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.

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.

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.

Spring Ahead with IL ABLE gift Contributions

Spring is the time to start investing in a bright financial future by using the easy Ugift contribution option. 

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

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

Next, your or your Authorized Individual share that code with friends, family or others who want to contribute to your account.

Next, the gift giver visits UgiftABLE.com and inputs the code to make a direct contribution to your IL ABLE account.

All gift contributions made via Ugift® are deposited directly into your account. If you receive SSI benefits, your friend or loved one’s contribution to your IL ABLE account will help you preserve those benefits. Funds in your IL ABLE account can be used to pay for a long list of qualified disability expenses that can improve yourquality of life and increase your 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.

Find quick answers to your ABLE questions with IL ABLE FAQs

Are you eligible to own an IL ABLE account?  Take the Eligibility Quiz.