What Will You Do with Your Tax Refund?

Consider opening or contributing to an IL ABLE account

Tax refunds are always welcome, and they can give you a chance to think about the disability expenses you want to save for.  Do you want to save the refund for an unexpected medical expense?  Are you going to need new tires for the car that gets you to and from your job? Is there travel in your future?  Whatever your financial dreams and goals contributing your tax refund to an IL ABLE account can help you reach them.

If you don’t currently own an IL ABLE account, consider seeding a new account with your tax refund for yourself or someone you support. An IL ABLE account can be opened by eligible individuals or an Authorized Individual online or by mail. Read more about who is eligible to open an IL ABLE account

Contributing your tax refund to an IL ABLE account is easy. Account Owners or Authorized Individuals can add to an account electronically by logging into an account online or by mailing in a check with a completed deposit slip.  

Others can contribute as well. If you want to transform your tax refund into savings for a friend or loved one with a disability, you can contribute directly to their IL ABLE account with UGift®. UGift® is simple to use. Just ask the IL ABLE Account Owner or the Authorized Individual to log into the account to find their unique code to share with you.  Then visit UgiftABLE.com to contribute directly and securely into an IL ABLE account using that code. Learn more at www.UgiftABLE.com/ .

No matter if you are saving for something in the near or distant future, by turning your tax refund into savings, you are moving yourself closer to your goal. 

Visit illinoisable.com for more information on opening and contributing to an IL ABLE account.

April is National Financial Literacy Month

Elevate your financial know-how

Carleda Johnson

Managing money can be intimidating especially if it is a new responsibility or you feel you don’t have the right skills or language to talk about it. Financial literacy is all about empowering individuals with the skills and understanding needed to confidently manage their personal finances. As part of National Financial Literacy Month, we interviewed Carleda Johnson, Independent Living Skills Coordinator and Financial Literacy Coach at Access Living. Carleda shares her knowledge and expertise below to help you build your financial literacy.

IL ABLE: What is Financial Literacy?

CJ: Financial literacy is all about understanding what it means to manage and take care of your money. This can include saving, investing, budgeting, and borrowing money. Every day, we make financial decisions, whether as small as if we want to order a cup of coffee or it can be something as significant as purchasing a home. Managing your money is a skill that benefits you and your family throughout your life. Being financially literate makes this task less daunting.

IL ABLE: Why is it important for people with disabilities and those who help them to build their financial literacy?

CJ: It is just as important for people with disabilities and their supporters to build the same financial knowledge, tools, and skills as those without disabilities. This way, they can effectively take care of their money, create and follow a budget, and use credit wisely. People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed and financially insecure. Financial insecurity and a lack of financial literacy can make people with disabilities more likely to be targets of what’s called “predatory lending”. Predatory lending is when someone who has money to lend takes advantage of someone who needs to borrow money by imposing unfair or abusive lending terms. Additionally, individuals who receive public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI)* need to understand the impact of earning income or building financial assets will have on their benefits.

*Editor’s Note: Eligible people with disabilities can consider opening an IL ABLE account to build financial assets and protect benefits like SSI.

IL ABLE: How do people with disabilities get started learning about financial literacy?

CJ: First, start by examining your current financial behaviors. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What areas of taking care of my money do I need to improve on? Is it saving more, spending less, not having enough income, or learning to follow a spending plan? We all have areas of that we struggle with when it comes to managing our money. Recognizing the challenges are half the battle.
  2. Am I working toward a financial goal? Examples of financial goals could be building emergency savings, saving to have more money left over at the end of the month, or working* to earn more income and build assets.
  3. Do I have a network of individuals to assist me in reaching my goals? Having a trusted individual or network of people can help you stay focused keep you

*Editor’s Note: Eligible people with disabilities who work may save more with ABLE to Work.

IL ABLE: What are some financial resources that people with disabilities can use to help build their financial security?

CJ: One resource with helpful tools and resources for people with disabilities is the National Disability Institute (NDI). NDI provides tools for people with disabilities that are geared toward benefits planning, financial assessments, and a host of articles and webinars to help guide you on your journey to financial empowerment.

Another tool to explore is the Illinois Achieving a Better Life Experience or IL ABLE account. For eligible people an IL ABLE account can make it possible to save and invest money without risking benefits. With an IL ABLE account, you can save money as well as maintain eligibility for the benefits.

As a Financial Literacy Coach, I find that many people with disabilities are so afraid of losing their benefits that they stray away from working. To get a better understanding of how your benefits might change if you work, use the Illinois Disability Benefits Estimator to learn more about retaining or supplementing your benefits after an increase in income.

Additional resources include:
Disability Works gives good insight into developing a financial plan as a person with a disability;
• The Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, offers programs that can assist with the cost of home modifications, which can be extremely expensive to pay for out of pocket;
• And, check your local credit union or bank for any workshops or classes they may offer.

As people with disabilities, we are sometimes taught that our questions don’t matter causing us to believe that we don’t have a voice. We do, and it’s important not to not be afraid or ashamed to ask questions, and not just ask the question but keep asking until you have a clear understanding. You wouldn’t just let a doctor operate and not know what he or she is operating on, the same is true for your finances. Sometimes, your best resource is yourself and the questions you ask!

Carleda Johnson is an Independent Living Skills Coordinator and Financial Literacy Coach at Access Living, a Center for Independent Living serving the City of Chicago.

Learn how an IL ABLE account can be part of your financial plan at illinoisable.com.

It’s Tax Time!

What you need to know about IL ABLE and taxes

Important facts to keep in mind when filing your tax return for 2021. 

  • If you owned an IL ABLE account in 2021, you should have received tax form 5498 (shows contributions) and tax form 1099QA (shows distributions). If you did not receive these forms and you made contributions or took distributions from your account in 2021, call Customer Service at 888-609-8683.
  • If you are an IL ABLE account owner, withdrawals from and earnings in your IL ABLE account are exempt from state and federal taxes as long as the withdrawals are used to pay for qualified disability expenses
  • If you are an Illinois taxpayer and you contributed to any IL ABLE account in 2021, you may be able to take a deduction from your Illinois state income taxes. 
  • The Illinois state income tax deduction is up to $10,000 if filing as an individual or $20,000 if filing jointly. Check with your tax advisor about your personal tax situation. 
  • As always, consult with a tax advisor with any personal tax questions.  

Keeping You Savings and Investment Goals on Track

New year sees market swings

2021 was a banner year for investors as the S&P 500, and other major indices that track financial markets reached all-time highs. 

This year is off to a bumpier start with inflation, pandemic-related supply chain disturbances, and the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine contributing to the market’s volatility and investor uncertainty. 

It is challenging to predict market movements month to month or even quarter to quarter. That is why as an investor, it is suggested by experts to periodically review your investments to ensure they are aligned with your short-term and long-term investment objectives that match your tolerance for risk and savings goals. 

Download the IL ABLE “What Type of Investor Are You” guide to learn about investment goals and risk tolerance. 

IL ABLE offers a variety of investment options to meet the individual needs and risk tolerance of Account Owners. Learn more about IL ABLE investment options at illinoisable.com and in the IL ABLE Plan Disclosure Documents.

Focusing on your big picture goals, comfort, and your risk tolerance will help you stay on course during periods of market volatility.

Illinois State Treasurer Declares the Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games Open!

Treasurer Frerichs paraded with athletes and spoke at the Opening Ceremonies. 

The Treasurer was on-hand to kick-off the Special Olympics Illinois Winter Games 2022! The games, which featured skiing and snowshoeing competitions, were held in beautiful and wintery Galena.

After a parade down historic Main Street, the Treasurer declared the games open and shared the many benefits of IL ABLE savings and investment accounts for SOILL athletes and all ABLE-eligible individuals. Some of those benefits are:

  • You can contribute up to $16,000 per year to this tax-free savings account – more if you work.
  • Contributions may be tax deductible.
  • You can save for everyday and/or long-term expenses.

“I wish all the Special Olympics athletes the best of the luck in the Winter Games and encourage families to find out more about how to save for your child’s future at illinoisABLE.com,” said Treasurer Frerichs.

Learn more about the IL ABLE Special Olympics Illinois partnership and IL ABLE.   

Find quick answers to your IL ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs.

The IRS Raises Annual Contribution Limit for ABLE Accounts

Total annual contributions allowed to your IL ABLE Account are now $16,000

Starting January 1, 2022, the annual contribution limit to an ABLE account has increased to $16,000 from the previous limit of $15,000. This amount includes all contributions from Account Owners, family members, friends and other third parties. Anyone can contribute to an IL ABLE account, as long as total contributions do not exceed the $16,000 per year. Read about this change in disability scoop article or visit the IL ABLE website.

Also, remember that by taking advantage of ABLE to Work you can save more than the $16,000 annual contribution limit.   Working Account Owners who do not already participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan can contribute an additional amount equal to gross wages for the year or the poverty guidelines amount, whichever is lower. Find quick answers to your IL ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs

As 2021 comes to a close, take advantage of the benefits of opening an IL ABLE account.

Tax benefits and maximum contributions in IL ABLE will start your New Year right!

2021 has been another challenging year, but you can end it on a high note by opening or contributing to your IL ABLE account now and take advantage of these benefits before the year is over: 

  1. Optimize your annual IL ABLE contribution.  Take advantage of the maximum 2021 annual contribution amount of $15,000 before year’s end.  This total includes all contributions from all sources.  Anyone can contribute to an IL ABLE account – Account Owners, family members, friends and other third parties. A contribution to a loved one’s IL ABLE account makes a meaningful holiday gift. Contributions can be made by check, Ugift, electronic funds transfer or payroll deposit.  You can even schedule recurring, automatic deposits into an IL ABLE account. And, good news:  The annual contribution limit increases to $16,000 in 2022!
  2. Take an Illinois State income tax deduction. Illinois taxpayers can contribute to any IL ABLE account and take a state tax income tax deduction on their 2021 state tax return – up to $10,000 if filing as an individual or $20,000 if filing jointly. But you must make your contribution by December 31st! Consult with a tax advisor to discuss your specific situation.
  3. Roll funds over from a 529 college savings account into an IL ABLE account.  Do you have funds in a 529 college savings account that might be better used in an IL ABLE account?  Funds in the 529 account can be rolled into an IL ABLE for the same beneficiary or for a member of the family of the 529 account beneficiary as long as the beneficiary is eligible to own an ABLE account.  See here for eligibility information.  IL ABLE doesn’t charge fees for the rollover.  The total annual aggregate contribution into an ABLE account is $15,000 in 2021, so keep that in mind as you plan your 529-to-IL ABLE rollover.  Have questions about how to do it?  Call Customer Service.
  4. Take advantage of ABLE to Work for greater savings. Working Account Owners who do not already participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan can contribute an additional amount above the $15,000 annual contribution limit, equal to gross wages for the year or the poverty guidelines amount, whichever is lower. 

Visit illinoisable.com to get started.

You can play Santa’s helper with a Ugift® contribution.

Give a gift to a person with a disability through a contribution to their IL ABLE account.

Ugift® is the easiest way to give a gift that will last longer than opening a present. Follow these two, easy steps:

  1. Ask the IL ABLE Account Owner or the Authorized Individual (an adult who is authorized to transact on the account) for their unique Ugift® code. (they can get the code by logging into the account).
  2. Visit  UgiftABLE.com and input the code to make a direct contribution to the IL ABLE Account Owner’s account.

It’s easy! Making a gift to a loved one’s account who receives SSI benefits will protect those benefits and funds can be used to pay for long list of qualified disability expenses that improve quality of life and increase independence. 

Visit the UgiftABLE.com website for complete information.

Download and print a Ugift® Gift Certificate to mark the holiday gift. Learn more at UgiftABLE.com.

If the contributor to an IL ABLE account is an Illinois taxpayer, contributions may be deductible from state income tax. Visit illinoisable.com  for more information.

IL ABLE Account Owner is bound for the Special Olympics USA Games in Florida

Special Olympics Illinois athlete Brandy shares how her IL ABLE account helps her with her Special Olympics goals. 

Brandy is an IL ABLE account owner AND a Special Olympics Illinois athlete and she is bound for the USA Games in Florida in June 2022. In our recent interview with Brandy, she shared how her IL ABLE account helps her with her Special Olympics goals.

accessABLE:  IL ABLE is helping to make it possible for athletes like you to attend the USA Games next year. You are an IL ABLE Account Owner. How did you find out about IL ABLE?  

Brandy:  I found out about IL ABLE through my case manager (a person who supports Brandy).

accessABLE:  When did you open your IL ABLE account? 

Brandy:  I have had an IL ABLE account since 2019.

accessABLE: Did you open the account yourself or did someone help you open the account? 

Brandy:  I was assisted by the case manager of my group home to open my IL ABLE account. (For our readers: many people with disabilities deposited their stimulus payments into their IL ABLE accounts to protect their benefits).

accessABLE: Tell us about your job and what you do.

Brandy:  I work at Accolade Nursing Home. I am a dietary aid. I serve the residents, wash the dishes, and interact with the residents. 

accessABLE:  Do you deposit your paycheck into your IL ABLE account?

Brandy:  No (For our readers:  Did you know that you can deposit all or part of your paycheck into your IL ABLE account?  And, IL ABLE Account Owners who work can contribute more each year to their IL ABLE accounts.   Learn more!

accessABLE: How might you use the money you have saved in your IL ABLE account during the USA Games in Florida?  

Brandy:  I plan on buying souvenirs. I also want to experience as much as I can from the USA Games.

accessABLE: Tell us what it was like for you when State Treasurer Frerichs visited you at the Rec Center in Pontiac, IL?  What were you thinking when you first saw him?  

Brandy:  I was so excited and I was thinking ‘What are all these cameras and people here for?’

accessABLE: How did it feel to hear the news from the Treasurer that you are going to represent Illinois in next June’s Special Olympics USA Games in Florida?

Brandy:  It was exciting! I felt good inside to know I was going to the USA Games in Florida.

accessABLE: Being a Special Olympics Illinois athlete must keep you busy.  What sports do you play?

Brandy:  My sports are bowling and basketball. But I like all kinds of athletics. 

accessABLE:  What will you do to get ready for the USA Games in Florida next June?

Brandy:  I will continue to train and strengthen with my coach for the USA games, I will continue to eat and drink as healthy as I can. 

accessABLE:  Have you ever been to Florida?  What do you think it will be like to go to the USA Games? 

Brandy:  I have not been to Florida. I think it will be amazing and fun. I will meet a bunch of new people. Special Olympics has made me very proud of myself and my accomplishments. 

accessABLE: Thank you, Brandy, for being an IL ABLE Account Owner and good luck at the USA Games!

In September, Treasurer Frerichs had the great pleasure of surprising Brandy with the news that she had been selected to represent Team Illinois at the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida. You can watch the surprise [reveal here].

For our readers and Special Olympics families:  Did you know that many of the costs of equipment, training and transportation can be covered by funds you save in your IL ABLE account? Just like Brandy, you or your athlete can open an IL ABLE account.  Learn more about IL ABLE here. Find quick answers to your IL ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs

Office of the Illinois State Treasurer Wins Award for Outstanding State Agency of the Year

Read Treasurer Frerichs’ remarks upon accepting the ICED Award on behalf of the Office and IL ABLE.

 “It is an honor for the Treasurer’s Office to be awarded Outstanding State Agency of the Year by the Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities – or I. C. E. D. 

A goal of the ICED is to promote and expand access to opportunity for State of Illinois employees who have disabilities. Through the Achieving a Better Life Experience, ABLE Program, we have also prioritized expanding access through our work with state employees, retirees, and the greater state disability community.  Illinois ABLE is one of the programs in my office of which I am especially proud because we built it for people who have disabilities and their families to improve quality of life and build independence. Illinois ABLE accounts are savings and investment accounts that people with disabilities can open to save their own money and preserve federal benefits such as SSI and Medicaid. Funds in an Illinois ABLE account grow tax-free and can be used to pay for the expenses that come with living with a disability – things such as therapy, buying an accessible car, training, education, and even daily living expenses. 

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities and their families have been opening and contributing to their Illinois ABLE accounts.  As of the end of last month 2,700 accounts are open by people with disabilities across Illinois with $25 million in savings.  My staff and I have worked hard to make IL ABLE stronger each year since we launched the program in 2017. First, I championed successful legislation to provide state income tax deductions for Illinois taxpayers who make contributions to any Illinois ABLE account. We then helped incentivize employment by increasing the annual dollar amount that working people with disabilities can contribute to their IL ABLE accounts.  And this year the Illinois ABLE Asset Protection Act became law. The law allows assets in an IL ABLE account to be transferred to another ABLE-eligible individual upon the death of an Account Owner thereby avoiding probate costs, probate creditors and Medicaid recovery, sometimes referred to as “claw back”. Finally, my office leads the way by providing a high-quality, low-cost ABLE program to people with disabilities.

Illinois is the leader of the 18-member National ABLE Alliance that represents one-quarter of the nation’s ABLE-eligible disability population. The bipartisan coalition collaborates to provide a flexible, best-in-class ABLE program to people with disabilities across the nation. That means increased financial security and improved quality of life. In closing, I would again like to thank ICED for recognizing the Office of the Illinois State Treasurer for being the Outstanding State Agency of the Year. We will continue to strive for excellence and remain deeply committed to the State of Illinois, our IL ABLE program, and people with disabilities.”

Illinois Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs

It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month!  

Open an IL ABLE account to save and invest your paycheck.

This month,  IL ABLE celebrates people with disabilities whose paid work helps keep the nation’s economy strong. This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” IL ABLE makes it possible for those with disabilities who work to save and invest the money they earn. 

If you are working, you can start by  saving and investing your paycheck. Open an IL ABLE account any day or time.  Just visit the IL ABLE website www.llinoisable.com.  The website explains who is eligible, helps you figure out what type of investor you are, provides details about the checking account and investment options,  and has a button to begin your enrollment.   , Enroll here.  You can also find an enrollment application that you can download, print, and submit by mail if you prefer. Don’t wait! Start saving your paycheck now. 

You can set up a direct deposit of your paycheck into your IL ABLE account.  If you receive SSI, an automatic direct deposit of your paycheck will build your ABLE savings and help protect against going over the $2,000 asset cap in your other accounts.  

Learn how ABLE to Work can help you increase your IL ABLE account and how a payroll direct deposit makes it easy. 

ABLE to Work allows those who work to save and invest more in their IL ABLE.  

ABLE to Work allows you to contribute even more to your IL ABLE account each year if you are working.

ABLE Account Owners who earn income may contribute additional funds beyond the annual $15,000 contribution limit. The additional annual contribution amount is equal to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Poverty Guidelines amount for a one-person household (in your state of residence) or the Account Owner’s gross wages, whichever is less. 

Working Account Owners are not eligible to contribute additional funds if they are already contributing to their retirement through:

  1. A defined contribution plan
  2. An annuity contract
  3. An eligible deferred compensation plan

Working Account Owners may take advantage of ABLE to Work whether they are working part-time or full-time.  Account Owners should keep adequate records to ensure the limit is not exceeded. Any increase in contributions could impact tax obligation. Consult a tax advisor before making any such increase.

Remember, you can setup a payroll direct deposit which makes saving and investing your paycheck quick and easy.  Download the payroll direct deposit form now, click here Payroll Direct Deposit Form

Find quick answers to your ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs

Enroll in IL ABLE at illinoisable.com

Fall and a New School Year Are Here!

That means it’s a good time to get a head start on saving for your child’s further by contributing to her IL ABLE account. It’s easy to make contributions using the Ugift contribution option. Start gifting now to take advantage of the the Illinois state income tax deduction for 2021, available to Illinois taxpayers.

Ugift® is an easy-to-use, no-cost way for family and friends to make a contribution directly to an IL ABLE account . How does it work?

First, the IL ABLE Account Owner (eligible person with the disability) or an Authorized Individual (an adult who is authorized to transact on the account) logs into the IL ABLE account and accesses unique Ugift® code. Click here to log into the account.

Next, they share that code with friends, family or others who want to contribute to the account. Next, the gift giver can visit UgiftABLE.com to make a contribution.

All gift contributions made via Ugift® are deposited directly into the account. Funds in the IL ABLE account can be used to pay for a long list of qualified disability expenses that can improve quality of life and increase independence for a person with a disability. Visit the UgiftABLE.com website for complete information.

Find quick answers to your ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs.

Visit IL ABLE at illinoisable.com.