Building Your Assets and Wealth

ABLE Accounts

If you have a disability that began before you turned 26 and meets the Social Security Administration's disability standards, you can open an ABLE account. An ABLE account is a financial account that can help you:

The bottom line: An ABLE account means that you can save up money without losing your benefits. It also lets family and friends give you money without affecting your benefits.

Note: After you die, in some cases the money in your ABLE account might be used to pay back the Medicaid program for certain types of services. Check with a benefits expert about your specific circumstances, and look into third-party Special Needs Trusts if this is an issue for your family.

Opening an ABLE Account

There are a few main rules for opening an ABLE account:

  • You can only open an account through a state-designated program or institution.
  • You can only open one ABLE account. (You cannot open accounts in more than one state.)
  • You must have a disability that qualifies for an ABLE account and that began before you turned 26.
    • You can be more than 26 years old when you open your account – all that matters is when your disability began.

You can only have an account if you have a disability. However, another person, such as a parent or guardian, can help manage the account.

Does your disability qualify?

To open an ABLE account, you must have a disability that began before you turned 26 and meets Social Security Administration (SSA) standards. (SSA has different standards for children, for adults, and for blindness).

You definitely qualify for an ABLE account if you get benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB), Medicaid (based on your disability), or Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities (HBWD), because they all use SSA's disability standards.

If you don’t get disability-based benefits, you can “self-certify” that your disability meets SSA’s standards. For self-certification, you must have documentation verified by a doctor that shows your disability meets SSA standards, with one difference: instead of limiting your earnings, you must show that your disability causes "marked and severe functional limitations." Roughly speaking, that means your disability must be on Social Security’s List of Impairments or be at least as severe as an impairment on that list. Conditions on Social Security's list of Compassionate Allowances Conditions also usually qualify.

Keep your disability documentation in a safe place, because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might ask to see it.

Comparing State ABLE Programs

Different states offer different ABLE account programs. IL ABLE is the Illinois ABLE account program. You are allowed to open your account in another state's program, so you should compare different state ABLE account programs to see which state’s program is best for you.

When you compare ABLE programs, think about these questions:

  • Does the program offer any extra benefits for people living in your state? If you are an Illinois taxpayer and you put money in an IL ABLE account, you may be able to deduct that amount from your state income taxes. If you put money in an ABLE account set up in another state, you cannot deduct that amount from Illinois income taxes.
  • How easy is it to put money in the account and take money out for qualifying expenses? For example, does it come with a debit card?
  • How good is customer support? Try calling the program to see whether it seems helpful.
  • What investments does it offer? Each state program offers different investment options. Choose a program that offers investments matching your needs.
  • What fees does the program charge? There may be fees for opening the account and for keeping money in it.

Note: You can switch your ABLE account from one state program to another. You do not have to stick with the state program you choose.

Compare the ABLE account options in different states.

Rules on Depositing Money in an ABLE Account

There are two limits on how much can be put in an ABLE account in a calendar year:

  • Up to $18,000 from any source (including your family and friends, your benefits, and other unearned income)
  • Another $14,580 from your own earned income (if you have a job), as long as you are not already putting money into a retirement account through your employer. The $14,580 must be from your own earnings – it cannot be contributions from others or money you get from benefits or other unearned income.

Note: This means that if you earn $14,580 or more, you could have a total of up to $32,580 go into your ABLE account in a year. If you earn less than $14,580, the amount you could contribute would be lower.

Important: IL ABLE will automatically stop accepting deposits for the rest of the year once $18,000 has been deposited in the account (unless you have earned income and submit paperwork to deposit more than that amount). Not every state does this automatically, so if you have your ABLE account in a different state, you may need to keep good records, to make sure that too much money isn’t put into your account, even if it is other people making the deposits.


Sam gets SSI and Medicaid benefits. He doesn’t work, so he has no earned income. Sam’s mother helps him by putting $500 a month into Sam’s ABLE account. Sam’s done the math and knows that by the end of the year, his mother will have deposited a total of $6,000. Sam’s brother also helps out, by making a big $5,000 deposit into Sam’s ABLE account in February. Combined, his mother and brother will put $11,000 into Sam’s ABLE account over the course of the year. For the rest of the year, the most Sam's, or anyone else's, deposits can add up to is $7,000. Even if Sam spends $10,000 on qualified expenses by November and the balance in his ABLE account drops, only $7,000 can be added to the account until the end of the year.

State ABLE programs also have limits on the total amount in your account — typically $200,000 to $500,000, depending on the state. For example, a state program might say that if you have $400,000 in your ABLE account, you cannot deposit any more money. For IL ABLE, the contribution limit is $500,000.

Rules on Spending Money in an ABLE Account

The money in an ABLE account has to be used for certain qualifying expenses, like:

  • Daily living expenses
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Help getting and keeping work
  • Health care
  • Assistive technology
  • Legal fees
  • Financial management fees, and
  • Other approved expenses.

Many expenses qualify. For example, your rent, electric bill, and furniture are housing expenses. Gasoline and car repairs are transportation expenses. Health insurance premiums and copayments count as health care. Lunch at a restaurant, toothpaste, and toilet paper are daily living expenses.

Keep receipts whenever you use your ABLE account to pay for a qualifying expense. If you are audited by the IRS, you’ll need to show them how you’ve used your money. You can put all of the receipts into a binder or scan them and save them on your computer.

How Spending Works

An ABLE program may offer a debit card that is linked to the account. If so, you can use the debit card whenever you pay for a qualifying expense. For things like rent, you may need to write checks or withdraw cash from the account instead. You don't need authorization to spend your money: it's your job to make sure your expense qualifies and to keep records of how you use your ABLE account.

If you withdraw cash from an ABLE account, spend it on your qualifying expense. Don’t just hold onto the money or put it in a normal bank account – if you don’t spend the money, it could be counted as a resource for benefits programs. For example, if you take $3,500 out of an ABLE account and put it into a regular checking account instead of spending it, you will go over the resource limit for SSI.

As long as the money stays in the ABLE account, it won’t affect your benefits, so leave your money there until you need to spend it.

Learn more about ABLE accounts.

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