move. This is another place where you could be using, you're able to assist you to better your circumstances.

The two categories that are potentially linked, and in fact you link them in the post are transportation and employment training. Yeah. I mean transportation is the number one barrier to people having employment. Particularly people with disabilities. You can talk to any person with a disability or any person who, who is assisting them in any state in the country.

I've spoken to a lot of them. Transportation is the number one barrier to employment. So being able to, because if you've got your $2,000 asset limit, you know, that's your entire pie. Right? Okay. So how much is all your bills together, including your rent? All right, so that's $1,800. So now I got $200 left to live my life and do my car payment and perhaps pay my car [00:33:00] insurance, right?

What kind of car are you going to be able to get? You're not going to be able to get a decent one, and so you're probably going to have a car that has a lot of problems, even if you, if you can't afford to get one at all. Again, you can save up to a hundred thousand dollars in your able account before it affects your s s I, and you could be using that money to put a down payment on a good vehicle or to be able to save up, to be able to buy even a, say, a $10,000 good used vehicle.

There's a opportunity there that will allow you to be, and once you have a vehicle, your independence, your ability to interact with the world at large, skyrockets, and even if you can't necessarily or don't want to necessarily have a vehicle, you can be using your ABLE account to pay for Uber. You can pay for Lyft, you can pay for a taxi, you can pay for public transportation.

You can buy a monthly bus pass, you can buy a, a subway card. You could, you know, pay for anything along those lines that's transportation oriented to be able to increase. And then there's maintenance also of those [00:34:00] things, right? Because I think annual maintenance on a wheelchair van ramp is something like $1,200 in order, just be and without the ramp working.

That person is locked in their home, you know, it's involuntary imprisonment because I can't leave. Right. So being able to have money put aside without fearing losing, being able to once again pay for my home, being able to keep my doctors that are progressing me forward is an enormous benefit.

Jonathan Hughes: Well, we've got two more categories. The first one is personal support services. Can you define that?

Adam Hartwell: Personal support services we have sort of what we jump to in our minds and what it is as far as the IRS is concerned and all that fun because this is not what a lot of folk are going to think about is the one-to-one services that can be provided in the community.

And those are excellent and you can absolutely use, able to pay for them, but you can also use, ABLE to use to pay for one-to-one services as. More [00:35:00] broadly defined because that could be your lawyer, that can be your accountant, someone who assists you with being able to maintain your independent existence by providing one-on-one services.

All of those things would be qualified for something that you could use, able to cover. And then finally, the more nebulous basic living needs. Yeah, and that's sort of once again, our general. Rent of clothing, food, water, shelter, you know, you can, you can pay for your groceries with your ABLE account. You can pay for your food. You know, food is absolutely a necessity that is a daily living need. So these are things you can absolutely use your ABLE account for as well as just being able to cover. The needs of your life. Electricity is a need of our, of our lives these days, you know? And has been for a couple centuries now.

So yeah. These are things that we, we definitively need and, and you can use, you're able to cover. And I do wanna mention, because I feel like we kind of lumped it and that I didn't go into it enough, is a, is assistive technology and assistive technology supports because [00:36:00] which is you can not only pay for assistive technology as necessary, but you can also pay for the support to be able to have it updated.

Oftentimes you, like, if you have a speech program, I'll use a good example here, you often need a speech pathologist to be able to update that, that programming sometimes. So that would be another thing that you might want to use your able account for. Additionally, sometimes you are going to have an addendum to a technology you already own, which can cost a lot. Hmm. And a augmentative communication device that is, is very well reputed over on iPad, for instance, is Per Loco to Go. It's a great communication program. An iPad's going to cost you 600 bucks Per Loco to Go. I can't remember how much it costs, but I think it's three or $400 for the app.

So, okay, let's say you already have the iPad and you've been using it for a while. You like to use it for Netflix and for, you know, email and whatever else. Okay? But you can use your ABLE account to pay for the augmentative communication app. So now that person who perhaps didn't have a [00:37:00] voice now has the ability to speak in a way that is non labeling as they go around their community because it's not.

Some sort of large, very, you know, distinctly, this is a disability device that that makes someone feel perhaps a level of embarrassment because they're having to utilize it, but instead of using something that everyone else around them is also using, but can be used to provide that service. Now, if folks have questions about ABLE or if they want to set up an ABLE account, Where can they go to do that?

Well, they want to set up an ABLE account in Massachusetts because you and you can set up an ABLE account in Massachusetts from any state, you can set up an ABLE account in any state, from any state. Here, you know, us at MEFA, we know our, our ABLE accounts are more than half of them. Come from outside of Massachusetts because a lot of people appreciate the, the, the way Massachusetts has structured their accounts.

But what you're going to do is, is our accounts are, our program manager for these accounts is Fidelity in [00:38:00] Massachusetts. The ABLE accounts are called the Attainable® Savings Program. Attain able. I get it. And that, that that's for the who's at home. But the, so what you're going to do is you're going to go and that will jump you right over to the account with the correct website where you can click on, open an account.

And it's very intuitive process. The things that you're going to want to do before you do that is you're going to want to look into there are eight levels of portfolio. That you can select as setting, as part of setting up your account. And when you go through that, you're going to have to select one of those.

And on average, most people go for the 40 to 50% middle of the range vested portfolio. It's where the majority of our of folk have found comfort. You're allowed to change what level of portfolio you have from conservative. Go all the way to aggressive. Once again, there's eight twice per calendar year.

So you really want to make sure you put good thought into cha what you, what change you want to make before you change it because you can only do it twice a year. And if you [00:39:00] have additional questions on that, once again, you go to Scroll down a little bit. There is a TTY number, if you need that service and there's an 800 number and that 800 number does not go to the general brokerage that goes to the attainable team at Fidelity.

You know, there's Fidelity's a very large company and a lot of the brokers are not familiar with ABLE and attainable. So you're going to want to use that phone number and that will get you to people who really understand this and will are ready and willing to walk you through setting up your attainable account.

Jonathan Hughes: Thank you for coming on the show.

Adam Hartwell: Well, I truly appreciate you giving me the time, Jon. I always enjoy talking about this subject. It's something I'm deeply passionate about. I enjoyed talking with you. I'm always willing to come back anytime, and as, as I said earlier, if anybody out there wants to talk to me about these programs, we've got

That is the email for the attainable program. We're very, very accessible and we'd love to help you if we can.

Jonathan Hughes: Thank you so much, Adam.

Adam Hartwell: [00:40:00] Thank you, Jon. You have a great day now.

Jonathan Hughes: All right, everyone. Well, that was it. I want to thank Adam Hartwell for being here. And remember folks, if you liked what you heard today and you want to know more about planning, saving, and paying for college and career readiness, well then follow the show.

You can find us wherever you get your podcasts, and please remember to review us because it helps us to keep doing what we are doing here and getting the show out to folks like you. Julie, thank you. Thank you. I want to thank Shaun Connolly, our producer and AJ Yee and Lauren Danz for their assistance in posting the show.

Once again, my name is Jonathan Hughes and this has been the MEFA Podcast.

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