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Savings plan offers path to financial independence for disabled individuals

A Michigan program lets people save without worrying about losing disability benefits.

MiABLE
Michigan dad Michael Zybura became a national ambassador for disability savings accounts.

Michael Zybura is an advocate.

An advocate for his 12-year-old son, Colin, who has autism.

An advocate for Colin’s special education classmates at Wyandot Middle School in Clinton Township.

And now an advocate for millions of individuals with disabilities and their families nationwide who are searching for a better quality of life and a more secure financial future.

“I’m an advocate because I love my son, and I want other people to be able to protect their loved ones, too,” Zybura said.

Zybura was recently selected as an ambassador for the ABLE National Resource Center, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that helps disabled Americans understand the important savings options available since Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014.

Compared with their peers, people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty, they are less likely to be employed, and they are more likely to be underemployed. In addition, those receiving government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income are limited to just $2,000 total in savings.

The ABLE Act changed that.

Better quality of life with MiABLE

“Our Michigan ABLE program — called MiABLE — gives roughly 300,000 people with disabilities in Michigan something they’ve never had before: the right to save for the future,” said R. Scott de Varona, MiABLE program director.

The Zyburas weren’t sure how they’d handle Colin’s mounting medical bills, or save for expenses down the road - until they found MiABLE.

If you have a qualifying disability that began before the age of 26, you can save up to $27,140 each year in a MiABLE account without affecting your government benefits. Up to $15,000 can come from any source, including your family or loved ones. If you have a job, you can save up to another $12,140 annually.

Similar to 529 college savings plans, ABLE accounts are administered by states and offer a tax-advantaged way to save for expenses. MiABLE dollars can be used for living expenses, education, housing, transportation, assistive technology, health and wellness, and many other approved expenses.

Yet, largely due to a lack of awareness, just 3,700 disabled Michiganders — less than 2% of those who qualify — are currently enrolled. That’s why MiABLE launched its I Will Never Lose education campaign last year.

Zybura was among the first people in Michigan to open a MiABLE account after the program was signed into law in 2015. He and his wife, Rita, created the account as part of their plan to provide financial independence for Colin.

As an ABLE National Resource Center ambassador, Zybura will act as a national spokesperson, sharing his knowledge and success using an ABLE account with millions of other eligible individuals and their families.

“We’re so grateful to Michael for his willingness to share his family’s story in hopes that others will also take advantage of the benefits of our program,” de Varona said.

Saving for the future

Zybura is a saver.

“I was the guy who started saving for my kids’ college before they were even conceived,” said Zybura, who works in Sterling Heights as an accountant.

The Zyburas are willing to share their family’s story in hopes that others will also take advantage of MiABLE.

But when Colin was diagnosed with autism at age 3, the Zyburas weren’t sure how they’d handle his mounting medical bills, much less save for expenses down the road.

Then he found MiABLE.

“It’s given us an opportunity to put money aside on a systematic basis in a tax-advantaged account,” he said. “It’s a great way to take care of a loved one’s future when you’re not around any longer to help them.”

Zybura said he looks forward to mentoring other parents about the benefits of the disability savings program here in Michigan — and nationwide.

“When my wife and I are gone, we want Colin to live a comfortable life,” he said. “This is our chance to make that happen.”

To learn more about MiABLE, visit miable.org.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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