Being able to save for the future is tough, and financially planning for a child with special needs is even harder. For my son Liam, who has autism, we're still trying to decide whether to open a college savings plan or a private savings account.
It's a tough call. Will Liam go to college? Or should we just put as much money away as possible and see what happens? The question is further complicated by the fact that until last month people with disabilities couldn't have more than $2,000 in savings before their government benefits were affected (a limitation that's created a type of enforced poverty for decades).
But, all that's about to change.
ICYMI, President Obama recently signed the ABLE Act, a bill that opens up tax-free savings options for kids with special needs. ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience. Parents can now open up accounts to save up to $14,000 a year (with a savings cap at $100,000) in order to pay for qualified disability expenses. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, some of these qualified expenses include:
- medical and dental care
- employment training
- personal support services
The ABLE Act is important in both practical terms and in what it says about our priorities as a nation. As a supporter of the bill, Senator Robert P. Casey from Pennsylvania says, "We believe—and this is what undergirds the ABLE Act—that people with a disability have a lot of ability to live a full life if we give them the tools. One of those tools is an incentive to save for the future."
I couldn't agree more with Senator Casey about what the options savings will create for kids with special needs. Although I'm ready to open an ABLE account today, I'll have to wait just a bit longer, because individual states must come up with account regulations before financial institutions offer them. Even with the wait, I'm sleeping better at night knowing I can soon robustly save for Liam's future.
Read more about the ABLE Act here, and we'll keep you posted as ABLE accounts become available in each state.
Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons, Liam (6) and Eliot (4). Her writing has appeared in the Autism and Asperger's Digest (2011-2013), Parents, and the book collection Monday Coffee and Other Stories of Parenting Kids with Special Needs. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter (@jamiepacton).
Image: Four Funny Children with Money Box via Shutterstock