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ABLE Alliance Launches Investment Accounts for Disabled, Blind

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State treasurers, advocacy groups as well as Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., gathered on Capitol Hill Monday to announce the launch of ABLE Investment Accounts, which allow children and adults with a disability or blindness to save money.

The accounts, offered in 13 states via the ABLE Alliance, was hailed at the event in the Capitol building as the country’s “largest multi-state agreement” on an investment program that allows for tax-free investment growth when savings are spent on qualifying disability expenses.

Members of the National Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Alliance includes Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The new ABLE Investment accounts are “savings vehicles for disability-related expenses that will not jeopardize federal benefits,” said Michael Frerichs, Illinois state treasurer. “This is the country’s largest multi-state agreement for this special investment tool. We worked hard, red states and blue, to create a national partnership to provide the best and lowest-cost program for persons with a disability or blindness. In total the National ABLE Alliance will cover over a quarter of the U.S. population.”

Burr sponsored the legislation (H.R. 647) that created ABLE accounts in 2014.

“How could it take 10 years?” to get these accounts set up, Burr asked during his remarks at the event. “The reality is that it wasn’t until we shared the faces behind the issue that states as well as members of Congress began to realize what the need was and how to fill the gap. We’ve started, we’ve now got an alliance of 13 … states; we now have 47 that have recognized ABLE Acts, they haven’t all implemented them. But today, an individual who qualifies for an ABLE account because of this alliance can now set up their account.”

The National ABLE Alliance plans have been launching in a phased approach, with Alaska and Rhode Island launching theirs in mid-December, and Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and North Carolina launching at the end of January. 

The remaining state plans (Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Jersey, Arizona, Montana) will be launching over the upcoming months.

Six portfolios are available with the underlying investment options provided by Vanguard, BlackRock, Charles Schwab and Sallie Mae Bank.

A seventh investment option will be available at the end of March – a checking/debit card option by Fifth Third Bank – designed to make it easier to use money in the plans for every day or recurring qualified expenses.

Ascensus, headquartered in Dresher, Pennsylvania, administers the program on behalf of the 13-state alliance. Costs will vary by participant, but the typical fee will be 34 basis points, or 34 cents for every $100 invested.

“We’re not done,” Burr said. “This is just the beginning from the standpoint of some of the changes we want to make.”

He noted the legislation that’s pending to increase the maximum “age of onset” of the disability from 26 to 46, in order to increase the number of people who can benefit from the plans. An account owner can be any age, as long as they meet that age of onset requirement.

— Check out ABLE Accounts: What Advisors Need to Know on ThinkAdvisor.