August was ABLE to Save Month, a national grassroots initiative of the ABLE National Resource Center, designed to educate the public about ABLE accounts.
The annual campaign not only brings attention to this important savings resource, but it also demonstrates a positive step toward leveling the financial playing field for the disability community.
Living with a disability can significantly add to the financial pressure families live with every day, especially when families cannot save money for fear of losing eligibility for important benefits like Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
Only a few years ago, individuals with disabilities and their families were faced with this impossible financial dilemma: sacrifice saving for the future or lose vital public benefits. As it stood, if individuals with disabilities had more than $2,000 in financial resources, they risked losing means-tested benefits they often relied on for income, health care, food and housing.
Thankfully, the passage of the federal ABLE Act of 2014 (also known as the Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act) solved this predicament. The ABLE Act brought an opportunity to save for the future to eligible individuals with disabilities.
Similar to their 529 college savings counterparts and 401(K) accounts, ABLE 529A accounts allow eligible individuals with disabilities and their families a tax-advantaged way to save and invest money for disability-related expenses.
As State Treasurer, I'm proud to administer the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program. Since its launch in 2017, nearly a thousand South Carolinians have opened a Palmetto ABLE account.
Now, these South Carolinians can put aside funds to help with basic living expenses and build savings for their future without losing eligibility for needs-based benefits. The money in a Palmetto ABLE account grows tax-free and may be used for any qualified disability expenses, such as transportation, health care, education and training, assistive technology, housing and much more.
With as little as $50, individuals with disabilities and their families can visit PalmettoABLE.com to open an account online, and they may contribute up to $15,000 a year to their account. Thanks to the federal ABLE to Work Act of 2017, employed individuals with disabilities may be able to contribute up to an additional $12,140 of income to their Palmetto ABLE account for a total of $27,140 each year.
It's simple for other people to contribute money to an ABLE account, too. Any person, business, employer, trust, corporation or other legal entity can make contributions to someone's account. The program even offers a special gifting tool that allows account owners to invite friends and family members to contribute online via an eGift, and the tax benefits aren't limited to the account owners.
Any South Carolina resident that contributes to a Palmetto ABLE account can deduct their contributions from their state income tax return.
Flexible and easy to use, Palmetto ABLE features a number of investment options to choose from - including one that is FDIC insured - and a load-and-spend debit card that allows account owners or their authorized representatives to access and spend account funds on qualified disability expenses.
I want South Carolinians with disabilities and their loved ones to know, that by opening and regularly contributing to a Palmetto ABLE account, you'll be empowered to save, invest and build the financial future you want for yourself and your family.
To find out if you or a loved one is eligible to open a Palmetto ABLE account, visit PalmettoABLE.com.
Curtis Loftis is the state treasurer of South Carolina.