Ben on an island in The Azores

Ask Ben: Can I Increase My Assets AND Keep My SSI Eligibility?

In Ben Spec, Benefits and Employment Articles, Featured, News by Ben Spec

The cold winds of March are no fun! I had to escape the tail end of the Wisconsin winter and the talk of another snowstorm heading our way. Being an adventurous guy, I found myself in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, among the nine breathtaking islands of the Azores. If you like waterfalls and swimming with dolphins, this is the place to be!

Checking my emails, I see I have an interesting question from Jayla.

Hey Ben,

I’m in the SSI program. Because I’m working, I’m having trouble keeping my assets below the $2,000 limit. I’ve heard about something called an “ABLE” account that might help. Do you know anything about that?


Dear Jayla,

I sure do! You may be eligible to set up an “Achieving a Better Life Experience”, or “ABLE”, account. The law allowing these accounts has been a game-changer for many people with disabilities.  This is because ABLE accounts allow you to have assets greater than $2,000 and still keep your SSI eligibility.

What are ABLE Accounts?

ABLE Accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts.  Money in an ABLE account is not counted toward the asset limit for SSI and other federally-funded programs. This allows some individuals with disabilities to build up savings and stay eligible for these programs.

Am I Eligible for an ABLE Account?

To be eligible to set up an ABLE account, you must:

  • Be receiving SSI or SSDI, or have proof from a physician that you meet the Social Security definition of having a disability.
  • Your disability has to have begun before age 26.

Contributions to an ABLE Account

You can set up an ABLE account at any age, and anyone can contribute to it, including you, family, friends, and employers.

  • A total of up to $15,000 (2018) per year can be deposited in your ABLE account.
  • When an ABLE Account has more than $100,000, the SSI cash payment will be suspended, but Medicaid eligibility continues.
  • The maximum amount Wisconsin beneficiaries can have in an ABLE Account is $330,000.
  • You can have only one ABLE Account at a time.

How Can ABLE Funds be Used?

Funds in an ABLE account can be used for a wide range of “Qualified Disability Expenses”. These are any expenses related to living a life with a disability. Some examples are:

  • Education
  • housing, transportation
  • employment training and support
  • financial management
  • and other expenses which help improve health, independence, and/or quality of life.

What are the Tax Benefits?

Contributions to ABLE Accounts are not tax deductible, but you do not have to pay taxes on the income earned by the account.

How Do I Set Up an ABLE Account?

Setting up an ABLE Account is easy. Visit  to get more information about ABLE accounts and view state-by-state comparisons of existing ABLE programs with national enrollment.

The State of Wisconsin has not yet developed an ABLE program.  However, Wisconsin residents can participate in ABLE programs in other states that allow national enrollment.  Each program has different requirements, fees, and investment opportunities. Many programs have a pre-paid debit card option for easy access to funds.

Once you have found the ABLE program that best fits your needs, go to that program’s website and follow the instructions for enrollment.  Most ABLE accounts can be opened with a small deposit. ABLE Accounts are not a replacement for trusts, but work in addition to trusts to enhance financial security. You may wish to consult a financial advisor, but that isn’t required to set up an ABLE Account.

Saving for Your Future is Important!

Saving for your future is important, Jayla. I hope this helps you with that goal!

There are other ways to have savings greater than $2,000 and stay eligible for SSI and Medicaid. Check back with my blog – I’ll explain them and you’ll keep learning about your benefits!


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