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MiABLE account owners lead by example to inspire others to open disability savings accounts

In recognition of the 34th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act this month, the Michigan Department of Treasury has enlisted the help of MiABLE account owners in its ongoing campaign to encourage others with disabilities to open their own MiABLE savings accounts.

“Just as the ADA has provided legal security and equality of opportunity for people with disabilities for more than three decades, MiABLE continues to open the door for financial security and opportunity for people with disabilities and their families,“ said R. Scott de Varona, MiABLE program director. “MiABLE benefits thousands of Michiganders every day, and the best testimonial for opening a MiABLE account comes from the people who already have seen what it can do for their financial freedom.”

For Livonia resident Aaron Martinuzzi, 38, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a diving accident nearly two decades ago, opening a MiABLE has allowed him to remain fully employed as a software analyst while protecting his financial future.

In Michigan and nationally, a $2,000 federal asset limit is imposed on people with disabilities who receive government benefits. Compared with their peers, people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty, less likely to be employed and more likely to be underemployed.

MiABLE allows individuals who became disabled before age 26 and their families to save up to $18,000 annually in various investment options, de Varona said.

Experts estimate that approximately 500,000 to 600,000 individuals in Michigan are eligible to open MiABLE accounts, but only about 1% of that number are currently enrolled statewide.

“At the time I opened my MiABLE account, it was the only way I could exceed the Social Security asset limits,” Martinuzzi said. “It was also helpful in planning for my future, knowing that I could have savings that were protected from mandatory liquidation should I need Social Security again, unlike an IRA or 401(k). I love that MiABLE makes sense.”

Martinuzzi is a strong proponent of MiABLE’s investment opportunities and urges other people with disabilities to consider investing in MiABLE to ensure they can leverage all the money they earn without risking losing other benefits.

“MiABLE can make employment more realistic for individuals whose talents and skills are being lost,” he said.

The ADA was signed into law in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. MiABLE was enacted in Michigan in 2015 — at the time, just the fifth state in the nation to implement such a program — as a disability savings program administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

MiABLE stands for Michigan Achieving a Better Life Experience and was designed to help ease the financial burden challenging families and people with disabilities. MiABLE accounts help people with disabilities save for current and future expenses without jeopardizing government assistance like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

MIABLE and the ADA both were created through landmark legislation designed to give people with disabilities equal opportunity, and de Varona said opening a MiABLE account to coincide with the ADA’s anniversary is “a great way to pay tribute to the doors they opened.”

For South Lyon residents Carrie Hanshaw and her husband, opening a MiABLE account for their 18-year-old daughter, Amanda, provides some financial peace of mind as Amanda, who has a genetic chromosome disorder causing developmental and intellectual delays, prepares to go off to college and start her life as an independent young woman.

“As soon as we heard about MiABLE, we knew it would be a financial tool that would work for us,” said Hanshaw, a strong supporter of the financial independence and overall inclusion opportunities that come through having a MiABLE account. “In fact, we heard about ABLE accounts before they even existed in Michigan. We enrolled as soon as we possibly could.”

Opening a MiABLE account is quick and easy, generally taking about 15 minutes. For those who want to learn more about the benefits of MiABLE, de Varona recommended attending an upcoming webinar. The next one will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 17. To register for this event, sign up through our Eventbrite webpage.

For more information or to open a MiABLE account, additional information is available on MiABLE’s website.