Using the ABLE Account: Case Study - For Representative Payees Managing Income & Social Security Benefits

Posted by Haddad Nadworny on Sat, May 20, 2017 @ 08:02 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team John Nadworny, CFP, CTFA | Cynthia Haddad, CFP, ChSNC | Alexandria  Nadworny, CFP, CTFA

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Updated June 30, 2021

Representative Payees Managing Income and Social Security Benefits 

ABLE.pngThe ABLE is a great tool to help keep a balance below $2,000 in a Representative Payee (or an Individual's) checking account.

Who/what is a representative payee? A representative payee is a person, usually a family member or friend but may be an organization, appointed by the Social Security Administration to help beneficiaries manage their social security benefits.  

The following lists the required duties of a payee.

Required Duties:

  • Determine the beneficiary’s needs and use his or her payments to meet those needs;
  • Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary’s current needs in an interest bearing account or savings bonds for the beneficiary's future needs;
  • Report any changes or events which could affect the beneficiary's eligibility for payments;
  • Keep records of all payments received and how you spent and saved them;
  • Provide all records of how payments are spent or saved to SSA upon request;
  • Report to SSA any changes that would affect your performance or your continuing as payee;
  • Complete reports accounting for your use of payments, as required;
  • Return to SSA any payments to which the beneficiary is not entitled; and
  • Return to SSA any payments saved when you are no longer the representative payee for the beneficiary.

*Source: Social Security Administration

For more information about Representative payees, visit


Case Study

The Situation:

mother son_pexelsOur client called and was very distressed that she had lost her son’s SSI income due to having more than $2,000 in his representative payee account.

The Options We Considered:

Before the ABLE was launched, our first go-to would have been to think creatively about items or services her son could both benefit from and pay for.  We asked if there was anything he needed that she could spend the extra money on? She had already purchased a new computer for him as well as some new winter clothes. He really did not need much of anything else.

She could put the additional money into his already established and funded first party supplemental needs trust. However, the trust held money he had inherited from his grandparents and she considered the SSI benefits “his money”.

Now, an option to be considered would be the ABLE Account, which would allow for contributions of excess funds above the $2000 threshold in the representative payee account.

The Benefits of Using an ABLE Account:

The ABLE account savings option allows contributions up to $15,000/year into the account, to be used for the beneficiary's short term needs or invested for longer term needs. As long as the account, housed in Massachusetts, remains under $100,000, her son’s benefits will not be impacted.

When reviewing the investment options with her, we reminded her to choose the investments best suited to her son's use of the funds in the account.  Funds used to pay expenses in the nearer term should ideally be placed in an investment that will have very low volatility, and may offer a lower return, so she will know the money will be there when needed.  To save for the longer term, she may want to select a fund that has had greater volatility but also greater returns. 

For more information please visit our resource page, How to use The ABLE (529A)  Account in Special Needs Planning

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all individuals or will yield positive outcomes.

The experiences described here may not be representative of any future experience of our clients, nor considered a recommendation of the advisor's services or abilities or indicate a favorable client experience. Individual results will vary.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Prior to investing in an ABLE account, investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits available for investments in such state’s ABLE program.


Tags: ABLE Account

New England States Discuss Offering the ABLE Account

Posted by Patty Manko on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 @ 07:00 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team at Shepherd Financial Partners
Cynthia Haddad, CFP® | John Nadworny, CFP® | Alex Nadworny, CFP® 

John__VTstatehouse1.jpgAttendees included (partial list L to R): Teresea Hayes, Maine State Treasurer; Tom Graff, MEFA; John Nadworny, MA Down Syndrome Congress; Chris Rodriguez, National Disability Institute; Bill Dwyer, New Hampshire Sate Treasurer; Beth Pearce, Vermont State Treasurer.

Earlier this month, John Nadworny attended a meeting of State Treasurers and representatives from the 6 New England states, (MA, ME, VT, CN, RI, NH) to discuss the possibility of forming a consortium to offer the ABLE account to their constituents. This meeting was a first step toward crafting a platform for regional collaboration, as the New England states with smaller populations are concerned with achieving the critical mass necessary to effectively administer a program on their own. The consortium approach involves one state taking the lead and working together with the other states to develop a program that would provide meaningful benefits to the families in their state. 

Collaboration on the ABLE account is occurring in other areas in the country as well. On June 1st, Ohio became the first state to enact their “STABLE account” program. Ohio’s national program offers benefits to individuals with disabilities in Ohio and across the country. The program allows for out of state individuals to hold accounts in Ohio for slightly higher fees without risking their eligibility for federally-funded means tested benefits. For the first time, individuals living with a disability can save more than $2,000. while maintaining their current benefits such as social security, medicaid, and other publicly funded programs. Tennessee was quick to follow Ohio’s lead on June 14th putting their own national program (ABLE TN) into place. Tennessee’s program is nearly identical with slight differences coming in it’s fee structure. Currently ABLE TN and the STABLE Account are the only two states enrolling beneficiaries, however others are expected to follow soon. Nebraska and Florida are the closest to launching programs currently, with Nebraska offering like benefits to ABLE TN and the STABLE Account, and Florida offering an in state only program.

Important disclosures:

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.
Prior to investing in a ABLE account investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's ABLE program. Withdrawals used for qualified expenses are federally tax free. Tax treatment at the state level may vary. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses associated with the ABLE account carefully before investing. The issuer's official statement contains this and other information about the investment. You can obtain an official statement from the state's ABLE program administrator. Read carefully before investing.


Tags: ABLE Account

In the News - Planning for Individuals with Disabilities

Posted by Patty Manko on Sat, May 14, 2016 @ 08:00 AM


The Special Needs Financial Planning Team at Shepherd Financial Partners
Cynthia Haddad, CFP® | John Nadworny, CFP® | Alex Nadworny, CFP® 

A New Home for the Arc of Massachusetts

The May 8 Boston Sunday Globe featured an interview with Arc of Massachusetts Executive Director Leo Sarkissian, about the Arc's new headquarters building. Leo stressed the need for a new building and how The Arc's advocacy helps individuals with disabilities across the state. In case you missed it, you can read the article in its entirety here.

An Update on the ABLE Account
Key take-aways: 
  • Once ABLE programs start becoming available, a tweak to federal law earlier this year will allow individuals with disabilities to open accounts through any state program no matter where they live. 
  • The first ABLE accounts are scheduled to become available this summer.
 Read more from Disability Scoop.
Special Advice for Special Needs Parents
We are quoted in the article, Special Advice for Special Needs Parents in Financial Advisor Magazine.  To read the article, click here.
Words Matter
The terms used to describe people with disabilities have changed over the years but is the search for respectful language permanently hampered by the very practice of placing labels on individuals?  
Read Dan Barry's  Giving a Name , and Dignity, to a Disability from the New York Times, May 7, 2016.

Tags: ABLE Account

Is the ABLE Account Right for You?

Posted by Patty Manko on Fri, May 22, 2015 @ 04:12 PM


FPA_JournalJohn Nadworny, CFP®, of Shepherd Financial Partners, has written an article for the Journal of Financial Planning pertaining to the ABLE Account, a new savings account dedicated to saving for individuals with disabilities. The Journal of Financial Planning is a central reference publication for the financial planning community, including CFP® certificants. 

While a lot has been written about the rules and regulations surrounding an ABLE account, this article helps fill the critical need of informing families of how they may apply this new type of savings account to their own personal situations.  Please feel free to share this article, with appropriate attribution, with your friends and family. 

Click to read Incorporating the ABLE Act into Special Needs Planning.

In response to the many questions we have received from families about how to incorporate the ABLE account into their planning, we will offer a series of blogs featuring

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) : How to Use an ABLE Account.

WE welcome your questions --  submit a question below.  All submissions are confidential. 

Click here to  Send us your questions  about the new ABLE accounts.



Tags: ABLE Account

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