Saturday morning is Michael Zybura’s favorite time of the week. That’s when this dad of two opens his spreadsheets to track the movements of his investment accounts. “When they get to a certain amount, it’s actually fun. In time, you see substantial movement and know that your net worth is going up. But you have to take that first step and then stick to it,” Zybura says.
One of Zybura’s accounts is called MiABLE and it’s a savings tool designed to help create financial stability for eligible individuals with disabilities. Zybura opened the account because his 14-year-old son, Colin, has autism spectrum disorder. A saver by nature, Zybura recognizes that Colin will have expenses related to his autism and knows that money put aside will help Colin plan for his future.
Many individuals with disabilities rely on a variety of government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to help with their everyday expenses. But many of these programs limit eligibility if an individual reports more than $2,000 in resources. Funds held in a MiABLE account allow people with disabilities to build net worth and save for qualified expenses without impacting eligibility for the benefits they need.
Because he knows that saving for Colin’s future — whatever it might hold — is a priority, Zybura and his wife, Rita, set up individual automatic contributions directly into Colin’s MiABLE account every payday. “I know how important it is to automate the contributions because something will always come up that you need to use the money for. This way, you don’t even have to think about it,” he says.
Because the Zyburas are Michigan residents, they can benefit from tax advantages for contributing to Colin’s MiABLE account. They and other Michigan residents who make charitable contributions to a MiABLE account can take a deduction of up to $5,000 ($10,000 for joint filers) from their Michigan income tax. This makes MiABLE an appropriate vehicle for gifts from family and friends — which they can make online with ease.
“MiABLE is similar to an education account, so tell grandparents, aunts and uncles, godparents, instead of giving your kids toys that they may never play with, contribute to the MiABLE fund,” Zybura says.
The MiABLE basics
Individuals who became disabled or blind prior to age 26 and are entitled to collect Social Security Disability Insurance or SSI are eligible to open and fund a MiABLE account — though they don’t need to be receiving these benefits to qualify. They can be older than 26 when they open the account, and there are some 27,000 different diagnoses and conditions a person can have to be eligible for a MiABLE account. There’s an eligibility quiz at miable.org.
MiABLE is designated through IRS Code 529A, similar to a 529 college saving plan. Individuals can contribute up to $15,000 each year to their MiABLE account, and if they are employed but don’t have access to a 401(k), they can contribute on top of this amount, equal to their current-year gross income up to $12,880. Assets in the MiABLE account can reach $100,000 before affecting eligibility for SSI.
Like a college savings plan, funds in a MiABLE account have the potential to grow through five different investment options with various levels of risk. Account owners can also opt for a zero-risk FDIC-insured money market option with an optional debit card.
Funds in a MiABLE account can be used for expenses related to the account holder’s disability and help them improve or maintain health, independence or quality of life.
What Zybura wants you to know about MiABLE
Because he understands the value of a MiABLE account for a person with disabilities, Zybura talks openly about how important it is to plan and save for the future. He urges people to educate themselves about MiABLE with all of the resources available online. Even family members with little to no financial background can find easy-to-digest information. He wants to debunk myths that MiABLE is a government handout or that you need to be wealthy to open an account.
“People are afraid to take that first step. They don’t have to put half their paycheck in, but they need to start somewhere and make it a priority,” he says. “The eighth wonder of the world is compound interest, and you have to give it a chance to grow. It’s basic math with a little bit of vision, and the resources to start planning are at your fingertips.”
Zybura hopes that Colin will eventually attend college, mostly for the social aspect of being around kids his own age. “I had a great time in college, and the older I get the cooler I was,” Zybura says with a laugh. “College made me a well-rounded person and I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I want the same for my kids.”
Not unlike parents of all young teens, Zybura keeps his eyes open for something that sparks Colin’s interest and can be a potential career path for his son. Meanwhile, he continues to save for Colin’s future and contribute to his MiABLE account because he says that’s his job as a father.
“It’s not about you. If you have a child who qualifies for MiABLE, your responsibility to them needs to be priority one,” he says.
“I’m not saving so I will get personal adulation from my kids, but because it’s the right thing to do. My kids are my charge, my responsibility. Whether or not they appreciate it or understand it, it’s on me to save for their future.”