How to Craft an Effective Budget Plan With Disability Benefits in Mind

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The CDC estimates that 61 million people across the country have some form of disability, so it’s a common thread impacting the lives of people in many different ways.

While the focus might normally be on issues such as accessibility and discrimination against those living with disabilities, this comes at the expense of considering the financial implications involved.

To rectify this, here is a dissection of the talking points and steps involved in plotting out a budget if you are receiving disability benefits right now, or are gearing up to apply for this type of support in the near future.

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Receiving the Right Benefits

First thing’s first, you need to understand how to apply for disability benefits, and crucially make sure that you’re signing up to the right sort of scheme, according to your circumstances.

There are a pair of programs to know about – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSID) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The former is only available to those who have at least 5 years of work history under their belt, complete with evidence of having paid tax. The latter is aimed at those in households with monthly combined incomes of under $1,600 – so targets people living with disabilities who are the least financially stable.

Keeping Future Costs in Mind

There are lots of ways to make ends meet, even if you’re receiving disability benefits. For people in this category, it’s not just a case of factoring in monthly outgoings as they stand today, but also accommodating future costs that might be incurred down the line. This includes:

  • Medicines: If you require an ongoing prescription to treat symptoms of your disability, this is both a monthly cost that will likely remain a requirement indefinitely, as well as one which could change rapidly at short notice. Given that a typical prescription costs an individual $1,300 annually, with the latest pharmaceuticals pushing north of $180,000 for 12 months, you need to be aware of this.
  • Mobility Equipment: Like medicines, the equipment that’s used by people living with disabilities to make things easier from day to day doesn’t come cheap, and can also change as time passes. So while you might not need a wheelchair today, or be able to get by with a basic model, eventually upgrading to a powered mobility solution should be a possibility you don’t overlook when budgeting. Setting aside savings to ensure you have enough to cover costs not included under benefits schemes and insurance is a must.
  • Care: Not everyone is lucky enough to have a family member on hand to help them to live their life with a disability, and even those that are will potentially require respite care from time to time. If full-blown residential care is required at some point, this should take a prominent place in your budgetary considerations today – even if it feels like it’s a long way off.

Taking Timings into Account

Another personal finance conundrum that people with disabilities have to encompass is that the timing of their benefits payout can impact their budget.

So for instance, once you apply and are approved, it will take a further 5 months before any money ends up in your account, in the case of SSDI benefits. This could leave you with a gap during which funds are tight, and spending adjustments are unavoidable.

There’s also the fact that benefits are paid the month after they’re dated – meaning you’ll get June’s payment in July. The specific date of the payment is determined by your birthday, which further complicates things, so do your research rigorously to avoid a shortfall in your budget.

Making Lifestyle Changes

The last point to make about building a budget plan when disability benefits are your primary source of income is that lifestyle changes will likely be needed to secure sufficient savings to stave off hardship.

Most importantly, using finance apps to track your spending and identify wasteful habits is important for all of us, and that goes double for anyone with a disability who is reliant on benefits. There are even apps that can save you money on the purchases you do need to make, so it’s not about completely cutting out spending, but just being savvy about it. That way you can change your lifestyle based on hard info, rather than gut feelings about what’s right.

Final Thoughts

What anyone who has had their life blighted by a disability needs to appreciate is that they should take advantage of all the support they’re entitled to, without ever feeling anxious about doing so. And moreover, if you’ve got a good budget that’s future-proof and flexible, you can make disability benefits go further.