Finance Basics Organize Your Financial Life Live Your

Finance Basics
Organize Your
Financial Life
Live Your
Financial Life
Get Out of Debt,
Financial Education
Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology
Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
Health Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Social Security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Chapter 1: Finance Basics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Assistive Technology and Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses . . . . . 18
Banks and Credit Unions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Other Important Files to Consider Keeping. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Checking vs. Savings Accounts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
How to Sort Your Mail: The Five-Minute Mail Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Credit and Debit Cards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
How to Balance Your Checkbook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Step 1: Update Your Checkbook Register . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Junk Mail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Papers to File . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Bills and Action Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Documents to Carry with You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Step 2: Update Your Checking Account Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Documents to Place in Your Car . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Where Does All My Money Go? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Documents to Leave Home and Why . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Keep All Your Cash Receipts in a Spending Jar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Determine Your Income and Expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Basic Monthly Income Worksheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Chapter 3: Live Your Financial Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Why You Need a Livable Budget . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Do You Receive SSI and Also Work? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Create a Livable Budget . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Types of Expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Setting Up a Cash Envelope System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Save for Your Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Chapter 2: Organize Your Financial Life . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Pay Yourself First. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Step 1: Gather Your Financial and Personal Paperwork. . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Set Up an Emergency Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Step 2: Organize Your Home Office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Save Three to Six Months’ Worth of Expenses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Step 3: Designate Files as Permanent or Temporary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Expenses Worksheet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Monthly Bills to Pay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Start an Assistive Technology Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Checking and Savings Accounts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Start a Retirement Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Income/Wages/Financial Assistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Make a Long-Range Plan for Your Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Chapter 4: Get Out of Debt, Free. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Private Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Your Credit Report: Why It’s Important . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Medicare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
How to Get a Copy of Your Credit-Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Medicaid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
Skip the “Free” Reports. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Funding Options: DME and AT Differences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
How to Read Your Credit Reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Finding the Right Assistive Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Can Shopping for the Best Interest Rates
Basic Insurance Terms and Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Affect Your Credit Score? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Covered Service/Item. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
How to Handle Mistakes on Your Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Copayment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Steps to Correct Your Credit Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Deductible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
How to Improve Your Credit Score . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Medical Necessity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
You Can Free Yourself from Debt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Certificate of Medical Necessity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Myths vs. Facts: The Truth about Credit and Debt. . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
Tips for Documenting Medical Necessity of DME and AT . . . . . . . 53
Create a Financial Plan and a Debt-Reduction Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
The Debt Snowball Technique . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Chapter 7: Assistive Technology Resources . . . . . . . . 55
Fifteen Quick Tips to Cut Spending . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Internet Resources: Major AT Web Sites. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Centers for Independent Living (CIL) and Peers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Chapter 5: Financial Education Resources . . . . . . . . . 42
Assistive Technology and Independent Living Fairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Centers for Independent Living . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Tips for Choosing the Right Vendors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Internet Resources: Major Financial Web Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Funding for Assistive Technology: Federal, State,
and Community Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Chapter 6: Assistive Technology
and Insurance Implications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Federal- and State-Funded Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Community Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
What Is Assistive Technology? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Is it Assistive Technology or Durable Medical Equipment? . . . . . . . . 48
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Understanding Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
There’s no question about it: Living with a disability is
independently, and you’ll help ensure a financially
expensive. Federal and state budget cuts, changes in
secure future.
insurance coverage, continued difficulties in finding
quality jobs, and rising costs of living have contributed
Alpha One and NEFE have provided the information in
to making people with disabilities some of the poorest
this booklet to help you gain the money management
in the United States.
skills that will support you along your path to
financial freedom.
That’s why learning the financial skills that can
empower you to make smart money decisions is one
You can also use this workbook in a class or peer
of the best investments you can make in yourself.
group setting. We have created a professional
Learning how to manage your money—rather than
companion guide with helpful hints and group exercises
letting your money manage you—will help you now and
along with additional information about financial tips.
for the rest of your life. You’ll be better able to access
Download this companion guide from our Web site:
the assistive technologies and services you need to live
Finance Basics
This chapter explains the money terms you need to
A checking account is a service many banks provide to
know. It will help provide the basic foundation for your
ensure their customers an efficient way to pay bills and
financial decision making by discussing where to keep
deposit money. Checking accounts seldom generate
your money, how to balance your checkbook, and
interest. (Interest is money the bank pays you in
providing tools to examine where your money goes
exchange for keeping your money in the bank account.)
each month which can be a positive first step in
A minimum balance is sometimes required and some
creating your livable budget.
Banks and Credit
A bank is a for-profit, financial institution controlled by
a board and stockholders. Bank deposits are insured by
the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to
$100,000 for any account (except retirement accounts,
for which the limit is higher).
A credit union is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial
cooperative. Credit union deposits are insured by the
National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).
Checking vs. Savings Accounts
Understanding the difference between checking
accounts and savings accounts is important when it
comes to learning how to manage your money.
banks charge monthly fees. However, the benefits of
having a checking account include that you do not have
to use money orders or carry large amounts of cash for
Finance Basics
items such as rent or making a mortgage payment. There
is usually a branch or Automated Teller Machine (ATM)
nearby and you can access tele-banking/online banking.
A savings account is an account that holds your money
You may be able to access your money in a checking
for future use or emergencies. Savings accounts
or savings account through an ATM using a debit card
normally pay you a small amount of interest, which is
or ATM card. ATMs are convenient—they allow you
typically higher than the interest rates that checking
24-hour access to money without having to go to the
accounts generate.
bank or credit union in person.
You may hear the following terms in relation
Credit and Debit Cards
to savings and checking accounts.
A debit card operates like cash or a check. When you
A withdrawal is money taken out of your account. Debit
make a purchase using a debit card, the bank or credit
is another term that simply means money taken out of
union withdraws money from your checking or savings
your account. A debit transaction is an electronic
account that is linked to the card.
transfer of money from your account.
With a debit card, the money is taken directly from your
A deposit is money put into the account. A direct
account when you make the purchase, so you must
deposit is an electronic transfer of money into your
have the money in your account to cover the cost. Your
checking or savings account. Direct deposits can come
bank may charge you a transaction fee or require you to
from your paycheck, your Social Security check, your
pay interest if you spend more than what is in your
pension, perhaps your IRS refund, etc.
account or if you use the bank’s overdraft protection.
The credit-card company or bank may also charge you
fees. There may be an annual fee for having the card.
There might also be fees charged by the bank or credit
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union for such things as overdraft protection, online
banking, minimum balance, teller use, cash advances,
and ATM fees.
Your credit limit describes the amount of money you
may borrow. The amount depends on your credit
history, credit record, length of time as a customer of
the financial institution, and so on. Your credit limit is
not the same as how much money you have in the
account—it is not free money and it must be paid back.
You have a certain amount of time, called a grace
period, from when you make the purchase to when you
receive the bill. If you pay the bill in full before the
grace period expires, you won’t be charged interest on
the account. If you pay late—after the grace period–
you will be assessed a late fee.
A credit card allows you to purchase now and pay later.
It is important to remember that a credit card works like
To pay the least amount of interest, pay your entire
a loan. The credit company or bank is agreeing to allow
credit card bill at the end of each month. This way, you
you to use a predetermined amount of money that you
won’t have a balance carried forward, so no interest will
will pay back with interest.
be charged on the remaining balance.
How to Balance Your Checkbook
Finance Basics
Now that you understand the basic banking terms and
ATM Withdrawals and Debits: Make sure you have
how banks and credit unions operate, it is time to learn
subtracted all recent ATM withdrawals and debits from
to balance your checkbook. This helps you get a better
your checkbook register. If not, write them into the
handle on your money.
checkbook register now and subtract the amounts from
your total checkbook balance.
Learning how to balance your checkbook will help you
keep track of exactly how much money you have in your
checking (or savings) account at any point in time. So
grab your checkbook register (the little book with lines
Now look at your checking account statement
for fees and interest.
Fees: Your checking account statement will list any
and spaces), your checking account statement (the
recent fees or charges that you may not have subtracted
statement your bank sends you to show your
transactions over the past month), all your deposit slips,
debit slips, ATM withdrawal receipts, and a calculator to
learn how to successfully balance your checkbook.
from the total balance of your checkbook register. Look
for things like printing charges, overdraft (bounced
check) fees, or ATM withdrawal fees. If you find fees that
you have not already entered into your checkbook
Step 1: Update Your Checkbook Register
register, write these in your checkbook register and
First, be sure your checkbook register is up to date.
subtract the amounts from your total checkbook balance.
Here are tips to do that.
Deposits: In your checkbook register, make sure you
Interest: Your checking account statement will list any
have added all recent deposits. If not, write them into
credits (money added to your account) that you may
your checkbook register now and add the amount(s) to
not have added to the total balance of your checkbook,
your total checkbook balance.
such as interest you earned or a refund of charges.
Write these amounts in your checkbook register and
add the amounts to your total checkbook balance.
Ten Steps to Balancing Your Checking Account
1. Enter your checkbook balance
2. Add: any deposits not recorded in
your checkbook
3. Subtotal
Step 2: Update Your Checking Account
4. Subtract: any checks or deductions
not recorded in your checkbook
Your checking account statement may not show every
5. Equals: revised checkbook balance
6. Next, enter your account balance
shown by your bank statement
checks you wrote, ATM withdrawals, or debits made
7. Add: any deposits not included in
this statement period
after that last date might not be on the statement. Do
8. Subtotal
9. Subtract: any outstanding checks—
see worksheet below (outstanding
checks are those that have not yet
cleared your account, as shown on
your statement).
10. Equals: revised bank balance
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After you have made these changes in your checkbook
register, circle the checkbook balance.
How to
deposit or withdrawal you have made. Your statement
will cover a certain timeframe (for example the 1st to
the 30th of the month) so remember that any deposits,
not assume that either the statement balance from the
bank or your own checkbook balance is the current
balance in your checkbook.
To find out your current balance, you need to know
which transactions have cleared at the bank or are still
waiting to be cleared. “Cleared” means that the bank or
credit union has not yet recorded these transactions in
Outstanding Checks
Check number
its system). Your checking account statement lists all
the deposits, checks, debits, and other transactions in
order by date and by check number.
Compare the statement and your checkbook register.
Does the new statement balance match the balance you
Give your checkbook a second look. Double-check the
circled in your checkbook? If it does, congratulations!
math one more time and rework your calculations. If
You have balanced your checkbook!
the balances don’t match, ask if a trusted family
Finance Basics
member or friend that’s good with money matters can
If your checkbook balance and the “new statement
help you. Or, take your statement and all other
balance” do not match, don’t panic! It is usually a
information to your bank or credit union and ask for
simple matter of detective work.
assistance. Many banks and credit unions will offer you
How to
free (or low-cost) and confidential help in learning how
Here is what to do:
to balance your checkbook.
Recheck your math in your checkbook and in your
totals. Are they correct?
HINT: If you would like more practice, make a copy of
the checkbook balance sheet sent monthly by your
Make sure you correctly transferred the balance
bank or credit union to practice balancing your
amount from one page to the next page in your
checkbook register.
Verify the following for accuracy:
deposits on the statement and in your checkbook
withdrawals on the statement and in your checkbook
ATM and debit transactions
money transfers
the bank or credit union’s math
the amount of the check written in your check
checkbook. You can also use the same process to
balance your savings account. Next month, you will
be able to balance your checkbook in even less time.
The more you do it, the easier it gets!
register matches the amount in the bank statement
If the balances still do not match, take a break and
come back to it tomorrow.
Where Does All My Money Go?
Finance Basics
Keep All Your Cash Receipts in a Spending Jar
Find a large jar, or a basket, or shoe box. For one
month, any time you use cash to pay for something—
no matter how small the cost—put the receipt in the jar.
If you forget to get a receipt, just write down what you
bought and the amount you think you spent on a piece
of paper and put it in the jar.
At the end of the month, gather all the receipts and
separate them into categories. Here are some that may
Do you know where all your money goes each month?
apply to your purchases:
If not, you are not alone. Many people have no idea
they live month to month, hoping to make ends meet.
We will show you some quick and easy ways to find out
dining out
where all your money goes, and to start taking control
transportation (such as bus tickets, taxis, gas,
where they spend their money each month. Therefore,
of your money.
or tolls)
With this knowledge, you can help you start to manage
your money wisely. This is a tool that can be used to
help you live the life you deserve, rather than having
Add the total money spent for each category, such as
your money concerns manage you.
groceries $300, clothing $25. Then, total all the amounts.
Do your spending habits surprise you? Do you see any
patterns to your spending? For example, on weekends
do you spend more due to impulse buying or dining
Finance Basics
out? You can learn about your spending habits from
what the receipts indicate. Going through your past
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month’s expenses will help you keep track of your
spending and curb what you feel is unnecessary
spending. Keep this up for at least three months—even
better is six months to a year if you can. It will give you
a clear idea of your spending habits.
For people who use debit cards or credit cards as well
as cash it may be easier to keep a spending diary. A
Determine Your Income and Expenses
Income is all of the money you receive each month.
spending diary is a notebook you carry with you to help
There are two basic types of income:
you keep track of all purchases made whether with
cash, your debit card, or your credit card. You would
Earned income is money you receive in exchange
simply enter every item you purchase, how much you
for working.
spent on it, and how you paid for it. For example:
Movie theatre, $8.50, cash.
Unearned income is money that you receive from
pensions, Social Security Retirement, Social Security
Now you are beginning to know where all your money
Disability or Supplemental Security, long-term or
goes—and that is an important first step in taking
short-term disability, workers compensation, VA
control of your finances.
pension, in-kind support, or ongoing gifts of money.
There are two ways to understand or count how much
Basic Monthly Income Worksheet
earned income you have:
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Gross earnings: Your hourly wage multiplied by the
hours worked, or your full annual salary.
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Net Wages/Income:
Social Security Retirement:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
Net earnings: Your gross earnings minus deductions.
Deductions are amounts of money subtracted from
your gross earnings to pay for a variety of taxes or
Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): $
benefits, such as:
Federal income tax: this money goes to the
federal government
State income tax: this money goes to your
state government
Social Security tax: this money goes into the
Social Security trust fund to pay for retirement
or disability benefits
Medicare tax: this money supports the
Medicare system
Do You Receive SSI and Also Work?
If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
there is a basic calculation that the Social Security
Administration uses to figure out how much SSI to pay
you each month. The following example is meant to
When figuring out how much income or money you
give you a basic idea of how the Social Security
have each month, always use your net earnings.
Administration figures SSI amounts for individuals who
are working. For exact information on your situation,
Now that you understand the differences between net
contact a Community Work Incentives Coordinator
and gross earnings, unearned income, and earned
(CWIC) or Social Security office in your area. This
income, you are ready to figure out how much income
example does not include the effects of wages on SSDI
you have each month.
beneficiaries or retirees.
Step 1:
Write down your gross wages for the month.
four-paycheck month, Susie will earn $800 gross
This means you must gather one month’s
income or wages. Susie’s net (after taxes) income is
worth of pay stubs and add up the gross
$740. She also receives SSI income that will be $245.
wages on each of them. That total is your
Here is how this is calculated:
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gross wages. Remember gross wages are
before taxes and deductions.
Step 2:
Subtract $20. This is the General Income
Step 1:
Gross wages:
Step 2:
Subtract GEI:
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Exclusion (GIE).
= $780.00
Step 3:
Subtract $65. This is the Earned Income
Exclusion (EIE).
Step 4:
Divide the new total by 2.
Step 5:
This amount is what Social Security will use
Step 3:
Subtract EIE
= $715.00
Step 4:
to determine your new SSI amount. It is your
Divide by 2.
$715.00 ÷ 2 = $357.50
(Rounded up to $358.00)
countable income.
Step 5:
Susie’s countable income is $358.
amount of your SSI check.
Step 6:
$603.00** – $358.00 = $245.00
Step 7:
This is the amount of your new SSI check.
Step 7:
$245 is Susie’s new SSI check amount.
Step 8:
Add this amount to your net wages. This
Step 8:
Add net wages and the SSI check amount or
Step 6:
Subtract your countable income from the
becomes your total income for the month.
$245 + $740 = $985.
Here is an example: Susie works 25 hours a week at a
When Susie adds her net wages (after taxes) to her new
local grocery store as a cashier. She is paid $8 per hour,
SSI check amount as in Step 8, she’ll know how much
earning a total of $200 gross income each week. In a
real income she has for the month.
**This figure is the
Federal Benefit
Rate, which
changes each
December with the
Cost of Living
Allowance (COLA).
Each state has a Work Incentives Planning and
Assistance Program (WIPA). If you are working, consult
with your local CWIC or Social Security office to ask
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about the effects of earned income on their particular
set of benefits. To find your state’s WIPA, look on the
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Social Security Web site under the Ticket
to Work program.
Types of Expenses
electric bill
heating bill
gasoline for your car
telephone bill or cellphone bill
credit-card payments
Now you are ready to look at your expenses.
There are three types of expenses: fixed expenses,
flexible expenses, and discretionary expenses.
Fixed Expenses are items in your budget that cost
the same every month. Here are some examples of
fixed expenses:
rent or mortgage payment
property taxes
insurance payments for automobiles or health care
Discretionary Expenses are items you can spend money
on after you’ve paid your Fixed Expenses and Flexible
Expenses, such as:
dining at restaurants
going to movies
new clothing
magazine subscriptions
cable TV or satellite TV
medical needs: doctor visits, dentist visits
monthly prescription costs and co-pays
loan payments for automobiles, home equity
loans, etc.
Flexible Expenses can vary from month to month. Here
The money left over after paying fixed and flexible
are some examples of flexible expenses:
expenses some people refer to as “discretionary income.”
If you ever ask yourself “Where did I put that bill?” or
“Which pile is that receipt in?” then this chapter is for you.
We have all been in this situation at one time or another.
Why sort financial records and keep accurate files? It
will help you to know what you owe to whom, when you
Organize Your
Financial Life
need to make a payment, and it will give you quick
access to important documents in an emergency. Good
recordkeeping will also give you easy access to information if the Social Security Administration or any other
agency asks for your financial or personal information.
Schedule a time to locate and to pull together all of
your important papers, bills, insurance, and other
When you’ve organized your financial papers, it will be
financial records. Once you have all the paperwork
much easier for you to create a working, livable budget.
together, separate the papers into their own category
This is covered in Chapter 3. Organizing your files
piles: telephone bills, electric bills, rent or mortgage,
and creating a budget will give you a solid handle on
health insurance, and so on.
your overall financial situation and allow you to set
long-term goals that will help you attain the assistive
Next, take each pile and put the documents in order
technology and other services you need today, and plan
with the most recent month on top and the oldest on
for a more secure financial future.
bottom. Therefore, if it is June, June is on top, followed
by May, April, and so on. This will help you see if you are
Step 1: Gather Your
Financial and Personal
missing any papers. If you are missing anything, make a
note on a piece of paper and place the paper where the
missing document should be. If you cannot find it, then
call the company and get a copy sent to you.
HINT: Reviewing a year’s worth of bills can show you
trash can, a pair of scissors or a shredder, and some file
what you actually spend on each bill in an average
folders in the same area as your files and bills.
month, quarter, or year. This way, you can also see the
seasonal costs of each expense. This is a more accurate
You can ask family and friends if they have office
way of determining your expenses than averaging out
supplies they no longer need. You might also want to
your last few months’ bills. Also, many federal and state
check out the local dollar store or recycling center.
agencies require a year’s worth of proof of payment of
Many times, office supplies are available at recycling
utilities or other household expenses before
centers and they will give them to you free of charge.
determining your eligibility for services. At the end of
You can buy an inexpensive file box or a cardboard box
the calendar year, sort through the files and discard old
to hold your finished files. Just make sure whatever you
bills you no longer need. In many cases—such as with
use is big enough to hold the files standing up so you
mortgages, student loans, and credit card debts—you
can read the labels and not bend the files.
Organize Your
Financial Life
will want to keep the bills as proof of payment until the
loan, debt, or mortgage is paid off in full.
Step 2: Organize
Your Home Office
Step 3: Designate
Files as Permanent
or Temporary
How long should you keep the paperwork in your files?
Create a home office area to keep all of your files in one
It varies. The following sections describe important files
safe, accessible place. It doesn’t have to be a separate
you might want to keep and when you might be able to
room, but simply a desk or a table. Keeping all your
safely throw away files.
files in one place eliminates stress and confusion
caused by trying to locate missing bills or paperwork in
Monthly Bills to Pay
different piles around your home. It is helpful to have a
Place all incoming bills in the “Monthly Bills to Pay” file.
few pens, envelopes, stamps, a recycle paper bin, a
Organize them so that the bills due at the beginning of
the month are in front, bills due mid-month are in the
statement. Keep account statements in monthly order
middle, and the bills due the end of the month are last.
with the most recent month on top and the oldest on
Placing bills in the order they need to be paid can help
the bottom.
you to remember to pay them on time.
It is a good idea to save your checking and savings
Organize Your
Financial Life
Files as
or Temporary
Once you pay a bill, get in the habit of writing the date
accounts statements because many entities providing
you paid the bill and the check number on the bill. This
benefits such as fuel assistance, general assistance, or
will help you follow up on the bill if you need to at a
food stamps may request them. Also, if you are
later time. Then, put each paid bill into the individual
involved with buying a house, your mortgage broker
bill files that you have already created. For example,
may request these.
after paying your electricity bill, place it in the
electricity bill folder, and keep it separated from the
HINT: If you have separate checking and savings
yet-to-be paid bills.
account statements, create two separate files. Keep at
least a year’s worth of statements until you get your
HINT: To make it easy to remember when to pay bills,
year-end statement. Keep the statements longer if
you can find a bill holder that has a slot with each day
needed for tax purposes.
of the month at dollar stores. Just remember when filing
each bill that it needs to be paid and mailed about a
Income/Wages/Financial Assistance
week to 10 days before the due date.
Make a separate file folder for each job you have. Place
all of your paycheck stubs and letters from your
Checking and Savings Accounts
employer in each job file.
Place all balanced monthly statements from your bank
or credit union in this file. Once you have balanced your
Make separate files for your Social Security benefits
checking and/or savings account statements, staple
income, SSDI, SSI, or workers compensation, food stamps,
that month’s canceled checks, ATM receipts, and any
and so on. Place all letters, notices that you receive, letters
transaction records and deposit slips to the back of that
you send, and proof of direct deposits in these files.
bill on top and previous paid bills in order underneath
going backwards in time. Also, in this file folder place your
health insurance policy, a copy of your insurance card, and
any letters or statements that the agencies might send
you, as well as copies of letters you send to them.
Organize Your
Financial Life
Social Security
Create file folders for your Social Security benefits
Files as
or Temporary
records. Social Security will send you annual notices
around your birthday as to what you can expect to
receive if you retire at a certain age. This file needs to
be separate from the files you might have already
created for insurance benefits (Medicare, Medicaid) or
income payments you are receiving (SSDI or SSI).
HINT: Use the Income and Support Worksheet and fill
in the totals for each job or income source to make a
If you are paying down an overpayment to the Social
list of your monthly gross income. A master list with
Security Administration, create a separate file for the
your total income broken down by its source and with
monthly totals can help you with preparing your taxes
and verifying your income if needed. Keep at least a
overpayment issue. Keep a clear record of all payments
to you or payments you are making on an overpayment.
year’s worth of income records until you get your year-
Keep all letters from the Social Security Administration
end wage statements (W-2s, 1099s, etc.). Keep them
as well as copies of letters you send. In most cases,
longer if needed for tax purposes.
keep your Social Security file forever. Keep income
records at least until you get your year-end statement
Health Insurance
or your overpayment is settled. Keep income records
In this file folder, place your most recent paid insurance
longer if needed for tax purposes.
Organize Your
Financial Life
HINT: Take notes on all face-to-face or telephone
deductible from your taxes or deducted from your gross
conversations you have with Social Security, health
income to lower your income, which may make you
insurance agency caseworkers, or insurance company
eligible for additional financial assistance or social
staff. Log the time and date of the conversation, the
services. (One example of this would be a potential rent
name of the person you spoke with, their job title, the
reduction if you live in subsidized housing.) Keep these
purpose of the conversation, what was decided, and
files for one year or until you file your tax return. Keep
what will happen next. Place these notes in the file
these longer if you are awaiting reimbursement from
folders so you can follow up with a second telephone
your insurance company.
call or a written letter if needed. It is a good practice to
Files as
or Temporary
keep these notes as long as you have the insurance
Other Important Files to Consider Keeping
policy, Social Security benefit, or other benefit.
Using the same steps as before, decide if you want to
create new files for categories such as life,
Assistive Technology and Out-of-Pocket
Medical Expenses
home/rental, or automobile insurance; automobile or
other loans; your medical records; and so forth.
Place any receipts for your purchases of assistive
technology or out-of-pocket medical expenses (things
that were not paid for or reimbursed by any insurance)
in this file. Items that qualify include copays, small or
large equipment purchases, auto repairs, transportation
to and from medical-related appointments, parking fees
and tolls, hotel stays, and even food expenses if you
travel long distances for treatment.
The list can vary between insurance companies, so
keep track of what you use or buy that is in any way
related to your disability. Some expenses might be
How to Sort Your Mail:
The Five-Minute Mail Game
Try to get in the habit of placing all your mail in your
Papers to File
home office area. When you first bring in your mail, do a
Create a folder named “Papers to File.” Place papers
quick sort into three categories: Junk Mail (shred, trash,
you need to file in this folder. If you have time, file them
or recycle), Papers to File, and Bills and Action Items.
as soon as you finish your quick five-minute mail sort.
Organize Your
Financial Life
Or, file them when you sit down to pay your bills.
Junk Mail
Cut up or use a paper shredder and then throw into the
Bills and Action Items
trash any junk mail with your name and any
Place any bills in your “Monthly Bills to Pay” file. Place
identification on it. Do not risk placing it in a recycling
other important mail you need to act on (such as
bin where someone might find it. Throw all other junk
making a call or writing a response) in a file called
mail into the recycle bin.
“Action File.” When you sit down to pay bills, respond
to these items and then file them as needed.
Be honest with yourself about catalogs. Will you really
have time to look at them this week, or even this
If you get in the habit of doing this sort each day, you
month? If you know you will read them within the
will have fewer piles of paper in your home. You will be
month, keep them. Or, if you know you can find the
free from paper clutter and more organized.
information you need later online, recycle them as soon
as you get them.
Documents to Carry with You
Make a list of these documents for your home file so
Organize Your
Financial Life
Insurance Cards: Carry your private insurance,
you and your family will know where they are. Be sure
Medicare, or Medicaid insurance cards unless there
to carry these documents with you at all times.
is a Social Security number on it (yours or a family
Driver’s License: This is widely accepted as a major
form of personal identification, evidence of your legal
member’s). This is your primary way to receive
coverage and benefits when admitted to a hospital.
eligibility to drive, and proof of where you live.
HINT: If your Social Security number is on any card,
Personal Identification Card: This card is available in
make a photocopy and then use a permanent marker to
most states to non-drivers at your state Department of
cross out the last four numbers of your Social Security
Motor Vehicles. It is widely accepted as a major form
number on the copy. Carry the photocopy with you, but
of personal identification and proof of where you live.
leave the original card at home unless you know you
Emergency Contact Card: A small card that has your
name, address, and telephone number and the name
one way to protect yourself against identity theft.
of a person(s) to notify in case of emergency.
Documents to Place in
Your Car
Medical Emergency Card or Bracelet: This lists
information including your preferred doctor (name,
will need it for a specific appointment that day. This is
address, and telephone numbers); blood type;
Insurance companies provide extra insurance cards for
allergies to drugs; whether you have diabetes,
your wallet and your car. Place one insurance card in
epilepsy, or another health condition; and any other
your wallet and the other in your glove box along with
critical information needed for emergency treatment.
your car registration.
Documents to Leave Home and Why
Do not carry your Social Security card or any other card
Do not carry bank/credit union or savings account
having your Social Security number on it.
cards unless you plan to use them that day.
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Financial Life
HINT: Here is an interesting article about identity theft
from the Washington Post on Oct. 14, 2006, written by
Fred H. Cate, director of the Indiana University Center
for Applied Cybersecurity Research, “Identity theft is
most commonly the result of information being
obtained directly from victims, not through security
breaches. According to a 2005 Javelin Strategy &
Research survey, the most common source was a ‘lost
or stolen wallet, checkbook, or credit card.’
Additionally, cited was ‘thirty-five percent of identitytheft cases in which the perpetrator was identified
involved a family member or relative,’ and 18 percent a
friend or neighbor. This means that roughly half of all
known identity thieves were not strangers.
This article indicates that by following the simple steps
outlined here and keeping your private information
private, you can reduce your chances of being a victim
of identity theft.
Failure to plan for the financial future can affect your
your money. A budget allows you to decide where you
life today, and tomorrow. If your disabilities cause you
want your money to go before you spend it. It shows
to live near or below the poverty line and struggle
you how much money you have and how to rearrange
financially, you may be tempted to use credit as a
your budget in order to stay on track.
means to pay for basic living expenses such as rent and
groceries, and to fund assistive technology and
The fact is, with the sample budget forms in this
adaptive equipment not covered by insurance.
booklet, computer-based budgeting programs, or free
downloadable budget software, once you set up your
One way you can stop this pattern is to gain more control
monthly budget it takes very little time to maintain it.
over your financial situation and to make informed
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Financial Life
decisions about your spending. One of the best tools you
can use to achieve this is a Livable Budget.
Why You Need a
Livable Budget
Budgets (also known as spending plans) are for
everyone—but too few people take the time to create a
budget. Many people fear money and feel like they are
doing “math homework” when they think of creating a
budget. Or, they think that creating and maintaining a
budget takes too much time, or that it will be restrictive.
Even if you don’t have a budget, you still make
decisions every day about where your money goes.
However, if you have a budget, it will help you manage
Taking the time to create a Livable Budget may help
We provide a quick budget form and a more detailed
reduce your fears and lower your level of financial
budget form you can use. Starting with the quick budget
stress. A budget may help you get out of debt or build
form, fill in the categories that apply to you. Do not
your savings. A budget may also be a tool that helps
forget to break down into monthly amounts any
you talk with your family, spouse, or partner about
expenses that are due quarterly (four times a year),
short-term and long-term financial goals. Your budget
semiannually (twice a year), or annually (once a year)
may help you set long-term, realistic financial goals to
that you will need to set aside money for (for example,
plan for large purchases such as assistive technology
yearly car insurance $600 ÷ 12 months = $50 a month).
that you might need, to start saving for an emergency
fund, or to begin contributing to a savings account. In
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Most importantly, remember the budget is yours to
short, creating a Livable Budget may help you find ways
control—it is a reflection of how you want to spend
to help your money work for you.
your money. It is a tool to help you be more
Create a Livable Budget
independent. Set time aside every week to go over your
budget and see if you are still on track with your
To create a budget that fits you, gather your financial
spending. At the end of each month, review your
information—including the files containing bank
expenses and see how well you followed your budget. If
statements, pay stubs, Social Security statements, bills,
you need to rearrange some budget amounts, do that
and the totals of the cash receipts from your spending
for next month’s budget. If you didn’t meet your budget
jar. These will be the first tools you need to create your
goals, reevaluate your expenses and your spending
initial Livable Budget. Using all your financial
habits so next month you may be able to meet your
information and bills, start entering the totals into one
budget. Your expenses might vary a little from month to
of the sample budget forms provided in the forms
month, but by sticking to your Livable Budget, you will
section of this book.
begin to move toward your goals.
number of envelopes full of cash you have on hand—
and thus limit the temptation to “borrow” from your
envelopes. Having all your money in envelopes may
also place you at risk of being robbed, so try using just
a few cash envelopes for your small basic cash-based
or discretionary expenses. Just like the spending jar,
which helped you set up your budget, the cash
envelope system is a simple but powerful tool for
tracking your cash expenses and for helping you stay
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Financial Life
within your budget goals.
Setting Up a Cash
Envelope System
First, create a few envelopes with the names of the
Once you have a budget in place, think about how you
take an envelope and write the word “Food” on it. Second,
would like to handle the things you normally pay for
place in the envelope the budgeted amount of money you
with cash. Would paying them by check be easier or
have decided to spend on the expense. Do this with all
safer? Today, with many options available for free
your other cash expenses such as clothing, gas, and so on.
checking accounts, it’s safer and easier to track your
The money for each expense should stay in its separate
money if you play for most expenses with checks rather
envelope until you need it for that expense.
expenses you are planning to use cash for this month.
Each expense will have its own envelope. For example,
than cash. For the few remaining “cash” items in your
budget, consider using “cash envelopes.”
Each day, take with you only the envelopes you need
that day. For example, take your “Food” envelope if you
The cash envelope method of managing money has
plan to go food shopping or your “Clothing” envelope
been around a long time. It’s a good idea to limit the
when you go clothes shopping. The key is to spread the
money out over the month and only spend the total
Save for Your Future
amount you budgeted. When the envelope is empty,
unless it’s a true emergency, do your best to stop
spending on that category for the rest of the month.
If you must “borrow” from one envelope, track the
transfer amount so you know to increase or decrease
that item in your budget next month.
Even small amounts of money, saved regularly, add up
over time. It can be easier to save if you plan for your
savings. Make savings an expense item on your budget.
Set aside money in your budget each month for
savings—but do not save money if it means you cannot
pay your bills. Begin by using money you do not need
to spend on bills each month. Following are a few steps
you could take to help you start saving for your future.
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Financial Life
Pay Yourself First
You may have every intention of saving the money
that’s left over at the end of every month. However, the
reality probably is that there won’t be money left over.
It all gets used up for other expenses.
Instead, change the equation. Rather than saving
what’s left over, put some money—no matter how small
an amount—into savings right at the beginning of the
month. This way, it won’t get eaten up by other
expenses and you won’t be tempted to spend it.
Save $5, $10, $20, or whatever amount you decide.
Ideally, you can strive for saving at least 10 percent of
(or a few days after) your paycheck is deposited.
your income, but the more important thing is to start
saving now and making it a lifetime habit.
Try putting $1 a day, plus pocket change, into a large
envelope or a jar. At the end of the month, deposit
Establishing a savings fund will go a long way in
that money into your savings account. This can add
helping you build an emergency fund, save for assistive
up to a few hundred dollars per year.
technology that will help your quality of life, pay off
Put any tax refund, raise, or bonus you receive into
debt, and start toward a more financially secure future.
savings rather than spending it.
Tips for Paying Yourself First
When looking for a better job, give preference to
If you think that paying yourself first is easier said than
employers who offer good benefits, such as health
done, here are some ideas to get started:
coverage and life insurance. If your employer
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Financial Life
provides these benefits, you won’t have to pay for
Include “savings” as part of your spending plan.
Save for
your own coverage.
Make it a priority above spending for things like
movies or eating out.
When you purchase a product, send in any rebate
forms. Most people fail to take advantage of this
If possible, have your employer automatically deduct
savings tool.
money from your paycheck and deposit it into a
savings account. What you don’t see, you won’t miss.
When you need items, shop first at thrift stores and
Even if the amount is small (say $10, $15, or $20 a
garage sales. You can pick up some great bargains
week), you’ll be amazed at how fast your money grows.
this way.
Another option is to have your financial institution
and smoking, and save the difference.
automatically deduct a set amount from your
checking account each month and deposit it into your
Break costly habits, such as excessive clothes-buying
After paying off a loan, put the same amount each
savings account. Your financial institution usually can
month into savings—if the money isn’t already going
set the date of the automatic transfer for the day
to paying off another loan.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
Save Three to Six Months’ Worth of Expenses
We all know that unexpected and costly events can
Once you have your Emergency Fund established, you
happen. The car breaks down, the refrigerator stops
may want to start saving at least three to six months’
working, or you have another type of unexpected but
worth of your expenses. Keep this money in a savings
unavoidable expense. To help avoid a serious financial
account so you can access it for a major crisis such as
problem, you may want to set up an emergency fund.
losing your job or experiencing a sudden illness, and so
that it’s not so easy to access you’re tempted to spend it.
If you are living on a fixed income, saving for
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emergencies may seem difficult, but you can set a
If you are receiving SSDI or SSI, check with a CWIC in
reasonable goal. For example, if you are living on SSDI
your area to find out how much you can save without
or SSI or your income is under $20,000 a year, you
risk to your benefits or medical coverage.
could start saving towards a $500 emergency fund. If
Save for
you are living on more than $20,000 a year, you could
start saving for a $1,000 emergency fund.
Do not worry if it takes you a while to get there.
Remember to pay yourself first, and set aside a certain
amount each month. Then, add a little more when you
have it. Try not to touch this money for purchases or
vacations. Keep it just for emergencies.
Expenses Worksheet
Start a Retirement Fund
To figure the amount you should save to cover three
Start building a safety net for your future. The more
months’ worth of expenses, fill out this worksheet.
money you set aside for your future, the easier it will be
Then, double the amount to figure the total for six
for you financially as you get older. Start to save for the
months’ worth of expenses.
time when you will be unable to work or when you need
more income to cover living expenses or health-care
Grocery bill for
1 month
= $
costs not covered by insurance.
Gas/oil, electric, and
water for 1 month
= $
Better yet, consider speaking with a financial planner
Mortgage or rent
for 1 month
= $
about the best way to plan for your future. They may
Car payment or bus
fare for 1 month
= $
type of retirement account such as an IRA account,
Other debt payments
for 1 month
= $
Total amount I will need to cover
three months of expenses
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Financial Life
suggest a pre-tax retirement plan at work or another
401(k), or 403(b) plan. Speak to the professional about
Save for
how much of your gross income you should plan to
invest or set aside.
= $
Make a Long-Range Plan for Your Future
Start an Assistive Technology Fund
Like many people with disabilities, you may find that
Assistive Technology (AT) is a planned “major
Social Security programs (SSDI, SSI, or Social Security
purchase.” Start a fund in which you can begin to save
Retirement Benefits) are not enough to live comfortably
money for any assistive technology, independent living,
on and meet your goals.
or adaptive equipment needs not covered, or only
partly covered, by your insurance. When saving for AT,
Talk to a CWIC or your local Center for Independent
you may want to include repairs and maintenance of
Living about ways to go back to work, generate income,
the equipment as well as the purchase price in your
or save income. Also, ask where to go to learn about a
total savings goal (much like budgeting for a vehicle).
living trust, a “special needs” trust, or a “health care”
AT is discussed in more detail in Chapters 6 and 7.
trust to maximize your benefits and save on taxes.
In this chapter, you’ll learn all about credit reports,
How to Get a Copy of Your Credit-Report
including how to get one, what’s in it, and how to handle
Once a year, you are entitled to a copy of your credit
any mistakes reported. Once you understand your debt
report for free. To request a copy of each of your credit
situation, if necessary, you can go about increasing your
reports, contact the three primary credit-reporting
credit score and paying down your debts.
agencies directly:
Your Credit Report:
Why It’s Important
It is important to obtain a copy of your latest credit
report from each credit-reporting agency. This helps you
get a complete picture of your financial status and
current debts owed. Each credit-reporting agency
reports information differently and each might have
Equifax: 1-800-685-1111,
Experian: 1-888-397-3742,
TransUnion: 1-800-888-4213,
If you find an error in your credit report, report it to the
credit-reporting agencies immediately. Federal law
requires that the credit-reporting agency must
investigate and respond to you within 30 days. Today,
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even small errors can affect your overall credit score.
different interpretations of your financial or debt
situation. Some might even contain information another
agency does not have currently.
Skip the “Free” Reports
All credit reports should list your Social Security number,
date of birth, current and past addresses, and employment history. Credit-reporting agencies use this personal
information to identify you. Changes or additions to your
credit report come from your lenders (people you owe
money to), your payment history, and from information
Generally, buying an online credit report
or downloading a “free” credit report is not
the best way to obtain this information.
They are usually condensed versions
of your reports meant to encourage you
to sign up for a credit tracking program
that will cost you money.
you supply to the credit-reporting agencies.
date you opened the account, your credit limit or total
loan amount, your current account balance, and your
payment history, including any late or unpaid balances.
Credit Inquiries
Whenever you apply for a credit card or a loan, you
authorize the lender to ask for a copy of your credit
report. This is a voluntary inquiry, in which you allow
someone to look at your credit report. However,
sometimes companies order your credit report without
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How to Read Your Credit Reports
your specific permission. This is an involuntary inquiry
Credit reports contain a record of just about everything
and you are unlikely to learn about these types of
you do with money, including taking out loans and
inquiries unless you get a copy of your report.
paying your bills. Here are a few financial items you’ll
see on your reports.
Your Credit
Why It’s
Your credit report will list everyone who accessed your
credit report within a specified time period. Too many
Each credit-reporting agency has a format and style of
inquires can reflect badly on your total credit score.
reporting your credit information. All will provide you
with a “key” or guide to understanding how to read
Public Record and Debt Collection
their report.
Credit-reporting agencies collect all public record
information (bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, wage
Credits or Loans
attachments, liens, and judgments) from state, county,
Your lenders report on each account you have with
and federal courts. They also track information on any
them. They report the type of account (credit card, debit
overdue or delinquent debt you are carrying and any
or bankcard, automobile loan, home mortgage), the
debt collection agencies involved.
How to Handle Mistakes on Your Report
Can Shopping
for the Best Interest Rates
Affect Your Credit Score?
Researching the best mortgage or auto loan
rate is the best way to guarantee that you
get the lowest interest rate at a term you
can afford. Lenders may tell you that
seeking multiple offers or shopping around
for the best interest rate will reflect badly
on your credit report. Is that true?
Actually, no.
It’s important to promptly correct mistakes on your
credit report. Information contained in your credit
report is the basis of your credit score. Lenders could
deny you credit for a car loan or a home mortgage, or a
prospective employer could refuse to hire you based
upon what is on your credit report. Credit reports may
contain errors due to incomplete or inaccurate
reporting, or they may even contain information about
someone else.
It is good practice to review your credit report from
each credit-reporting agency at least once a year—plus
While it is true that this may cause
multiple lenders to request your credit
report, you are only shopping for one loan.
Therefore, most credit-reporting agencies
will count multiple auto or mortgage
inquiries in any 14-day period as one
inquiry. In addition, your credit score will
not include mortgage and auto inquiries
made in the 30 days prior to a request
for your report or credit score.
So, if you find a loan within that 30-day
period, those inquiries will not affect your
score. Keep rate shopping!
Get Out of Debt,
a few months before you decide to make a large
purchase, such as assistive technology, a car, or a
house. If you are already in the process of applying for
Your Credit
Why It’s
a loan, notify your lender of any incorrect information
you have found in your report and let them know you
have requested corrections.
Steps to Correct Your Credit Report
Tell the credit reporting agency, in writing, what
information you think is wrong. Include copies (not
originals) of documents that support your position. You
should provide your complete name and address, and
your letter should clearly identify each item that you
copy of your report if the resolved dispute results in a
dispute in your report. You need to explain why you
change. This free report does not count as your annual
think the information is wrong and request that it be
free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit
removed or corrected.
reporting agency cannot put the wrong information
back in your file unless the organization verifies that it
You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the
is accurate and complete. The credit reporting agency
items circled that you believe are wrong. Send your letter
also must send you written notice that includes the
by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you
know that your letter arrived at the agency. Keep copies
name, address, and telephone number of the
organization that sent the wrong information.
of everything you send to the credit reporting agency.
If you ask, the credit reporting agency must send
Consumer reporting companies must investigate the
notices of any corrections to anyone who received your
items in question—usually within 30 days—unless they
Get Out of Debt,
report in the past six months. In addition, you can have
consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward
all the information you provide about the inaccuracy to
Your Credit
Why It’s
the organization that provided the information. After the
organization receives notice of a dispute from the credit-
a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who
received a copy during the past two years for
employment purposes.
reporting agency, it must review the information and
report what it learns back to the credit reporting agency.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the
If the organization finds that you are correct, it must
credit reporting agency, you can ask that a statement of
notify all three nationwide credit reporting agencies so
the dispute be included in your file and in future
they can correct the information in your file.
reports. You also can ask the credit reporting agency to
provide your statement to anyone who received a copy
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting
of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay
agency must give you the results in writing and a free
a fee for this service.
How to Improve Your Credit Score
If you have fallen behind on payments because of job
If you have had financial problems, you can improve
loss or the onset of a disability in the family, you have a
your credit record and your credit score. You can start
right to place a letter in your credit report that explains
to do this by paying current or new accounts on time.
the situation. In this letter, you can explain what you
Then, work out payment plans with past due credit
are doing to correct any past-due accounts. Your credit
accounts. In general, remember these two key points:
score might take into account your willingness to pay
versus showing an account that is past due or in
Pay your bills on time.
collection. All of these things will help raise your FICO
Pay off your balances each month, or keep balances
score over time.
low on credit cards and any other revolving credit. This
helps your debt-to-income ratio stay in balance.
Get Out of Debt,
Your Credit
Why It’s
You Can Free Yourself from Debt
Believing you can free yourself from your debt is an
important first step toward managing your financial life.
Adopt a mindset that affirms the idea you are capable
of managing your money.
Myths vs. Facts:
The Truth about Credit and Debt
As a consumer, you have probably heard many myths
about credit. For example, the idea that you must have
Get Out of Debt,
debt to be “credit worthy” is widely accepted. The truth
surrounding money and debt is different from the
myths. Following are a few major myths about credit
and debt, and the truth about these issues.
Myth: You need debt in order to achieve credit.
Truth: You do not need to borrow money in order to
consolidation loans will save me interest and
improve your credit. A 12-month history of
combine my installment loans into one
repaying any bill—rent, electricity, oil, cable, or
smaller payment.
phone, for instance—can show an ability to
Myth: Using debt-management companies or
Truth: The myth that debt consolidation always “saves
repay. A current steady job and a firm salary or
you interest and gives you one smaller payment”
income can also show the ability to repay.
is inaccurate. The fact is that debt consolidation
may save you little to nothing on interest because
another form of gambling, do so wisely. Keep in
when you consolidate your loans, you lump
mind it is really a form of entertainment. Saving
together your lower-interest-rate loans with your
to gain wealth is your best bet.
higher-interest-rate loans. Be an informed
consumer. Debt-management companies treat
Myth: Rent-to-own stores and leasing items are good
only the symptom of being in debt, but not the
options when you cannot afford to buy
real issue of learning to handle your finances.
something outright.
The use of debt management or credit counseling
may also negatively affect your credit score.
Truth: With these options, you often end up paying more
in interest rates than you would if you saved for a
few months and purchased the item with cash.
Myth: New cars are better than buying used cars.
Truth: New cars lose 60 percent of their value in the
first four years. Because of this, it may make
sense for you to look at buying a used vehicle.
A used vehicle can come with a warranty and
Myth: Borrowing money online is safe and the best
Get Out of Debt,
way to secure a low-interest loan.
Truth: Borrowing money online is not a better deal than
borrowing from your local bank or credit union.
You Can
Free Yourself
from Debt
financing options that are similar to those
offered when buying a new car.
Myth: When my ability to make payments looks weak,
I will just file for bankruptcy and start over.
Myth: Playing the lottery, scratch tickets, and other
forms of gambling will make you wealthy.
Truth: It is simple math. A “one in a million” chance of
Truth: Bankruptcy is a life-changing event that has
long-term financial implications. Recent changes
to federal laws have made it harder to declare
winning means you have to be that one person
bankruptcy and they require people to work out
in a million. What are the odds of that happening?
payment plans with debtors instead of
If you want to play the lottery or engage in
discharging all debts.
Create a Financial Plan
and a Debt-Reduction Plan
Get Out of Debt,
It may be easier to stay on track with your new
spending as you pay off your debt. One helpful tool for
financial goals if you put your commitment in writing.
paying off debt and working with your creditors is the
Consider creating two written plans: a financial plan
“Debt Snowball Technique,” a list of whom you owe, how
and a debt-reduction plan.
much money you owe, and when payments are due.
For both plans, state the financial goals you want to
The Debt Snowball Technique
accomplish, the steps you need to take to get there,
If you have ample income and available financial
and a timetable by which you want to accomplish your
resources, paying down your highest interest rate debt
financial goals. Keeping track of your progress by
first works best. However, if you are on a limited income
writing down your financial goals and crossing them off
and resources, using the Debt Snowball Technique may
as you achieve them may inspire you to stick with your
help you to get out of debt quicker.
plan. This booklet has presented much of what you
need to include in your financial plan.
How the Debt Snowball Works
List all of your debts, beginning with the smallest
Your financial plan should include your Livable Budget,
balance and ranging to the largest. For example, if you
your cash envelope system, a savings plan and savings
have three debts and one is $100, one is $250, and one
goals, ways to generate money, and ways to save money.
is $1,000, list the debts as follows:
Your debt-reduction plan should include ways to ensure
you are borrowing money wisely and reducing your
When making this list, do not consider interest rates or
Start to pay off the first debt on your list by paying
terms unless two balances are close to the same
more than the minimum monthly payment. Continue to
amount. If two balances are nearly the same, list the
pay the minimum payment on all other debts.
balance with the higher interest rate first.
As you pay off each debt, take the payment you were
By paying off smaller balances first, you will see fast
making on the paid-off balances and roll it into the next
results and be more likely to stay with the plan. When
debt payment on the list. Spread the amount across
you pay off a debt, cross out the debt you paid and
the remaining debts. This is the “Snowball Effect.” As
make a new list.
you pay off balances and roll the entire payments you
were making on those paid-off balances into other
payments, you are able to make bigger payments on
your larger balances. Compounding payments may help
you get out of debt quicker. Resist any temptation to
pay only the minimum payment or to not roll over the
Get Out of Debt,
money from paid-off debts. That will stop the snowball.
See the Debt Snowball Form for more details on how to
Create a
and a DebtReduction
use the process.
The most important step in the Debt Snowball
Technique is to stop borrowing money! Otherwise, the
balances on your debts remain the same and the only
thing that changes is the names of the creditors.
It might seem simple, but it can be a hard idea to put
into action. Use your credit cards wisely. Say your card
charges 15 percent annual interest rate and you have a
$500 balance. If you pay only the minimum amount
due, for example $10 or 2.5 percent a month, it will take
almost six 6 years (or 74 months) to pay off that $500!
In addition, at the end of six years, you will have paid
the credit card company a total of $758—$258 of which
was interest. Whenever you pay only the minimum
payment due, you are not covering the monthly interest
being charged for your debt. Therefore, more interest is
being added to your balance due.
Get Out of Debt,
Fifteen Quick Tips
to Cut Spending
1. Make a list of your life goals and your savings goals.
Keep a copy of this list with you to remind you of
what they are. Build savings into your budget—
make it a “must” to save money every month. The
more you save, the less you spend.
2. If you are married or partnered, consult with your
partner before making big purchases. Agree to
spend only within the budget. Share budgeting and
bill-paying tasks. Create mutual goals for your
money and your future.
3. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees and to help
maintain good credit.
4. Have your wages directly deposited into your
account. Some people find that carrying cash makes
it easier to spend.
5. Establish a checking account. If you can find one
that pays you interest, that is a plus.
6. Set up a separate savings account. This may make your
money seem less accessible and make it easier to save.
7. Use the cash envelope system. It can help you avoid
overspending each month.
8. To bring in more money, you can sell items you do not
need. Use the profits from those sales to pay off
money you owe. Make it fun—for example, have a
garage sale with friends. You could also use an online
service such as eBay or Craig’s List to sell items.
cards at home. Bring only your cash envelope with
the money you need for your purchase. Sometimes
waiting overnight before you make the decision to
buy can be a useful tool.
14.Use your credit cards wisely.
9. If you want to pay off your debt or work towards
your goals even faster, you may want to work more
hours or get a second job.
10.Resist the idea that you have “extra cash.” We
suggest you budget all your money—even your
discretionary income, and put it into your savings
account or emergency fund.
15. When making large purchases, such as assistive
technology, shop around and compare prices to get
the best deal. Seek out your local Center for
Independent Living for funding resources, an
Independent Living evaluation, and/or an assistive
technology evaluation to get the best technology for
your needs within your budget.
11. Making a list before going to the grocery store may
help you cut down on impulse buying. Using
coupons for items you normally purchase can help
you cut costs. Joining a food co-op or a membership
food club and buying in bulk can be a further cost
savings—if you have a family or if you will use the
items before any sell-by dates.
Get Out of Debt,
Quick Tips
to Cut
12.Bring a bag lunch to work. Cook at home more and
dine out less.
13. Resist the temptation to go on shopping sprees. Do
not purchase items simply because they are on sale.
If you find impulse buying is a continuing problem
for you, try leaving cash, checkbooks, and credit
You can find information on financial education in a
variety of places. The Internet can be a valuable tool for
finding resources and learning about finances. Many
community resources, as well as private vendors, provide
financial education or services. There may be a cost for
their services, so find out before you agree to anything.
Here are a few resources to get you started.
Centers for
Independent Living
If you have a disability, a good place to go for resources
or to start learning about finances is your local Center
for Independent Living (CIL). Centers have Independent
Living Specialists who can work with you on financial
budgeting, time budgeting, and life-skills planning.
Financial Education
CILs can assign you to peers who have gained financial
independence and who can provide you with any
support and guidance you need to learn to empower
yourself financially. Some CILs also house CWIC
programs that can help you learn how to go back to
work and keep your Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
Internet Resources:
Major Financial Web Sites
Federal Trade Commission and click on For Consumers
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent
federal government agency that monitors and enforces
federal trade laws and seeks to protect consumers
from fraud. The FTC Web site has a page dedicated
to consumers’ issues and it is the lead agency on
enforcing the Do Not Call list telemarketing program.
Institute for Financial Literacy
5 and click on Products
Financial Education
The Institute for Financial Literacy is a nonprofit
organization that makes financial literacy education
available to the public. The Institute has financial
literacy education programs and downloadable
financial handouts and forms.
Institute of Consumer Financial Education
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) is
a consumer-oriented, nonprofit, tax-exempt [501c(3)],
public education organization that provides financial
information and personal financial education on topics
such as financial planning and budgeting, credit and
credit repair, debt management, bankruptcy, and
savings and investments.
Kidz Online
Web Sites
Kidz Online, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational
organization, has developed an interactive online financial
education program course for high-school students.
National Endowment for Financial Education
U.S. Financial Literacy and
Education Commission
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
This federal government Web site is dedicated to
is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping people
helping people understand more about their money—
acquire the information and gain the skills necessary to
how to save it, invest it, and manage it to meet their
take control of their personal finances. NEFE
personal goals. You can order a sample of financial
accomplishes its mission primarily by partnering with
publications by asking for a free “My Money” toolkit. It
other concerned organizations to provide financial
has information to help you choose and use credit
education to members of the public—in particular, to
cards, get out of debt, protect your credit record,
underserved individuals whose financial education
understand your Social Security benefits, insure your
issues are not being addressed by others.
bank deposits, and start a savings and investing plan.
Financial Education
For many individuals with disabilities, acquiring durable
medical equipment (DME) or assistive technology (AT)
hearing aids
can be a frustrating maze of evaluations, vendors, and
insurance forms. Even worse is when you’ve navigated
white canes
the maze only to discover the item or service is not
Braille readers
covered (even partially) by your insurance. Now what
flashing alarm clocks
do you do?
voice-activated systems or computer software
programs that create access for individuals with
The first five chapters of this booklet were designed to
disabilities to use computers, large-button
help you better understand your finances and to give
telephones, and TV remotes
you tools and tips to begin saving and managing your
money. The last two chapters are intended to explain
Generally, insurance companies will cover only what
the differences between DME and AT, help you
they define as “medically necessary” assistive
understand insurance, find the right technology for you,
technology. This type of assistive technology is called
and find the resources for funding it.
Durable Medical Equipment (DME). It is important to
understand the differences between AT and DME and
What Is Assistive
how Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance
companies differentiate between them.
Assistive Technology is any item, piece of equipment,
product, or system that is used to increase, maintain, or
improve the functional capabilities of an individual with
Assistive Technology
a disability.
Common examples of assistive technology include:
amplified telephones
Is it Assistive
Technology or Durable
Medical Equipment?
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is a specific kind of
The three most common forms of health insurance are
private insurance and two forms of insurance provided
assistive technology. The key here is that the
by state or federal government insurance programs:
equipment or assistive technology has a direct medical
Medicaid and Medicare. Many people have more than
use. Examples of DME are wheelchairs, power
one of these types of insurance. It is important to
wheelchairs, lifts, and hospital beds.
understand which type of health insurance you have
when you are planning to purchase assistive
Generally, DME has the following characteristics:
technology. You need to know if your insurance plan
1. It is durable; that is, it will last for a long time, over
covers the cost of the assistive technology. Insurance
many uses.
2. It is related to the diagnosis, direct care, and
can reduce the amount you have to pay or even cover
the total cost of your assistive technology.
treatment of a medical condition.
3. It meets the standards of good medical practice.
Private Insurance
4. It is not mainly for your convenience or that of
Insurance policies should be purchased from an
your doctor.
insurance company. You can buy insurance policies
from agents of the company. Another way to purchase
this type of insurance is through an employer’s group
Assistive Technology
plan. Generally, group plans offered by employers are
less expensive than plans purchased on your own.
Private insurance companies have a document called a
Certificate of Coverage. They also have handbooks that
Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS).
Medicare is a federal health insurance program that is
available to people over age 65, certain people with
disabilities under age 65, and individuals with End
Stage Renal disease. Medicare provides each of its
beneficiaries with a Medicare Card.
Medicare has two parts: Part A covers hospital
insurance and Part B covers outpatient services and
Durable Medical Equipment (DME). For example:
Part A covers inpatient hospital care, care in a skilled
nursing facility, and some home health care.
describe all of the covered services and equipment.
Part B covers outpatient services, such as doctor’s
Always refer to this manual and follow the instructions
office visits, testing outside the hospital such as
carefully. Most insurance companies have toll-free
colorectal screening and mammograms, and Durable
telephone numbers to answer your questions as a
Medical Equipment.
policyholder. When in doubt, ask—and it is good
practice to ask for the answer in writing.
Assistive Technology
You can learn more about Medicare by visiting or
The federal government provides Medicare insurance.
To find a Medicare DME provider in your area, visit
Medicare is administered through the Center for
Health and Human Services administers the Medicaid
Medicaid is a joint state and federal government health
program. In Colorado, the Health Care and Policy
insurance program. Medicaid is offered to elderly,
Finance Department administers the Medicaid program
disabled, and retired individuals based on their income
and the program goes by the name Medicaid.
or Social Security benefit. Most states provide Medicaid
to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients.
For information on your state’s Medicaid program,
contact your state’s Department of Human Services.
However, there are a small number of states, called
209(b) states, that do not offer Medicaid to all
Medicaid information is available at
Supplemental Security Income recipients. These
states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana,
Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota,
Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia—have an eligibility
process separate from that of Social Security.
Medicaid has many different names, depending on the
state in which you live. The rules for your state
Medicaid plan are probably different from those of
another state.
Assistive Technology
For example, in Maine, the Department of Health and
Human Services administers the Medicaid program
under the names MaineCare for adults and Cub Care for
children. In Illinois, Medicaid goes by the names Family
Care, Senior Care, and Kid Care, and the Department of
Funding Options: DME
and AT Differences
example, contact a CIL, an occupational therapist,
physical therapist, audiologist, etc.
Generally, private insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid
Any professional evaluation should include a series
of recommendations and suggestions for assistive
will be the primary funding sources for DME. This is due
technology and/or DME.
to the “medical nature” of DME.
In comparison, you often must pay out of pocket for
Review your budget, funding, and insurance options.
Talk with your CIL about other possible funding
assistive technology. Sometimes, grants, loans, or other
resources such as grants or loans.
funding resources can help such as State Vocational
Rehabilitation Services or Assistive Technology
for assistive technology.
Loan Programs.
Finding the Right
Assistive Technology
To find the right assistive technology for your needs
Before buying, try out the equipment if possible,
shop for the best deal, and ask for cost estimates
and bids on any DME or assistive technology.
Be sure to get warranty information about your
and financial situation, start by asking yourself: What is
my goal? What do I need to do that requires assistive
Use all available funding sources, including saving
technology? Do I need Durable Medical Equipment or
Check to see if the item is returnable, and if so under
what conditions.
Assistive Technology
“general” assistive technology?
Determine the typical maintenance costs for this
Then, consider the following:
Contact a professional for an evaluation, particularly
if the equipment needed is of a medical nature. For
Check to see if the vendor you choose provides
follow-up services such as training and repair.
Basic Insurance Terms and Concepts
Just as with Social Security benefits and banking, there
Medical Necessity
are some basic terms and concepts that are important
For a particular piece of assistive technology to be
when understanding insurance. Here are a few that will
medically necessary, the following must apply:
be helpful for you to know.
Covered Service/Item
It can withstand repeated use.
It is used to serve a medical purpose and is medically
A covered service or item is something for which the
necessary and reasonable for the treatment of the
insurance company agrees to pay. All three types of
beneficiary’s illness or injury or to improve an altered
insurance have lists of the items and services they will
body function.
cover. Insurance providers usually will not pay for items
It is not generally useful to a person in the absence
or services that are not on their approved lists.
of an illness or injury.
It is appropriate for use in the home and is in safe
A copayment is an amount of money that the insurer
and reasonably good condition and suitable for its
expects you to pay towards the cost of a service, item,
intended use.
or assistive technology. All three forms of insurance
have copayments.
Assistive Technology
Certificate of Medical Necessity
This form is required by Medicare and Medicaid, and it
allows you to acquire certain DME. The form is
The deductible is a set amount of money the insurer
completed by your doctor or another professional such
will expect you to spend first before they begin paying.
as an audiologist, occupational therapist, or physical
therapist who certifies that your medical condition
requires the DME that is being recommended. A
professional must develop documentation of Medical
Necessity, but you can provide support and guidance in
the process.
Tips for Documenting Medical Necessity of
DME and AT
The following can be used to document the need for
assistive technology to a potential funder if such
documentation is required.
Must meet the definition of Durable Medical
Must meet the definition of medical necessity.
Documentation must be objective and measurable.
Documentation must include a primary diagnosis,
Terms and
secondary diagnosis, and functional diagnosis as
well as a complete medical and surgical history with
documentation from a physician supporting the
Assistive Technology
medical history.
Documentation must include an objective
assessment from a hands-on neuromuscular and/or
orthopedic examination.
Documentation must include detailed functional
assessment data.
Documentation must include a summary of existing
Documentation must include expected outcomes if
the equipment is provided.
equipment, its age and condition, and reasons for
Documentation must include a summary of the
equipment trial and supportive still photography
replacement with a statement from the vendor about
demonstrating outcomes.
the condition of the existing equipment.
equipment, evaluating outcomes, and training in the
the home environment—such as is it accessible or is
use of equipment.
there a plan for improving access.
Documentation must include a plan for providing the
Documentation must include a detailed summary of
Documentation must include specific equipment
Documentation should include a plan for growth and
recommendations; when, where, and how it will be
equipment adjustment if the prescription is for a child
used; and why it is medically necessary.
or if the person has a progressive illness or disability.
Terms and
Assistive Technology
The Internet is a valuable tool for learning about and
locating assistive technology. The Centers for
Independent Living and your peers are both great
A Web site maintained by funding provided through the
sources for information on the latest assistive
U.S. Department of Education, it contains classified ads
technology and first-hand advice on how to use and
for adaptive equipment, customer reviews of adaptive
fund assistive technology.
equipment, consumer forums, and information on
adaptive equipment for the workplace, including
In addition, Alliance for Technology Access Centers as
agricultural, workstations, and office equipment.
well as Assistive Technology and Independent Living fairs
are great ways to actually see what is available. Durable
Access to Recreation
Medical Equipment vendors are also great places to view
assistive technology and get product information.
A Web site that focuses on recreational equipment,
Classified ads are also a good place to look.
including beach wheelchairs, pool lifts, exercise
Internet Resources:
Major AT Web Sites
equipment, and equipment for hunting, fishing,
gardening, and water sports.
Alliance for Technology Access
To get started on your search, check out these major
assistive technology Web sites. This list is not meant to
be all-inclusive, so use these as a starting point.
Ability Hub
A Web site with a focus on computer-related AT,
Assistive Technology
adaptive equipment, and alternative methods available
for accessing computers.
The Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) is a network of
community-based assistive technology resource
centers, assistive technology developers, and assistive
technology vendors that provide assistive technology
information and support services to people with
disabilities. Each state has an assistive technology
center or a program that will supply you with the latest
information on assistive technology. For the assistive
AT, this Web site includes a wealth of user reviews of
technology resource near you, visit
products, stories, and examples of real people using AT.
Alpha One, Maine’s Center
for Independent Living
New Mobility
Produced by an online and print magazine for people
This CIL Web site with national news and major
disability links also includes a classified ad section
with AT and adaptive equipment and an archive of
with disabilities, this Web site has major news articles
and classified ads for AT, accessible home listings,
discussion groups, and multiple links.
assistive technology articles.
Connecting People and Assistive Technology
Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive
Technology Society of North America
This Web site, funded by the National Institute on
Here you’ll find a comprehensive listing of state-specific
Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), offers
AT projects and loan programs, online discussion
quick reference guides to computer and general
independent-living related AT, comprehensive
information relating to the Vocational Rehabilitation
System, and its role in providing or funding of AT.
groups, and multiple links.
USA Assistive Technology Tech Guide
Infinite Potential
Through Assistive Technology
This Web site, sponsored by the United Spinal
accessories with AT user reviews and product
Along with lots of adaptive equipment information,
information, a large section on grants, and multiple
especially adaptive equipment for artists and workplace
links to helpful information.
Major AT
Web Sites
Association, has extensive examples of wheelchairs and
Assistive Technology
Centers for
Independent Living
(CIL) and Peers
Your local Center for Independent Living and one-to-one
peer interaction and peer groups are valuable resources
You can find your local Center for Independent Living in
your phone book or online at
Assistive Technology
and Independent Living
in your search for assistive technology and product
information. Each state has at least one center. The
Assistive Technology and Independent Living Fairs are
majority of staff at the centers are people with
an excellent place to have a hands-on experience with
disabilities who understand disability issues first-hand.
assistive technology and adaptive equipment and
Peers are a great source of information about AT
examine the equipment that may suit your needs. The
because they are the people who actually use it. To find
fairs are usually free or low cost. Contact your local CIL
peers in your area to talk with about assistive
and ask to be notified of upcoming AT and IL Fairs.
technology needs, contact your local CIL.
Durable Medical Equipment vendors carry primarily
durable medical equipment, but many are also
beginning to carry assistive technology products. Most
can be found in the yellow pages of your local phone
book. The salespeople in these stores are often well
versed in insurance reimbursement and can be helpful
in working your way through the insurance paperwork.
Medicare-approved vendors of Durable Medical
Equipment can be found at
Assistive Technology
Tips for Choosing the Right Vendors
Use these tips and questions when selecting a vendor
for the DME or AT in which you’re interested.
1. Check with your local Center for Independent Living
to see if they have a DME business or can
recommend disability supportive vendors sensitive
to the rights and needs of people with disabilities.
2. Is the vendor in a convenient location to your home?
Will the vendor deliver your equipment? Is there a
delivery fee?
or will they give you a hands-on demonstration of
the equipment?
3. Does the vendor provide repair and maintenance
service on the equipment they sell?
7. Does the vendor provide assistance with insurance,
Medicare, and/or Medicaid paperwork?
4. What kinds of warranties/guarantees does the
vendor offer?
8. Is the vendor Medicare and/or Medicaid approved or
does it take your particular insurance?
5. Does the vendor stock the equipment you are
looking for or will you be ordering from the
6. Will the vendor allow you to try before you buy?
For example, can you take a similar model home,
9. Does the vendor have a good rating with the Better
Business Bureau? (
10.Does the vendor offer financing options? If so, are
Assistive Technology
they competitive with other sources of funding?
Funding for Assistive Technology:
Federal, State, and Community Resources
If you need help paying for assistive technology, many
The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
resources are available. Here are a few to get you started.
oversees grant programs that help individuals with
physical or mental disabilities to obtain employment
Federal- and State-Funded Programs
There are several federal- and state-funded programs
that offer financial aid for assistive technology in the
and live more independently. The help provided
includes counseling, medical and psychological
services, job training, assistive technology, and other
form of either grants or loans to people with
individualized services.
disabilities. Check with your local Center for
Independent Living or state Vocational Rehabilitation
Adaptive Equipment Loan Programs: Many states—
Services program to see what programs are offered in
your state. Here are a few examples.
including Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois,
Massachusetts, and New York—have low-interest loan
Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) are federalfunded or state-funded programs providing services to
programs administered by their State Rehabilitation
Services Administration.
help individuals with disabilities enter or return to
Assistive Technology
employment. The programs help individuals with
For a complete list of states that offer Adaptive
physical or mental disabilities or both to compete
Equipment Loan Programs, visit Some
successfully with others in earning a livelihood. To find
states have other Adaptive Equipment Loan programs
your state Vocational Rehabilitation Services office, visit
(such as Maine’s mPower,
Check with your local CIL for programs in your state.
Community Resources
Local civic clubs and fraternal organizations often
contribute to the purchase of assistive technology by
setting aside or raising money to help people with
disabilities obtain the equipment they need. These
nonprofit organizations often have specific mission
statements that direct their activities and may target
only certain types of disabilities or age groups. Because
chapter activities of groups vary, individuals who wish
to pursue this potential funding avenue will find it
beneficial to contact the group’s national headquarters
or look in the phone book for the local chapter listing.
Information to obtain includes chapter locations, goals
of specific chapters, focus of the local chapter,
eligibility, and application processes.
Here are examples of national organizations you may
Funding for
State, and
want to contact:
Civitan International Foundation: Support programs
assist children and persons with developmental
disabilities. Local Civitan clubs support a variety of
community service activities. For your local Civitan
Club, check your phone book or visit
Assistive Technology
Elks of the United States: Local clubs assist children
MS Society: The MS Society provides grants for
with disabilities and some adults with disabilities.
adaptive equipment for individuals who have MS.
Support includes funding for services, essential
For your local chapter of the MS Society, call toll-free
treatments such as special examinations, therapy and
1-800-FIGHTMS or visit
special prescriptions, and assistive technology that
helps people with disabilities become self-sufficient,
Many more organizations will provide funding and
healthy, contributing citizens of our communities. For
technical support for funding for Assistive Technology
your local Elks Club, check your phone book or visit
or Independent Living. Contact your local Center for
Independent Living for a complete list of funding
sources in your area.
Give Tech: This organization provides computer
equipment and peripherals to individuals with severe
disabilities. Call 415-750-2576 or visit
Kiwanis Club: This international organization’s focus is
primarily children. Local chapters may vary in their
Funding for
State, and
particular focus, but some have begun to give grants
for AT for people with disabilities. For your local Kiwanis
Club, check your phone book or visit
Lions Club: Local chapters may vary in their particular
focus; however, in general, grants focus on AT for
people who are hard of hearing or deaf, and those who
are visually impaired or blind. For your local Lions Club,
Assistive Technology
check your phone book or visit
Living with your
‘livable budget’
Congratulations! By reading this book and
completing the exercises you have made significant
strides in better understanding your finances, saving
for your future, and planning for your next assistive
technology or durable medical equipment purchase.
Alpha One is Maine’s leading enterprise
in providing the community with access
to information, services and products
that create opportunities for people with
disabilities to live independently. Since
1978, Alpha One has been Maine and
New England’s most comprehensive
resource for people who want current information about independent living.
Online, provides a powerful web portal with daily local &
national disability news. Alpha One also publishes One in Five, a regional
newspaper serving the needs of the disability community.
The following are important points to keep you
moving forward:
Pay yourself first; start saving now,
even if it’s only a small amount
Pay down your debt as soon as possible
Use your livable budget
Review your credit report annually
Understand your insurance coverage
Plan for your assistive technology and durable
NEFE is an independent nonprofit foundation committed to educating Americans
about personal finance and empowering them to make positive and sound
decisions to reach financial goals. The National
Endowment for Financial Education, NEFE, and the
NEFE logo are federally registered service marks of
the National Endowment for Financial Education.
For more information about the National
Endowment for Financial Education, visit
Financial Freedom: Borrowing for Assistive Technology was written and prepared
for Alpha One as a public service by the Denver-based National Endowment for
Financial Education® (NEFE®), or NEFE.
medical purchases
Log on to for additional
financial information
Most importantly, stay focused on your dreams
Finance Basics
Organize Your
Financial Life
Live Your
Financial Life
Get Out of Debt,
Financial Education
Assistive Technology
Assistive Technology