Episode 31: The ABLE Age Adjustment Act passed! with Paul Curley, CFA

Today, we’re sitting down with one of your favorite guests, Paul Curley, to get into the details of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which passed as a part of SECURE 2.0 in December 2022.

Light grey background with dark brown text reading ‘ABLE Age Adjustment Act with Paul Curley, Season 3, Episode 8, MomAutismMoney.com' Image showing Mom Autism Money logo next to Paul, Joyce and Brynne smiling at the camera against a background of a blue velvet curtain.

It’s April, which is recognized as Autism Acceptance Month. Last week, when we talked to Sara, she let us onto another way to celebrate April, by rebranding it as Autism Action Month.

Joyce’s idea of reaching out to Autistic people and Autistic families this month to provide direct support was absolutely spot-on. For a lot of people listening, you are those families.

So today we’re going to talk about other ways to take action during Autism Action month and beyond. Ways you can engage in democracy and continue to make your financial life and the lives of your children better not just now, but in the future.

We’re so excited that the ABLE Age Adjustment Act passed, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and Paul teaches us some of the best areas to focus on as we interact with our legislators – regardless of political party.


Show Notes

If you do nothing else, SUBSCRIBE TO PAUL’S NEWSLETTER!

Difference between Autism Acceptance & Autism Awareness.

Find out how to contact your federal and state legislators.

IRS publication 907 can help you learn more about ABLE accounts.

Follow Joyce’s work.

Follow Brynne’s work.

Read The Feminist Financial Handbook.

Full episode transcript

Brynne: Hi, everyone! Welcome to the season 3 finale of Mom Autism Money! Today, we’re sitting down with one of your favorite guests, Paul Curley, to get the details of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which passed as a part of SECURE 2.0 in December 2022.

It’s April, which is recognized as Autism Acceptance Month (or Autism Awareness Month by some organizations – we talked about the difference in season 2 episode one with Lei Wiley-Mydskey.) Last week, when we talked to Sara, she let us onto another way to celebrate April, by rebranding it as Autism Action Month.

Joyce’s idea of reaching out to Autistic people and Autistic families this month to provide direct support was absolutely spot-on. For a lot of people listening, you are those families.

So today we’re going to talk about other ways to take action during Autism Action month and beyond. Ways you can engage in democracy and continue to make your financial life and the lives of your children better not just now, but in the future.

We’re so excited that the ABLE Age Adjustment Act passed, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and Paul teaches us some of the best areas to focus on as we interact with our legislators – regardless of political party.

Before we get into it, I want to super encourage you to listen through to the outro today. We’ve got a pretty big announcement, and we wouldn’t want you to miss it.

Without further ado, let’s talk to Paul!

Brynne:  Hi Paul. Thank you so much for coming back to join us!

Paul: Thank you for the opportunity, Brynne and Joyce.

Joyce:  Welcome back. Welcome back.

Brynne: We’re super excited to talk about the big thing that happened since the last time we spoke Paul, and that is the Able Age Adjustment Act and it passed.

And I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about what happened in December, that it did pass, and what the changes within that law mean.

Paul: First and foremost, thank you so much, you know, Brynne and Joyce for the opportunity to really discuss the Age Adjustment Act. It has passed and that, that, it’s just such a, a game changer for, for any number of reasons.

It’s gonna help a lot of more families before the change that the age of onset for, in order to be eligible to open an ABLE account was 26 years old. And with that, there’s roughly an estimated population of 8 million people that, that could open an account. And with the Able Age Adjustment Act, it’s, it’s really changed the, that age agent onset from 26 to 46 years old.

And really just increase the number of eligible users, you know, from that 8 million potential users to, to 15 million potential users. And it’s really a, a number of, of, of important types of demographics. But, but one of the key points is, is 1 million veterans will now be able to use ABLE accounts so, it’s a critical change.

I’m happy, I think we’re all happy that it has finally passed and we just need to wait until, until 2026 when it, you know, is effective and implemented. But in the meantime we we’re, we’re very excited about its passage.

Brynne: Paul, I know you and I have talked about this off the podcast a little bit before, but I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit behind the logic of the delayed implementation. So this was something that was voted on in December, 2022, and then like you said, it goes into effect in 2026. Why wait three years? I think it has something to do with just helping the legislation pass and like federal budgets, but I’m wondering if you can help us understand that a little bit better.

Paul: First and foremost, you know, I, I, I would just reiterate that, that I think we’re all really excited that we’re gonna, you know, help a lot more families that ABLE you know, has been growing well and, and with the expanded usage we’re gonna help even, even more families. And, and that’s exciting to, to focus on.

But, but yes, behind, behind the curtain and behind the closed doors and, you know, in terms of just the, the legislation in terms of its, its timing and passage a lot of the way things work in DC is, is just the scoring of, of bills and, and when it means by scoring, it’s like, like how much is the expected cost, you know, for this legislation to, to pass.

It did come in originally at a, at a pretty high score, so, so fairly expensive. And so one way to sort of tweak the numbers in order to get the score down and, and to allow for the passage, um, it was just, you know, pushing back the implementation date to 2026. There’s, there’s this 10-year window that legislation and in DC for fellow government, they look at scoring.

So probably speaking of if, if the score is a 10 year window and you delay the, the passage three years, the scoring looks at seven years instead of the full 10 years. And, and just because it is, it is such a, an important critical, uh, legislation to pass that helps so many families that I think everyone’s sort of allowed for, for this tweak.

And so that’s the perspective from the, the big picture. The legislation and the numbers, but there’s also, this, this behind the scenes sort of reporting element that does take place. So when you open up an able account that it is reported to the IRS and federal government, just to make sure that someone doesn’t have multiple accounts, that it does kind of get reported up to the government.

And, and then from there, that stepping stone process on, on the reporting side of it, that I just think that that operational step probably, you know, delayed it. I think we’re all sort of, you know, surprised for the, for the delay. If anything, the positive is really that, you know, every, everyone will be on the same page, that everything will be fine, that we’re all gonna be excited, you know, for that launch.

It will take time to, to raise awareness and understanding about ABLE, but also the age of on onset with with ABLE age adjustment. It’s actually probably a, a, a good thing in, in certain contexts. I think we, I think we all probably could have seen it, you know, being effective 2023. But, um, you know, with that 2026, you know, passage date, you know, the, there’s the scoring element and frankly, as, as we had said in past, you know, podcasts, it’s really just great that ABLE has even passed.

It was a, a, a five year road just to even get able, you know, launched. That is part of the long-term roadmap of just looking at the hurdles, you know, solving the issues one by one by one, that the, the momentum will increase and we could have waited much longer for the passage of ABLE to include this age, which was the original purpose of the bill and of ABLE accounts.

But we’re just happy that ABLE’s live, that it is, that is growing, that is some, you know, in some instances starting smaller so that when we get to that full launch in, in 2026, that we’ll have the, the footwork down and, and things will, will be great.

Brynne: No, absolutely. And I don’t mean to discount what a huge deal it is that this passed period. It’s pretty massive.

It’s pretty massive. And government bureaucracy is always a little bit of a waiting game. One thing that I know we’ve talked about before is a lot of the people listening, they have kids who are disabled, so they obviously meet that under 26 burden and one reason to care that the Able Age Adjustment Act passed, even if your child already qualified with the currently standing age requirements, it’s just that it’s good to care about other people. Right? It’s good that 6 million new people will be able to open these accounts and establish some financial freedom for themselves to save and potentially even invest.

That’s really, really exciting. I know one other pro that we mentioned with this is that with so many new people able to open ABLE accounts, With a larger user base, those fees are projected to come down when this does go into effect in a few years.

Paul: Agreed. It is, it is, you know, as more people are able to use a, a product and, and use ABLE accounts that the different types of fees will.

You know, be able to come down, whether we’re talking about monthly or, or quarterly fees, you know, for example, like a number of states, even in the, the shorter, uh, runway that, that we’ve had about, you know, five or six years for, for many programs being open. But they have been, uh, you know, decreasing the fees, whether it be the quarterly or the monthly fees or, or just even the ongoing, you know, types of fees, asset based fees.

So we’re, it, it was part of the original sort of game plan to get the, the plans launched and then over time, as, as the scale picks up and as the processes become larger scale that, you know, the, the, the fees overall will decrease. That being said, the fees have been, you know, going towards just setting up the platforms, setting up the infrastructure.

Many of these programs launched before there was even final regulations in place at the federal level saying that the product was even allowed. And so it, that there was a walking on jello type of feeling, you know, for some of these launches. What I would say is that there’s, there’s been a number of plan launches that that really, you know, provided that that full scale, you know, launches with, you know, mobile apps and, and wallets, you know, so, so being able to pay with, with Apple Pay and debit cards and some of the programs are even launching braille cards, you know, pretty soon there’s been a couple of providers with online chat functionality and, and so there’s been, um, a lot of the call center support and, and, and so there’s been a lot of the different programs, you know, have been charging different fees to help with the launch.

But as you said, as the scale grows and more, more users use it, it’ll broaden awareness and build trust as, as sort of more people use it. And by and large it’s, it’s just the, you know, continuation of the, the momentum for helping families.

Brynne: Oh my gosh, definitely. And one thing I’m excited for, like potential fee decreases in 2026.

But I do wanna let people know, at least here in Pennsylvania, and I know some other states recently too, these programs, like you said, are incredible for how young they are. I’m always impressed with the ease in which I can use the ABLE account. There’s so many different ways that I can just access that money and utilize it in our day-to-day lives.

And here in Pennsylvania, it wasn’t a huge fee decrease. But I don’t want people to be like, oh no, I have to wait till 2026 when it’s cheaper to run an account, because a lot of these states are implementing fee decreases now. As these programs become larger and more efficient, you don’t have to wait till 2026 to start saving.

Paul: Agreed.

In many ways, opening an account is, is a vote that it was a good policy that was passed. That the legislators provided this product. It was heard that it was needed, and, and so they, they launched it. One intriguing fact. Of course brand, brand new. You know, that I’m a, a director of savings research, a lot of data.

But you know, the, the brand new accountants that, that do open for able, the average account balance is, is roughly $4,000. And, and, and it’s, it’s, uh, you know, it’s great to see the launch, but also to think about how $4,000 compares to the $2,000 account size that that someone is allowed to have for federal benefits.

So it’s a way to start saving and, and get that footwork down, especially if, if one wants to float higher than, you know, federal requirements of $2,000. And so it’s a great time to open an account, especially if on that scale of, you know, getting it open, setting up the automatic contributions and finding different ways to grow the, the account as well.

Brynne: Absolutely. I know this is the question a lot of our listeners wanna know. A big obstacle we’ve heard from people is they’re afraid of Medicaid payback provisions. And so for some people, that prevents them from opening an account in the first place. Now, I’m not aware of any cases where these payback provisions have actually been implemented.

It’s not. We talked at length before about how it’s more of a fear than a justified reality. However, if we could get rid of them, that could get more people opening accounts because it removes the fear. And I guess what everyone’s wondering is are Medicaid payback provisions next? Is that the next federal legislation and what, what do we kind of see in the pipes as far as that goes?

Paul: Great question. I do think that the, you know, broadly speaking that, you know, Medicaid clawback provision is, is something that is, that is in focus now that, that the Able Age Adjustment Act is, is implemented in, in, in the pipeline. But I think that Medicaid clawback will be the next one in focus.

There are a handful of states that already implemented, you know, at the state level, but we’re talking about the, the federal across all, all states type of legislation to pass. So I do think that that becomes the next item of focus that it is, as you said, just, just taking down one more hurdle or just sort of, you know, one more issue.

With that being said, I, you’re absolutely right where I’m not aware of any state that really has been enforcing that, that clawback provision. So to the extent that there is a sort of, you know, soft understanding that it is less of a concern in reality. But I do think that the mental hurdles are where we kinda focus in next.

And as we kind of pull from, from different, you know, friends across the industry, it is, uh, interesting where able accounts are a living account, not a dying account. Of course, Brynne, you know, who I’m pulling that insight from. But you know, to the extent that for, for able accounts, they are, you know, it’s, it’s an important account.

It, and it does help those with disabilities. From an outlook perspective, so there’s the Medicaid clawback provision. There’s another focus around the increasing of, of contribution amounts because a number of people become eligible to open an able account with a certain type of incidence where there may be like an insurance payout.

So, so increasing the annual contribution limits from $17,000 a as of today. But, um, you know, that increase in the, an annual contribution limits, you know, from that $17,000, which is a great number, but to the extent that, that there’s, you know, 529 college savings side or education saving side, there’s a five year, you know, contribution number that that can be hit.

So, so increasing either the annual limit to a five year limit or even a much higher one, you know, could be of of interest. Another interesting, more legislative one is really the, the concept around permanence. There’s the, you know, there’s currently the capabilities to roll over 529 assets over to able, and then also the, the incremental increase in savings with, with ABLE to Work, those two types of components have passed.

They’re implemented, but they’re not what’s termed, uh, permanent. So there’s, uh, the legislative per permanency that would sort of like convert those two components, you know, the rollover to from 529 to able, ABLE to Work components just to make them permanent and, and not move away over time. I, I do think that those are important components. Not less of a concern, but I do think that it just shows a, the track record of, of continued support and, and growth of able.

I think the other focus is, is the flexibility around ABLE accounts, whether we’re talking about having multiple accounts or, or being able to transfer one’s own, um, account to a spouse or, or the concept around, um, you know, couples with, with disabilities. So to extent that, you know, perhaps there is, just thinking of an example of if the age of onset related to a car crash and both, you know, the husband and wife became disabled, that, you know, having that flexibility to, to roll over assets from, from one person to the other. Another area of of focus, especially in Pennsylvania and, and across the nation as well is, is around employer contributions.

A lot of the SECURE 2.0 provisions and it was a retirement facing bill, was around employer, employer matching. We saw the student loan repayment pay down, but to the extent that the employers can really help make contributions to ABLE accounts is something that is being worked out. And there’s a couple of, of different groups such as the, uh, National Down Syndrome Society that, that does have that one as, as a priority.

So in terms of just different areas of prioritization are there. The last one is, and broadly speaking, over the next, you know, three to five year roadmap and, and just laying the groundwork up to the 2026 and, and probably, you know, two, two years after, is just, you know, building out those, you know, different types of collaborations and building awareness.

Of course, there’s, SSA and HUD and, and US Treasury, treasury be more focused on getting IRS legislation and, and different components such as the permanency. But, but I do think that there’s one example and story that I really like to share is just, even just working with the irs, we had asked IRS to make a YouTube video on ABLE accounts that they’re launched and that they are live and a real product and able to be used.

And lo behold, the IRS did a two minute video. And, and if we think about the scale and, and number of viewers and just strength and confidence that the irs, you know, provides to different things, you know, that was, that was another partnership. Another concept, you know, being in the Philadelphia suburb area is just sort of like the concept’s been, you know, rolling up around helping your helpers in terms of just raising awareness and understanding.

And, you know, for example, we, we had in our own, my children’s school, we had people come in and present about Able, and it, it was not the state of Pennsylvania. It was a lawyer and an estate planner and an accountant. So just building out those networks. So just, you know, getting that, that message out there to, to families, to hud, to irs, to lawyers, to accountants and state planners having the conversation.

And from my take, it’s, um, I’m always surprised about when I, whenever I talk to my accountant that they’re not aware of ABLE accounts and they’re aware of 529 accounts. It is, it’s just another form, you know, raising the awareness. But there’s such an opportunity to, to get more people engaged and help get the message out there.

And, and that’s why we’re excited about you, Brynne and Joyce, and, and all the great work you do.

Brynne: And you know what that is, that is super cool. It’s so funny on our Pennsylvania state tax returns, if you’re just looking at like the PA 40, which is like the state equivalent of the 1040, the line where you put your ABLE contributions to get that state tax deduction is literally just lABLEed like other deductions.

And then you have to go dig into another schedule to find it. So it’s always super interesting, like you were saying, with the accountants not always knowing about it. It’s like it’s kinda hidden. You kind of have to dig for those deductions. But, and Joyce, I know you and I had talked about, I’m so excited about the estate attorney coming in to talk about ABLE accounts in the school.

That’s one thing we’ve talked about is just how great would it be if this information was in the places where we already find ourselves? In our schools, in our therapist’s offices? Wo that’s all really exciting.

Joyce: Do you have any plans to, you know how I always go back to like, teaching and, and, you know, people coming to school, like what’s the plan to put able accounts where 529 college is?

Like everybody seems to know what a 529 is, but not ABLE. So when are we gonna get there? I always have the same question, but when are we gonna get there? Like, I see states doing it, but what do you think it’s needed for able accounts to be as popular as 529 in your opinion?

Paul: One area that I’m excited about is, is really that there are certain states that, that are making those inroads. In Illinois, if, if a student has an IEP, they’re automatically getting information about ABLE accounts and, and that, that is incredible. That, that’s a nice win for, for Illinois. And I think we’re all sharing different success stories about what is, is, you know, raising awareness and understanding.

I do think it, it does take time. I think about a story of, of someone in, in our area as well, where, you know, someone has three children and then in the first child has a 529 account and the second one, the child is born with a disability and, and they roll it over to an ABLE account.

And, and so from there they’re posting local programs in the community about ABLE accounts and raising that awareness. I see opportunities to get that grassroots up from the parent level up. And, and that is really how ABLE was first launched around a kitchen table with four different families.

I think that the schools and the states have the opportunities to make those different in roads, whether it be for IEPs or just, you know, raising awareness around being in the community. Whether it be in the community of hosting those educational pieces, or as did Illinois do with just part of a process of, of having that IEP that, that the student gets it.

I do think that there’s, that there’s a great opportunity for, for your, your team as well to, to raise awareness and understanding as, as well Joyce and Brynne. And that’s why I think that the work you do is, is great and is critical and, and that’s why we’re, um, you know, we, we always love helping out with the podcast and getting, getting awareness and understanding out there.

I do think it does filter out to, you know, having these larger legislations the, the Able Age Adjustment Act, as you said, you know, Brynne like, what, what does this mean? I think about, you know, our ability to go to a Sharon Epperson for CNBC and present to her, um, this, this family topic that, that we’re, that we are talking about a product that, you know, with the change, it’ll go from 2.4% of, of Americans to 4.5% of Americans will now be eligible to open up, an ABLE account.

As the awareness grows and, and the ability to, to make an impact for families, you know, so does the type of coverage that, that we’ll get overall. I do think that there’s an ease of use piece. I do think that the, the product providers themselves, you know, have, have been implementing mobile apps and debit cards and braille cards and increasing on online chat.

But I, I do think it, it’ll be a lot of that groundwork still needs to be continued and, and from a parent listening to this podcast, you know, reaching out to your legislators, you know, whether it be the Senator Casey and or that house level of the Federal House, but also the, the state level legislation.

There’s just so much opportunity to raise awareness and opportunity for yourself. For able. In the past legislation that that benefits you as well. We, we, we went through a number of different legislations that, that are front and center, and if there’s one that, that really appeals to you. I think one of the misunderstood or underappreciated things is that we’re able to call up our state legislators, our federal level house, our senators.

To really promote awareness of, of the issues that we have as, as a family, as a parent, to really express our beliefs of, well, what’s working, what’s not, what do we need more of? And able accounts are great. They’re growing, they’re doing well. And I guess it is a good time to at least footnote in that the automatic contributions coming to ABLE is $52 a week.

So it’s a great number that’s helping a lot of families continue to grow and do well. I think that the average account of balance is, is currently $9,000. So it’s a very reasonable number, especially given that it’s six years in from many of these programs. ABLE accounts are being used. One intriguing thing is that roughly 43% of the assets are money markets and it’s FDIC insured. That aligns with, with so many families using this for, for daily expenses, like everyday needs, basic living expenses, food, clothing, you know, housing, heat water, like the, the whole expense side, you know, legal fees.

Education, transportation and, and um, you know, it’s a great, great opportunity that is just helping a lot of families and it’s a great product that’s been growing. And from that perspective, there’s a lot of opportunities to continue that growth.

Brynne: Definitely, definitely. And with the money market aspect of it, I’ve been really impressed as inflation has risen.

You know, we’ve seen yields on high yield savings accounts go up, but we’ve also seen them go up with able accounts and so that’s been a really encouraging thing to see is that they haven’t been left out of that equation.

Paul: Agreed. I’ll date myself a little bit, but it was, uh, you know what, when I first opened up my, my account, it was 4.5% on a money market, and it dipped all the way down to zero for a long time, and it’s nice to get something for emergency fund that is sitting there.

And for the daily expenses that, that are available for, for able accounts as well. So it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great topic. It’s a, it’s a great opportunity as we’re recording and in middle of April, 2023. I, a general sense and in terms of just hitting the, the hot button topics of the day, the, um, you know, with, with inflation where it is, it, it is peaking right now, but as we compare different timeframes, I do think that year over year inflation numbers will, will start to tick down, you know, that there was a temporary increase.

Hopefully it’ll slow down because after paying for, for gas and food this week, it’s not to belittle, the topic of the day. But yeah, it’s, it’s definitely, uh, hitting, uh, you know, for many families and that’s why it’s great that, that free able accounts, that these are accounts that that can be used for basic living expenses.

And, and of course, if anything able accounts are, are needed now more than ever with the increasing cost of, of living, you know, which does include food and clothing and housing and, and all the different, you know, day-to-day expenses. That’s a great point. I I never really thought about that, Joyce and Brynne. As inflation picks up, so does the, the need for an ABLE account.

Brynne: Absolutely. It would be so nice to see some price stabilization sometime soon.

Paul: I just wonder when 529 accounts will start to, um, accept eggs as deposits. You know, we’re, we all talk about the cup of eggs and it’s like the, you know, it’s like people are posting photos of a picture of four egg cartons and like that you could buy a car with that.

It’s like, you know, it’s, it is kind of interesting.

Brynne: Yeah. Maybe inflation will lead us back to a barter society. Who knows? You covered so much. There were a couple things that I, I wanted to go back and ask about. I know with the ABLE to Work provision. That’s something that is set to expire in 2025. And there was another, there was another thing in there that was also set to expire.

So if somebody is concerned about that, maybe you’re concerned in the here and now. Maybe you’re concerned for when your child reaches adulthood and could really use that able to work provision. That’s something that you would reach out to your federal legislators to just let them know. Is there any senate bill or house bill that you could ask your legislators to support?

Or is that still in the works? And just let them know I want more able to work, like make that permanent.

Paul: That’s a good point. I think for able to work and the rollover provision from 529 to able, the request would be to ask your federal legislators the, the senators and the house at the federal level. To add those two components, you know, to a bill.

There’s, um, there’s all these different initiatives, but if there’s no vehicle to pass the initiative, then it won’t pass, right? So, so to the extent that express your interests, you know, and, and having the rollover provision from 529 to able extended or, or made permanent and ABLE to work made permanent, they collect information and from there they know the interest of their voter base and, and their constituents.

And then they’ll, they’ll add it into the bill. That is the mechanics of that. But, but you’re right. So, so right now there’s not a bill number. It makes it a little bit easier when you could say, house Bill or Senate bill X, Y, Z I supported this and it’s a little bit easier to, to discuss, but right now there’s not one.

And so the, the, the call to action would be to, you know, call your, Federal legislators for action. At the state level, circling back to the Medicaid clawback provisions, you can also call your state representatives to have that pass up at the state level, as did Oregon and several other states. So depending on, on the types of, you know, initiatives that, that you’re, that you’re looking at and focused on, then you can call your federal level.

You can call your state level, help champion you know, the things that are important to, to yourself and bring it to, to their attention. As a quick side story, Brynne and Joyce, when, when I was in New Hampshire, very often I, I would go to the federal legislators to discuss and even present able when, when ABLE was before passage of ABLE.

And you can, you can meet with them either in DC or in your own state. They’ll write down your name, your contact information, and, and, and basically voice your items of concern or items that you wanna raise and, and that all that information gets compiled on a weekly basis. And is presented up, up to the team and, and discussed and, and because they’re there to represent you, they do listen. So it it, it’s an important function of society today.

Brynne: Definitely. And I feel like we live in such a politically charged environment right now that some of you might have representatives that you feel like they never listen to me on anything. I know I felt that way with some of my federal representatives at one point over the past several years, and one thing that I think is cool about ABLE is that no matter how politically radical your representative might be, this does seem to be a bipartisan issue.

So even if you think they won’t listen to you on other matters that are important to you, I would just encourage people to reach out about ABLE, because I know on the Able Age Adjustment Act when it was passed, but even beforehand when it was trying to gain momentum, Paul, I would check your newsletter and just see like, okay, who signed on?

And it really was remarkable how people from both sides of the aisle, no matter what their political ideologies were, they were able to eventually rally around this issue. So just if you feel unheard, maybe this is one issue you don’t have to worry about that as much with.

Paul: Agreed. For ABLE, there was, I don’t have the specific number of votes, but it was, there was over 400 people who voted for the passage of, of ABLE, and then ultimately everyone did, but it was supported by and large, 95% of, you know, at the federal level, you know, supported the, the bill and, and because of that support that it is, it’s a well known, um, you know, piece of legislation.

Like at the federal and the state level. And you’re absolutely right. I do think it’s, um, it’s important to be involved, like the, the phone calls are great, but to extent that, you know, like one, you know, does go visit the local offices, you know, to meet with the representative to, you know, voice their concern.

They, they will write it down. There’s that many different organizations that go to Washington, DC and you can meet with them there as well. As one kind of interesting story, when I did live in New Hampshire, I went to Washington, DC. And the chief of staff did not live in New Hampshire and never visited.

And I reminded him very sternly that I was from there. I was a voter there. And after the meeting, I would be going back to the state. The person needs to represent like the people of the state. So it is a reminder at a minimum that those that are there, you know, need to represent the people and, and support all the voters of the states.

You’re right that the political environment is just a very interesting time. But it’s a great time to communicate with your state and, and federal representatives on these issues on a continuous basis. So, and there’s a number of ways to communicate, whether it’s, whether it’s email, whether it’s phone call. I find it’s always interesting to meet with them in person and in either the state capital or the regional office.

Or while in the Washington DC because you can see their perspective as well. As you discussed, there’s many different topics that, you know, get brought to the legislative table, but ABLE is, is one that is, is strongly supported on both sides of aisle. It is a critical topic and especially for the users of Able.

It is supported by pretty much, you know, both sides of the aisle across the whole nation. So it, it’s an important topic. Never feel that your voice is unimportant. Always feel open and free to actually, you know, make the step, make the call cause it’s an important step of the whole process to be heard.

Brynne: I feel bad because I feel like that’s like such a perfect place to end it. But I do wanna ask one more question kind of out of left field. You had mentioned able accounts and spousal beneficiaries. It’s a really interesting idea. One thing that we haven’t talked about on the show is marriage inequality for disabled people.

And my understanding of that is that SSI requirements essentially make it financially impossible for a lot of people to get married and continue to receive the services and benefits they need to live a healthy life. If they are on SSI, sometimes that can happen if one partner is disabled. Sometimes it, you know, I think, the issue compounds if both partners are disabled.

It seems like this concept of creating new rules for married individuals or creating new rollover allowances may help address that issue a little bit? That was just something that was really interesting whenever you were talking about it.

Paul: I think the question of part of the, the broader context of, you know, able launched is growing and it’s successful to date, but there’s a number of instances where it’s important to improve the product, whether it be legislation or product or marketing or just like the, the distribution of ABLE accounts overall.

And some of the very simple steps to make able better and to help more families and to make it more user friendly, one would think would be a, like a very simple tweak or, or change. But then of course, sometimes when you get, you know, 20 lawyers and, and 20 accountants in a room and they’re, they’re just thinking through a lot of different scenarios.

It just makes things more complicated. I do think that there’s, you know, great opportunity to, to improve flexibility of ABLE accounts. Whether it be a married couple, to change the account owners, because you’re absolutely right. Where some very simple changes in accounting or legal type of paperwork, you know, does make it very hard for families to do very basic things like being married.

And of course the structure of the accounting and laws and, you know, that that type of, you know, piece, you know, does in certain disappointing instances does have a paperwork divorce, which is always saddening. Just to have that, have to go through that process to stay on federal benefits there.

There are definitely different scenarios where you can keep families together by adding more flexibility to the ABLE accounts, and helping the structure overall. So it’s, it is an area where we are where we are. By and large, the able industry is improving. And I, and I do think it’s a great example of, you know, just, just really championing your perspective.

You know, for example, calling an ABLE administrator can collect information and, and raise it up the hill. Alternatively, you know, speaking with the state and federal legislators, you know, in terms of, of these, these examples are a great way to just, you know, improve the product overall.

Two very interesting kind of points. When I, when I did go to Washington, you know, DC talk to senators and  house, there’s two things that they’re really looking for, you know, in terms of just like helping to raise awareness and understanding. One is market data and, you know, different data and that’s where I come in, where they’re looking for an independent third party to share data.

And the second piece critical piece is stories. You know, just having a story to explain to them why that flexibility from the account owner to the spouse or the scenario where basically one had to, you know, divorce just to get the benefits. Those stories up in DC are critical and, and are able to really, you know, you know, change the storyboards and, and inform the storyboards and show the importance of why legislation can be improved and should be improved, you know, for not just them, but all the people across the state and across the U.S.

So it’s a great question. I’m not sure if I answered it correctly in a straightforward way, but that’s how I would approach the topic.

Brynne: No, definitely, definitely. And there’s no way, I don’t think we could address that entire thing, like we could do a whole episode on that alone. But that is really, really interesting.

Thank you. Now let’s say somebody, did have one of those stories and they’re like, I want to participate. I wanna help change things for the better. I’m calling my senators, I’m calling my Congress people, my house representatives, but I have this story that I wanna share. I guess what is the infrastructure that people could engage in?

To kind of help you guys as you go to the hill to make those positive changes? Would it be reaching out to program directors at the state level? I know they all work very closely with the National Association of State Treasurers, which does a lot of advocacy work in this space. But I guess if somebody does have that story and wants to get a little bit more involved beyond phone calls, how would they find you, Paul, or how would, how would they find someone at the state level so that they could enact those changes at the state legislative level?

Paul: I think a good starting point is to write a one page letter. You know, just, just really summarizing the situation storyboard and, and make it, you know, fairly easy to read, easy to communicate. A lot of it is just sharing the, the story, whether it be online, on podcasts at the ABLE administrators, like in your state.

You know, program managers, by and large, almost every state has an ABLE program. So, so that’s one starting point for sharing the story. I think the next level is the, at the state level that the, like the state congressional members and then also, you know, depending on the scenario, your own school system.

And then the federal legislators as well. In many cases, there’s a type of, you know, subject that really isn’t being covered across different departments, depending on the states. Some states have good education departments that really has an infrastructure that that can help, you know, different scenarios or, or different state structures that that can help.

But many times, in many ways, the, the topic either gets bubbled up to that state legislation. Or, or the, or the federal level as well. But I do think that on a very simple full story board would be to write down the, the one page, just so you kinda have some story that can be shared. And then from there, you know, just getting, uh, scheduling a call or meeting with, with your legislators, you know, for the senator at the federal senate level, there’s, it’s pretty easy to, to find, you know, who they are and then they’ll have Washington DC offices on their website.

And they have a phone number right there, you know, setting up a in-person meeting or a call to sort of explain that story is one place to put it. The other one is just submitting online. And, and that’s another place. And by and large it’s also the, the local newspapers, once you have it written, you know, could be another spot to just raise awareness of the topic of the storyboard.

And I do think there’s a lot of, you know, self championing. Within the able base, especially for, for the demographic. So I do think for, for finding more information, uh, broadly speaking of the question was where, where can someone get more information? I do think that there’s, the IRS publication like 907 is a great place, you know, for, for federal legislation, for at the state level.

There’s the able plan disclosures. I think for more information. There’s also the, your different representatives. At the federal and state level. And from there it’s, um, you know, there’s a number of places to get more information, whether it be estate planners or lawyers or accountants, and also within your community as well.

Brynne: Thank you so much to Paul! Both for joining us today and for being so supportive of our efforts here on the podcast. He’s been one of our biggest allies, and is a great person to follow for ways to improve the financial futures of disability families. If you are not already subscribed to his newsletter, please make sure you do so – especially today. You’ll find it linked in the show notes.

Now, Joyce and I have a fairly big announcement. Just like all of you, our lives have been turned upside down the past few years. On top of dealing with systems that are somehow even less friendly to our families than prior to the pandemic – which is a huge reason we started the podcast in the first place – we do also each run our own businesses which existed before 2020. It’s actually how we met each other – we’re coworkers.

As we try to juggle it all, we’ve had to be real with ourselves in recent months. This Season was originally meant to go live in Fall 2022, but obviously we didn’t actually get it up and live until this Spring. We don’t want to keep putting you through those delays. Because we can’t deliver as frequently as we’d like to, we’re going to be putting the podcast on a hiatus for now.

That’s not to say we won’t do anything with it again in the future, but for now, Mom Autism Money is on indefinite break.

In our absence we’d like to first refer you to all of our guests. While you can obviously find them in our archives, they also produce great resources out in the community. Follow them. Engage with their work. Stay informed and keep getting educated. Thank you to each and every one of them for making this show as great as it was.

Like I said, Joyce and I do each run our own businesses which will absolutely be active in the coming months and years. Joyce runs an absolutely amazing site called My Stay at Home Adventures. You can check it out at Mystayathomeadventures.com and follow on ALL the social media. She’s got budget-friendly recipes, free resources like budgeting templates, and overall frugal living and parenting posts thrown in the mix. Again that’s Mystayathomeadventures.com.

On my end, many of you have read The Feminist Financial Handbook. If you haven’t yet, I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes. Joyce is actually one of the women featured in this book, so you’ll still get both of us at once! If you read or have read this book in the past and genuinely liked it, leaving a 5-star review on Amazon or Goodreads is one of the best ways you can support any author.

The bulk of my work the past several years has been freelance writing, which you can find floating all over the internet, but my main site is FemmeFrugality.com.

Whether you’re visiting MyStayatHomeAdventures or FemmeFrugality, we do hope you all will stay in touch! We’re still here, even if we have to put this platform on pause for the time being.

Thank you so much for tuning in every week and making this experience the wonderful ride that it was. And don’t forget to subscribe to Paul’s newsletter to stay informed on ABLE accounts and other specific legislative issues that affect your family’s finances.

We love you all! Thank you!

Joyce: Bye!

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