Setting up an Account
Picking your Investment Options
Contributing to your Account
Able to Work
Withdrawing your Money
Impact on Government Benefits
Q: What is a Palmetto ABLE® Account?
A: A Palmetto ABLE account is an investment account available to eligible individuals with disabilities. Palmetto ABLE accounts are made possible by the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience ("ABLE") Act. Palmetto ABLE accounts allow individuals with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefits programs, like Medicaid or SSI. Earnings in your Palmetto ABLE account are not subject to federal or South Carolina state income taxes, so long as you spend them on "Qualified Disability Expenses" (see below).
Q: Are Palmetto ABLE accounts like my bank checking or savings account?
A: Palmetto ABLE accounts have some similar features, but they are not checking or savings accounts. Palmetto ABLE accounts are investment accounts. You will be investing your money in different options we provide. While you can still withdraw and spend your money as-needed, Palmetto ABLE accounts also allow you to grow your money and to save long-term for disability expenses.
Q: What is the difference between Palmetto ABLE and STABLE Account?
A: The State of South Carolina, along with many other states, has partnered with the state of Ohio and their national ABLE program known as STABLE Account. This partnership allows South Carolina’s program, the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program, to offer STABLE Accounts to eligible South Carolinians with lower annual investment fees, a free loadable debit card, quality customer service and many other benefits. The terms Palmetto ABLE and STABLE Account essentially have the same meaning. Palmetto ABLE is powered by STABLE Account and these accounts are considered to be under South Carolina’s Palmetto ABLE program.
Q: Who is eligible to open a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: The "Eligible Individual" is someone who developed their disability before the age of 26. The individual must have been living with their disability for at least one year, or they must expect their disability to last for at least a year.
In addition, the individual must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Be entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of their disability;
- Be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because of their disability;
- Have a condition listed on the Social Security Administration's List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions; or
- Be able to "self-certify" their disability and diagnosis (see details below) when opening a Palmetto ABLE account.
"Self-certification" simply requires an individual to agree to the following statements during enrollment:
- The individual has a written, signed diagnosis from a licensed physician (note: individuals do not have to provide us with a copy of the diagnosis during enrollment, but a copy of the diagnosis must be available upon request); and
- The individual is either:
(1) blind, within the meaning of the Social Security Act, or
(2) has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in "marked and severe functional limitations"
Examples of qualifying conditions that result in "marked and severe functional limitations" can be found in the Social Security Administration's disability Blue Book. See Part A for adults and Part B for children. A condition will also qualify if it is equal in severity to one of the conditions found in the Blue Book.
Both physical and mental disabilities (including certain mental illnesses) may qualify someone to open a Palmetto ABLE account. To see if you or someone you know is eligible, click here to take our Eligibility Quiz.
Q: How do I prove my eligibility?
A: During enrollment you will be asked a series of questions when you open your account. Although you will not need to produce a copy of your diagnosis in order to open an account, you must have a record of the diagnosis readily available.
Q: Do I have to be a South Carolina resident to open an account with the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program?
A: Yes. Palmetto ABLE accounts are only available to South Carolina residents. Residents of other states may open a STABLE Account by visiting www.stableaccount.com.
Q: What kinds of disabilities qualify someone for a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: Any condition that results in marked and severe functional limitations will qualify an individual to open a Palmetto ABLE account. A qualifying condition can be physical, developmental, mental, or other. For examples, see the Social Security Administration's Blue Book (Parts A and B), as well as the SSA's List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions. These lists are instructive, but not exhaustive. Your condition may qualify you even if it does not appear in these specific lists.
Q: How can I use the money in my Palmetto ABLE account?
A: Money in your account can be used to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses. An expense is "qualified" if:
(1) You incurred the expense at a time when you were considered an Eligible Individual (see "Eligibility" above);
(2) The expense relates to your disability; and
(3) The expense helps you to maintain or improve your health, independence, or quality of life.
Q: What are some examples of Qualified Disability Expenses?
A: Qualified Disability Expenses do not have to be merely medical expenses. They can include rent and basic living expenditures. While the following list is not exhaustive, some examples of qualified expenses are:
Basic Living Expenses
• Personal care items
• Purchase of a primary residence
• Expenses for a primary residence
• Home improvement, modifications, maintenance, and repairs
• Mortgage payments
• Real property taxes
• Utility charges
NOTE: SSI benefits can be affected if you use ABLE funds for any housing expenses. See the "Benefits" section of our website for more information.
• Expenses for transportation
• Use of mass transit
• Purchase or modification of vehicles
• Moving expenses
• Tuition for preschool through post-secondary education
• Supplies and educational materials
Assistive Technology and Personal Support
• Expenses for assistive technology and personal support
• Remote monitoring equipment & services
• Communication devices
• Screen reader software
Employment Training and Support
• Moving expenses
• Expenses related to obtaining and maintaining employment
• Job-related training
Health, Prevention and Wellness
• Expenses for health and wellness
• Premiums for health insurance
• Mental health, medical, vision, and dental expenses
• Habilitation and rehabilitation services
• Durable medical equipment
• Respite care
• Long-term services and supports
• Nutritional management
• Communication services and devices
• Adaptive equipment
• Personal assistance
• Financial management and administrative services
• Legal fees
• Expenses for oversight
• Funeral and burial expenses.
Q: How do I prove that I am spending my money on Qualified Disability Expenses?
A: The STABLE Account platform allows you to maintain records within your online account portal for spending through the direct bill payment feature and the STABLE Visa card. If funds from your STABLE Account are transferred to your personal bank account (i.e. personal savings or checking account), these funds will need to have record keeping completed separately by you. STABLE Account recommends that you use the spending features from within your account in order to have full transactional record keeping maintained automatically.
Q: What if I use my Palmetto ABLE funds for something that isn't a Qualified Disability Expense?
A: You may have to pay regular income taxes, plus a 10% additional tax, on a portion of those funds. Additionally, the non-Qualified funds you withdraw could be counted against you for purposes of determining your eligibility for means-tested public benefits programs, like Medicaid or SSI.
Q: Can I use Palmetto ABLE account funds for housing and rent?
A: Yes! But if you receive SSI benefits, be sure to immediately spend any money you withdraw for housing expenses, to avoid any negative impact
SETTING UP AN ACCOUNT
Q: Who can set up a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: An Eligible Individual or if the individual so chooses, they may designate an Authorized Legal Representative (ALR) to act on their behalf. If the Eligible Individual is unable to establish a STABLE Account, the ALR may be the eligible individual's agent under a power of attorney or, if none, a conservator or legal guardian, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, or a SSA representative payee, in that order. If an ALR establishes a STABLE Account, the ALR must certify the basis for acting as the ALR and must also certify that there is no other willing and able person with a higher priority in the above list.
Q: Where do I go to open a Palmetto ABLE Account?
A: You can enroll online at www.palmettoable.com or by filling out a paper enrollment form. No bank trips necessary.
Q: What is the enrollment process like?
A: Fast and easy! Everything is done through www.palmettoable.com. Your email address will be your username and you will be asked to create your own password in order to use our online account portal. You will put in your basic information, such as your name, address, birth date, etc. (If you are a parent or other representative opening an account for someone else, you will need to put in your information and the Eligible Individual’s information.) You will also be asked a few questions regarding your disability, in order to confirm your eligibility to open an account. Once you have input your information, you will make your initial contribution and select your Investment Options. If necessary, you can also enroll through the available STABLE Account paper application process.
Q: How much does it cost to open an account?
A: Enrollment is free!
Q: Is there a minimum amount I have to contribute in order to open an account?
A: You will need to deposit a minimum of $25.00 to open an account. Any subsequent deposits can be as little as $1.00.
Q: Who controls the funds in a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: The Eligible Individual is considered the account owner. However, an Authorized Legal Representative can administer the account. Be advised that if you decide to act as an Authorized Legal Representative, you will be formally assigned to the individual's account and will be the only person allowed to transact on the account.
Q: Does it cost anything to have an account?
A: There are minimal costs associated with maintaining your account. South Carolina residents will pay $3.25 per month (charged to the account quarterly equaling $39.00 annually) to maintain their accounts. There is a small asset-based fee of between 0.19% and 0.33%, depending on their chosen Investment Options. There could also be other administrative fees (e.g., a return check fee) depending upon your particular account activity.
Q: Can I have more than one Palmetto ABLE Account?
A: No. Individuals can have only one Palmetto ABLE account.
Q: Do I have to pay taxes on my account earnings?
A: Earnings on your Palmetto ABLE account grow free of federal and South Carolina state income taxes. The earnings remain tax-free even when you withdraw them, so long as you spend the money on Qualified Disability Expenses.
Are my Palmetto ABLE account contributions tax deductible?
A: Taxpayers may deduct up to 100% of the contributions made to their Palmetto ABLE account from their South Carolina state income tax return (up to $501,000). Beneficiary's own contributions may be eligible for the federal Saver's Credit.
PICKING YOUR INVESTMENT OPTIONS
Q: What are "Investment Options" and why do I need to pick my Options?
A: Palmetto ABLE accounts are not checking or savings accounts; they are investment accounts. When you contribute money to your Palmetto ABLE account, your money is invested in different portfolios that we provide. These portfolios are the STABLE "Investment Options." We offer five different Investment Options for you to choose from. You can put all of your money in one Option, or you can allocate your money across many different Options.
Q: What are the five Investment Options you offer?
A: They are:
Growth Option: The Growth Option seeks to provide capital appreciation and some current income. This Option invests 100% of its funds in the Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund.
The Growth Option endeavors to maintain an 80% investment in corporate stocks and a 20% investment in bonds. A stock represents ownership in a corporation. Stock ownership generally allows investors to grow their money in excess of inflation over a long-term period of time. Bond investors are entitled to receive interest payments over the life of the bond and receive the face value of the bond at maturity.
Stock investing is generally riskier than bond investing. The Growth Option has the largest investment in corporate stocks compared to the other Investment Options. The Growth Option potentially offers higher expected investment returns, but it also offers higher expected risk.
The Growth Option may be most suitable for investors with a long-term time horizon and for investors willing and able to accept more risk.
Moderate Growth Option: The Moderate Growth Option seeks to provide capital appreciation and a low-to-moderate level of current income. This Option invests 100% of its funds in the Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth Fund.
The Moderate Growth Option endeavors to maintain a 60% investment in corporate stocks and a 40% investment in bonds. A stock represents ownership in a corporation. Stock ownership generally allows investors to grow their money in excess of inflation over a long-term period of time. Bond investors are entitled to receive interest payments over the life of the bond and receive the face value of the bond at maturity.
Stock investing is generally riskier than bond investing. The Moderate Growth Option has the second largest investment in corporate stocks compared to the other Investment Options. The Moderate Growth Option potentially offers moderate expected investment returns, but it also offers moderate expected risk.
The Moderate Growth Option may be most suitable for investors with an intermediate-term time horizon and for investors willing and able to accept
Conservative Growth Option: The Conservative Growth Option seeks to provide current income and low-to-moderate capital appreciation. This Option invests 100% of its funds in the Vanguard LifeStrategy Conservative Growth Fund.
The Conservative Growth Option endeavors to maintain a 40% investment in corporate stocks and a 60% investment in bonds. A stock represents ownership in a corporation. Stock ownership generally allows investors to grow their money in excess of inflation over a long-term period of time. Bond investors are entitled to receive interest payments over the life of the bond and receive the face value of the bond at maturity.
Stock investing is generally riskier than bond investing. The Conservative Growth Option has the second largest investment in bonds compared to the other Investment Options. The Conservative Growth Option typically offers lower expected investment returns, but it also offers lower expected risk.
The Conservative Growth Option may be most suitable for investors with a short-to-intermediate term time horizon and for investors willing and able to accept some risk.
Income Option: The Income Option seeks to provide current income and some capital appreciation. This Option invests 100% of its funds in the Vanguard LifeStrategy Income Fund.
The Income Option endeavors to maintain a 20% investment in corporate stocks and an 80% investment in bonds. A stock represents ownership in a corporation. Stock ownership generally allows investors to grow their money in excess of inflation over a long-term period of time. Bond investors are entitled to receive interest payments over the life of the bond and receive the face value of the bond at maturity.
Stock investing is generally riskier than bond investing. The Income Option has the largest investment in bonds compared to the other options. The Income Option typically offers low expected investment returns, but it also offers low expected risk.
The Income Option may be most suitable for investors with a short-term time horizon or for investors unwilling or unable to accept
BankSafe Option: The BankSafe Option offers a conservative investment strategy and is designed to protect your principal investment. This Option invests 100% of its funds into an FDIC-insured account.
The BankSafe Option is the most conservative investment strategy and is designed to protect your investment. The BankSafe Option is fully invested in an FDIC-insured account, meaning that your investment (along with other applicable accounts you have at Fifth Third Bank) is insured, up to $250,000, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is essentially supported by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.
The BankSafe Option offers the lowest expected return and the lowest expected risk.
(NOTE: The Investment Option descriptions contained on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, investment, or other advice. Beneficiaries or their Authorized Legal Representatives are solely responsible for deciding which Investment Options to use.)
Q: How have the Investment Options been performing?
A: To view current investment performance, please click here.
Q: How do I choose my Investment Options?
A: When you open a Palmetto ABLE account, you will be asked to pick your Investment Options. You will be shown all five options, and you will assign a dollar amount to each option. You can choose multiple Options or only one Option. Each time you request a contribution, you must enter the dollar amount for each option.
Q: Can someone from the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program help me pick which Investment Options to use?
A: No, we cannot offer or provide financial, investment, or other advice. We have provided descriptions of all Investment Options on our website and in our Plan Disclosure Statement so that you can make an informed decision about which Option(s) are best for you.
Q: Can I change my Investment Options after I enroll?
A: Yes, federal rules allow you to transfer money from your current Investment Options to a different set of Options twice per calendar year.
CONTRIBUTING TO YOUR ACCOUNT
Q: How can I put money in my account?
A: You can easily contribute money to your account online. Simply input your personal bank account information (i.e., your routing and account numbers), and make a deposit. You can also save your bank account information and set up recurring contributions. If necessary, you can also mail in check contributions.
Make checks payable to "STABLE Account." Mail to:
STABLE Account Program
PO Box 9671
Providence, RI 02940-9671
Be sure to complete the Contribution Form and mail it with the check. Also, include the beneficiary's name and account number on the front of the check in the memo line.
Q: Are there limits on how much I can contribute to my Palmetto ABLE account?
• The maximum yearly contribution limit is currently $16,000 from any person or any source.
• If you are employed, you may be able to contribute an additional $12,880 from your income – increasing your total yearly contribution limit to $28,880. Your wages can fund the full $28,880, but contributions from all other sources (ex. family members and other financial accounts) are restricted to the $16,000.
• The maximum lifetime limit is currently $517,000. You will not be able to make new contributions if your overall balance is $517,000 or above (although your account can continue to accrue earnings). Once your balance drops below the lifetime limit, you may resume making contributions.
Q: What happens if I accidentally contribute over the limits?
A: Our system is designed to automatically prevent excess contributions. We will monitor your contributions and will reject any deposits that would put your account over the limits. The funds that have been contributed over the limits will be returned to the contributor in the same manner they were received (ex. check or ACH).
Q: Who can contribute money into my Palmetto ABLE account?
A: Any person (including you, your friends, and your family members), business, employer, corporation, or other legal entity can make contributions to your account. Money can also be transferred from other financial accounts, such as: trusts, 529 College Savings Plans, retirement plans, another ABLE Plan, and more.
Q: Can I ask my family and friends to make gifts into my account?
A: Yes! We have designed a special gifting tool just for this purpose. From your online account, you can set up a gifting page. Once your page is created, you’ll get a direct link to it that you can post directly on social media or send to friends and family. You’ll get an email to let you know every time someone makes a gift contribution to your account.
Q: Can employment earnings be deposited into my account through payroll deduction?
A: Yes! Instructions to set this can be found on the STABLE Account website, here. Once processed, your employer will automatically deposit the specified amount from your employment earnings into your STABLE Account.
Q: Can I contribute with a credit card?
A: Not at this time. Contributions are primarily made by mailing in a check or by transferring funds into your STABLE Account from a bank account.
ABLE TO WORK
Q: What is Able to Work?
A: The ABLE to Work Act allows an account holder who is employed to contribute an amount equal to their current year’s gross income (up to $12,880 in 2022) each year to their ABLE account in addition to the annual standard contribution limit of $16,000.
Keep in mind that, if the account holder or their employer is contributing to a retirement plan – including a defined contribution plan (e.g. 401(k)), annuity plan (403(b)), or deferred compensation plan (457(b)) this calendar year – the account holder is not eligible to make ABLE to Work contributions.
WITHDRAWING YOUR MONEY
Q: How can I take money out of my account?
A: If you would like to withdraw money from your Palmetto ABLE account, all you have to do is log into your online account and request a withdrawal. You will have the option of receiving funds by electronic funds transfer or by check. The electronic transfer option allows you to load funds onto your STABLE Visa Card or into a personal bank account. Through the check option, participants can cut a check to themselves or to a third party, for paying bills or other expenses.
If you invested your money into more than one Investment Option, you will also be able to select the portfolio you want to withdraw money from.
Q: Are there limits on how many times I can withdraw money from my account?
Q: Do you charge fees for withdrawing money?
Q: What is the STABLE Visa® Card?
A: The STABLE Visa Card is available to everyone with a Palmetto ABLE account. The STABLE Visa Card does not pull money directly out of your Palmetto ABLE account. Instead, you get to choose a specific amount of money to load onto your prepaid card. This way, you can better control budgets and plan for your Qualified Disability Expenses. You may order a STABLE Visa Card for the Authorized Legal Representative for an individual with a disability or the beneficiary of a Palmetto ABLE account. The STABLE Visa Card's discrete loading feature allows you to limit how much money the beneficiary can access at any given time.
Only Palmetto ABLE account funds can be loaded onto your STABLE Visa Card, to avoid commingling ABLE money with non-ABLE money. This allows for easier reporting of your withdrawals and expenditures. Also, the STABLE Visa Card is considered an extension of your Palmetto ABLE account, so funds on the card are not considered an asset for benefits testing.
Q: What features are available with my STABLE Visa Card?
A: Your STABLE Visa Card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
You will be able to set up a STABLE Visa Card online account to view your spending history, upload receipts, write personal notes describing your purchases, and categorize purchases as “qualified” or “non-qualified.”
IMPACT ON GOVERNMENT BENEFITS
Q: Will the money in my account affect my eligibility for means-tested federal or South Carolina benefits programs?
A: No! With the exception of some special SSI rules (see below), your Palmetto ABLE account funds do not count against you for purposes of determining your eligibility for federal or South Carolina benefits. For example, if you have $5,000 in your Palmetto ABLE account, that $5,000 does not count as an asset for purposes of determining your eligibility for means-tested federal or South Carolina benefits programs, like SSI or Medicaid.
Q: Will the money in my Palmetto ABLE account make me ineligible for Medicaid?
A: No! The money in your Palmetto ABLE account will not affect your eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Palmetto ABLE account balances are disregarded when determining your Medicaid eligibility. For more information, please see Medicaid’s guidance on Palmetto ABLE accounts here.
Q: Will I lose my SSI eligibility if I open a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: No, but your SSI benefits may be suspended if your Palmetto ABLE account balance is over $100,000. Any money in your account over $100,000 will be treated as a countable resource when determining your SSI benefits. The good news is that you will not lose SSI eligibility if your Palmetto ABLE account balance is too high - your benefits will merely be suspended. Once your account balance drops, you can notify SSA to have your SSI benefits resume.
Q: Will the money in my Palmetto ABLE account make me ineligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) benefits?
A: No! The money in your Palmetto ABLE account will not affect your eligibility for SNAP benefits. Palmetto ABLE accounts are an excluded resource under SNAP regulations.
Q: Will the money in my Palmetto ABLE account make me ineligible for HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) benefits?
A: No! The money in your Palmetto ABLE account will not affect your eligibility for HUD benefits. Palmetto ABLE accounts are an excluded resource under HUD regulations.
Q: Will the money in my Palmetto ABLE account affect my eligibility when filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form?
A: No! The money in your Palmetto ABLE account is not included as an asset on the FAFSA form.
Q: Can an individual with a disability work and maintain a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: Yes, as long as the individual meets the eligibility requirements for an account.
Q: Can I have a Palmetto ABLE account AND a Special Needs Trust or
A: Yes, you can use your Palmetto ABLE account in conjunction with other types of trusts. Please consult your financial planner or trust attorney for more information on how trusts could be helpful for you.
Q: Can I make a tax-free transfer of funds from an existing 529 college savings account to a Palmetto ABLE account?
A: Yes! Federal regulation for ABLE accounts allows tax-free rollovers from 529 college savings accounts to a STABLE Account. If you would like to make a rollover directly from your college saving plan to STABLE Account, please use the form and instructions found, here. If you would like to have the rollover funds sent to you and then forwarded to STABLE Account within 60 days, please use the form and instructions found, here. Keep in mind that 529 Rollovers count as Standard Contributions and therefore count against your annual $16,000 General Contribution limit.
For questions or help, please contact customer service at 1-800-439-1653 or [email protected].
In order to complete a rollover, the Palmetto ABLE Beneficiary and the 529 account beneficiary must be either: (1) the same person, or (2) family members, as defined in 26 USC §529(e)(2).
Q: What happens to the money in my account after my death? Is there a Medicaid payback?
A: If you received Medicaid benefits during the time you had your account open, Medicaid can file a claim for some amount of repayment. This does not mean that Medicaid automatically has first rights to the money in your Palmetto ABLE account after your death. Your account can be used for a number of things before Medicaid could be repaid.
First, if you still have outstanding bills for any Qualified Disability Expenses, the money in your Palmetto ABLE account can be used to pay those expenses. Your account can also be used to pay for funeral and burial costs.
Moreover, Medicaid can only seek repayment for amounts it paid after you opened your Palmetto ABLE account (or, if you rolled over from another ABLE