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How do I budget and save money?

Getting your records in order

An important step in managing your finances and your benefits is to get your records in order. These records include Social Security letters and applications; your financial records, such as bank statements and wage stubs; and personal records, such as information about your disability.

A woman putting together her records.

What records should I keep?

As a Title II beneficiary, you may receive a lot of letters from Social Security. You will also have personal and work records which are important for your eligibility for benefits.

We recommend you keep these records. Social Security may request information about your past and current employment or about your disability. If you have this information organized and available, it will be easier for you to respond to their request. Also, if you ever have a problem with your benefits, you or a benefits planner can look at these records to understand your situation and plan next steps.

A person going through various pay stubs.

Here are examples of records you will want to keep:

Social Security will reach out to you at times and ask for past work and wage information. Keeping your work information organized will make it easier to respond to these requests.

Title II does not have a resource limit. However, if you receive other benefits which have a resource limit, like Medicaid, you should also keep records related to your finances, such as bank statements, 401k information, and ABLE account withdrawal details.

How do I organize this information?

You could put all your records in a box; however, it will be hard to sort through them later and find what you need.

Instead, you could:

Keep a notebook to write down conversations with Social Security and other events. A record of past conversations can help you if you appeal a Social Security decision. You can also use this template and store it in a binder or scan it to your computer.

Some notebook or folder names you could use to keep paperwork organized include:

A calendar flipping through the months.

How long should I hold on to records?

You should hold on to records for at least 7 years. We recommend not throwing away any records, if possible. Scanning documents to a computer is a way to manage a lot of paper records.

Budgeting

The first step in creating an accurate monthly budget is to understand Substantial Gainful Activity and the eligibility phases with Title II. (You can begin to read about these here.) Understanding how your benefits work and which eligibility phase you are in is critical. With this information, you can predict your eligibility for a benefit check, based on your monthly work.

Social Security can be months or years behind in reviewing your work and making an SGA decision. When Social Security catches up and reviews your work history, they may decide you worked at SGA a while ago, and you should have stopped receiving cash benefits. Social Security can ask you to pay back those benefits. Overpayments may be small, or they can be hundreds or thousands of dollars.

To prevent overpayments, we highly recommend you do the following:

Social Security may tell you that you do not need to report monthly. However, reporting regularly will help you manage your benefits, prevent large overpayments, and plan for your future.

By understanding how your benefits work and reporting regularly, you can help Social Security award your benefits in a more accurate and timely manner.  

If you do receive an overpayment notice, you may have options to reduce or eliminate the overpayment. You can also arrange to make smaller repayments over time. Visit Overpayments and Appeals for more information.

A granddaughter with her grandmother, having fun.

I received a benefit check in a month when I should not have received one

If you think you have worked or are working at SGA, you should let Social Security know. If Social Security still sends you a Title II check, you may need to pay that money back.

You generally cannot send Social Security a repayment check without them first realizing that you owe them money. You may instead want to save the benefit (or an amount you can afford) until Social Security requests the funds.

Note:

Savings do not affect Title II benefits, but they might affect other benefits you receive, such as Medicaid.

One solution is to put the Title II benefit check in an ABLE account. There, it will not be considered a resource, and you can safely hold onto it until Social Security decides if they want the money back.

A woman talking to a professional benefits planner.

Saving Money

Title II does not have a resource limit. This means you can save money and not risk losing your Title II cash benefit!

However, before you start saving a lot of money in your bank account, we recommend you meet with a benefits planner. You may receive other benefits, like Medicaid, which can have a resource limit. A benefits planner can look at your benefits to help you understand if you have any resource limits, and what your options are to save money.

When Charles first became eligible for SSDI (a Title II benefit), Social Security told him that he did not have a resource limit. Charles was happy to hear this, but he was not sure if saving money would be a problem for other benefits he received. 

Charles met with a benefits planner. The planner reviewed his benefits and discovered if Charles has more than $2,000 in resources on the first day of any month, he could lose his Medicaid, in-home care, and employment support. Social Security did not mention this, because they do not manage these programs. 

Together, Charles and the benefits planner figured out a few ways that Charles could save money beyond $2,000 and not risk losing his Medicaid and services.

Do you have questions about your benefits?

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